New York Mets: Jhonny Peralta
The St. Louis Cardinals knocked out Jacob deGrom in the fifth inning and handed the New York Mets a 6-2 defeat in Monday’s series opener at Busch Stadium before a sellout crowd announced at 42,808.
The Mets have now lost 10 of their past 13. They are 13-29 in St. Louis since 2001.
Still searching: DeGrom struck out Matt Carpenter to begin the bottom of the fifth. The rookie did not record another out. The next six St. Louis batters reached before Terry Collins pulled deGrom with the Mets trailing 6-1 and two on base. The damage in the four-run frame included an RBI single by Matt Holliday, who produced his 1,000th career RBI.
He’s back: Left fielder Eric Young Jr. had an uneven return from the disabled list. He threw out Allen Craig attempting to score from second on Yadier Molina's single to end the third inning and hold the Mets’ deficit at 2-1 at the time. A half inning later, though, Young struck out against Carlos Martinez to strand the bases loaded.
The Mets had placed two in scoring position with none out in that frame but failed to score. The Amazin’s are now hitting .157 (11-for-70) with the bases loaded this season.
Young was credited with an infield single in his first at-bat after a scoring change on a would-be error by shortstop Jhonny Peralta. Young finished 1-for-4 as a result.
What reprieve? The flamethrower Martinez, subbing for Adam Wainwright (elbow), limited the Mets to one unearned run in four innings before reaching his pitch count and departing the spot start. Left-hander Nick Greenwood, making his major league debut, took over and held the Mets hitless until Daniel Murphy and David Wright had consecutive one-out singles in the eighth.
Eighth wondering: Batting the pitcher eighth had mixed results before deGrom departed.
It worked out in the second inning, when No. 7 hitter Ruben Tejada had a leadoff walk, deGrom bunted him to second and, after Peralta’s error, Curtis Granderson supplied a sacrifice fly.
In the fourth, however, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was enticed to intentionally walk Tejada with first base open to load the bases for deGrom with one out. DeGrom had a hard-hit lineout to second base. Young then struck out to strand the bases loaded.
Oh, captain: Wright finished 1-for-4 with two strikeouts. He is now three for his last 43.
What’s next: Jonathon Niese (3-3, 2.54 ERA) opposes right-hander Michael Wacha (4-5, 2.88) at 8:15 p.m. ET Tuesday.
Getty ImagesThe Mets are scheduled to face Cardinals right-handers Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha and Lance Lynn at Busch Stadium.
Monday: RHP Jacob deGrom (0-3, 3.44) vs. RHP Carlos Martinez (0-3, 4.67), 8:10 p.m. ET
Tuesday: LHP Jonathon Niese (3-3, 2.54) vs. RHP Michael Wacha (4-5, 2.88), 8:15 p.m. ET
Wednesday: RHP Bartolo Colon (6-5, 4.15) vs. RHP Lance Lynn (7-4, 3.16), 1:45 p.m. ET
Cardinals short hops
• Adam Wainwright, originally scheduled to start Monday, will have his turn skipped because of tendinitis in the back of his pitching elbow. Carlos Martinez, whose fastball has averaged 97.1 mph out of the bullpen this season, will make his second career major league start in Wainwright’s place. St. Louis opted to use the 22-year-old Martinez rather than move up the other pitchers and have Michael Wacha pitch in the series opener on standard rest.
• The Cardinals promoted left-handed reliever Nick Greenwood from Triple-A Memphis on Sunday and demoted outfielder Randal Grichuk (.136). St. Louis is now carrying 13 pitchers and a four-man bench with Wainwright active but skipping a start. Greenwood could relieve Martinez in the middle innings, since Martinez likely will be capped between 50 and 60 pitches with his shift from a bullpen role.
• First baseman Matt Adams has returned from the disabled list with a bang after missing 13 games due to a calf injury. Adams has homered in each of his first three games upon reentering the lineup. The good news: All three weekend long balls came with his father, Jamie, in attendance at Busch Stadium. The elder Adams has now headed home. The first two homers provided the winning margin en route to a weekend sweep against the Washington Nationals.
• Rookie right fielder Oscar Taveras, who had hit only .189 with one homer in 37 at-bats, was demoted to clear the roster spot for Adams. Allen Craig, who had manned first base in Adams’ absence, has returned to right field. Taveras is ranked as the top prospect in the organization.
• Matt Holliday is one RBI shy of 1,000 for his career. He has reached base safely in each of the first 31 Cardinals home games this season.
• Shortstop Jhonny Peralta, who signed a four-year, $53 million deal with St. Louis, is hitting .232 with a team-leading 10 homers and 26 RBIs in 241 at-bats.
• St. Louis is 18-2 against the National League East at Busch Stadium over the past two seasons. The Cardinals have outscored those opponents 89-43 during that span.
• Yadier Molina leads NL All-Star balloting at catcher with 2,003,557 votes. San Francisco’s Buster Posey ranks second at 1,414,363.
• Center fielder Peter Bourjos is 0-for-his-last-10 and is now hitting .209. The righty-hitting Bourjos shares playing time with lefty-hitting Jon Jay. Bourjos was acquired from the Los Angeles Angels in November with Grichuk for David Freese and Fernando Salas.
• Second baseman Kolten Wong was the NL Rookie of the Month for May, but is 1-for-his-last-18.
• Jay is 11-for-26 against left-handed pitching this season.
• Third baseman Matt Carpenter is the only Cardinal to appear in all 69 games.
Jeff Roberson/Associated PressTyler Lyons will be promoted from Triple-A Memphis to face the Mets on Monday at Citi Field.
Monday: RHP Jenrry Mejia (2-0, 2.81) vs. LHP Tyler Lyons (2-0, 3.32 at Triple-A), 7:10 p.m. ET
Tuesday: RHP Dillon Gee (1-0, 3.71) vs. RHP Adam Wainwright (3-1, 1.80), 7:10 p.m. ET
Wednesday: LHP Jonathon Niese (0-2, 2.84) vs. RHP Michael Wacha (2-1, 1.73), 7:10 p.m. ET
Thursday: RHP Bartolo Colon (1-3, 5.40) vs. RHP Lance Lynn (4-0, 3.42), 1:10 p.m. ET
Cardinals short hops
• Left-hander Tyler Lyons will be promoted from Triple-A Memphis to start Monday’s game against the Mets. Lyons, 26, replaces Joe Kelly, who landed on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring, which he injured running to first base after hitting a groundball.
Kelly’s absence likely will be short term. Otherwise, the Cards would have considered using 22-year-old flamethrower Carlos Martinez, who currently is excelling in late-inning relief -- including contributing multi-inning performances.
Lyons went 2-4 with a 4.75 ERA in 12 appearances (eight starts) for St. Louis last season as a rookie. Right-hander Jorge Rondon will be demoted to clear the roster spot for Lyons.
• The Cards have an entirely new look to their infield. Last year, it primarily was Allen Craig at first base, Matt Carpenter at second, Pete Kozma at shortstop and David Freese at third. Now, Matt Adams handles first base (with Craig in right field), Kolten Wong and Mark Ellis share second, Peralta is at shortstop and Carpenter is locked into third.
Carpenter, a 2013 All-Star, shifted with the trade of Freese to the Los Angeles Angels. Freese was sent to Anaheim with Fernando Salas for Peter Bourjos and Randal Grichuk.
Adams lifted his average to .357 Sunday with a 2-for-4 game against the Washington Nationals.
The lefty-hitting Wong and righty-hitting Ellis are not in a strict platoon. For instance, Ellis started against the right-handed Stephen Strasburg on Sunday. Ellis had opened the season on the DL with left knee tendinitis. Ellis, who made his Cards debut last Tuesday, was signed to a one-year, $5.25 million deal in December after playing the previous two seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
• Lance Lynn has the best March/April record in MLB history among pitchers with at least 10 starts. He is 11-0 in 12 starts, topping Babe Ruth’s previous-best .929 winning percentage (13-1 in 16 starts). The last unbeaten March/April pitcher was Ray Fisher, who was 9-0 from 1910 through 1920.
• Catcher Yadier Molina has an 11-game hitting streak. He has won six straight Gold Gloves behind the plate.
• The lefty-hitting Jon Jay and righty-hitting Bourjos share time in center field.
• Adam Wainwright, who logged 241 2/3 innings in 2013, retired 18 in a row at one point while tossing a two-hit shutout against the Nats in his last outing. It was Wainwright’s 17th career complete game, which is seventh-most in the majors since 2007.
• Although his arsenal appeared just fine in 2013, right-hander Michael Wacha is trying to incorporate a cutter this season and become a three-pitch pitcher. He also is more frequently flipping a curveball.
• Ex-Yankee Randy Choate has been solid in lefty relief while producing a 1.59 ERA. He has not surrendered a homer since Aug. 1, 2012.
• The Cardinals planned to take a three-car Amtrak train from Washington to New York on Sunday night.
"I was talking to Murph before the game," Vaughn said, referring to Daniel Murphy. "He was just basically saying he throws a cutter, he throws a sinker, and he tries to get you off-balance. So basically just look right down the middle of the dish and be able to react to out or in. So that's what I did. And he threw me a sinker."
Jonathon Niese left the game after two innings with elbow discomfort and will be dispatched to New York for an MRI.
"Originally I was just told by the trainer that he was feeling a little bit of discomfort on some pitches," acting manager Bob Geren said. "And so he was just about to go out [for the third inning]. I kind of pulled him back in and asked him about it and just made more of a precautionary decision at that point, talking to the trainer, that it would be a wise decision to take him out and go from there."
Geren added that there had been no red flags.
"His velocity was actually pretty good. It was actually better than last time out," Geren said. "His curveball was kind of a mixed bag. He threw a couple that hung. He threw a couple that were really good."
Buddy Carlyle, also an addition from minor-league camp, replaced Niese and logged 2 1/3 innings. The lone run charged to Carlyle came when he departed with Randal Grichuk on third base and Kyle Farnsworth entered and surrendered a run-scoring single to Jhonny Peralta.
Carlyle, 36, pitched last season in Triple-A for the Toronto Blue Jays. He last appeared in the majors in 2011 with the Yankees.
Farnsworth, who is not projected to make the Opening Day bullpen, allowed two hits and two walks in 1 2/3 innings. He has a March 23 contract out, so a resolution of his fate is expected in a week.
Meanwhile, Vic Black’s rocky spring training continued. He allowed three hits and a walk while surrendering one run in the eighth as St. Louis pulled within 6-4. Black has a 6.00 Grapefruit League ERA.
"Today wasn't that bad really," Geren said. "He got victimized a little bit today. I thought he threw a few close pitches that didn't go his way. I think it's something in his set-up, [coach] Ricky [Bones] was saying. He's making a few adjustments in his alignment, a couple of different things with his feet. The velocity is there. He looked a little frustrated his last couple of outings. But he finished the year so strong for us. He's got good stuff."
E-6: Ruben Tejada committed his fourth error, which ranks second in the Grapefruit League. Houston Astros shortstop Jonathan Villar leads with five errors.
Tejada lost the handle after fielding Matt Holliday’s routine third-inning grounder. Tejada did slickly initiate a double play later that frame.
"Honestly, he made two really good plays today, if you want to focus on the positive," Geren said. "The one ball scooted on him low -- Holliday's ball. It stayed down on him. What I did like is he stayed calm. He didn't panic. He went down and it just slipped out of his fingers. I was like, 'Aw, man, the guy can't catch a break.' And then he made a really nice play on the double play, and he dove to his right."
What’s next: After an early morning arrival by the contingent that played this weekend in Las Vegas, the Mets face the Miami Marlins on Monday at 1:05 p.m. in Jupiter (WOR 710 AM). John Lannan opposes right-hander Henderson Alvarez.
Lannan had been expected to open the season in the bullpen, but now should be a rotation consideration, along with Jenrry Mejia, if Niese opens the season on the disabled list.
Lutz’s homer against Trevor Rosenthal capped a three-homer, 14-hit game for the Mets.
Miguel Socolovich allowed two baserunners to reach in the bottom of the ninth, but survived that jam -- and a replay review of an out call at third base, which the Cards failed to get overturned -- to hold on for the save.
Josh Satin took Adam Wainwright deep in the second inning, while Kirk Nieuwenhuis delivered a three-run homer against left-hander Tim Cooney in the fifth.
In the eighth, Omar Quintanilla delivered a game-tying RBI double and Matt den Dekker drove him in with a single as the Mets took an 8-7 lead. But Gonzalez Germen surrendered a game-tying RBI double to Stephen Piscotty in the bottom half.
Quintanilla’s two-bagger plated Wilmer Flores, who reached base three times and scored twice while starting at shortstop for the first time since 2011, when he played for Class A St. Lucie.
The Mets had trailed 7-6 after Jose Valverde surrendered a two-run double to Daniel Descalso in the fifth.
After Jonathon Niese allowed four runs on six hits and two walks in two innings, Rafael Montero tossed a pair of innings as well, surrendering one run. Of the 14 batters to face Niese, eight reached.
Flores played a full game at shortstop. He could not cleanly handle a routine grounder from Jhonny Peralta in the first inning, helping cost the Mets a chance to turn a double play. Descalso reached on an infield single in the second inning to Flores, after which one scout said about Flores at shortstop: “The game is too fast for him.”
Flores did single, double and walk in four plate appearances.
What’s next: John Lannan, who appears most likely to make the team as a second left-hander in the bullpen, starts Wednesday’s Grapefruit League game against St. Louis at 1:10 p.m. at Tradition Field (SNY). Lannan opposes right-hander Carlos Martinez.
Jeff Roberson/Associated PressNoah Syndergaard makes his Grapefruit League debut Monday at ESPN's Wide World of Sports.
FIRST PITCH: It’s Noah Syndergaard Day!
Syndergaard makes his Grapefruit League debut at 1:05 p.m. Monday against the Atlanta Braves at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports (WOR 710 AM).
Jacob deGrom, Miguel Socolovich, Gonzalez Germen, Josh Edgin and Jeff Walters also are scheduled to pitch for the Mets.
Right-hander Freddy Garcia starts for the Braves. Closer Craig Kimbrel also is scheduled to appear.
Monday’s news reports:
• The Mets remained winless in Grapefruit League play with a 7-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday. Daisuke Matsuzaka allowed one run in two innings. Terry Collins subsequently anointed John Lannan and Dice-K as the fifth-starter frontrunners. Long Island native Steven Matz continued to impress scouts with a scoreless frame. Wilmer Flores made his first appearance at shortstop since 2011, when he played in the Florida State League. (View the box score here.)
Read more on Dice-K in the Post, Daily News, Star-Ledger and MLB.com.
Read more on Matz in Newsday and the Star-Ledger.
• Jhonny Peralta, who signed a four-year, $53 million contract with the St. Louis Cardinals, indicated the Mets made him a two-year offer early in the offseason. Read more in the Post.
Columnist Joel Sherman in the Post reviews shortstop alternatives to Tejada: Stephen Drew (free agent), Nick Franklin (trade) and Flores (internal).
Executives I have spoken with say the Mets have indicated they will not add significantly to their 2014 payroll. Thus, while Drew’s asking price has fallen, it will probably never sink to a level these Mets are willing to spend. …
Seattle with Franklin and Brad Miller and the Diamondbacks with Didi Gregorius and Chris Owings have shortstop battles ongoing. Thus, both will have depth to trade, and the Mets talked to both at the Winter Meetings. But there have been no strong talks recently. …
Even most Mets officials are skeptics [of Flores at shortstop]. He did play the final few innings Sunday at short and Collins said, “I am intrigued. We will run him out there and see what we have.”
• Columnist Bob Klapisch in the Record suggests the Mets are headed in the right direction with their young starting pitching, but they are at best a .500 team this season -- and Sandy Alderson knows it.
• Tim Rohan in the Times writes a feature on Syndergaard. Read more on the top prospect in the Daily News.
• Citi Field will be one of three MLB ballparks to be fitted for the 2014 season with a system that will collect data about defensive plays. The others will be Target Field in Minnesota and Miller Park in Milwaukee. Select other stadiums will add the technology the following year. Writes Mark Newman at MLB.com:
For instance, on a brilliant, game-saving diving catch by an outfielder, this new system will let us understand what created that outcome. Was it the quickness of his first step, his acceleration? Was it his initial positioning? What if the pitcher had thrown a different pitch? Everything will be connected for the first time, providing a tool for answers to questions like this and more.
• Andrew Marchand at ESPNNewYork.com asks if Jose Reyes’ next employer could be the Yankees.
Reyes, by the way, wanted Tejada to work out with him much of the 2012-13 offseason on Long Island. "He only worked with me for a week and a half," Reyes said, via David Lennon in Newsday. "That's not going to get it done. But I saw him two days ago [on TV] and he looked better. I think he learned from that mistake last year. He's still young. The talent is still there."
• Jared Diamond in the Journal suggests the Mets follow the Cardinals’ path and introduce promising arms to the majors in the bullpen. Writes Diamond:
It worked for Lance Lynn, who made 16 relief appearances in 2011, only to emerge as an 18-game winner mostly as a starter in 2012. It worked for Joe Kelly, who pitched 30 times out of the bullpen in 2012 and 2013, mixed with 31 starts, before making four postseason starts during the Cardinals’ run to the World Series last year.
It even worked for ace Adam Wainwright -- a brief chapter the Mets remember better than anybody. As the Cardinals’ closer in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, Wainwright delivered the final curveball that froze Carlos Beltran, silenced Shea Stadium and sent the Mets into an era of ineptitude.
• Stephen Strasburg advises Matt Harvey to proceed slowly while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, Kevin Kernan writes in the Post. “You’ll feel great one day and the next day it’s terrible,” Strasburg, who has returned from the procedure, tells Kernan. “The best advice I got was, ‘Look where you were at the start of the month and then at the end of the month. Don’t look at where you were yesterday.’” Strasburg and Harvey both are represented by Scott Boras. And Strasburg has told his agent he is willing to speak with Harvey about the rehab.
• Marty Noble at MLB.com writes that No. 3 is fitting for Curtis Granderson.
• Ex-Met Guillermo Mota has retired.
• John Rowe in the Record discusses Mets pitchers at the plate.
• From the bloggers … Faith and Fear in Flushing presents its annual Oscars-style “montage” of the Mets who stopped being Mets during the past year. … John Delcos at Mets Report cites the case for Lannan as fifth starter.
BIRTHDAYS: Former Mets reliever Jorge Julio -- or, as Anna Benson prefers, Julio Jorge -- turns 35.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
YOU’RE UP: Do an 0-3 Grapefruit League record and producing four hits in consecutive games matter?
@AdamRubinESPN I have a knack for blending in with my surroundings— Noah Syndergaard (@Noahsyndergaard) March 2, 2014
“The Mets talked to my agent, but the offer they made was not really good. But they were really serious,” Peralta told the Post on Sunday. “The Mets came in first and they offered only two years and the Yankees offered three, but I decided to come here to the Cardinals.
“The Mets said they had a little problem with [Ruben] Tejada and they were looking for a shortstop. The situation for the Yankees was a little bit different because they wanted me to play third base and shortstop. They were looking more for third base.
“I would have liked to play in New York, because I have a lot of family there. But I wanted to play for the Cardinals a long time ago, so it’s good that I decided to come here.”
Kathy Willens/Associated PressRuben Tejada, whose Sept. 18 tumble resulted in a fractured fibula, could wind up the Opening Day shortstop after all.
With Jhonny Peralta having signed with the St. Louis Cardinals on a four-year, $52 million deal that Sandy Alderson labeled surprising, the GM acknowledged the Mets do not have much in the way of attractive free-agent options (Rafael Furcal?). A trade is always a possibility, Alderson added.
But the GM concluded that the goal is to improve the team as a whole.
So the Mets’ resources may be best served getting invested in other positions, with the club hoping Tejada is adequate as the shortstop in 2014.
Tejada hit .202 in 208 at-bats and had a prolonged minor-league stint last season before suffering a season-ending fractured right fibula Sept. 18.
“You’re right to point out that the free-agent market is thin,” Alderson said. “It was thin with Peralta. It is thinner without Peralta. There really aren’t a lot of options in the free-agent market at this point. There are some trade possibilities. We’ve reached out to some clubs about shortstops.
“But I think what I’ve said before is that this is a process of improving the team. It’s not about improving a position. And I know that the team is the sum of the parts, but that’s not to say we will be able to, or we will be best served, by addressing every single position.
“So is it conceivable that Ruben Tejada or someone within in the organization is playing shortstop for us on Opening Day? I think the short answer is yes.
“But, again, what we’re trying to do is improve the team as a whole. And so while shortstop is an obvious place for improvement, it’s not the only one. And if we’re successful elsewhere, as many clubs do, they get by on their strengths and hope to be as adequate as possible in those areas where they’re weaker.”
Tejada just completed a four-week fitness and nutrition program outside of Ann Arbor, Mich., and intends to return in January. He currently is back in his native Panama, having just been cleared for full activity.
“He made a lot of progress during that program, although he was somewhat limited as to what he could do weight-bearing on the leg,” Alderson said. “But he could certainly do upper body and bicycle and things of that sort.”
As for the price tags for free agents, Alderson said he could not generalize beyond them being lucrative for the players involved. Brian McCann’s five-year, $85 million deal with the New York Yankees proved no surprise. Peralta’s deal proved another story.
“I think in some instances the contract amounts have gone way beyond what most would have predicted,” Alderson said. “In other cases, they may be generally in line. For example, I don’t know that anybody is terribly surprised about the McCann contract. I think people have been surprised about the Peralta contract. So I think it’s a little too early to make any real generalizations. But the data we have right now suggest that at least some of the contracts have gone beyond expectation.”
Apparently getting suspended for PED's means you get a raise. What's stopping anyone from doing it? #weneedtomakeachange— David Aardsma (@TheDA53) November 24, 2013
I had 2 major surgeries in 5 months and made it back clean, nothing pisses me off more than guys that cheat and get raises for doing so— David Aardsma (@TheDA53) November 24, 2013
That leaves the free-agent shortstop market very thin for the Mets, who would like to find an external replacement for Ruben Tejada.
Stephen Drew clearly is above the Mets' spending appetite. And the choices become very thin after that.
Rafael Furcal missed all of last season recovering from Tommy John surgery, and Sandy Alderson said last week that it's not even clear if Furcal has started throwing. Other shortstops on the free-agent board include ex-Met Ronny Cedeno, who has no chance of being asked back, as well as Clint Barmes, Cesar Izturis, Munenori Kawasaki and John McDonald.
Considering that group, the Mets might have to address shortstop via trade or just forget about an upgrade from Tejada, who has been attending a fitness camp outside of Ann Arbor, Mich., this month along with Lucas Duda.
The Mets had hoped Peralta's Biogenesis suspension would limit bidding, but the scarcity of shortstops proved otherwise. Alderson and crew had met in person with Peralta and his reps at the GM Meetings in Orlando, Fla., two weeks ago.
Alderson never has publicly acknowledged meeting with Peralta. But the GM did acknowledge meeting with a player at the GM Meetings. And Alderson said Tuesday that there has been no continued dialogue with that player since leaving Orlando.
Peralta served a 50-game suspension related to Biogenesis this past season.
The Mets want to add a shortstop from outside the organization. With Stephen Drew expected to be outside their price range, Peralta figures to be the top target in a limited pool of candidates at the position.
1. Shin-Soo Choo, OF A few weeks ago, Matt Meyers laid out an articulate case for why not to sign Choo. Here's the argument for signing him: The Mets had a .236/.306/.366 slashline (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) against right-handed pitching. Those ranked 28th, 24th and 28th in the majors respectively. But for one exception (2011), Choo has been a ferocious hitter against right-handers. His slashline against them over the last five seasons is .311/.416/.521 with a large chunk of that coming in Cleveland (as opposed to hitter-favorable Cincinnati).
A typical team will get about 70 percent of its plate appearances against righties (as the Mets did in 2013). The Mets need to improve their performance against that 70 percent. Choo would do that in a big way.
2. Stephen Drew, SS Drew is the best shortstop in this free-agent market, one that does not contain a lot of offensive-minded players at the position. Drew is a two-to-three Wins Above Replacement player (when healthy) at a position in which the Mets are just trying to get back to neutral. He too plays a role in solving the struggles against right-handers, brings an adequate glove, and has shown a willingness to work a walk that would fit well within this team's plan.
3. Carlos Beltran, RF We're not saying this is likely, because it isn't, but of all the players in free agency, Beltran would fit the Mets idea of following the "Red Sox model" best -- a well-experienced player with a history of quality production who would be gettable on a short-term deal. Granted this is not the Beltran of 2006 to 2008, but it's a player who looks like he still has 130 to 140 games left in the tank for the next couple of seasons.
4. Curtis Granderson, OF What you're buying in Granderson is a seven-year track record from 2006 to 2012 rather than the one hindered by injuries and limited to 61 games last season. It would be foolish to think that Granderson could replicate the 40-homer seasons (2011 and 2012) from Yankee Stadium's bandbox ballpark in Citi Field, but 25 homers over 500 at-bats seems realistic given his pre-Yankee history.
5. Marlon Byrd, OF This might be the most tepid endorsement of Byrd that you'll read. There are two reasons for a lack of enthusiasm. 1) His success rate when hitting a ground ball was extraordinarily high, particularly given his history, and a return to his usual rate could mean about a 20-point dip in batting average. 2) Byrd is one of a number of Mets with ugly Citi Field numbers -- a .249/.297/.415 slashline last season and only seven home runs in Flushing. His monster home runs may have made it look like he relished hitting in Citi Field. He didn't.
That said, Byrd is a good defender and he's well liked by Mets management. And he can hit, though to what degree 2012 is repeatable, we don't know.
The key to understand with Byrd is this: In an ideal world, he's the second-best bat the team adds this winter. If he's the best, that would be a reason to be nervous about the Mets 2014 hopes.
6. Nelson Cruz, RF Cruz strikes us as Byrd like with comparable strikeout/walk numbers and little more power, though how much of that power was enhanced by PEDS is a good subject for discussion.
The risk with Cruz is that the expectation in getting him would be that he'd be a 30-homer guy. But given the difficulties of right-handers hitting for power in Citi Field (see our Marlon Byrd note), we'd take the under. We put Byrd ahead of Cruz because Byrd is more of a known player at this point and a better defender.
7. Jhonny Peralta, SS We stacked the two Biogenesis players together, as the concerns with Peralta would be similar to those of Cruz: Can he replicate his past performance without PEDs? That said, there is a big drop-off after Peralta on the shortstop market (the next-best option might be Nick Punto).
If you're wondering why we rated Drew ahead of Peralta, there are a few reasons:
a) Drew's left-handed bat is needed more than Peralta's right-handed bat.
b) Drew rates better defensively.
c) Though Peralta hits more homers, Drew offsets that with an advantage by hitting doubles and triples.
d) Drew rates slightly better as a baserunner.
8. Bronson Arroyo, RHP Despite an astronomical home-run rate, Arroyo is a survivor and a winner, mainly because he doesn't walk anyone (1.5 per 9 innings over the last two seasons). And his high-3s ERA should come down a bit given 15 to 18 starts at Citi Field instead of Great American Ball Park. He's pitched 199 innings or more nine years running, so any health concerns are minimized, and he pitched in Boston, so New York wouldn't scare him. The worry spot would be his age (36), which would likely limit how many years the Mets would offer him.
9. David Murphy, OF Murphy looms as a potential free-agent bargain. He hit only .220 with 13 home runs in 142 games with the Rangers last season, but that belies his .283/.346/.449, track record of the previous five seasons. If Murphy can fix what troubled him, he'd provide value as an outfielder in either left or right. He's one with a good glove and decent speed who can play either corner outfield spot, either as an everyday guy or in a platoon.
10. J.P. Howell, LHP The Mets left-handed specialists are currently Josh Edgin and Scott Rice and this free-agent class provides room for an upgrade. Howell is the best of a lot that includes Javier Lopez, Boone Logan and Scott Downs because he can get right-handed hitters out with a reasonable amount of success as well.
Exhibit A: Mets shortstops were awful, and it’s likely the club will make some sort of effort to improve the position this winter. While some folks have floated the idea of a blockbuster trade for Troy Tulowitzki, there is one player out there who is far more realistic and should be the Mets’ No. 1 free-agent target this winter: Jhonny Peralta.
It’s hard to overstate how bad the Mets’ shortstops were this year, they “hit” .232/.296/.302 and were worth -0.1 wins above replacement, according to FanGraphs. In other words, they were worse than your typical Triple-A shortstop, which isn’t surprising, because pretty much any evaluator would tell you that Omar Quintanilla and Ruben Tejada are Triple-A quality. (Only the Cardinals, Yankees, Astros and Marlins got less from shortstops.)
Peralta, on the other hand, hit .303/.358/.457 for the Tigers this year and was worth 3.6 WAR, per FanGraphs, which ranked sixth in all of baseball despite serving a 50-game suspension for his involvement with the Biogenesis scandal.
“But he’s a juicer!” I’m sure some of you will say. But that could actually work to the Mets’ advantage. That stigma will probably drive his value down a bit, which means there will be fewer bidders for his services. Furthermore, Peralta, 31, has hit .278/.334/.438 over the past three seasons, so we know he’s not a fluke.
And let’s not forget Marlon Byrd, arguably the best free-agent signing of the Sandy Alderson era, was coming off of a PED suspension when the Mets signed him last year. So if you were cheering for Byrd when he was having his career year in orange and blue, it’s hard to be outraged by the idea of Peralta.
Peralta played left field in Game 3 of the ALDS for the Tigers in deference to Jose Iglesias, but all advanced metrics suggest that Peralta is actually a decent defensive shortstop, with both DRS and UZR rating him as at least average over the last three seasons. So even if he’s a little thicker around the middle than your typical shortstop, advanced metrics suggest he can hold his own.
The presence of Iglesias adds another element to Peralta’s appeal as a free agent. It seems like the Tigers have settled on the youngster as their shortstop of the future because of his incredible defense, and it’s obvious that Miguel Cabrera is locked in at third. Therefore, it’s extremely unlikely the Tigers will give Peralta a qualifying offer, meaning the Mets wouldn’t have to sacrifice a second-round draft pick to sign him.
Adam Rubin wrote the other day about the Mets trying to mimic the Red Sox’s model of a year ago by shopping for mid-level free agents who won’t cost them draft picks. No potential free-agent signing embodies that mindset more than Peralta. He’s good, he’s not that old, his perceived value is low and he would represent an enormous upgrade. If the Mets want to improve quickly, he’s a no-brainer.
To think that the team is going to land anyone with a nine-figure salary is a longshot (no matter what Sandy Alderson says), so cross Robinson Cano and Jacoby Ellsbury off any wish-lists.
Logic would also dictate that pitchers for whom the market might provide a four-year commitment comparable to the one Edwin Jackson got last winter (four years, $52 million) are not what this front office is looking for, so scratch off Matt Garza and Ricky Nolasco (and probably Ubaldo Jimenez, Tim Lincecum and Ervin Santana). We also left out a few pitchers with strong preferences for specific teams or markets-- A.J. Burnett (Pirates), Dan Haren (West Coast), Tim Hudson (Braves) and Hiroki Kuroda (Yankees/Japan).
But there are players who would be good fits for this team, which most likely will be shopping for multiple outfielders, a shortstop, both starting pitchers and relievers, and maybe a backup catcher.
What is below is a list arranged alphabetically, rather than by rank, of 20 targets that we deemed realistic based on educated guesses and available information. When the World Series concludes, these players will be on the market for the Mets to pursue.