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Non-tendered players give Mets more options in free agency

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A review of the recently non-tendered players who could help the Mets in 2016.

Cesar Ramos
Cesar Ramos
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The non-tender deadline is one of just a few specific dates of significance in Major League Baseball's offseason. There's the start of free agency, the ensuing qualifying offer window, the non-tender deadline, and the Winter Meetings, which take place this week and include the Rule 5 draft. There are plenty of things that happen before, during, and after those dates. But every year, the non-tender deadline deepens the free agent pool, occasionally with potentially-useful players.

For the uninitiated, in early December, teams can decide whether or not to offer arbitration-eligible players—generally speaking, players with three years of service time in the big leagues—guaranteed contracts for the following season. Last week, the Mets decided to tender contracts all eight of their arbitration-eligible players contracts for the 2016 season.

But there are plenty of players who were non-tendered by other teams, so let's take a look at which ones could be good fits for the Mets next year. The team could use help in the bullpen, at shortstop, in center field, and on the bench.

Pitchers

Al Alburquerque: Unknown to some baseball fans, the 29-year-old, right-handed Alburquerque spent five years with the Detroit Tigers. He has been a high-strikeout, high-walk pitcher over the course of his career and has a 3.20 ERA and 3.34 FIP in it. That's pretty good. But the strikeout rate has dropped significantly over the past couple of years, as has his fastball velocity. He had a 4.21 ERA and 3.75 FIP in 2015, but the results were better as recently as 2014, when he had a 2.51 ERA.

Henderson Alvarez: The 25-year-old had shoulder surgery over the summer after throwing just 22.1 innings in the 2015 season, and the Marlins non-tendered him. He was part of Miami's return in the trade that sent Jose Reyes to the Blue Jays following the 2012 season. Between 2013 and 2014, Alvarez had a 2.98 ERA despite striking out just 5.2 batters per nine innings. Shoulder injuries are tricky, and the Mets probably wouldn't commit significant money to a starting pitcher this winter. He'd be a potentially high-upside signing wherever he ends up, though.

Steve Cishek: Cishek is a familiar name from his time with the Marlins. He made his debut with the team in 2010 and became a regular major league player in 2011. From that season through the 2014 season, Cishek had a 2.70 ERA and 2.59 FIP and spent much of that time as the Marlins' closer. Things didn't go nearly as well early in the 2015 season, and he had a 4.50 ERA through 32 appearances before Miami traded him to the Cardinals. With St. Louis, he had a 2.31 ERA in 27 appearances—despite walking 5.0 batters per nine innings.

Over the four seasons preceding 2015, Cishek was a high-strikeout pitcher. He struck out 10.0 per nine from 2011 through 2014 and walked 3.2. In 2015, though, he struck out just 7.8 and walked 4.4 His fastball velocity has declined in each of the past four years, and this year, for the first time in his major league career, he didn't throw a four-seam fastball, according to Brooks Baseball. The velocity and peripherals are concerning, but perhaps Cishek isn't quite done yet.

Ryan Cook: An excellent relief pitcher for the A's in 2012 and 2013, the right-handed Cook was still good in 2014, but he struggled and didn't pitch much in the majors in 2015. The A's traded him to the Red Sox at the trade deadline in July, but he didn't pitch much for them after that, either. He's 28 years old, and his fastball has lost a bit of velocity but still isn't slow by any means. Perhaps there's a bounce-back in him in 2016.

Aaron Crow: Dealt by the Royals to the Marlins after the 2014 season, Crow didn't pitch in the 2015 season after having Tommy John surgery in April. Known for being part of a good Royals bullpen from 2011 through 2014, Crow has decent career numbers with a 3.43 ERA and 4.16 FIP. In 2014, he had a 4.12 ERA and 5.40 FIP, both the worst single-season marks of his career, respectively.

Neftali Feliz: Released by the Rangers during 2015 the season, Feliz had spent his entire major league career with the organization, going back to 2009. When he was healthy, he fared very well in his first six seasons in the big leagues. From 2009 through 2014, Feliz had a 2.53 ERA, 3.61 FIP, and 175 ERA+. But things went haywire in 2015, as he had a 4.58 ERA with the Rangers when they let him go. In 28.1 innings with the Tigers, he had a 7.62 ERA. He's still 27 years old, and while his fastball isn't what it used to be, it bounced back a bit this year. He might be a good pickup, but he wouldn't be a player to count on for success in 2016.

Greg Holland: Like Crow, Holland has played all of his big league games for the Royals. Like Crow, he had Tommy John surgery this year. But he threw 44.2 innings for the Royals, serving as the team's closer as he had for the past few years, before going under the knife. He'll very likely miss all of the 2016 season, which makes him an interesting free agent case this winter. Before getting hurt, he was among the best relief pitchers in the game. He has a 2.42 ERA and 2.23 FIP in his career and has struck out 12.1 batters per nine while walking 3.5. He turned 30 years old recently, and assuming he misses all of next season, he'll be 32 years old when he returns.

Mike Minor: The soon-to-be 28-year-old lefty underwent shoulder surgery and missed the entire 2015 season. Drafted by the Braves in 2009, he made his big league debut in 2010 but put up poor-to-average numbers in his first three seasons. He had a 3.21 ERA and 3.37 FIP in 32 starts in 2013, easily the best year of his career to date, but finished 2014 with a 4.77 ERA and 4.39 FIP in 25 starts.

Juan Nicasio: With a 5.03 ERA over his first four years in the big leagues, all of which he spent with the Rockies, Nicasio wasn't exactly a big name when the Dodgers acquired him in a trade last offseason. His numbers improved with the Dodgers, as he finished the year with a 3.86 ERA and 2.83 FIP. His 10.0 strikeouts per nine was the best rate of his career, but so was his walk rate: 4.9 per nine.

Yusmeiro Petit: Traded by the Mets to the Marlins as part of the deal that brought Carlos Delgado to Queens—just a year after he signed with the Marlins instead of the Mets—following the 2005 season, Petit made his big league debut in 2006. The Marlins traded him to the Diamondbacks just before the 2007 season, and he spent three seasons there without much success before the Mariners took him off waivers. He didn't pitch in the big leagues again until 2012, when he made his return with the Giants. Since then, he has a 3.66 ERA and 3.25 FIP in 245.2 innings pitched with 8.8 strikeouts and 1.9 walks per nine. He was much better as a reliever than as a starter in his time with the Giants and could be an interesting relief option for the Mets in 2016.

Cesar Ramos: A 31-year-old lefty, Ramos spent the 2015 season with the Angels and had one of the best seasons of his major league career. He finished the year with a 2.75 ERA and 3.02 FIP in 52.1 innings over 65 appearances. He was especially good against left-handed hitters and had a 2.79 FIP against them.

Over the course of his major league career—during which he spent two seasons with the Padres, four with the Rays, and the aforementioned one with the Angels—he has a 3.15 FIP against lefties. So he's a lefty specialist, which is something the Mets could use. He doesn't strike out a ton of opposing hitters, but he doesn't allow many home runs. When things are going well, his walk rate is pretty good, too.

Position players

Tyler Flowers, C: The 29-year-old isn't much of a hitter—he has a career .223/.289/.376 line—but has managed to be a positive contributor by fWAR in recent years thanks to his defense and occasional home run power. A right-handed hitter, he bats from the same side of the plate as Travis d'Arnaud, but he doesn't have significant platoon splits in his major league career. The Mets could very well roll with d'Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki as their Opening Day catchers, but someone like Flowers could make sense as d'Arnaud's backup, at least to begin the year.

Will Middlebrooks: Back in 2012, Middlebrooks made an impression in his first major league season with the Red Sox. He hit .288/.325/.509 with 15 home runs in 286 plate appearances. Since then, he hasn't been nearly as good. In parts of two more seasons with the Red Sox and one with the Padres, Middlebrooks hit .213/.258/.363. By OPS+, he's been about as good a major league hitter as Eric Campbell. But he is a third baseman, he had some success at some point in his major league career, and he might be a better insurance option than Campbell would be if Wright misses any significant time because of his back condition in 2016.


There are other players, too, all of which can be found on MLB Trade Rumors' non-tender tracker. Some of the rest of the players could be fits for the Mets. Others—like Pedro Alvarez, Chris Carter, and Ike Davis—probably aren't. But as the Mets proceed this offseason, perhaps they'll pick up someone from the list above to help their bench, their bullpen, or their starting pitching depth.