Posted by Reese Kaplan at 10:00 AM
For the relief pitching options it seems the only names you here over and over again are Tyler Clippard who may be too expensive for the Mets' arbitrary payroll limits and Antonio Bastardo who likely would want more than the 1-2 years the team prefers to hand out to free agents. There are, however, other options available that are not being discussed as much.
On the RH outfielder/1B front, there are a few players without teams that might be worth the Mets taking a look. Old friend Marlon Byrd is currently unemployed. Although he earned $8 million as his contract ended last year, at age 38 he's not likely to receive another large payday. Just as Bartolo Colon took a senior discount, the same may be true of Byrd who still hits for power and plays the outfield on the days when the lefties Michael Conforto or Curtis Granderson may need a break.
Corey Hart has not looked like the same player since he left Milwaukee due to injuries (and his price tag reflects that). He was paid just $2.5 million last year and can play both OF and 1B. However, there's not guarantee he could ever recapture his former All Star form even though he's still in his early 30s.
Chris Carter was cut loose by the Houston Astros who tired of his all-or-nothing approach. He's unfortunately a 1B/DH type and won't help in the pursuit of an outfielder. Still, he has 30 HR power but think Dave Kingman in terms of batting average. He's likely looking for a full time gig and not ready to accept a bench role, but it could be worth exploring if you could find an Emilio Bonifacio type to replace Ruben Tejada who could sub at both IF and OF positions. (Bonifacio is off the table already).
Another former star-caliber player who might be ready to concede to a bench role if he wants to continue his career is the much maligned Alex Rios. He was plain awful for Kansas City last year, but he still delivers a combination of both speed and power from the right side of the plate, things the Mets could most definitely use. How far he'd drop from his former $13.5 million price is anyone's guess, but no one is paying that kind of money for back-to-back 4 HR seasons (though injuries did play a big part in the drop-off in production).
If you can get past the political correctness issue (and bear in mind that the Yankees have put a known domestic abuser with illegal gun play on the payroll), the anti-Semitic ranting Delmon Young is out there and continues to demonstrate he can hit. His career average is .283 and he has some good pop from the right side. He's a pretty awful outfielder but could spell either of the corners and be a solid threat off the bench. He last earned $2.5 million and probably is due about the same. His track record as a hitter is far more respectable than John Mayberry, Jr.
Another intriguing all-or-nothing type hitter is Drew Stubbs. He's a good glove man as well, even capable of playing CF, but what makes him interesting is his 40 SB speed that accompanies the 20+ HR power. The last few years he's worked off the bench and earned $5.8 million for the Rockies but is not going to be paid as a starter anymore.
Finally, there's one of the more despicable players who haunts fans from his old Philadelphia days, Shane Victorino. He's a solid defensive player whose career has been derailed by injuries, but he can provide a fighting spirit. Whether or not he can produce with the bat anymore is debatable, as is what it would cost to find out.
Of this list, I'd rank Marlon Byrd as the top choice – short term deal, known to play well in NY, popular in the clubhouse and still productive. If they're not going after a Yoenis Cespedes-type slugger, then they should go after the best bench option possible (and save money in the process). Second choice would be Delmon Young, baggage and all. Third choice would be Drew Stubbs if he can demonstrate he's still capable of stealing bases during a workout.
A somewhat under-the-radar transaction was the mid-December decision by the Kansas City Royals to non-tender former closer Greg Holland. While he's not as familiar to Mets fans as Tyler Clippard, the results in his career have been markedly similar. On an annual basis he delivers a 2.44 ERA and has a 3.44 strikeout to walk ratio. He last earned $8.25 million for the Royals but had an off year with an uncharacteristic 3.83 ERA (but still earned 32 saves despite losing the closer's job). By contrast, Clippard had a 3.06 ERA for the Mets in his setup role. He earned $8.3 million and may earn the same again based upon his solid performance. It's certainly going to cost Holland some money having been cut loose by the Royals as it raises a question in the mind of other teams as to why they would choose to make that decision. Consequently the Mets might be able to get an arguably superior pitcher for less money than it would cost to bring back Clippard.
Lefty Matt Albers would be the second choice given his several consecutive solid seasons as a solid relief pitcher for the past three years. He seems to have been something of a late bloomer but at $1.5 million last year and delivering a 1.21 ERA over 30 games out of the pen he's going to be in high demand.
Other options would include several tail-end-of-their-career options who either delivered good numbers or have done so recently, including Burke Badenhop, Joe Beimel, Rafael Betancourt, Blaine Boyer, Craig Breslow and Randy Choate. One such name worth exploring is former All Star closer Fernando Rodney who might be a good mentor in the pen to some of the young arms. At age 39 he's got to know he's not a closer anymore but he may not take the kind of step backwards in terms of dollars to make him palatable to the Mets.
Antonio Bastardo remains available and a left handed FA reliever with a career 3.58 ERA coming off just a $3.1 million contract with Pittsburgh is likely looking for 3 or more years since he's under 30. He seems too much of a long term investment to fit the Mets' current roster model.