A Few Players To Keep An Eye On
The Mets have some needs to address in 2005 and outside of the available free agents, there are a few guys of note that may become available for the Mets to acquire.
Octavio Dotel is a nasty pitcher that sports a mid to high 90’s fastball with a lot of life. He is a dominating pitcher at times and excelled in the set up role for Houston in 2001, 2002, and 2003 setting up for Billy Wagner. When he got his promotion to full time closer in 2004, he was a bit of a let down and was not quite as dominant. His hits, BBs, and homeruns allowed were all up and his ERA was over a full run higher than it was in the previous three years. His K/9 was still spectacular striking out 12.87 batters per nine innings and has averaged over 10 K/9 in every year except his 1999 rookie season with the Mets. He is due to receive a substantial pay raise over his $2,800,000 salary in 2004 and the money conscious Athletics will most likely feel inclined to move him or release him all together. He did not perform as well as they hoped he would by blowing six saves in twenty-eight tries while posting a 4.09 ERA. With the emergence of Huston Street and Jairo Garcia, Octavio is a player that does not appear to be fitting into their plans next year for the always money conscious A's. I just do not think that Beane will have trouble finding a taker for him, but his price tag and his struggles as a closer may make him less attractive to many teams that would like him to set up. He would look great as a set up man for Looper and be a huge step to making the Mets bullpen 100% more effective in 2005.
Outside of the one time rumbling of the Mets looking into Richie Sexson for 2005, there are not many real obvious choices for the Mets and their first base situation. I’m not sold that Cliffy would not be a decent choice for this position, but the Mets have an apparent desire to get a first baseman who would not be a liability at first. Cliff has not played first since his rookie year in Montreal and would obviously have some rust. JT has an option for 2005 that is worth $2 million dollars that would have been guaranteed with a 450 PA. However, since he did not meet that criteria, the Giants have to wonder how much they want him. He is still a bargain, but was used as a platoon player for the Giants and only registered 47 at-bats vs. lefties. For a platoon player, San Francisco may deem his contract too much for a platoon player and they may choose to pursue a guy who can exclusively be their first baseman. While Snow did not hit well against lefties, he still hit .255 against them which is not the worst in the world and had hit .338 against righties in 2004. JT brings the obvious stellar glove to first base and that is what the Mets are looking for at first base. He has never had a fielding % below .993 and is as solid as they come at first. If the Giants choose to pass on him, then the Mets should at least consider him for a one or two year stopgap. Even if they exercise the option, the Mets should explore a trade if nothing else presents itself.
Doug would be a player of the same mold as JT Snow being a solid fielder. He is six years young than Snow and may become available via trade this winter. Doug is also a bit more expensive than JT Snow at $ 3.75 million in 2005. That will be presumably too much money to pay a backup guy when you also have two first baseman on the roster already. The Red Sox should ideally look to dump Doug and acquire a much cheaper defensive replacement if they even want one anymore. Doug’s bat has been streaky over the years, but if he can put up .260-.270 with 10 homeruns while playing a gold glove first, he’ll be just fine in the 8th spot of the order. He should not cost much being that he has made it clear that he does not like his role as a backup and his lousy batting performance will surely not drive his price up. He may be a perfect fit for the Mets if they fail or choose not to land a Sexson type player to anchor the young infield.
The Angels had a payroll of $112 million this year they will be looking to shed some money to get below the $100 million dollar mark. They will be losing $16.5 million just by not trying to retain Troy Percival or Troy Glaus, but whether or not they will try to retain Glaus is up in the air. They have Dallas MacPherson ready to step in at 3b and Kasey Kotchman ready for 1b. They still need to strengthen their rotation and they still need to sign Jared Weaver. They still have Garett Anderson and Vlad Guerrero in the outfield as well as Jeff DaVannon and Chone Figgins that can play the outfield. Also, it is well documented that Guillen and the Scoscia have some issues that came to a climax when Guillen was suspended with the Angels in the playoff hunt at end of the season. More than the $3.5 million he is due in 2004 with the $300,000 buyout for a $4 million option in 2005, they may want to ditch him for team cohesiveness reasons and throw his offensive contribution to the side.
The thing that gets me about Guillen is the fact that he played for the A's during their playoff run in 2003 injured. He broke his hand on Sept. 14th and played with the A's until their loss to the Red Sox in the playoffs. He is definitely an enigma and a tough call if he is available.
Boston had the second highest payroll in 2004 behind the Yankees who were light years ahead of them. The Red Sox payroll was at about $130,000,000 and figure on them pairing it down to about $110,000,000. Giving up Manny would give them wiggle room to deal with all of their upcoming free agents and player with options. All 18 of them.
Terry Adams, rhp; Mark Bellhorn, 2b; Ellis Burks, dh; Orlando Cabrera, ss; x-Alan Embree, lhp; Ricky Gutierrez, 2b; Gabe Kapler, of; Curtis Leskanic, rhp; Derek Lowe, rhp; Pedro Martinez, rhp; Ramiro Mendoza, rhp; Doug Mirabelli, c; x-Bill Mueller, 3b; Mike Myers, lhp; Pokey Reese, 2b; x-Mike Timlin, rhp; Jason Varitek, c; Scott Williamson, rhp.
There are obviously a lot of guys that they are letting walk away, but the Red Sox need to sign two starters (Pedro may be one of them) and give Varitek a raise. They could conceivably move Ramirez via trade and eat some of his salary which is much more realistic than a team picking up the approximate $80,000,000 he is due over the next four seasons. Moving Manny would allow them to make a bid for Carlos Beltran which I'm sure they would be interested in doing. However, after the World Series MVP, I just cannot see them letting Manny hit the road and I think this one is long shot.
Why the White Sox have rumors floating around that they would like to move Carlos Lee is beyond me. I know they are looking to keep their payroll around $65 million and they are looking to make some big additions. Kenny Williams floated around the idea of acquiring Randy Johnson. Lee, who is due to make $8 million next year and would certainly help create some room for a large acquisition, but he may also be needed in the centerpiece of the deal. The White Sox have depth in their outfield in their minors which factors heavily into Lee being available, and maybe they think his back to back 31 homerun seasons and his 212 RBIs in two years put him at the height of his worth and need to maximize their return before they cannot afford him and let him walk after 2005 or he falls off in production. Outside of his first year, he’s knocked at least 24 homeruns per year and at 28 years old, if he is available, the Mets need to keep an eye out. Although, after Williams accused Jim Duquette of tampering with him making comments about Magglio Ordonez during the season, who knows if Williams has a desire to deal with the Mets.
If you were going to trade Scott Kazmir, it would have been nice to try and use him to get Mark Texiera from Texas, but that ship has sailed. But now the Rangers are stuck with a young first baseman in Texeira who has a major league contract and pounded 38 homeruns in 2004. Adrian Gonzalez has not much more to prove in AAA and the Rangers need to figure out what to do with him. They need pitching and could decide to move him due to concerns about his lack of power in 2004 in a power position at 1b. He can field with the best of them and would be a welcome addition to the Mets being a sweet swinging and sweet fielding left handed first baseman on the right side of 23. The power will come back to him, but he is only two years removed from a serious wrist injury.
Owner Vincent Namoli had the lowest payroll out of any major league team registering a bit about $33 million. Aubrey Huff is due to get a raise in 2005 to $4.5 million and a raise again in 2006 to $7.5 million. Huff hit 23 homers in 113 games in 2002, 34 homeruns in 162 games in 2003, and 29 homeruns in 2004 in 157 games. He has a .295 career batting average and has been the Devil Rays best hitter over the years. Why would he be available? Well it is a long shot, but when you are a tightwad like Namoli, anything is possible although very unlikely Huff will be going anywhere. Besides, Upton may not be a fit for short and may have to shift to third base, where Huff played most of his games in 2004. The D-Rays are also tossing around bringing back Tino or bringing in Carlos Delgado if they can be had for a bargain. The way I look at it, they still owe us for Kazmir anyway.
With Alfonso due to make near $10 million in arbitration this off season, the Rangers may choose to move the overvalued second baseman. He still boots a lot balls, though not as many as Kaz, and had a bit of trouble hitting when he was not in Arlington could be moved for pitching. Pitching is a glaring hole for Texas they would like to fill with some young, cheap, and capable arms.
For the same reason that Carlos Lee is available, Paul Konerko is available. Konerko is due nearly $9 million in 2005 and did nothing to hurt his trade value by knocking 41 homeruns last season. With Frank Thomas returning next year and being un-movable, Konerko may be their best shot at freeing up the payroll they need to make the necessary additions to the White Sox.
Hee Seop Choi
Although Paul DePodesta said that the Dodgers have not given up on Choi after a disappointing stint with the Dodgers next year, anything is possible. The power hitting lefty first baseman has problems hitting lefties and two teams already passed on him in the Cubs and Marlins. If the Dodgers bring back Finley and choose to use Werth in the outfield as a cheap and capable player to give them payroll flexibility, they may use Choi to fill some other needs on the team like catcher. They failed to convince Charles Johnson to come over and they traded their top prospect Koyie Hill to land Finley. Outside of Jason Varitek, defensive oriented catchers Damian Miller and Mike Matheny are available, but I would assume Matheny will stay with the Cardinals. Choi still has value and may be able to net them something decent in return.
The Dodgers would love to move Shawn Green and some of that monstrous $16 million he is due in 2005 so they can try and bring back Perez, Beltre, Finely, and Bradley as well as freeing up room for Werth or Choi. The Dodgers are also going to need to pursue a catcher as well and ESPN had floated the idea that the Dodgers may be interest in Jason Varitek’s service. If they are going to make those types of investments, they need some payroll relief.
After having two solid years in 2002 and 2003, Gibbons struggled in 2004. With the Orioles looking to add a first baseman and another outfielder, both of whom are going to be big names, Jay may become available. He made $3,000,000 in 2004 and is probably due a raise in 2005. Gibbons may be moved for some pitching help and to free up some payroll. Gibbons can play first and right field and would sure be in intriguing pick up. Camden Yards is definitely a left handed hitters park, and Shea may very well eat him alive, but is worth a look.
Ben Broussard/Josh Phelps
With Travis Hafner at DH/1B and Michael Aubry at 1B on the horizon, someone may be moved to fill some holes. Ben Broussard and Josh Phelps are both 1B/DHs that are young and inexpensive. Phelps would seemingly have more upside and more desirable to keep, but that may be the exact reason he may be the one dealt. One of these guys could be on the block since.
Preston is available like he is every year. The Rockies would love to move him again and with one year left on the contract and the Rockies happy to eat money on unwanted contracts, he may be someone that a team takes a chance on. It should not take much to get him but he had in injury riddled 2003 and is not really a dependable option.
Todd is sick of losing and his mammoth contract is going to tie up the Rockies payroll until 2011. Helton is, and will continue to take up 20+ % of their payroll and despite Dan O’Dowd not being public about it, he would love to free up Todd’s contract from the books. Although if he was not in Coors, he would not be the monster that he has been in his career, but he would still be a solid hitter. The Rockies would have to pick up a lot of salary to make this one work, but they got rid of Hampton and Walker, and only Helton remains in Colorado with no hope of winning anything ever in that city.
After a big rookie year, the Blue Jays inked Hinske to deal that gives him $3 m in 2005, $4.33 m in 2006, and $5.63 m in 2007. He has not lived up to the standard he set his rookie season, but still has some value. He may not cost too much due to the fact the Blue Jays just want to rid themselves of his salary. They already solicited the Reds since they need a third baseman, but Hinske may be able to be moved to first base or a possible C/IF backup if all else fails and provide some pop off the bench if he fails.
Although the team insists that they have not given up on him, we all know it is whether Steinbrenner wants him back or not. He may be used to try and lure the D-Backs to surrender Randy Johnson or maybe could be used to pry a veteran lefty from the Mets that would fit the criteria of a playoff tested and seasoned veteran left handed starting pitcher. Although a trade is unlikely, it warrants some attention by Omar Minaya to see if the Yankees have seen enough.
Eddie has a mutual opt-out in 2005 and 2006; club options for $6m in 2005 and $7m in 2006; $1m bonus for 60 GF in 2004 and closer role in 2005 & 2006. So needless to say, the Mariners wanted no part of this and declined his option. I was making this list up last night, before Guardado’s news broke, so I just left him here despite the fact he is a free agent. Everyday Eddie is tempting, really tempting as he would go a long way to lock down the bullpen. I think he’ll be looking for a closer job, but may be persuaded for the right price to set up in 2005 with the offer to win the job in 2006 and 2007.
One of the Big Three
Billy Beane is set to deal one of the Big Three before the season starts. Billy wants some payroll flexibility to bring in a big right handed bat to offset their lefty oriented lineup. At this point they would not mind bringing Dye back. They also have Joe Blanton ready to step into the rotation and Rich Harden to supplant whomever Beane wants to deal in the Big Three. Beane would love to be able to deal Mark Redman, but he is not the most desirable starter in their rotation. Beane’s favorite is Tim Hudson and he would love to sign him beyond 2005, but he is not willing to let him walk away like he did Tejada and Giambi while getting nothing in return if he cannot get him to sign and extension. They will not be cheap which is why the Mets may not be the best trading partner.
Shawn Chacon is on the trading block after he was moved unsuccessfully to the closer’s role. He can be used out of the pen or in the rotation and is still going to be relatively cheap after this year’s arbitration hearing. Dan O’Dowd has stated this is not a salary dump and he will be looking for some talent in return. Though he has some upside, one has to wonder how much someone will part with for a guy who’s ERA was approaching 7.00 last season.
The article also says the Yanks could possibly use Posada to get Hudson if Johnson falls through. I cannot see this happening and I cannot see Billy Beane being interested in taking on MORE payroll to dump Hudson's $6 M. Posada is due $17 M over the next two seasons with a $4 M buyout after the 2006 season. The Yankees would have to pick up almost all of this to make sense. He will have even less numbers hitting in Oak-town and will not have as many stars surrounding him in the lineup. Posada is not worth much outside of Yankee Stadium. Figure on .250, 15 homers from him in Oak-town. Billy is smarter than this.