The New York Mets are entering their most promising offseason in years. David Wright has finally elected to get his shoulder fixed, Juan Lagares just won his first Gold Glove Award in center field and Lucas Duda is an emerging star in the middle of the lineup. Catcher Travis d’Arnaud showed real promise down the stretch. Curtis Granderson is expected to return to form under hitting coach Kevin Long. The bench has both offensive and defensive catalysts in the likes of Eric Young.
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Perhaps, most importantly, the Mets’ pitching is widely regarded as among the National League’s best. The Mets have few matters left to seriously address, but their handling of these matters will determine whether they get over the hump in 2015. Here are five players the New York Mets should pursue, via free agency or trade, this offseason.
Alexei Ramirez hasn’t achieved the heights many had anticipated for him, but he’s been a valuable presence in the White Sox’ lineup for years. In seven seasons, Ramirez has posted an average season of .277, with 14 home runs, 69 RBI and 17 stolen bases. He often bats second in the Sox’ lineup, a spot the Mets have been trying to fill for a while. And he’s an excellent fielder at shortstop, which would strengthen the Mets’ already vastly improved defense. Ramirez doesn’t have serious home run power; even with adjusted outfield depths, Citi Field won’t be the kind of launching pad he got used to at US Cellular Field. But he is a solid doubles hitter, averaging 28 per season. He’s 33 years old, still in his peak years, and he’s contracted for a not-unreasonable $8 million per year through 2016. The New York Mets would have to pay a bit more for Ramirez, but he covers two areas of necessity: a right-handed bat and an everyday shortstop. He would improve the Mets immediately in multiple aspects of the game.
As I’ve broken down before, Josh Reddick would be a relatively cheap acquisition with extremely high upside. He’s hit as many as 32 home runs and driven in as many as 85 runs. Reddick is a lefty with power and speed, and he’s batted from second to seventh in the Oakland A’s lineup. He’s solid in the clutch, unafraid of the big moments and an excellent right fielder with a strong arm. He’s had a few seasons shortened by injury, partly due to his daredevil-style athleticism in the field — but if he can stay healthy, his defense alone would make him worth a shot. Best of all, he’s only 27, and his current contract is only $2.7 million. Think of him as Matt den Dekker with a stronger arm and more of a Major League track record. As for den Dekker, he’d make solid trade bait as part of a package deal — or the Mets could stash him while he cultivates his own interesting upside in triple-A or as a fourth outfielder. The A’s wouldn’t give Reddick away for peanuts, but the Mets wouldn’t have to sell the farm, either.
Nelson Cruz provided a resounding answer to his doubters in 2014, batting .271 with 40 home runs and 108 RBIs. Any concerns that his power numbers were PED-dependent have been addressed, and he remains one of the more dangerous right-handed sluggers in the game. While Citi Field — adjusted dimensions or not — isn’t nearly as homer-friendly as Camden Yards, Cruz can drive the ball out of any park. In fact, 25 of his 40 home runs last season were on the road. Cruz is well known for his occasional struggles in right field, and Citi Field is a heck of a tough right field to play. But he’d have the best defensive center fielder in baseball next to him in Juan Lagares, and the Mets have excellent defensive replacement options in den Dekker and Kirk Nieuwenhuis. It’s also worth noting that Cruz has a fairly strong arm. He’s an unrestricted free agent, so the New York Mets would only have to talk him into signing up; and while he’s certain to request an upgrade on last year’s $8 mullion contract, he might agree to a reasonable price if he thinks he’s a finishing piece for a division winner. The fact that he would cost a first-round pick in 2015 isn’t as daunting for a team with a farm system as strong as the New York Mets have. And at 34, he’s reaching the end of his peak but isn’t yet over the hill. Last but not least: Cruz and Lucas Duda would be a scary lefty-righty power duo.
Yoenis Cespedes was one of the prime movers of an Athletics team that seemed poised to rampage into the postseason. Then they traded him to the Red Sox, in a move that many found questionable. The Sox, who are in a rebuilding stage, might be willing to trade him, and he would be a good fit for the Mets. Cespedes is a solid outfielder with a cannon for a throwing arm, and he’s a right-handed hitter with enormous natural power. He’s known as a great presence in the clubhouse, and his charismatic personality would fit well in the New York spotlight. Adding to the New York angle: Cespedes recently switched agents and joined Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports. His plate discipline can be spotty, and his career batting average is only .263. But he would be a looming presence in the New York Mets’ lineup, which would open up the threat potential of Duda and others. At $9 million a year, his contract isn’t overly expensive, and at 29, he’s near the front end of his peak with time and room to grow.
I’ve also addressed this angle before, but Troy Tulowitzki would be a great fit for the New York Mets’ lineup. He’s an elite defensive shortstop, a right-handed bat who hits for average and power, and he’s still only 30 years old. Tulo’s addition as a run producer would allow den Dekker, an excellent outfielder, a chance to audition for an everyday role. And Tulowitzki’s power isn’t limited to home runs: He’s a capable doubles and triples hitter, the proverbial whole package on offense. Of course, Tulo comes with concerns, particularly his long injury history. But he’s said that he thinks his injury problems are behind him, and again, he’s only 30 years old. Another concern: Tulowitzki will be costly. He’s contracted for almost $16 million per year, and the Rockies would ask for a fair amount to trade him away. But they’ve made it known they’re entertaining offers, and Tulowitzki could immediately make the Mets a legitimate contender.
The New York Mets, after a season on the brink, finally seem one or two moves away from breaking through. Their fans are hoping they’ll finally take the plunge and acquire the finishing pieces. If hey do, 2015 will be an auspicious year.