If you're gonna watch another team ...
August, 27, 2014
By Mark Simon | ESPNNewYork.com
USA TODAY Sports - Getty ImagesDone watching the Mets? Well, you should still keep an eye on these potential future Amazin' stars in action. Hey, you never know.We’ve reached that part of the season where watching the Mets on a daily basis might not appeal to everyone, and thoughts have turned to roster planning for the 2015 season.
If you’re going to focus on other players, keep in mind that Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez (probably your two favorite targets) are currently on the disabled list, so there’s no way to watch them. Here are a few we do suggest you pay close attention to.
Watch the Cubs for Javier Baez & Starlin Castro
You’ll probably hear a lot about the Cubs this winter, since they’ll be looking for pitching, something the Mets have to dangle if they wish to procure a noteworthy player.
Castro is appealing, though it’s important not to get carried away with his numbers. He does have an above-average slash line for his position, but he’s historically rated as a heavily mistake-prone defender at shortstop. And his steals totals, which were 22 and 25 in 2011 and 2012, have dropped to nine and four the past two seasons. That’s why, for all the good he’s done in 2014, he’s still a sub-2 WAR player.
Baez is viewed as a player with tremendous potential, and he’s already wowed with some of the home runs he’s hit. But he’s also shown himself to be a swinger far wilder than he needs to be, with 40 strikeouts in his first 86 major league at-bats. He’s definitely a high-risk, high-reward commodity.
The issue for the Mets is that they are working from a position of weakness here on two fronts.
Other teams know they will be looking for a shortstop, and potential trade partners will likely set their sights on Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler or Noah Syndergaard as the pitchers they want in return.
Also, if the Mets commit to a similar payroll to 2014, adding money at shortstop is going to cost them something somewhere else, which is why you’ll probably hear a lot of Daniel Murphy trade rumors.
Watch the Orioles for J.J. Hardy and Nelson Cruz
Both Hardy and Cruz are free agents this offseason.
Hardy could be this year’s version of Stephen Drew, the free-agent shortstop from a winning team who tempts the Mets on a short-term deal but tries for something a little bigger.
Hardy would be a great fit, arguably one of the best realistic “gets” for the Mets this offseason. He’s totaled 14.4 WAR over the past four seasons, with a 3-WAR or better in each of them. He’s a reliable hitter, albeit a low on-base percentage guy, and one whose power disappeared for most of this season (he’s hitting .333 with four homers this month). And he’s a very good defender, arguably the best shortstop in the game at turning the double play.
The Mets probably could have had Cruz were they operating from a better financial position last offseason. He’s going to be a bit pricier this time around, given that he’s already mashed 34 homers.
For those who wonder if that power will translate to Citi Field, it’s worth noting that almost all of his homers to left field have cleared the fence by a considerable margin. Cruz does hit a fair amount of homers to the opposite field (we count nine) and we could see that part of the ballpark stealing a few long balls from him, as it has from just about everyone.
Watch the Texas Rangers for Alex Rios
Rios will be a free agent this offseason, when the Rangers decline his $13.5 million club option. After averaging 17 homers over the past nine seasons, Rios’ numbers have tumbled in 2014. He’s hitting .281 with a .709 OPS and only four home runs.
Were the Mets to pursue him, it would likely be a Marlon Byrd scenario, in which the team was trying to find a player they felt could get his career back on track, even at age 34.
Watch the Binghamton Mets for Dilson Herrera
Herrera has wowed in the minors this year and is currently hitting .336 with nine homers in Double-A. ESPN’s prospects expert, Keith Law, told us he could see Herrera being major league ready at second base next April. While the Mets don’t have a need at second base at the moment, as we noted above, shedding salary at that spot may clear room at another.
We asked Dan Szymborski to produce a ZiPS projection for Herrera. It came up with a .258/.313/.396 slash line, which may not blow you away, but his future looks brighter. His top four ZiPS comparables (which help determine future projections) were Omar Infante, Delino Deshields, Ryne Sandberg and Edgar Renteria.
Others to consider
It’s hard to compile a full list at this point, but some other players who could be on the radar a month from now include shortstops Jed Lowrie (Athletics) and Didi Gregorius (Diamondbacks), and free-agent outfielders Melky Cabrera (Blue Jays), Michael Cuddyer (Rockies) and Torii Hunter (Tigers).
It’s not the most exciting set of names at the moment, which shows you just how big a challenge the team will be facing this offseason.