Throughout January and February, we're reviewing offseason MLB transactions that have fantasy implications, and we're going team-by-team. This isn't quite like Hot Stove Daily. We're focusing on ownable fantasy players who've found new employers.
Star power isn't a problem with this team, at least from a fantasy perspective. David Wright and Jose Reyes are lottery picks, Johan Santana and Carlos Beltran live in the second round, and new stopper Francisco Rodriguez will be one of the first closers selected in any draft. Alas, Q-rating hasn't helped the boys from Queens in recent years; the Metropolitans have just one playoff spot since their World Series trip in 2000, and they've disappointed as clear NL East favorites the past two seasons.
The Mets didn't add much to their offense or the front part of the rotation, but they've got some big names headed to the bullpen and plenty of competition elsewhere on the staff, in addition to one other major change of note. Let's have a look around.
Signed RP Francisco Rodriguez to a three-year, $37 million contract; traded for RP J.J. Putz
New York had the fourth-worst relief ERA in the National League last year and the second-most blown saves, so it wasn't a surprise when Omar Minaya made this priority No. 1 for the winter. Rodriguez's 62-save run in Anaheim was more about timing and usage than it was about dominance (his strikeout rate hit a five-year low and his WHIP climbed to 1.29), but the Mets got a reasonable price all things considered and they'll be happy to give him the ball at the end. K-Rod is currently the No. 3 closer on the ADP board (74.12); that makes him a better value than Jonathan Papelbon and Brad Lidge, but your money stretches further if you wait for Mariano Rivera (81.43) or Joakim Soria (94.52). Rodriguez no longer has the electric arsenal we saw during his early days with the Angels, but the move to the NL might mask some of that.
The move for Putz is nearly as important – K-Rod's at his best when he's not asked to do heavy lifting in the eighth inning, and Putz might be better equipped to work out of jams with runners on base. The former Seattle closer initially balked at the idea of a demotion to the eighth inning, but Jerry Manuel has hinted that Putz might be used semi-regularly as a fill-in closer; perhaps it's an effort to placate his new set-up man. Look for Rodriguez to be around the 40-save mark, with Putz cleaning up 7-10 times.
Someone in this trio figures to open the year as New York's No. 5 starter, while intriguing lefty Jon Niese picks up more seasoning in the minors. Redding was able to cheat his messy peripherals in Washington two years ago and post an artificial 3.64 ERA, but the rabbit's foot didn't work in 2008 and that number swelled to 4.95 even as the quality of his pitching didn't change all that much.
Shea Stadium was a friend to the pitcher and given that Citi Field has similar dimensions and higher outfield walls, it's natural to assume that the new yard will play in a similar fashion. Ultimately we won't know for sure until a few years play out and the quirks and wind patterns have their way. Batters at least get a break with the foul territory; there's less of it at Citi Field (fans will cheer that as well).
Mets Mumbles: Daniel Murphy has an intriguing bat but no clear position; he's an adventure in the outfield and a trial at second base in the Arizona Fall League received mediocre reviews. Murphy also had a nagging hamstring injury in Arizona, but it shouldn't be a problem entering 2009. He'll get a long look in left field and belongs on anyone's sleeper list. … The Hernandez move just about clinches that Pedro Martinez won't be back in Flushing. Pedro's New York production didn't match up with the expectations that come with a four-year, $52 million deal, but it can be argued that his signing brought much-needed credibility to the organization at the time. … Ivan Rodriguez's late-season trial with the other New York club didn't thrill anyone (33 games, .219 average, .580 OPS), and although the 37-year-old warhorse has some interest in the Mets (or creating artificial demand), apparently the feeling isn't mutual. … Jeremy Reed came over in the Putz deal and will take over the Endy Chavez role as the club's fourth outfielder, but that doesn't mean you want to throw $2-3 at him as your final NL-only player. Reed's bat didn't show much in Seattle (.257/.314/.365), and he's never learned how to read pitchers in the bigs (just 19-for-37 on steal attempts). … The Orlando Hudson-to-Flushing rumor was hot for a while, but ultimately nothing came to pass and it looks like Luis Castillo will get another shot at the second-base gig. Journeyman Alex Cora came over as a depth signing, Murphy might get a look here eventually, and Jose Valentin is an option if he can overcome a nagging neck injury. … Santana has a tender left knee and at the club's request he will not pitch in the World Baseball Classic. … Manuel is tinkering with the idea of Castillo leading off with Reyes hitting third.
Images via Associated Press