Most of the talk around the Mets this offseason has been about adding a high-end catcher and potential runs at high-end relievers. While the Mets should be open to adding big-name players, here are four underrated, undervalued free agents the team should have interest in...
The veteran back-up catcher Nick Hundley
Hundley has been mostly a backup catcher the past two seasons, during which he has played in 197 games while hitting a combined .242 with 19 HR and 66 RBI in 608 at-bats.
In addition to being an ideal backup catcher, his true value may be in handling pitching staffs and being a positive, experienced influence in the clubhouse.
"He's one of the best (teammates) I've ever had," Giants starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija told NBC Sports in 2017 after Hundley was awarded the 2017 Willie Mac Award, which is given annually to the player deemed most inspirational by players, coaches, training staff, fans, and Willie McCovey.
Hundley inked a one-year, $2.5 million deal to return to the Giants in 2018, with whom he has spent the past two seasons. It's a bargain price considering he put up production worth $6.1 million, according to FanGraphs.com's WAR-dollar value.
However, during his 11-year career, Hundley has only ever played 50 games east of Colorado. So, it's hard to see how that suddenly changes this winter, especially given San Francisco's continued need for a fill-in for Posey. That said, if he is willing to cross the Mississippi, as a backup with a great reputation, he'd be a nice pickup for what amounts to a bargain rate.
By the way, in case you're wondering, Nick is not related to Mets fan favorite Todd Hundley.
The super-utility infielder DJ LeMahieu
Free-agent infielder DJ LeMahieu has established himself as the ideal super-utility infielder with terrific defensive skills. As a result, he'd be the perfect fit to help provide depth across the dirt at Citi Field, while also capable of being an everyday player.
He played 128 games this past season and set a career high in home runs (15) and doubles (32) and fell four RBI short of his career-best 66. In addition, during the past few years, he has played all four infield spots and if needed is certainly athletic enough to spend time in the outfield.
His most underrated asset, though, is his ability to turn with power on inside pitches, yet also easily adjust on balls up or outside to go the other way. He's basically immune to the shift, which is a quality with extra importance in Citi Field.
Team insiders say the Mets are very focused on adding players that put the ball in play more than players they had in their lineup last season. LeMahieu would help improve that need.
FanGraphs put his production the past two seasons as being worth $15-16 million each season. He was paid $4.5 million in 2017 and $8.5 million in 2018. So I'm sure he's looking to make up for lost time when negotiating a deal this winter. Along those lines, MLB insiders tell me he's worthy of a three- to -four-year contract worth between $40-50 million.
It's a pricey contract. But it's still a bargain assuming LeMahieu continues to produce at the rate he has the past four years, all of which would solve multiple needs on Brodie Van Wagenen's to-do list.
The other super-utility infielder, Jed Lowrie
Lowrie keeps getting better with age. He will be 35 years old next Opening Day, with more than 1,100 games played to date, but is coming off a career year in 2018.
Despite being paid a combined $13 million, his past two seasons were worth $67 million in production, according to FanGraphs.
Lowrie has spent five of the last six seasons with the A's, so it stands to reason he is a fan of living in the Bay Area. And, given Oakland's surprising success in 2018, I'm sure he'd love to continue with them, not move and help the A's get in to the postseason.
However, I'm sure he has also been fantasizing about his potential increase in income during this winter's free agency. Unfortunately for him, based on what we witnessed last winter, there is zero chance a team will give any 35-year-old a long-term deal. As a result, MLB insiders predict Lowrie will get the standard get two-year, $15-20 million being offered to players of his age and expected production.
For the same reasons stated above when writing about LeMahieu, Lowrie would go a long way in providing Van Wagenen and Mickey Callaway more contact at the plate and versatility around the infield. And, given his age, though Lowrie will come with less of a ceiling, he'll also require less dollars and commitment than LeMahieu.
It's also worth noting that Lowrie had been represented by Van Wagenen.
The replacement starter Nathan Eovaldi
Eovaldi missed all of 2017 recovering from Tommy John surgery. As is the case with most pitchers during their first year back from TJ, he needed four-to-five starts to get his bearings.
However, once he locked in, he had no trouble using the same varied fastball and cutter combination that made him successful earlier in the career. He also showed a new-found ability to pitch north and south and change the eye level of opposing hitters.
In his final 16 starts between the Rays and Red Sox, he had a 3.69 ERA and struck out 70 batters. More impressive, he allowed just three runs during his final four starts, all of which were made for the Red Sox down the stretch of a postseason run inside Boston's pressure cooker.
The Mets do not currently need a starting pitcher. However, if they end up dealing Zack Wheeler or find a way to cut bait with Jason Vargas, Eovaldi should be toward the top of Van Wagenen's list of possible replacements.
FanGraphs puts his dollar value to production at roughly $20 million during 2014 and 2015, and a tick lower at $18 million this past season. At 28 years old, with experience pitching in New York and Boston, with less than 900 innings on his arm, and with Tommy John surgery already behind him, he's well worth the three-to-four year deal and roughly $50 million likely due to him on the free agent market.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!