Free Agency Outlook: The New York Mets

While a few teams remain in the post-season it is time, for most teams, to start looking at 2018. With that in mind, I am kicking off a series that looks at each team’s potential free agents and their associated fantasy baseball impacts starting with my hometown Mets. The Mets will not have many, if any, free agent departures of note this off-season primarily due to the fact their most attractive pending free agents were already dealt amidst the season.

Free Agents
Tom Gorzelanny: Gorzelanny never actually suited up for the Mets in 2017 and spent much of the season dealing with shoulder injuries. He pitched a combined 7.2 innings at three different levels of minor league ball. The 35-year old will likely sign a minor league deal this off-season in an effort to come back as a long reliever or left-handed specialist.  Sadly he has not been relevant for fantasy sports purposes since 2013.

Travis Snider: A much-traveled former first-round pick has not touched the Major Leagues since 2017. He performed solidly, but unspectacularly, at two hitter-friendly PCL Triple-A franchises this past season, but showed only modest power (10 combined home runs), but respectable plate discipline skills. He will be thirty on opening day and will try again to win a backup role with an MLB club and will most likely find himself as organizational filler at the Triple-A level.

Desmond Jennings: Former Rays’ starting outfielder Desmond Jennings spent some time with the Mets in a minor league capacity failing to do much of anything of note, despite the friendly hitting confines that can be found in Las Vegas (.237/.301/.415). Technically the Mets released him in June and he has been a free agent since that time. He has now been released in two successive seasons after earlier in his career being one of the most highly-coveted young players in the game given his power/speed combination and minor league plate discipline skills none of which really fully materialized at the MLB level and then injuries started to rear their ugly head. Jennings will be 31 on opening day and it remains to be seen whether or not he’ll even try to sign with a club. If healthy, there is a chance there is something left in the tank as the skills he showed as a Ray are still lurking, but that is a significant “if”.

Team Options: The Mets have only two players with options on their contracts and both of them are team contracts of “reasonable” amounts in baseball terms and are likely to be picked up.

From an offensive standpoint, Asdrubal Cabrera, has been a generally successful addition on the offensive side of things in each of his two seasons with the club, showing solid power for a middle infielder. 2017 was one of the more useful seasons of his career, in fact, as he showed improved plate discipline, making contact about 85% of the time while walking 9% and posting a career-high .351 OBP along with 14 home runs. This is a very acceptable production level for a middle infielder, but mediocre at best should the Mets opt to shift him to third base in 2018. Given the context of his career, his overall fantasy stat line should remain similar, but a regression in his OBP should be expected. Defensively it is about time the Mets accepted that despite the fact that he has played a number of positions over his career, that does not mean he should be as he continues to be one of the least effective defenders according to advanced fielding metrics on the left side of the infield. In fantasy terms, he is still a fairly valuable player, but in terms of real baseball, we are talking about a player who had a lower WAR (Wins above replacement) than Jose Iglesias who had a .288 OBP in 2017. He showed an ability to be at least adequate at second base and capable at first, is blocked thereby Dominic Smith who will be given every chance to hold down the everyday job in 2018.

Loogy Jeremy Blevins has pitched in now fewer than 73 games each of the last two seasons for the Mets, posting a sub 3.00 ERA and striking out batters at 11.1 and 12.7 K/9 respectively. On the open market his services would be highly contested and his salary, even at 34 years of age, could easily be higher heading into 2018 ($7 M) if allowed to enter the open market. Last year he allowed a .195 batting average against left-handed batters along with a .250 OBP with 48 strikeouts in 34 innings. Righties, unsurprisingly, smoked him with a .288/.447/.545. line and his career numbers against him of .242/.343/.400 contrasted against his .206/.264/.304 against lefties make his role quite clearly defined. His real utility is in leagues that count holds as he nailed down 16 and 19 the past two seasons.

Non-Tender Candidates
Despite the fact that he will be 36 years old come opening day Norichika Aoki is still arbitration eligible, albeit for the final time, this year. He has earned the same contract ($5.5 M) each of the past two years and continues to display the same tools and skills that obtained him those contracts. The Mets could conceivably keep him as a semi-regular especially considering Michael Conforto may not be ready to return on opening day or could let him walk while simply let him walk and take their chances in the free agent and trade markets instead. That aside, Aoki remains a tweener with consistent plate discipline skills and above average speed that allow him to hit for a solid batting average and respectable OBP while stealing a few bags. His extreme ground-ball tendencies and limited power will keep him from ever being more than a low single-digits homerun hitter. It should be noted that the lefty is having an increasing spread in his platoon splits, failing to muster much of anything against his left-handed counterparts the last two seasons. His defense also appears to be in decline the last few seasons as well upon a closer look. Aoki still has value as a fourth outfielder for contending teams. If the Mets bring him back, similar playing time and production levels as a platoon player should be expected.

Tommy Milone was awful for the Mets and has always been considered a back end of the rotation starter, but at least having bone spurs to blame for his 7-plus ERA makes some sense. It remains to be seen whether or not he will undergo surgery for the issue which typically has no long-term effect on a pitchers’ career. When at his best, Milone is a fairly soft-tossing lefty known for allowing fly-balls and subsequently home runs at fairly high rates. He owns a career 12.3 HR/FB and a FIP well over 4.00 making him a non-recommended option on draft day in all formats.

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