Free Agency Begins Today

This morning at 12:01 am, the exclusive window for teams to negotiate with their free agents ended, and all players who were eligible for free agency are now available for other teams to sign.

Ten days ago at his introductory press conference, Mets GM Sandy Alderson said it was “unlikely” he would be aggressive in the free agent market this winter due to the dollars already committed to players for the 2011 season, but with nearly $60 million potentially coming off the payroll after next season, the Mets would have a greater opportunity to be players in the free agent market.

Alderson also said he wants to make the Mets’ farm system one of the best in the game, as developing quality out of the minor leagues would make the organization less dependent on the free agent market.

Personally, I love that philosophy and I hope his group can accomplish that. It’s not that I want the Mets to spend less necessarily, or not bring in marquee veterans if needed – rather, I want the Mets to make wiser and more efficient investments in players, and I’d love the Mets to be able to compliment young rising stars with big free agents and be less dependent on them to perform at an advanced age.

Regarding this winter, I don’t think the Mets have to be big spenders on the free agent market to make the major league team better and more competitive – for instance, I look at the Giants, who just won the World Series, and there are guys like Javier Lopez, Aubrey Huff and Cody Ross who were major impacts for them deep into October. The point is, I don’t see why the Mets can’t properly evaluate some of the less expensive options out there, whether it’s an arm for the pitching staff or a versatile bat for the lineup and/or bench, and bring a few of those pieces in. Yes, the Giants’ starting rotation was spectacular, and good pitching most definitely beats good hitting, and while guys like Huff aren’t going to be centerpieces, they’ll do a lot of the little things, like get a key bunt down, or work a deep count to draw a walk and tire the opposing pitcher, which help to win games. In looking at the Mets over the last couple of seasons, injuries aside, higher priced veterans haven’t exactly done those little things when asked in general, and they haven’t exactly won very much as a result.

Don’t get me wrong – I’d LOVE for the Mets to be players for Cliff Lee, and figure out a way to get Carl Crawford, among others. But if the Mets have, say $15 million to spend this winter, I think they would be better off using that money for two or three players which fill various needs, which, as the Giants proved, can go a long way.

The Mets had already made LHP Hisanori Takahashi a free agent, and Pedro Feliciano, Elmer Dessens, Fernando Tatis, Kelvim Escobar, and Henry Blanco also became free agents this morning.

The Mets could consider bringing back Blanco to back up Josh Thole next season, but I feel Feliciano is a real tough call, given all of the appearances he’s racked up over the last four years, his age, the role he truly belongs in which is a lefty specialist, and the amount of money he is likely to command, either in a multi-year deal or through arbitration. I’d bet if the Mets offered him arbitration, he’d accept it, which means the Mets would be on the look for around $4 million, since he’d be due a raise from his $2.9 million salary in 2010.

The thing is, with Takahashi gone, they would be without a proven and quality left handed pitcher in the bullpen if they let Feliciano go, which means they would likely go out to the free agent market anyway to fill the need anyway.

Speaking of relievers, Dan Martin of the New York Post thinks RHP Grant Balfour could be a realistic option for the Mets bullpen.

Balfour would most definitely bolster the Mets bullpen, but he isn’t left handed…

In 57 relief appearances for the Rays in 2010, the 33 year old, Australian born Balfour went 2-1 with a 2.28 ERA in 55 1/3 innings, walking 17 and allowing just three home runs this season. He just completed a one year, $2.05 million contract he signed with the Rays last December.