When the deadline to extend qualifying offers to free-agents-to-be passed on November 3, it did not seem like the Mets, of all teams, would be the first to sign one of the dozen such players. But they inked a two-year deal with corner outfielder and potential part-time first baseman Michael Cuddyer. In the process, they forfeited their first-round pick—15th overall—in the 2015 amatuer draft. Under Sandy Alderson, the Mets had not made forfeited any draft picks for free agents until this offseason.
In doing so, the Mets made the decision to part with both a player they could have picked with that pick and the allotment of draft money associated with the pick. In short, baseball’s current collective bargaining agreement limits the amount of money each team can spend in the amateur draft, and the cap for each team is dependent on exactly which picks it has in the draft. Exact amounts of the 2015 draft won’t be released for a while, but the Mets will likely have approximately a couple million fewer dollars to spend in the 2015 draft. Penalties for exceeding draft caps are harsh, too, and teams have generally not gone beyond them to any significant extent since the CBA took effect.
If the Mets were to sign another player who has turned down a qualifying offer from another team this winter, they would forfeit their next-highest pick and the allotment associated with it. If the Mets are able to afford any of those ten players, which is definitely not a given, perhaps the team should take advantage of a system that encourages signing multiple free agents in one offseason. Here’s a rundown of the players left on the market.
The Mets have a bunch of starting pitchers. On paper, they could have as many as eight available to start games at the beginning of the season, service time maneuvering aside: Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom, Jon Niese, Bartolo Colon, Dillon Gee, Noah Syndergaard, and Rafael Montero. There’s plenty of hope that Steven Matz can join that crew, too, and there are some other arms on the horizon who could prove capable as major league starting pitchers. As it stands, it would seem to make sense for the Mets to trade a starting pitcher this winter to free up some payroll and a roster spot and, ideally, bring back a useful player in return.
If the team wanted to corner the market on starting pitching a bit more, it could go out and sign one of the four pitchers who turned down a qualifying offer: Francisco Liriano, Ervin Santana, Max Scherzer, or James Shields.
After a breakout season with the Twins in 2006, Liriano missed a year because of Tommy John surgery and was wildly inconsistent on a year-to-year basis through 2012. The Pirates took a chance on him, though, and he was great in 2013 and pretty good in 2014, too. He’s left handed and 31 years old.
Santana has been fairly up and down over the course of his career, too, and has been in the big leagues since 2005. He spent most of his time with the Angels but played for the Royals in 2013 and Braves in 2014. He’s also 31 years old, but he is right handed.
Scherzer was a well-known pitching prospect who made 46 appearances for the Diomandbacks in 2008 and 2009 before they sent him to the Tigers in the three-team trade that sent Curtis Granderson from Detroit to the Yankees. Since his arrival there, Scherzer has been mostly very good and really came into his own as an elite major league starter over the last couple of seasons. His strikeout and walk rates have been awfully impressive, and he eclipsed 200 innings in each of the past two years. He is 30 years old and figures to be incredibly expensive.
And speaking of durability, James Shields has thrown well over 200 innings every year since his first full season with the Rays in 2007. He has been pretty effective in the process, too. At 32 years old, he could very well still land a long-term deal.
David Robertson is the only relief pitcher on the market who turned down a QO, but he might be the most interesting player of the bunch when it comes to the Mets. It seems a little counterintuitive for a team that has had as limited a payroll as the Mets have over the last few years to spend significant money on a relief pitcher, but they could save significant money on pitchers like Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia if they bring in Robertson to close. He’s still 29 years old, he has been very good, and his workload has not been excessive over seven seasons with the Yankees.
Now that the Mets have signed MIchael Cuddyer, it would not make much sense to also sign Melky Cabrera or Nelson Cruz.
Victor Martinez is off the market, though his status as an infielder was questionable at best to begin with, and the Mets got excellent production out of Lucas Duda this year. That leaves Pablo Sandoval, whose defensive positioning is also redundant with what the Mets already have. Hanley Ramirez is the lone infielder who turned down a QO who could fit the Mets’ needs by playing shortstop, though there are plenty of doubts about just how long he will be able to handle the position going forward. The guy can hit when healthy and is 30 years old, but like Cuddyer, he has missed significant time because of injuries over the last few years.
Russell Martin is the only guy in this group, and with Travis d’Arnaud looking good after his stint in Vegas and Kevin Plawecki close to major league ready, the Mets seem pretty content behind the plate for the foreseeable future.