MLB teams are again hesitant to commit dollars and years to free agent first basemen, corner outfielders, and designated hitters, suggesting it may be the first group to experience a feeding frenzy this winter, baseball insiders attending this week's GM Meetings told me Tuesday.
According to multiple reports, including my own intel, the Mets are trying to acquire a player that can start at first base, but also play corner outfield and hit for power.
In reports last week, it was said that Sandy Alderson would be targeting free agents Jay Bruce, Logan Morrison and Adam Lind. However, reports Tuesday indicate the Mets are also showing interest in Carlos Santana, who insiders believe very much wants to return to the Indians.
However, according to friends in Cleveland, the Indians and Santana never got far on a contract extension because they were not interested in giving him more than a three-year contract. Obviously, Santana felt (and probably still feels) he will get more on this winter's open market.
It may seem crazy to think Santana would need to settle, but I was told to look back at Edwin Encarnacion's situation last winter as insight in to how things might play out this year for Santana.
If you recall, after rejecting a four-year offer from the Blue Jays, Encarnacion and his agent were emphatic about eventually getting a five- or six-year deal. However, when the Jays moved quick to sign Kendry Morales to a three-year contract, it became obvious that not even the wealthiest teams were interested in diverting extra money to first baseman, corner outfielders and designated hitters.
In the end, Encarnacion settled for a three-year, $60 million contract to play for the Indians, which was less than the deal he rejected in Toronto.
If the same situation is about to play out again, and it truly is a buyer's market, maybe the Indians were right -- maybe Santana will end up signing only a two-or three- year deal, despite most predictions putting him in the four- and five-year range.
Similarly, I'm hearing interested teams are bristling at free agent 1B Eric Hosmer's initial asking price, which (like with Encarnacion last year) is motivating next-tier options such as Santana, Bruce, Morrison, and Lind, to become proactive in hopes of being this year's version of Morales.
In addition to the Mets, the Angels, Red Sox, Mariners, and Indians are all in the market for a first baseman and have all been connected in rumor to Santana and Morrison.
It stands to reason, based on the above, that each team has also been in contact with agents for Bruce, Lind, Lucas Duda, Yonder Alonzo, Mitch Moreland, and Mark Reynolds, all of whom play first base, have played outfield and can hit 15-20 home runs... just like Santana... and just like Morrison.
MLB is setting historic home run records, which further proves there is an abundance of power hitters on every team. To counter the league's rise in power, teams are redirecting money away from adding home runs to to building up their fielding, scouting, and bullpens.
The point is, at a time when there is less money being spent on power hitting first basemen capable of playing the outfield, there happen to be more of this type player than there are teams looking to sign them. In other words, if he gets spooked by the market, maybe the Mets actually can get Santana on a short-term deal...
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. He recently left his position as Executive Editor and Dir. of Digital Content for SNY.TV to help sports brands build their own digital content businesses...