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Mets FA’s and Arb Eligible: Who Should Stay or Go?

By Mike Silva ~ September 10th, 2011. Filed under: New York Mets.

The Mets have twelve players that are either free agents or arbitration eligible this offseason. Let’s take a look at each and see if it makes sense to have them back in 2012:

Jose Reyes (free agent) - no brainer, sort of. Losing Reyes will change the dynamic of the Mets in a way they won’t be able to replace before the start of spring training. You lose both a leadoff man and a shortstop that provides excellent defense. That combination is impossible to find, and may never be seen again in team history. Most important, you lose the engine that has made this team go since 2005.With that said, can the Mets afford Reyes on a $100 million dollar payroll, and if they can, what is a reasonable threshold?

Sandy Alderson will make every attempt to bring Reyes back to New York. I believe he will not go past five years and about $100 million dollars. There are two prime examples already on this roster of how bad money can hamper a team’s payroll flexibility. The Mets financial situation forces them to make the same difficult decisions of other mid-market teams. I know saying that will tick off the fans, but it’s the cold hard truth.

If the money is similar I believe it would be in Reyes best interest to come back to New York. He knows the organization and has realized success here. There is something to be said for comfortable surroundings. Look at the tough adjustments Jayson Werth and Carl Crawford have gone through in their new surroundings. Remember, a big contract changes a lot of things; he should just ask Jason Bay.

However, if a team like Washington decides to get crazy and push this to the 7 year $150 million dollar level than I think the Mets bow out gracefully. I put 60/40 odds he is back in 2012.

Mike Pelfrey (arbitration) - What you saw last night (6+ inning/3 runs) is what he is. I don’t see Pelfrey being anything more than a middle of the rotation innings guy that pitches to a 4.50 ERA. Some nights he will tease you with number two stuff; other nights he will look like a fifth starter.  Big Pelf is arbitration eligible and probably due to make $5 million dollars this offseason. The Mets pitching depth is so thin (see Miguel Batista starting 2 games) they have no choice but to tender him a contract. The affordable options are guys that won’t provide the type of innings that Pelfrey has. Yes, he’s frustrating, but you aren’t going to get someone similar for the same price. Going for scrap heap options has the potential to put tremendous strain on the bullpen. Tender him a contract.

Angel Pagan (arbitration) - Another guy I would love to see non-tendered because of limits to his game. I have my doubts that Pagan is a winning ballplayer. He didn’t endear himself to the team when he pouted about batting leadoff. His bathroom antics in Philadelphia embarrassed them as well. Let’s not mention the injuries that always seem to nag Pagan. He has picked up his game in the second half (.284 batting average), but overall 2011 has been a sub-par year. With that said, there aren’t any reliable centerfield options the Mets could afford on the free agent market. Perhaps Pagan can make 2012 the breakout season we see from a lot of guys in walk years. If he gives you 2010 production (.290/11/69), then he is worth the potential $5 million he will be awarded in arbitration. You might also need Pagan to be your leadoff hitter if Reyes leaves. Hopefully, he learns to embrace such a role.

Chris Capuano (free agent) - One of the better value signings by Sandy Alderson this offseason. Unless something happens he will start 30 games and pitch around 180 innings. He is your typical backend of the rotation starter that will give you five to six good innings, and struggle against elite hitting teams. Capuano is signed to a $1.5 million dollar contract, but has performance bonuses based on innings and starts that can raise that amount. I expect him to explore his value on the free agent market. I don’t believe he will be back, nor should the Mets pay big money for a pitcher with a 4.63 ERA. The innings argument made with Pelfrey doesn’t apply here because of Capuano’s injury history. If he market stays reasonable (less than $3 million), perhaps it makes sense for him to return. Talking to people I get the sense Capuano believes there is a market for his services that will enable him to cash in on his current at a higher rate than his current deal.

Ronny Paulino (arbitration) - Paulino has done a nice job with the bat against LHP (.293 batting average), and has a proponent on the staff in Mike Pelfrey. I don’t think his bat makes up for what is average defense. With Josh Thole on the staff I think the Mets could use a veteran defensive minded backup. Would it make sense to non-tender Paulino, who is making $1.3 million dollars, and give Mike Nickeas a shot to earn the backup job? Maybe bringing back free agent Ramon Castro, a better hitter and defender, makes more sense. I would non-tender and play the market on this one. You could always re-sign him and bring him back, but I wouldn’t go to arbitration with him.

Scott Hairston (free agent) - It’s no coincidence that Nick Evans is playing every day at first base and spending time with Mookie Wilson in the outfield corners. Evans can play Hairston’s role sans centerfield. He plays four positions (1b, 3b, RF, LF), and has similar pop in his bat. He is not hitting lefties this year as he did in the past, but it’s too small a sample to make any conclusions. Hairston has done an ok job off the bench with some big home runs, but the cost effective Evans is just as good and better value.  I don’t expect to see Hairston back in 2012.

Chris Young (free agent) - Was pitching better than anyone on the staff before his shoulder gave out. I don’t see Young ever staying healthy for a full season, but if he signs a minor league deal that is incentive laden based on innings and appearances it can’t hurt to have him as depth. You probably aren’t going to see him until the second half of 2012 anyway.

Tim Byrdak  (free agent) - he is among the bullpen leaders in leaving inherited runners stranded and LH are hitting only .207against him. He leads all members of the bullpen in ERA, K/9, and appearances. The bullpen will probably be made up of rookies and non-roster invitees next year, making his veteran presence important. Bigger question is how did 29 other teams pass up on him this past winter? With the dearth of quality bullpen lefties the Mets $900k minor league deal plus incentives looks like a steal. The organization doesn’t have another quality lefty with the resume of Byrdak. He probably will command $1.5 to $2 million on the free agent market. Yes, it’s pricy for a team on a budget, but a quality LOOGY is not always easy to find. Ask the Yankees.

Willie Harris (free agent) - You didn’t think he was going to repeat those diving catches for the Mets, right? Harris has been versatile, and despite the low batting average, has gotten on base at a decent .348 clip. He’s played all three outfield positions, third base, and second base. Not sure there is room on the roster for him next year to warrant any kind of guaranteed deal.

Taylor Buchholz (arbitration) - I give him credit for coming clean about his battle with depression. The bullpen took a major hit when he was lost in late May. He was pitching very well with a strikeout per inning and 3.20 ERA. His future in baseball is a huge question mark, but I would hope if he considers a comeback he would give the Mets a shot. Non-tender him and invite him to spring training. It can’t hurt.

Bobby Parnell (arbitration) - I still think Parnell is going to go down in this game as just another guy who throws hard. With that said, you can’t throw away a 26 year old righty that throws 98 mph. He is probably going to double his 433k salary in arbitration next year. If he turns out to be their future closer it’s a complete steal. I expect him to be part of the ’12 bullpen in some capacity.

Jason Isringhausen (free agent) - This might be one of the best stories of the season. Izzy walked on, literally, to camp in Port St. Lucie and made the team. He was very good in the first half until his body gave out. At least the fans got some vindication for the failure of Generation K by seeing Izzy get his 300th save in a Mets uniform. He said he won’t come back for 500k again, but is there a choice? I don’t know if you could use a roster spot on him even if you can convince him to take 500k plus incentives. I would offer him another minor league deal to prove himself, but I don’t expect to see him accept it. It was a fun ride watching him this year, but it’s time to move forward.

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3 Responses to Mets FA’s and Arb Eligible: Who Should Stay or Go?

  1. Will in Central NJ

    Without having done any research before typing this, I guess this means Chin-Lung Hu and Boof Bonser are free agents?

  2. Mike Silva


    I just stuck with guys who are on the 40-man roster, including 60 day DL ala Chris Young. Yes, Bonser and Hu are FA’s from what information I have, but I didn’t go that deep into it.

  3. Will in Central NJ

    Thanks, Mike. You’ve provided good analysis, as always.

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