The Mets continue to target Ben Zobrist in free agency as they search for ways to increase their versatility, improve their contact rate and overall defense in both the outfield and on the middle infield.
Zobrist can play both middle infield positions and the corner outfield positions proficiently. He can also play first and third base and centerfield if needed. He checks a lot of the boxes the Mets are seeking this winter.
The Mets held a conference call with Zobrist in mid-November, which is a subsequent meeting to the one they had with his agents at the GM Meetings in Florida in early November.
Zobrist is a contact-oriented hitter, and showed during the World Series against the Mets he is one of the better fastball hitters in the game, even as he concluded his age-34 season.
But the Mets are not alone in their pursuit for the versatile super-utility player. There are at least ten teams who are reportedly interested in signing Zobrist, and the 34-year-old is looking for a four-year deal.
And due to such demand, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe says Zobrist is likely to secure a four-year deal this winter, and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports says a team guaranteeing the fourth year could be the deciding factor for him.
Rosenthal says Zobrist is the Mets number-one target this winter, but at least ten teams – including the Cardinals, Royals, Giants Mets, Braves and Nationals – have reportedly expressed interest in signing Zobrist.
The Mets and Nationals are expected to be the high bidders for Zobrist, according to Tom Verducci of MLB Network, but Adam Rubin of ESPN New York says the Mets are unlikely to sign Zobrist to a four-year deal.
All things being equal, Zobrist would be an upgrade to Daniel Murphy and provide stability up the middle. He would help transform the top of their lineup from swing-and-miss to more contact with an ability to get on-base, and be another solid, veteran leader for the clubhouse as they endeavor to win their first World Championship since 1986.
But he’s entering his age-35 season, and a guaranteed four-year deal is a risky proposition for any player. The back-end of such a contract could become an albatross as his bat speed slows and his foot speed diminishes behind the pitching staff.
However, if the Mets intend to win right now, it may be a risk the Mets have to take with Zobrist, and deal with the consequences of the long side of such a contract.
Zobrist is not tied to draft compensation, as he was ineligible to receive a qualifying offer after being dealt to the Royals by the A’s mid-year.
Zobrist hit .276/.359/.450 with 13 home runs and 56 RBI in 126 games with the A’s and Royals in 2015. He underwent April knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus.
Original post, Nov. 29, 9:30 am
Updated, Nov. 29, 12:30 pm, Nov. 30, 10:15 am
Tom Vereline: What do you see as projected call-up dates for Brandon Nimmo and Dominic Smith? Any chance Smith gets a cup of coffee come September 1st?
All things being equal, Nimmo should be on target for a mid-2016 call-up. His track got slowed a bit in 2015 thanks to a knee injury, and that arguably delayed his promotion to Triple-A a little bit which limited the number of plate appearances he had with the 51s. So, he needs a little more time and some more plate appearances at the highest minor league level before being considered for a promotion.
That injury probably didn’t change Nimmo projected call-up, however. It probably just ensured he would not make the team out of spring training in 2016.
But there are a couple of things to keep in mind when considering Nimmo for a promotion.
First off, his name has been mentioned a lot in trade rumors over the last few months, and it seems pretty clear the club would be willing to deal him under the right circumstances. Those circumstances may not be for a reliever or a platoon partner for Juan Lagares, but he could conceivably be moved for a regular middle infielder if they fail to sign someone on the free agent market. So, don’t be surprised if the Mets move Nimmo at some point over the next year, making all of this moot.
Second, if the Mets sign a left-handed bat to platoon with Lagares, there may not be an immediate place for Nimmo, assuming everybody is healthy. He can play all three outfield positions, but Nimmo is primarily a centerfielder, who happens to hit left-handed. Assuming the Mets procure that left-handed outfielder, the Mets will have four left-handed hitting outfielders already, including Kirk Nieuwenhuis.
That’s not to say Nimmo can’t replace Nieuwenhuis, but there has to be playing time available for Nimmo – he serves no purpose from a developmental perspective by sitting on the bench.
As for Smith, he seems to be on target for a mid-2017 promotion, assuming he stays healthy and continues to build upon his breakout 2015 campaign, in which he won the Florida State Player of the Year Award after hitting .305/.354/.417 with six home runs and 79 RBI in 118 games with Single-A St. Lucie.
It’s hard to see Smith even getting a cup of coffee in 2016. Due to his age when he was drafted (17), Smith doesn’t have to be added to the 40-man roster a year from now in order to be protected from the Rule 5 draft. He gets four years of protection, so he doesn’t have to join the 40-man roster until the winter of 2017.
So, there isn’t an immediate need to add him to the roster in 2016.
He also hasn’t played a day above Single-A St. Lucie. He has to take the giant step to Double-A, a step which most evaluators believe is the most difficult step to take in the minor leagues. He will probably spend a full year with the B-Mets in 2016, and perhaps getting a taste in Las Vegas in September if the 51s make the postseason. He will likely spend at least the first half of the 2017 season in Las Vegas as well, if not most of that season.
Like Nimmo, there also has to be a need and an opening for Smith. There is no sense in bringing him here – whether its in 2016 or 2017 – if there is no playing time available for him. And right now, the Mets have a power-hitting left-handed first baseman in Lucas Duda, who is arbitration-eligible in 2016 and 2017, after which he can become a free agent.
The timing just seems right to give Smith a taste sometime in the second half of the 2017 season, assuming everyone stays healthy and Smith remains on-track. He’s an exciting talent who has a good understanding of hitting, has a tremendous work ethic, and is finally starting to live up to his top-prospect status.
But unlike Michael Conforto – who made the unusual jump from Double-A to the big leagues and succeeded with the Mets – Smith is very young (he just turned 20), so he needs time and patience and probably some more success at the higher level of the minor leagues before getting here.
Nimmo was selected by the Mets in the first-round (13th overall) of the 2011 first-year player draft. Smith was selected by the Mets in the first-round (11th overall) of the 2013 first-year player draft.
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In early November, assistant GM John Ricco said the front office was comfortable with a solution at shortstop consisting of Wilmer Flores and Ruben Tejada in 2016.
“We got to the World Series and [Wilmer Flores] and [Ruben Tejada] were a big part of what we did,” Ricco said at the GM meetings.
But the Mets are reportedly considering non-tendering Tejada this winter, which could mean the Mets have an opening on the roster for another shortstop.
First off, Mets shortstops were 10th in the league with a 2.9 WAR, largely carried by their offense as they were 26th in the league with a -9.0 ultimate zone rating and dead last with -26 defensive runs saved. That just needs to get better, and it’s hard to see that improving if they continue with what they have.
Second, Tejada will earn anywhere between $2-3 million through the arbitration process in 2015. Paying a below average defensive player with a .653 career OPS is hardly a value-oriented decision. They might be able to get similar, if not greater value out of Matt Reynolds as a utility infielder at the league minimum, saving the club upwards of $2.5 million and giving them an opportunity to allocate those funds in a more meaningful way.
Third, Tejada is coming off a second broken leg, and that could further impact his defense at a premium position and lowering his value in the process.
The question for the Mets becomes whether or not there is a replacement available on either the trade or free agent markets who represent a better value for that roster spot.
Asdrubal Cabrera is one player who has been mentioned at times in recent years, and according to a report from Venezuelen reporter Efrain Zavarce, the Mets are among five teams to express interest in the free agent shortstop this winter. (more…)
The quest to fill the Mets opening at second base has been a two-horse race so far this offseason with either Ben Zobrist or Daniel Murphy speculated to take that job–honorable mention: Dilson Herrera.
It’s possible, though, that this race could expand a bit.
With the Oakland A’s acquiring infielder Jed Lowrie in a trade with the Astros this past week, it has become likely that infielder Brett Lawrie could be traded prior to the season, according to the SF Chronicles’ Susan Slusser. (more…)
Each week throughout the offseason, JustMets.net’s Michael Baron and Rich MacLeod will answer #BaronTrades sent in by fans. These are free agency/trade proposals that can range from practical to savvy to extreme to say the least.
John Benedict: Mets sign Ben Zobrist, Justin Upton.
So far this offseason–and earlier during the 2015 season as well–the Mets have been linked to Zobrist often, and for good reason. While he is getting up their in age at 34 years old, Zobrist brings a solid approach at the plate, productive bat and versatility to play almost any position.
With the team likely letting Daniel Murphy walk in free agency, there’s a hole to fill at second base, and it’s not unrealistic to think that Zobrist could fill that.
It is unrealistic, however, to think that the Mets would sign Justin Upton in free agency. Even coming off of a bit of a down year by his standards, Upton still has plenty of value and will certainly command a contract well over $100M on the open market and, at this point, I’m not sure the Mets are looking to spend that kind of money on a player of his ilk.
It’s also worth noting that if the Mets were to sign Upton, they would be forfeiting their first round draft pick for the second consecutive season–something I highly doubt they’re interested in doing.
Another thing worth mentioning: Upton can’t play center field, so unless you move Granderson to center field, you’ve got nowhere to put him.
Disco Ball: Mets send Brandon Nimmo, Ahmed Rosario to the Reds for Zack Cozart, Billy Hamilton.
The Reds are on the brink of a full-on rebuild right now as players like Aroldis Chapman, Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips all appear to be on the trading block, so it’s possible that they’re open to moving anyone at this point.
That being said, I really don’t think these are the kind of players the Mets would be interested in, nor do I think they should go after them.
Cozart, 30, is coming off a season where he played just 53 games and hasn’t had a productive season since 2013.
Overall, Cozart’s numbers are not impressive as he’s hit .245/.284/.375 with a .659 OPS in his five-year career. He doesn’t hit for power, he doesn’t get on base, he doesn’t steal bases and he strikes out a lot.
For Hamilton, it’s a lot of the same. While he is a dynamic force on the base paths–he’s stolen 126 bases in just over two seasons–he too struggles to make contact and get on base.
In his young career, Hamilton has hit just .242/.287/.330 with 64 total walks and a .617 OPS.
Scott: Mets acquire Starlin Castro, Cubs acquire Brett Gardner, Yankees acquire Jon Niese.
This all makes sense, except for just one minor detail…
Why the heck would the Yankees want Jon Niese?
Corné Hogeveen: Mets send Rafael Montero, Gavin Cecchini to the Red Sox for Jackie Bradley Jr.
Bradley Jr. has come up a lot in trade rumors so far this offseason, and he’s an interesting piece, but this just isn’t getting it done.
Montero is completely unproven past Triple-A, has yet to see any success at the major league level and hasn’t appeared on a baseball field since April 28th of this past season.
Cecchini is not all that far away from being major league ready to play shortstop or second base, but with Boston having Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia manning those spots for the unforeseen future, I’m not sure they’d have much interest.
The Red Sox still seem to be high on Bradley Jr., despite his .213/.290/.249 career slash line, so it would take a much better package than this to get them to move him.
Curt: Mets trade Lucas Duda, re-sign Daniel Murphy to play first, have Dilson Herrera play second.
This isn’t a good idea.
The Mets aren’t exactly a team with a lot of power, and with Yoenis Cespedes likely going elsewhere in free agency, that’s going to dip even more.
At this point, this team cannot afford to trade away Duda’s power if they’re not going to adequately replace it, and while Murphy showed off prolific power by hitting seven home runs in this year’s postseason, he’s never hit more than 14 home runs in a single season. He’s not that kind of guy.
I like Dilson Herrera-as do the Mets–but he’s still just 22 years old and has yet to show that he’s able to play second base every day at the major league level.
Dan Levenstein: Mets acquire Jurickson Profar, Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Santana, Adam Jones, Drew Storen, George Springer, Jonathan Singleton, Brett Gardner. Rangers acquire Zack Wheeler. Red Sox acquire Matt Harvey, Ahmed Rosario, Wilmer Flores. Indians acquire Matt Harvey, Lucas Duda. Orioles acquire Matt Harvey, Brandon Nimmo, Juan Lagares. Nationals acquire Kevin Plawecki. Astros acquire Matt Harvey. Yankees acquire Jon Niese, Brandon Nimmo, Matt Bowman.
If you’d like to be featured on JustMets, submit your free agency/trade proposals here.
Earlier this month, Anthony Recker declared free agency after he was removed from the 40-man roster and refused a minor league assignment.
And it would appear Recker will be playing elsewhere in 2016.
Recker has signed a minor league deal with the Indians, and will be invited to Major League Spring Training in 2016, the club announced on Friday.
Recker, 32, hit .125 with two homers and five RBIs in 80 at-bats in the major leagues in 2015. He hit .190/.256/.350 in 140 games with the Mets from 2013-2015.
He was left off the postseason roster for Kevin Plawecki this past October.