Based on the way the market is shaping up, the Mets could do ALMOST ANYTHING with the money they would have given to Molina, and it'd still be better than signing him.
Last month, we wrote that a Santos/Blanco platoon was actually not so bad:
But there is one good part to [a Santos/Blanco platoon] -- their splits:So, because of their platoon splits (which are unusual, because they are both righthanded) they become serviceable. Instead of an atrocious hitter, they combine to form only a bad hitter. And with both of their defense being valued highly - particularly Blanco's throwing arm - this is a cheap, reasonable situation we find ourselves in.
Santos, 2009, OPS: 616 vs. LHP, 727 vs. RHP
Blanco, career, OPS: 739 vs, LHP, 627 vs. RHP
Blanco's splits were even more pronounced last season, when he posted an awful 563 OPS against RHP and an amazing 1039 OPS against LHP (albeit in only 59 at bats). In 2008, 668 v. RHP and 771 v. LHP.
IF (and I repeat, IF) the plan is to platoon Santos and Blanco, and have Coste mentor Thole in AAA for the first few months, then I approve. Santos and Blanco, as noted above, will be pretty bad offensively, but that's alright in the short run. If they can platoon and hit somewhere around .280/.320/.400 together, I'll take that... until Thole, as I anticipate, forces a promotion
Now, the Mets have approximately $5 million MORE left to play with. In a market where Vladimir Guerrero had to settle for $5 million, Troy Glaus was available for $2 million, and it is almost February and dozens of useful players do not have teams - this is great news. I'll re-post here a list of position players who could help upgrade the Mets at positions where they could truly use it:
Rick Ankiel STL, Johnny Damon NYY (A), Jermaine Dye CWS (A), Reed Johnson CHC, Austin Kearns * WAS, Mark Kotsay CHW, Jason Michaels CLE, Xavier Nady NYY (B), Gary Sheffield NYM, Fernando Tatis NYM (B), Russell Branyan SEA, Carlos Delgado NYM, Orlando Hudson LAD, Felipe Lopez MIL , Miguel Tejada HOU, Joe Crede MIN, Pedro Feliz PHI, Ryan Garko SF
Nobody truly knows how much money the Mets have left on this year's budget. Depending on the deals available, it could be anywhere from $10 to $20 million. Metsblog's opinion is that the Mets don't "set a hard budget… they tend to always deal with the cost of acquisitions on a case-by-case basis." Based on the last few offseasons, I tend to agree with that observation.
But this news on Molina gives a Mets fan the opportunity to dream. How much do you think Johnny Damon can really ask for with the Yankees appearing out of the bidding? How nice would Fernando Tatis look coming back on a one year deal to come off the bench (instead of starting half the season).
Does Russell Branyan, coming off a second half of the year hitting .193, really have the bargaining power to demand more than $1 million? He posted an awesome 920 OPS against right handed pitching last season.
Are there going to be enough teams with pitching needs to pay the expected salaries for Joel Pineiro, Erik Bedard, Ben Sheets, Jon Garland, Chien-Ming Wang, John Smoltz, Doug Davis, Pedro Martinez and Jarrod Washburn?
How about a non-roster invite for guys with upside like Daniel Cabrera? Think Jose Contreras might be willing to pitch out of the bullpen? Chad Bradford and Joe Beimel are available.
I know I was all doom and gloom with the Beltran injury last week, but by avoiding Molina, the Mets have been afforded a great deal of flexibility. And just as importantly, every day that ticks off the calendar toward spring training is another day the Mets leverage over the remaining free agents become.