Mets to build around core players

November, 4, 2008
11/04/08
11:13
AM ET
The Mets don't have the kind of money everyone thinks, especially having to pay Billy Wagner $10M next season. They will spend to get a starter, a reliever and a bat to supplement Ryan Church in right and the Daniel Murphy/Fernando Tatis platoon in left.

No one knows what impact the economy will have on baseball, especially in New York, but someone is going to pay a price for the national debt increasing by $450B in October. The Mets are not going to jump over the luxury tax threshold, so they will continue to build around David Wright, Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran, figure Mike Pelfrey will continue his quantum leap forward, and do their best to fill in around them.

Closer is their priority, and if Francisco Rodriguez doesn't drop down into the $10 million to 12 million range per season, the Mets will look to see if Brian Fuentes' makeup is suited for New York. After the past two years, a slow start in a new ballpark could be ugly for the Mets' players, who were savaged last season. They could get Jose Valverde, but not at the cost of Jonathon Niese, and they'll have to get in line with the Indians, Brewers and others for Huston Street.

Look, Wright is a great player; granted, next to Justin Morneau he came to the plate with more runners in scoring position than anyone in baseball, but he must learn to stop putting so much pressure on himself, relax and be himself. Reyes must go back to having a lot of fun and being himself. And as quixotic as Beltran can be, he is a great talent. And all three players are in their primes.

CC Sabathia has told friends he doesn't want to play in New York, and the Brewers are making a huge push. Manny Ramirez will get his money. Mark Teixeira will get his; there are people in Orange County who swear he's already asked about a particular house.

We don't know where anyone is going right now, not until the bidding begins at the end of next week. If it's all about money, sure, the Yankees are likely to end up with Sabathia no matter what. The Yankees and Red Sox will probably get in on Teixeira, but to what degree, no one knows.

FIVE OF THE MOST INTRIGUING FREE AGENTS:

    1. Rafael Furcal. If his shoulder checks out, the fact remains he put the Dodgers in position to make the playoffs by running his OPS over 1.000 until he got hurt on May 5.

    2. Derek Lowe. He is 36, but in great shape, physically and mentally. He's averaged 210 innings the past six years, is a world-class athlete and can get the Yankees and Red Sox into a bidding war. He is a better pitcher than when he left Boston after winning the series clinchers of the ALDS, ALCS and World Series in 2004.

    3. Raul Ibanez. His 338 RBIs the past three years are more than Ramirez (311), Teixeira (336) or Vladimir Guerrero; he is a leader, a tremendous person and a legitimate middle-of-the-order bat. It's nice that such a good person will get paid.

    4. Adam Dunn. He is spending the winter at Athletes Performance Institute trying to get into the best shape of his career. The Diamondbacks liked him; they're just not willing to spend the money, but they felt his on-base percentage and power and enjoyment of the pennant race were really good. Dunn wants to play for a contender, so Washington may be out.

    5. Milton Bradley. He'll be 31 in April, comes off leading the AL in OPS, and while he again had injuries that limited him to 414 at-bats, he is a big-time offensive force.

FIVE PLAYERS WE ARE WATCHING TO SEE IF THEY END UP ON THE TRADE MARKET:

    1. We know Jake Peavy is out there, but after seeing Tommy Hanson in the Arizona Fall League, one scout says, "I can see why the Braves won't put him in the Peavy deal. It likely will still happen, but replacing Hanson with Yunel Escobar and Jordan Schafer included will be difficult."

    2. Russell Martin. Some Dodger officials have spread the word that Martin will either be traded or moved to third base, with a Jason Varitek signing a possibility. Whether or not it actually happens will be interesting to see, but teams looking for catching, like the Red Sox, will do a headfirst dive to get in on Martin, who turns 26 in February. I've also heard that the Yankees are making a major push on Martin and Matt Kemp.

    3. Prince Fielder. He's 25 and has averaged 37 homers the past three years.

    4. Matt Cain. Whether it's Fielder or a combination of bats, if the Giants have to trade the 24-year-old right-hander, he might be the Josh Beckett of this offseason, despite his 30-43 career record.

    5. Robinson Cano. In 2007, Brian Cashman asked his staff about trading Cano and trading for Orlando Hudson, who has filed for free agency. Dealing Cano and signing Hudson could happen if Cashman is really in charge.

*****

The deadline trade sending Manny Ramirez to Los Angeles worked for Ramirez and Scott Boras, and it's justified because it worked and he hit in Los Angeles. Some folks make it sound as if all Manny wanted was to have the Red Sox guarantee his last two option years at $20M per year for 2009-2010. Wrong. Legacy Sports got the fee in that case, and Manny wanted out of the contract he signed with his former agent, Jeff Moorad.

Let's fast-forward to late in the 2014 season. At that point, Evan Longoria will have more than six seasons in the big leagues, and he will be playing on one of three club option years for $7.5M. Let's say he switches agents, and that new agent knows he -- the agent -- cannot collect the fee on the club options for 2015 at $11M and 2016 at $11.5M. If Longoria essentially decides to have a sitdown strike unless the Rays forget the two option years for 2015-2016 and instead allow him to enter the free-agent market at 29, can he cite the Ramirez precedent?

*****

• Brad Penny was shut down after 94 2/3 innings and a 6.28 ERA, a year after going 16-4 with a 3.03 ERA. He knows he needs to get in better shape, and has begun working at the API in L.A. He could be an intriguing signing for some team come January.

• If you're wondering about Jayson Werth's extraordinary athleticism, his mother, Kim, not only participated in the U.S. Olympic track and field trials (and lost out because of injuries), she still holds the Illinois state high school record in the women's 50-yard dash. OK, they don't run the 50-yard dash anymore, but it's still remarkable.

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