The Mets are expected to bid on free
agent big fish like Matt Holliday and Jason Bay to play left field, but
according to Bill Ladson of MLB.com, they have joined the Giants,
Mariners and Braves among teams interested in Nationals outfielder Josh Willingham.
Willingham, 30, batted
.260/.367/.496 with 24 home runs, 61 RBI and a career-high .863 OPS in
2009. While he possesses the thump the Mets covet, he ranks well below average on defense, according to UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating). The Nats resisted parting with him before the trade deadline, but
under team control for two more seasons, he represents one of
the team’s best potential trade chips.
The Nationals would almost certainly
want pitching in return, meaning that major-league ready pitchers like
Jon Niese and Bobby Parnell would have to be discussed. Perhaps the best part of it all for
general manager Omar Minaya, Willingham is a former catcher. Zing.
In other Mets news, the team is reportedly interested in Rod Barajas, while Jon Heyman of SI.com thinks Bengie Molina may want a three-year contract.
Update: Jon Heyman of SI.com now believes the Mets may be waiting out Molina, as they have more money to work with than the Rangers and Royals.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.