As offseason trade rumors continue, the New York Mets are known to be in search of a few key components. They need power in the middle of the order. They need a viable everyday option at shortstop. They also need a third outfielder, preferably one who can provide the aforementioned power. With all of these needs under consideration, the Mets are said to be entertaining an interesting variety of players, including the Yankees’ Curtis Granderson and the Reds’ Shin-Soo Choo. I’ve already written about the danger of overpaying for someone like Choo, who would improve the team but not quite be the player to put them firmly in contention. But there are a handful of oft-discussed free agents whom the Mets not only shouldn’t pay a lot for, but don’t really need to actively pursue.
Don’t get me wrong, Andre Ethier is a very good player and underrated by far too many. He’s athletic and multifaceted, and he has put together fairly consistent numbers over a seven-year career in which he’s hit .288 with 141 home runs. He’s a middle-order hitter who can create runs and provide lineup protection. The problem: He’s not a cleanup hitter, especially in a park like Citi Field. Now, I’m not a proponent of the cookie-cutter approach to defining hitters, and I don’t believe that a cleanup hitter has to be a prodigious whopper who hits 35 home runs a year. Marlon Byrd isn’t exactly a prototypical cleanup hitter, either, and his addition greatly improved the offenses of both the Mets and the Pirates this year. But this is exactly my point: If the New York Mets go after a non-prototypical cleanup hitter, they can do better than Ethier. Byrd was a solid, smart defender with an excellent throwing arm and an excellent clubhouse presence. Either is less of an overall defender, and it stands to reason that his power numbers would decline in Citi Field. My concern is that he’d be another Jason Bay — a decent outfielder who hit cleanup in a hitter’s park but hit warning-track outs for the Mets, while trying too hard to “hit like a cleanup batter” instead of sticking to line drives and gappers. If the Mets land a cleanup hitter, or if Lucas Duda blooms into one (as I, among others, still believe he can), then Ethier would be a great option to hit fifth. But right now, he’s just a good hybrid player who isn’t what the Mets need to spend their money on.
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Like Ethier, Jhonny Peralta is a solid, proven veteran who can help produce runs. In 10 seasons, he’s hit .268 with 156 home runs, not jaw-dropping numbers but solid from the shortstop position. He’s proven he can hit in pitchers’ parks, having spent much of his time in Detroit’s Comerica Park. Unfortunately, also like Ethier, his defensive ability is middling. Even if they begin to score more, the Mets are developing as a pitching-oriented team. Pitching-oriented teams need good defense up the middle, and Peralta’s offensive numbers don’t justify a defensive downgrade at his position. And again, if the New York Mets land a true cleanup hitter, it might be worth giving prospect Dilson Herrera more time to percolate — or even giving Ruben Tejada a chance to get his act together.
Stephen Drew presents the opposite problem: He’s got a very good glove, but he hasn’t been a consistent offensive threat for years. He would provide a defensive upgrade at shortstop, for sure, and he’s got some history of run production when healthy. The problem is, his health has been spotty for some time now. And even if he’s able to stay healthy, his run production declined somewhat sharply at the front end of what should be his peak years. Drew was an excellent pickup for the Red Sox down the stretch, because they were a team that wanted an extra tweak to put them over the top. He provided a solid glove, years of experience and a puncher’s chance at extra-base hits in a known hitter’s park. At Citi Field, his power numbers would probably be negligible, and his intangibles wouldn’t make up for his lack of run production. Even the fact that he’s a lefty batter, which the Mets could really use, he still isn’t a player I’d recommend making a prime target. If the New York Mets want a good defensive shortstop with an unreliable bat, they can find one for less than Drew will likely cost.
Bronson Arroyo is an innings-eating veteran who’s put together a solid career despite mostly pitching in hitters’ parks. He knows how to battle through starts, outsmart hitters and pitch his way out of trouble. He’s also nearing the tail end of his career, and he has a tendency to give up home runs. It could be argued that pitching at Citi Field would alleviate his home run problem, especially in light of how much time he’s spent pitching in Boston and Cincinnati, but that might not be a gamble worth taking. He’s entering his late thirties, and while he’s the kind of pitcher who tends to age well because he’s more crafty than overpowering, the New York Mets are not exactly starved for starting pitching, and their money could be better spent.
The New York Mets could use all of the above players, but none of them should be high on their list of priorities.