Deals that might work for the Mets

Updated: June 16, 2009, 12:43 PM ET
The Mets have been blasted by an injury tsunami during the past month, and players seemingly have dropped by the hour, from Carlos Delgado to Jose Reyes, J.J. Putz to John Maine. Their 15-0 loss to the Yankees on Sunday had some Mets fans calling into talk radio shows in New York, seemingly trying to decide whether to vault off the Whitestone Bridge or the Throgs Neck Bridge. Tough choice.

But club executives are a little more circumspect. Although the Phillies look like the better team right now, the Mets theoretically remain one good week from making up a four-game deficit in the National League East, and they figure to be right in the thick of the wild-card race. So although the Mets are not necessarily engaged in red-hot trade talks at the moment, it figures that they will soon turn their full attention toward adding a big-time bat. The team is one of the few that have some payroll flexibility, and in recent days, the Mets have begun internal deliberations about whom to target.

Of course, the Mets are struggling with their rotation as well, especially with Maine out. But the Mets don't think Maine's shoulder injury is serious and expect him to return soon, and they feel as though Oliver Perez is making progress in his rehab. What is less apparent is on the hitting side, whether Delgado will be able to help the Mets this season. In his absence, the team has been getting very little production out of first base. That said, here are some names that might fit with the Mets:

  1. Nick Johnson, Nationals: Johnson is hitting .315 with a .417 on-base percentage, and although he is not a thumper like Delgado, he would add to the drumbeat of tough hitters that the Mets roll out every night. Scouts say Johnson's defense is much worse than what it was five years ago, and there is always the risk of injury; a nightmare scenario for the Mets would be for him to break down a few days after joining the team. Keep in mind that Mets GM Omar Minaya has traded for Johnson before, when he was general manager of the Montreal Expos.
  2. Another factor that makes Johnson attractive to the Mets is that, presumably, because he is not a major run producer and because of his injury history, the asking price won't be off the charts. The Nationals, facing a summer of negotiations for top MLB draft pick Stephen Strasburg, might like to clear some payroll. They could save about $3 million if they shed Johnson in the next few weeks.

  3. Aubrey Huff, Orioles: He had one of the most unnoticed and underrated seasons in baseball last year, when he mashed 32 homers among 82 extra-base hits and drove in 108 runs. This year, he's hitting .261 with 41 RBIs. He would fit the Mets in a lot of ways, but again, a potential trade might come down to price. Some other guys who have played first base are listed here.
  4. Jorge Cantu, Marlins: Florida would have to roll up the white flag before trading the veteran first baseman, who is hitting .271 with nine homers.
  5. Dan Uggla, Marlins: It's an outside-the-box thought -- the Mets could add him and ask him to play first base, and that would give them some flexibility moving forward. They could then think about moving him to another position next year.
  6. Mark DeRosa, Indians: He can play a whole lot of positions, so if Delgado were to make it back, DeRosa could shift to another spot of need for the Mets. In the big picture, adding DeRosa would make the most sense, but would the price be too high? Keep in mind that Minaya, well-liked by his peers, has made trades with Indians GM Mark Shapiro in the past.

The A's Holliday options

A year ago Tuesday, the Yankees assumed they would offer arbitration to Bobby Abreu, who was on his way toward a season of 20 homers, 100 RBIs, a .296 batting average and a .371 on-base percentage. They assumed that Abreu would sign elsewhere, and then the Yankees would get two picks in compensation. But early in the offseason, Yankees executives -- alarmed by the signs of financial cutbacks throughout the league -- suddenly changed course and declined to offer Abreu arbitration, out of fear that the right fielder would wind up accepting it and getting an award for something in the range of $17-18 million. In the end, Abreu wound up signing a one-year deal for about $5 million.

So you can imagine the scenario that the Oakland Athletics face with Matt Holliday. At the time they made the trade, the Athletics were in a great position. They could utilize the 2007 NL MVP runner-up for the entire season and contend. Or, if they were drifting out of contention, they could hang on to him until he walked away through free agency and get a couple of draft picks in compensation.

But as with the Yankees and Abreu, the circumstances might be changing. Holliday, 29, is having a good but not great season, batting .274; he's on pace to finish the year with 21 homers and 98 RBIs. It was once presumed that Holliday would be the preeminent free agent after this season -- and there are still 3½ months for him to break out with some major damage -- but now it's unclear exactly what his market will be.

And to get the draft-pick compensation, the Athletics would have to offer Holliday arbitration. He is making $13.5 million this year and, based on his production, could be in line for an arbitration award of something in the range of $16-18 million. Unless he has a breakout in the next few months, it might be that such an award could be his best option to max out financially in 2010. Oakland budgeted in Holliday's salary comfortably in 2009, but historically, the Athletics have never wanted one player to absorb a large share of their payroll. At $18 million, Holliday would chew up a huge portion of the Athletics' payroll in 2010. Offering him arbitration might represent a risk for the Athletics.

Oakland likely will take this factor into account as it determines whether to keep Holliday or trade him. The surest way for the Athletics to recoup some value on their Holliday investment may well be to make sure they move him before the trade deadline.

The Athletics could choose to offer arbitration and gamble that Holliday prefers to sign a multiyear deal, such as with the Angels -- probably for much less than what he might've gotten a year ago. The Angels will have a clear need for a middle-of-the-order bat as Vladimir Guerrero drifts out of the prime of his career and into free agency. Holliday, highly respected as a person and as a professional, would be a good fit for Mike Scioscia's team.

Other rumors and notes

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