By Mike Steffanos
The Bergen Record's Steve Popper offers a list of Mets players not under contract to the team for 2007. Here they are by position:
- Tom Glavine
- Steve Trachsel
- Orlando Hernandez
- Chad Bradford
- Darren Oliver
- Guillermo Mota
- Roberto Hernandez
- Mike DiFelice
- Jose Valentin
- Chris Woodward
- Cliff Floyd
- Endy Chavez
- Ricky Ledee
- Michael Tucker
Some of these decisions are going to be easier than others. Here are some preliminary thoughts:
The decision is Glavine's, or more accurately his family's. I've been reading opinions that run the gamut from almost certainty to return to slam dunk to leave. I know many are going to get worked up over this. I'm not. If his family wants him home, that's what he should do. If he returns, we could still use him. I want him back, but I don't see him as irreplaceable. The important thing would be for Glavine to make a quick decision to allow the Mets to pursue other options if he leaves. I think he understands that.
Steve took a tougher beating than he deserved for his game 3 meltdown, and I won't kick him when he's down. Quite simply, on a pitching staff that must get younger, Trachsel must go. He didn't show any signs of being better than a below-average pitchers since returning from the back surgery. You can get one of the kids to give you at least as much as Steve would, and would have upside with them.
As stated above, it's imperative for the team to get younger. Depending on what type of contract El Duque is looking for, however, he might be a reasonable gamble for next year in a long relief/insurance starter role. If you could sign him to an incentive-laden contract, why not? Still, he pitched so well down the stretch, it wouldn't shock me at all if a pitching-starved contender such as Cincinnati or the Phillies wouldn't be willing to offer more than would make sense for the Mets.
His value certainly went up this past season. I hope the Mets can re-sign Bradford, but in a seller's market for relievers they are going to have competition. It's important to make every effort to bring back key setup men, but I recognize that at times another team can place a higher value on a player than makes sense for the Mets, such as what the Pirates gave Roberto Hernandez last winter.
I know everyone is mad at him for his stupid choice of pitches in game 2 of the NLCS, but with the possibility of trading Aaron Heilman or promoting him to the rotation (and we'll leave that question for another day) and the simple fact that Duaner Sanchez is coming back from a significant injury, the Mets really need to make every effort to resign this guy if he's willing to come back.
Oliver did a great job this year, but he's 36 years old, and this year was significantly superior to his major league track record. A left-handed reliever coming off a solid year (and a strong game in the NLCS) is a good candidate to be overvalued by the market. Long relievers aren't that hard to come by; I'd avoid overpaying Darren for a return engagement at Shea in 2007.
I don't think this decision is all that significant, and I suspect Bert will be either retired or pitching elsewhere next season. If you could sign him to a reasonable contract, however, you'd have to consider it.
Decent fielding, non-hitting catchers are literally falling off trees. Hasta la vista, baby.
I loved the story that Jose wrote with the Mets this season, but he's made it clear that he wants to start somewhere in 2007. Depending on where the Mets go in the free agent and trade market, it might make sense to give Valentin another year. His age - 37 - may well work against that.
Woody is a solid, versatile defensive contributor, but I'm not sure the Mets could afford his weak stick. After a decent, if unspectacular offensive year in 2005, Chris was a non-factor offensively this year. When Valentin slumped in the playoffs, Woodward hardly offered a viable alternative. I like Chris Woodward, but suspect the Mets could find someone out there who can competently back up the infield and offer more at the plate. I wouldn't be upset if Chris returned, but I wouldn't be heartbroken if he left.
If Floyd was to accept an incentive-filled contract, and the Mets spent their free agent money in other areas such as pitching and second base, I can see an actual scenario where Floyd comes back for one more year. I consider it most unlikely, though, to be honest. I just see them going elsewhere.
I don't believe that Chavez is actually eligible for free agency, so the Mets just need to make him an offer. He's a valuable and versatile bench player who Willie loves. It would be shocking if Endy wasn't a New York Met next season.
Tucker will turn 36 next June. He was a guy who would almost always give you a professional at bat, and could be a valuable reserve OF/pinch hitter if the deal makes sense.
2-1/2 years younger than Tucker, Ledee has had some very good years as a reserve, but is coming off an injury-plagued and ineffective 2006. Could make some sense, again if the price is right. I'd probably pass if I was making the call.
He wasn't on Popper's list, but I thought he was on a 1-year contract, too. I could be wrong. I can't find any info on this, if someone could help me out I'd appreciate it. In any case, he just turned 30 in August and has come into his own as a reliever. I have to believe his value soared higher than tech stocks in the 1990s over the course of this season. He might be hard to keep if he is a free agent.