While the regular season is not yet over, meaning we are about two months away from the kickoff of the official hot stove season, in actuality the Mets season has been over for so long, our hot stove started in July. Most Mets fans have had plenty of time to think about directions for next season, as that has been the only thing getting them through this disaster. Other Mets blogs are getting ready to post their plans for next season, and I thought I’d try to get a jump on things by posting my own wild and crazy plans. This will run in several parts.
Players under team control: Omir Santos, Josh Thole
Expiring contracts: Brian Schneider
Potential free agents: Brad Ausmus, Paul Bako, Rod Barajas, Josh Bard, Michael Barrett*, Henry Blanco, Ramon Castro, Sal Fasano, Toby Hall, Ramon Hernandez*, Jason Kendall, Jason LaRue, Victor Martinez*, Benjie Molina, Jose Molina, Miguel Olivo*, Mike Redmond, Ivan Rodriguez, Yorvit Torrealba*, Javier Valentin, Jason Varitek*, Vance Wilson, Gregg Zaun*
* – team or mutual option
Trade options: Kelly Shoppach?
Catcher is a mess. Omir Santos has spent the second half proving beyond any shadow of a doubt that his early hot start was a sample size fluke. I like Josh Thole a lot, but he’s probably a year away. Brian Schneider has struggled with the bat thanks to an ungodly low batting average of balls in play (BABIP) of .228, well below his career totals. He is not likely to be retained, but the team currently lacks in-house options that are ready for the full-time catcher’s job.
Then again, this year’s free agent crop is full of players that are not ready for a full-time catcher’s job. The only player on that list who is any good is Victor Martinez, and his option will almost surely be picked up by the Red Sox. Of the other players on that list, Gregg Zaun has had a good year, but is 39 years old. Miguel Olivo could be called the rich man’s Omir Santos, with many of the same struggles at getting on base but better power. The Mets already had one crack at Yorvit Torrealba and renegged, something tells me he won’t be coming back for seconds.
A lot of the recent talk I’ve read has centered around Benjie Molina, and honestly, I can’t see it. He’s just as bad as Omir at not getting on base. He’s had a nice year power-wise, with 20 homers, but is perhaps the slowest runner in the major leagues, and thus struggles to hit doubles. At Citi Field, that could be a problem. Despite being a Molina, he’s not a good defender either. In order to get Molina, they would have to overpay because of the 20 homers he hit this year, when he is more likely to hit 10-15 moving forward, plus he’s a bad body catcher entering his mid-30’s and likely to get worse in a hurry. He is not a sound investment for anything beyond a one year deal at a limited dollar figure.
So what to do? I will be honest, I don’t know, this team is in quite a hole for next season. Shoppach wouldn’t be a bad trade get, but who knows what the Indians would want in return, or if the Indians will even deal him. Their best bet might be to try to bring in Zaun for one year if the Rays don’t pick up his option, or even bringing back Schneider despite his struggles. There might be better trade targets out there that I simply don’t know are available. I do know that going into 2010 with Omir Santos as a starting catcher is not something a contending team would do. It’s not even something a bad team would do.
My suggestion: Sign Gregg Zaun to a one year, incentive-laden contract and hope Josh Thole is able to earn a promotion by mid-season. Avoid overpaying guys with names who aren’t that good, like Benjie Molina, Ivan Rodriguez, and Miguel Olivo, as they would only be marginal upgrades. Bring back Omir Santos as the backup, although I hate suggesting this. If the Rays pick up their option on Zaun, bring back Schneider for another year and hope that his bad 2010 was the result of bad luck.
Next: The Infield