My plan (and my plan, I like my plan) is to take the Mets from here:
So, let's get started.
I think I speak for everyone when I say that Dad had a tough year. Let's let him get his rest.
Nothing against the guy, but I sign someone who has the potential to be more of an impact bat than Turner. He was fine for what he was, but the player who I shift into his role (back-up utility infielder) has the potential to be a higher reward signing than Turner.
Yeah, see ya Q.
Major League Free Agent Signings
Yoshio Itoi (OF)
-Two Years, $10 million dollars ($4 million 2014, $6 million 2015) + $7 million dollar posting fee
I'll start with the bad, first. He turned 32 this year, and will be 33 in July. And that's about it. Formerly of the Nippon Ham Fighters and traded to the Orix Buffaloes in 2012, Yoshio Itoi is a five-time NPB All-Star (2009-2013), three-time Best Nine Outfield recipient (2009, 2011, 2012) and four-time Mitsui Golden Glove Award winner (2009-2012). He bats lefty, throws righty, and plays both centerfield and right field (he was bumped off of centerfield in 2012 by his team, but because of the acquisition of a new player, not because of sub par skills). Itoi is cut in the same profile as Angel Pagan and Norichika Aoki- excellent defenders, with have moderate power (10-15 HR potential), and good speed/base running abilities (20-30 SB potential).
His NPB stats are as follows:
There will always be people who bring up Kaz Matsui, and make blanket statements like, "Japanese players can't play American baseball", particularly the defensive aspects of the game. For every Kaz Matsui, there is a Tsuyoshi Shinjo (nine-time Mitsui Golden Glove Award winner; Career +11.9 UZR in the MLB outfield- 1.9 UZR in 284 innings in LF, 10.3 UZR in 1473.2 innings in CF, -0.3 UZR in 296.1 innings in RF), So Taguchi (five-time Mitsui Golden Glove Award winner; Career +0.6 UZR in the MLB outfield- -8.6 UZR in 1,190 innings in LF, 3.5 UZR in 1,276 innings in CF, 5.7 in 541.2 innings in RF), and Ichiro Suzuki (seven-time Mitsui Golden Glove Award winner; Career +117.1 UZR in the MLB outfield). Those players actually play the same position(s) that Itoi plays, making them better comparisons that Matsui, an infielder. Kosuke Fukudome is the only player in my research who was a plus fielder in Japan, but a decidedly poor fielder in the MLB outfield (Hideki Matsui, the final outfielder from Japan who played in the MLB, was a poor fielder in both hemispheres).
The posting fee is a bit of a downer but even when combined with the contract that he is likely to sign, about $20 million dollars worth of value over two years is reasonable, as it comes out to an annual value of $10 million dollars per year. With current WAR/$ rates, Itoi would need to accrue roughly 2.0 WAR per year to be worth that total sum,
LaTroy Hawkins (RP)
-One Year, $2.5 Million
Hawkins had a great season in 2013, and he's due for a raise. I'd prefer that he not get one, and get paid $1 million dollars or less in 2014, but there's going to be a team out there that gives him a little bit extra just based on the fact that he served as the team closer at the end of the season and successfully closed out 13 games over the course of the season. Me, I like some of his other numbers better- 7.0 K/9, 1.3 BB/9, 2.93 ERA/3.06 FIP, and 92.6 MPH fastball average, maxing at 96.5. He overall seems like a cool guy, and by all accounts, was a positive presence in the bullpen and the clubhouse last season. Though I originally wrote Hawkins out of my first draft, I have a little money left over after changing my mind about some signings and trades, so Hawkins has a spot in my BP once more.
Hideki Okajima (RP)
-One Year, $490,000
Seems like I type this every year. Sign Hideki Okajima. It's not a case of me just liking the player, and wanting to root for him in a Mets uniform: The old lefty is still chugging along, putting up good numbers. In 2011, he spent the majority of his time in Pawtucket, playing with the Pawtucket Red Sox, Boston's AAA affiliate. There, he pitched 51 innings, appearing in 34 games, and had a 2.29 ERA2/61 FIP with 5 walks (1.6 BB/9) and 25 strikeouts (8.5 K/9). He signed with the Yankees in 2012, but the contract was deemed void after Okajima failed a physical, the details of which still haven't been made public. Whatever physical issues he had clearly didn't affect him very much, because he had a very successful season with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, pitching 47.2 innings with a 0.94 ERA/2.24 FIP, 6.80 K/9, and 1.1 BB/9. In 2013, he returned to the MLB, inking a deal with the Oakland Athletics. He spent most of his season with the Sacramento River Cats, the A's AAA affiliate. There, he pitched 42.2 innings, appearing in 37 games, and had a 4.22 ERA/3.25 FIP with 9 walks (1.9 BB/9) and 45 strikeouts (9.5 K/9). Another good season in the books, another year he's a free agent and looking to pitch.
At his best, Okajima is a versatile, late-innings, high-leverage reliever that can get anyone out. At worst, assuming the worst, he can be an effective LOOGY- in his MLB career, lefties hit .223/.281/.333 off of him. His advanced age (he will be 38 in 2013) is something of a concern, but it hasn't stopped the old man yet. There is no real risk attached to the signing, as it's both for the Major League minimum, and for only one year.
Hiroyuki Nakajima (SS)
-One Year, $490,000
In 2012, Hiroyuki Nakajima was made available to MLB teams via the posting system, to some fanfare. He had been posted in 2011, and the Yankees won the rights to negotiate with him, but because the two sides could not come to an agreement, the shortstop went back to the Seibu Lions to play one more year, granting him international free agent status. Sure enough, in 2012, now an international free agent, Nakajima expressed his interest in playing in North America once again. The Oakland Athletics bit, and signed the shortstop to a two-year, $6.5 million dollar contract.
Suffice to say, things did not go as Billy Beane planned. Nakajima did not impress during Spring Training, barely hitting his weight. At the end of March, he was put on the DL with a strained left hamstring. He missed about a month, and when he was activated from it at the beginning of May, was assigned to the Sacramento River Cats, Oakland's AAA affiliate. There, he continued to struggle. In 90 games, he hit .283, a decent average, and got on base at a .331 clip, but slugged a paltry .367- disappointing in general, but in the offense first PCL, really, really disappointing. In 28 games, his defense at shortstop- which was always "average, at best"- did not pass the eye test, so he was moved to third base for 37 games, and second base for 19.
Oakland took Nakajima off of their 40-man roster, so their loss is our gain, I say. Because the Athletics are fronting most of the bill, there is no real risk. Is there reward? I think so. Nakajima has all the tools of a decent hitter, but various factors prevented them from blooming out in Oakland, most notably his hamstring injury, which certainly could have impacted his power output and his defense. In addition, there seemed to be a lot of front office pressure on the shortstop to adapt and excel in the U.S.- or else. That Oakland abandoned the man the pegged as their starting shortstop in the span of less than a year smells slightly funny to me. But, whatever the reasons, I am betting on a bounce-back year. I imagine him filling the role that Justin Turner has over the last few years. He can play shortstop, second, and third, and Turner's .280/.319/.385 in 86 games last year, and his career .265/.326/.370 line in his Mets career isn't any better than Nakajima's .283/.331/.367 batting line in 90 games with Sacramento. Unlike Turner, Nakajima theoretically has the upside of potentially hitting his sway into a starting shortstop job. Probably not happening, but the upside is a nice thing to have.
Misael Silverio (SP)
-Four Years, $8 Million ($2 million 2014, $2 million 2015, $2 million 2016, $2 million 2017)
Back in July, Misael Silverio, a 24-year-old lefty playing for the Cuban National Team defected in Des Moines, Iowa. The team was in town during a collegiate exhibition game, and Silverio literally walked out of his hotel a few hours after arriving and never looked back. He debuted at age 19 as a pitcher for Villa Clara in the 47th Serie Nacional. That year, he went 5-2 with a 4.53 ERA in 51.7 innings, striking out 48 and walking 28, being used as both a starter and reliever. He would have up-and-down years, as he was yanked around from the rotation to the bullpen.
His Serie Nacional stats are as follows:
Silverio is very much projection, but he has promise. His fastball sits in the high 80s, topping out around 90 MPH, but has decent movement, running in against right-handers. On the surface, the velocity is a bit of a downer, but is minimized because Silverio is a lefty. His main weapon is a big curveball that he has control of, and enough confidence to throw for strikes in all counts. At 5'9" he is kind of short, which is a little worrisome, and at roughly 200 pounds, there isn't too much room to put on muscle for additional velocity.
I don't think the lefty is MLB ready right now, and this will affect his price. Instead of getting a Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez contract, he is more likely to get a Yunesky Maya contract. Silverio could be a bargain, compared to the contract that Miguel Gonzalez signed with the Phillies, and what other Cuban defectors, such as Dalier Hinojosa or Odrisamer Despaigne, might make this off-season, depending on how his MLB maturation goes. Compare Silverio's work with that of Gonzalez over the past three years in Cuba:
Miguel Gonzalez has better overall stuff, I believe, but Silverio is younger, a lefty, and has been able to statistically match or surpass Gonzalez back in Cuba based on lesser tools. None of this means that either Silverio (or Gonzalez) will be stars, or busts, but that I think Silverio could be a more cost-effective signing.
I would assign the Cuban lefty to AAA-Vegas to start the season, so to get acclimated to MLB baseball and to work on the things that he needs to work on (limiting walks, polishing other secondary offerings, possibly refining the curveball some more). If he develops, he gives the Mets a young lefty starter, something the team does not have in earnest, to either use in some capacity at the MLB level or to be used as future trade bate
Why This Makes Sense For The Orioles:
The Orioles have committed to Brian Roberts for years now, and though he's always had the potential to be a good player, injuries have always gotten in the way. A free agent now, it is fairly unlikely that the O's look to re-sign Roberts. At first glance, this gives them the opening they need to promote top prospect Jonathan Schoop. Mr. Jonathan Rufino Jezus Schoop might not be ready for prime time, though. Though nobody doubts his glove, Schoop's bat isn't all there. In 2012, he hit .245/.324/.386 in 124 games with the Bowie Baysox (AA) and last season, he hit .256/.301/.396 in 70 games with the Norfolk Tides. Given that he is all of 22, there is no reason to (A) think his bat won't come along and (B) push him too hard. Enter Daniel Murphy.
Murphy helps the Orioles in a few ways. His ability to proficiently play both second and third bases gives Baltimore some wiggle room when making up their line-up. Manny Machado and JJ Hardy both have the ability to play either shortstop or second base with good defense- Murphy manning third gives the Orioles access to both their bats and their gloves, at critical positions. He can also be put into the DH spot or first base spot, adding additional versatility.
In acquiring Murphy, the Orioles are giving up Henry Urrutia and Wei-Yin Chen, two international signings made over the past two years. Henry Urrutia hit .276/.276/.310 in a handful of at-bats, and hit a combined .347/.406/.506 in 81 games in AA-Bowie and AAA-Norfolk. Chen posted a 4.02 ERA in 192.2 innings in 2012 with solid peripherals, and a 4.07 ERA in 137 innings in 2013 with similar peripherals, limited by injury. Both would be solid fits on the 2014 Orioles, but it takes something to get something. Neither are irreplaceable, either. The team has some solid pitching depth at the High-A/AA level, and already have a few incumbents that can play left field and have the ability to make a splash on the free agent market, should they choose.
Why This Makes Sense For The Mets:
As has discussed many times this season, Murphy and Flores have developed in such ways that their respective careers have hit a crossroads, and we're being forced to choose to go with one or the other. I, personally, am going with Flores over Murphy, on the basis that Flores will be cost controlled for longer, has the potential to be a better player, and Murphy's value is at its highest this winter.
In acquiring Henry Urrutia, the Mets are getting back their everyday left fielder. There isn't too much to work with, but he hit an electric .365/.433/.550 with Bowie and a solid .316/.358/.430 with Norfolk. He doesn't strike out much, and understands how to take a walk. In the outfield, according to scouting reports I have read, the Cuban exile is a so-so outfielder. He has a fair arm, and solid range. He isn't particularly fast, but he's athletic, so more experience and better reads off the bat will make up for his lack of running speed. In theory, he could handle right field, but he is more a fit in left. I'll be honest, I wanted to sign Beltran and shoehorn him into left (easier on his knees!), but the money just wasn't there.
Wei-Yen Chen gives the Mets a second lefty to compliment Jon Niese, and someone who will probably benefit a great deal from getting out of the AL East, where his HR/9 rate sits slightly over 1. If you're a pitcher who is otherwise solid, but are giving up too many home runs, Citi Field is a great place to pitch (though it doesn't suppress offense like it once did). Chen was limited to 137 innings this season, but this is an anomaly- he pitched 192.2 innings in 2012, and averaged 170 innings as a fulltime starter with the Chunichi Dragons between 2009 and 2011.
Why This Makes Sense For The Rays:
James Loney was a nice surprise, but the first baseman is unlikely to return to Tampa Bay. In his age 30 season, the Rays will be wondering whether the Loney that shows up in 2014 is the one who showed up in 2013 and hit .299/.348/.430 or if the one that showed up the previous year and hit .249/.293/.336? In either case, the first baseman will probably make more than Tampa Bay is willing to pay, as he made $2 million this past season and will be in for a decent sized raise on the free agent market.
Enter Lucas Duda, who will be extremely affordable, just entering arbitration in 2015. Duda didn't have the best year in 2014, hitting .223/.352/.415. But, when you do a little digging, it just shows how little "basic" stats really tell you. Despite the low batting average, and so-so slugging percentage, Duda had a OPS+ of 118 and wRC+ of 120, both relatively good numbers. While you have to look to find numbers that pronounce Duda good at something in the 2013 season, a very progressive club like the Rays, they are more assuredly aware of these numbers. In 2012, Duda had a OPS+ of 99 and wRC+ of 100, and in 2011 he had an OPS+ of 137 and a wRC+ of 136, so he isn't a case of a season coming out of nowhere either, like Loney might just be.
In addition, they get Ruben Tejada. With Escobar's absence, someone needs to play shortstop. Rookie Hak-Ju Lee may or may not be ready, but probably isn't in the cards that he starts the season with the MLB team- he is still recovering from major injury and hasn't had too much time to rehab, and even if he were ready, the Rays would likely wait until the Super Two date passes, giving them more time to have Lee in their control. Tejada had a poor season last year, but was a averagely generic shortstop in 2012. The Rays can use him and do with him as they like after they graduate Lee, but Tejada gives them someone who can play passable baseball for a few months.
Why This Makes Sense For The Mets:
I wasn't really a fan of Escobar at first, but, once more, that just goes to show how relatively little things "basic" stats tell you. On the surface, for example, his .256/.332/.366 batting line for 2013 looks like nothing special, possibly even something bad. But, adjusted to ballpark, he ends with with a 97 OPS+ and wRC+ of exactly 100, both very acceptable. I'm more interested in Yunel's defense, anyway. The man is a good defender, plain and simple.
Escobar comes at a somewhat attractive price, as well. His 2014 and 2015 seasons are both covered by $5 million dollar team options. With the value of one win above replacement at roughly $5 million dollars, Escobar could be worth his contract just by playing so-so defense, let alone playing the plus defense he usually does, or even hitting decently.
Anthony Recker For Pat Venditte
Why This Makes Sense For The Yankees:
The Yankees were really hurting at the catching position this season, and there's nothing necessarily on their horizon to suggest that it won't be a problem area for 2014 as well. Fransisco Cervelli will start the season serving a 50-game suspension for connections to the Biogenesis clinic. Chris Stewart, who got the lion's share of catching duties, played in 109 games and hit an anemic .211/.293/.272 in 340 plate appearances, good for a wRC+ of 58. Rookie Austin Romine, a marginal top prospect in the past, appeared in 60 games and didn't do much better than Stewart, hitting .207/.255/.296 in 148 plate appearances, good for a wRC+ of 48. Recker wasn't a world-beater or anything last season, but in the limited time that he played, he was heads-and-shoulders above either Yankee catcher. In 50 games and 151 plate appearances, Recker hit .215/.280/.400 and had a wRC+ of 89. Of the three, Romine is the only one who has shown himself to be decent with the glove, having been ranked the Yankees top defensive catching prospect for three years straight.
Stewart likely does not have any role with the team in 2014, so it comes down to Romine being the everyday catcher for at least 50 games, or one of JR Murphy or Gary Sanchez. Recker gives the Yankees an alternative that is better offensively than Stewart and Romine, and allows them to not have to call up their prospects, saving service time.
Why This Makes Sense For The Mets:
I just like Pat Venditte. I saw him a few times when he was with the Staten Island Yankees (though not that famous at-bat against Ralph Henriquez), and he's just a really interesting pitcher to watch.
Pat sat out most of 2013, working back from a torn labrum that he suffered in May 2012. He finally got back to game action in July, rehabbing with the GCL Yankees, Tampa Yankees, and Trenton Thunder. For the year, the 28-year-old pitched 28.2 innings and posted a 3.45 ERA with excellent peripherals (9.4 K/9, 2.5 BB/9). He spent the most time in Trenton, where he made 8 appearances and pitched 11.1 innings. With the Thunder, he posted a 3.97 ERA with 1 10.3 K/9 rate and 2.4 BB/9 rate.
Minor League Signings
Daisuke Matsuzaka (SP)
Not many people were fans of Dice-K in his brief stint with the team last year, at least initially. A lot of people were put off by the time it took him to pitch (I do not count myself among them) and the results just weren't there, for the most part. While true, at the same time, I don't think we should just gloss over the fact that Dice-K is/was still recovering from Tommy John surgery, and that in 103.1 innings with the Columbus Clippers, the Cleveland Indians AAA affiliate, Matsuzaka had a decent ERA/FIP (3.93/3.96) as well as decent peripherals (8.3 K/9 rate, 3.4 BB/9 rate). In the 38.2 innings that he pitched with the Mets, he ended the season with a 4.42 ERA/4.32 FIP and peripherals that were about the same (7.7 K/9 rate, 3.9 BB/9 rate). It might also be breaking thing down to too fine a degree, but over his first three starts, where he was bad, Dice-K had a 10.95 ERA, .432 BABIP and 7 BBs to 12 Ks. In his next four, he had a 1.37 ERA, .248 BABIP, and 9 BBs to 21 Ks.
The team needs starting pitching depth in AAA. All teams do. Matsuzaka fills that need. Among most other free agent AAA-depth-type pitchers available for pennies on the dollar, Matsuzaka probably has the highest theoretical upside. Given his older age, injury history, and lack of really blooming in North America, will he achieve that theoretical upside, whatever it is? Maybe, maybe not. He'd only be relied upon in any real way if he (A) does exhibit that potential in Las Vegas or (B) injuries and other problems force him into the starting rotation, as they did in 2013, anyway. If Situation A occurs, things are looking good, and it's a positive situation. If Situation B occurs, the Mets already have bigger problems than Matsuzaka pitching well or not.
John Lannan (SP)
Because he was a National, I never necessarily rooted for John Lannan, but as a pitcher, I liked him. He's always been a perfectly cromulent pitcher, totaling a 4.01 ERA and 103 ERA+ over the 783.2 innings he pitched with the Nationals. And, he's a left-hander, something the team is lacking when it comes to MLB ready starters.
Despite being perfectly serviceable beforehand, Lannan was "pushed" into the Minors by the Nationals in 2012. He didn't exactly set the world on fire down there in the International League, nor did he in 2013 when he spent time with the Phillies, so it's very likely he settles for a Minor League contract for 2014. At 29, he is still young, and as a lefty, he is always useful. With the prices that starting pitchers are getting at this junction of the off-season, a minor league deal and a hope and a prayer might be more cost effective.
Brad Bergesen (SP)
I'm a fan of Brad Bergsesen- in fact, I'm wearing a Bergesen t-shirt as I type this. Going to that fateful Orioles game back in 2009, I had no clue who Brad Bergsesen was. But, they were giving out t-shirt at Camden Yards, and it was Brad Bergsesen appreciation night, so I got myself a nice Brad Bergesen t-shirt. And make no mistake- when I say it's nice, it's nice. It's an actual t-shirt, like you'd find in stores, devoid of marketing and sponsorship and all that other stuff. But, I digress.
Bergsesen is coming off of a decent season in 2013 with the Chunichi Dragons; He pitched 53.1 innings with a 3.71 ERA. As a groundball pitcher, his peripherals aren't particularly exciting, but he is effective. He will be turning only 28 next season, so he isn't exactly over-the-hill, either. He represents a last-option kind of stopgap, in the case of injury and ineffectiveness, but he isn't an ancient veteran whose pitching life already passed its expiration date. I'm not saying that Bergesen is going to necessarily impress and become an asset, but there may still be some mileage that we can get out of him.
Starting Line Up
1st Base: Ike Davis (L)
2nd Base: Wilmer Flores (R)
3rd Base: David Wright (R)
Shortstop: Yunel Escobar (R)
Left Field: Henry Urrutia (L)
Center Field: Juan Lagares (R)
Right Field: Yoshio Itoi (L)
Catcher: Travis d'Arnaud (R)
Juan Centeno (R)
Eric Young, Jr. (S)
Matt den Dekker (L)
Josh Satin (R)
Hiroyuki Nakajima (R)
Zack Wheeler (R)
Jon Niese (L)
Dillon Gee (R)
Wei-Yin Chen (L)
Jenrry Mejia (R)
Bobby Parnell (R)
Vic Black (R)
Jeurys Familia (R)
Hideki Okajima (L)
LaTroy Hawkins (R)
Josh Edgin (L)
Pat Venditte (S)
Minor League Depth of Note
Brad Bergesen (SP/RP- RHP)
John Church (RP- RHP)
Jake deGrom (SP- RHP)
Gonzalez Germen (RP- RHP)
John Lannan (SP- LHP)
Jack Leathersich (RP- LHP)
Daisuke Matsuzaka (SP- RHP)
Rafael Montero (SP- RHP)
Scott Rice (RP- LHP)
Misael Silverio (SP- LHP)
Noah Syndergaard (SP- RHP)
Carlos Torres (SP/RP-RHP)
Jeff Walters (RP- RHP)
Andrew Brown (OF- RHB)
Allan Dykstra (1B- LHB)
Cesar Puello (OF- RHB)
Jordany Valdespin (OF- LHB)
Wilfredo Tovar (SS- RHB)
|David Wright||$20 Million||MVP|
|Johan Santana||$5.5 Million||Contract Buy Out|
|Yunel Escobar||$5 Million||---|
|Jon Niese||$5 Million||---|
|Yoshio Itoi||$4 Million||$7 Million Posting Fee|
|Ike Davis||$3.5 Million||---|
|Dillon Gee||$3.4 Million||---|
|Bobby Parnell||$3.2 Million||---|
|Jason Bay||$3 Million||Contract Buy Out|
|LaTroy Hawkins||$2.5 Million||---|
|Misael Silverio||$2 Million||Assigned to AAA-Vegas|
|Eric Young Jr.||$1.9 Million||---|
|Matt den Dekker||$490.000||---|
Total Payroll: $78.6 Million Dollars