UPDATE: Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com was told by multiple Mets’ sources that a deal with Rodriguez is unlikely. In fact, one source told him: “We are not bringing Ivan here.” The club appears content to go with Mike Nickeas or Rob Johnson as Josh Thole‘s backup.
6:48 PM: 40-year-old Ivan Rodriguez is still out there looking for work and though a signing doesn’t sound imminent, he does have one potential lead.
According to Mike Puma of the New York Post, a Mets official spoke with Ivan Rodriguez as recently as 10 days ago and the club “hasn’t ruled out the possibility” of signing him a backup to Josh Thole. As of now, Mike Nickeas is the favorite for the spot.
The Mets have roughly $2 million left in their budget, according to Puma, but they want to make sure that Johan Santana is healthy before making any more moves. If Santana has any setbacks with his surgically-repaired shoulder this spring, they will likely try to add a starting pitcher. In the meantime, the Mets have told Rodriguez to “stay in shape.”
Rodriguez batted .218/.281/.323 with two home runs, 19 RBI and a .604 OPS over 137 plate appearances last season with the Nationals while throwing out 52 percent (13-for-25) of attempted basestealers. He is 166 hits shy of 3,000 for his career.
Around this time last year, the ink was drying on Manny Machado‘s 10-year, $300 million contract with the Padres and Bryce Harper was about to put the finishing touches on his 13-year, $330 million deal with the Phillies. We had gotten used to premier free agents hanging out in limbo until late February and even into March. This past offseason, however, was a return to normal. The top three free agents — Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, and Stephen Strasburg — all signed in December. Once the big names are off the board, the lesser free agents subsequently tend to find homes. There were a handful of noteworthy signings in January, but pretty much everyone was off the board when February began.
There are a handful of free agents remaining as I write this, with one name really sticking out: Yasiel Puig. Last season, between the Reds and Indians, Puig hit .267/.327/.458 with 24 home runs, 84 RBI, 76 runs scored, and 19 stolen bases in 611 plate appearances. He was one of only seven players in the league last year to hit at least 24 home runs and swipe at least 19 bases. While Puig has had some problems over the years, he still possesses a rare blend of power and speed that would seem useful.
The Marlins, White Sox, and Rockies have been linked to Puig this offseason. His market has been otherwise quiet since he became a free agent. The Athletic’s Jim Bowden suggests Puig will have to settle for a “pillow contract” — a one-year deal with which Puig reestablishes his market value, aiming to pursue a multi-year deal the following offseason. Along with the aforementioned three teams, Bowden suggests the Mariners, Indians, Pirates, Giants, Red Sox, and Cardinals as other teams that could potentially fit with Puig, which is not to be confused with teams having expressed interest in his services.