It may be a little-known fact, but until this year, every All-Star game this century has featured at least one former or future Mets player on the AL team. In fact, from 2000-2006, at least one former Met made the AL team, while from 2007-2009, the following offseason's big acquisition was an AL All-Star (Santana, Rodriguez, and Bay, respectively). In 2010, Ty Wigginton's breakout first half for the Orioles kept the streak alive. After the 2011 AL All-Star roster was finalized and featured no former Mets, only one question remained - which player would the Mets sign?My interest in this subject is derived, oddly enough, from baseball cards. Starting with the 2000 All-Star game, All-Star workout jerseys have been chopped up and released embedded in cards. From 2005 to the present, the major source of these cards has been Topps Updates and Highlights, this year's version of which was released last week. So yeah, I just want to know which card(s) to buy...
2011 AL All-Star Roster
*Free agent after the 2011 season
˚Opt-out clause after 2011 season
†Team option for 2012
That's a lot of players (thank you expanded rosters and convoluted rules for pitchers), many of whom I know little to nothing about. We can cross most of the Yankees off the list of potential Mets (for various reasons), so there go Rivera, Sabathia, Martin, Canó, Rodriguez, Jeter, and Granderson. Other players signed to high-dollar contracts are out too, so we can cut Beckett, King Felix, Verlander, M Cabrera, A Gonzalez, Beltré, and Young. We had our chance at Bautista (for about five minutes), so let's take him off too (and no, he doesn't count as a Met unless he actually appeared in a game). Old DH-1B types are simply out of the question, so no Ortiz or Konerko. Young hotshots or reasonably priced high-performers aren't going anywhere, so cross off G Gonzalez, Lester, Robertson, Romero, Avila, Wieters, A Cabrera, and Ellsbury. Aaron Crow has no jersey card in 2011 Topps Updates & Highlights, so he's useless to me. So what's left? (All analysis is based on a quick glance at recent stats and may not be entirely based on reality. You have been warned.)
The big haul this winter is likely to be Wilson. If the Mets can't re-sign Reyes (Re-sign Re-yes!), Wilson might be a good way to spend those millions of dollars (as long as the number of years is kept down). Competition is likely to be tough, especially from the incumbent Rangers (not to mention the Red Sox, Yankees, Nationals, Marlins, and probably a dozen other teams), so this could be a longshot. His performance in the playoffs to this point has not been encouraging, but he'll have another shot to impress in the World Series.
It's a pretty steep drop-off in AL All-Star free agents this year. Cuddyer plays 1B, 3B, and RF, but isn't good enough to justify keeping Duda, Evans, and/or Murphy from getting regular playing time even if Davis and Wright are both out at the same time again.
Walk Year (Not counting 2013 team options)
Arbitration eligible for 2012, free agent afterward. First-time closer for the Mariners, 37 saves and a 2.79 ERA. Doesn't give up many walks or home runs.
With team options through 2014 and outstanding performance this year (249.1 IP, 2.82 ERA, 11 complete games, 4 of them shutouts), forget it.
Technically a free agent after the season, but has a team option that isn't really out of line given his performance (an ML-best 49 saves) and the fact that the Tigers made it to the ALCS. Could be an interesting option for closer if the Tigers decline the option.
Arbitration eligible for 2012, free agent afterward. Plays second base, could be available in a trade due to impending free agency if the Angels need to free up some cash and have promising options in the minors. 2B is probably not one of the positions the Mets will be looking for outside help with, but anything's possible.
The Red Sox are due for a major shakeup after their historic collapse, with pitching being a likely target (Can I interest you in a Pelfrey, only slightly used?). Youkilis could be in the mix (under contract for 2012 with a team option for 2013), but he wouldn't be a good fit with Ike and Wright (or Murphy or Evans or...) in the lineup. Unless a third team gets involved (Do the Mariners need a corner infielder?), there's no chance here.
Signed through 2012 with a team option for 2013 with the Tigers. Has a reasonable contract relative to his performance but doesn't really fit in with the Mets unless Reyes doesn't re-sign and Tejada is stuck at second or in the minors.
Signed through 2012. I don't see Texas unloading Hamilton unless they find themselves in last place next July and he's likely to re-sign there afterward anyway, so this one's out.
Arbitration eligible for 2012, free agent afterward. Corner outfielder. Yeah, not happening.
Went 13-8 for the AL champion Rangers in just his second year in the majors. Let's just cross this one off now...
Under team control for three more years, 36 saves and a 3.32 ERA for Cleveland.
Went 9-10 for the Mariners, which usually equates to ace material just about anywhere else (well, not quite, but the 3.74 ERA and 173 strikeouts are encouraging). He's a rookie making squat and delivering good results (as much as that's possible with the Mariners).
Arbitration eligible for 2013-2015, free agent afterward. Even if his results were down from last year, he's due for a contract extension to buy out his first few (or all) arbitration-eligible years. The Rays won't deal him until he's too expensive.
32 saves and a 2.98 ERA for the Angels. There sure are a lot of young and cheap closers on this list...
Arbitration eligible through 2015, free agent afterward. Like any young player on the Rays, I wouldn't expect him to hit the market until his price tag gets too high.
That's not a very encouraging list. The only options that would make any sense (and that's a very loose "any") would be Wilson, Kendrick, or any of the closers (League, Perez, Valverde, and Walden), but I can't see the closers being dealt unless someone really likes Mike Pelfrey (I don't mean to pile on Pelfrey, but he's really the biggest trade chip the Mets have right now outside of Traid David Wrongz or double-batting wunderkind Ike David). Wilson and Kendrick are almost certainly out unless Reyes doesn't re-sign, and even then only make marginal sense. The best bet right now looks like whichever young arm goes bust first and gets picked up cheap in a last-ditch effort to keep playing at the major league level (it's not that I want Ogando or Pineda to implode next year, but if that's what it takes...). As for this situation being resolved before opening day (because this is obviously such a pressing matter for the Mets front office), it's not looking good. One thing is certain though - one of these players will put on a Mets uniform at some point. Who would you put your money on?
(Oh sure, now Aaron Crow has All-Star workout jersey cards in 2011 Finest. Thanks a lot Topps, you just had to go and ruin it...)