Mets non-tender Valdespin, Turner, Hefner
Club will exchange figures with seven arbitration-eligible players, including Ike, Tejada
NEW YORK -- Jordany Valdespin's rocky tenure in the Mets organization has come to an end. New York non-tendered Valdespin and four others on Monday in a series of roster cuts both surprising and unexpected.
The Mets also trimmed starting pitcher Jeremy Hefner, reliever Scott Atchison, and infielders Omar Quintanilla and Justin Turner from the roster. Valdespin and Hefner were not yet eligible for arbitration, making their non-tenders relative surprises.
Throughout his seven seasons in the organization, Valdespin impressed the Mets with his obvious natural talent while exasperating them with regular shows of immaturity. The team disciplined him multiple times during his Major and Minor League career, hoping he would develop into a rare power-hitting, basestealing middle infielder.
It never happened. Though Valdespin hit seven home runs over his first 97 big league plate appearances, he closed the 2012 campaign with a .192/.252/.263 slash line over his final 47 games. He then hit .188/.250/.316 this past season after being converted into an outfielder. His highlight was a pinch-hit walk-off grand slam on April 24, against the Dodgers.
Along the way, Valdespin furthered his reputation as a troublemaker. After he was demoted to Triple-A Las Vegas shortly before the All-Star break, he threw a tantrum in front of manager Terry Collins, general manager Sandy Alderson and others in the clubhouse.
A month later, Major League Baseball suspended him 50 games for his connection to Biogenesis, the South Florida clinic linked to performance-enhancing substances. Members of the front office hinted at the time that Valdespin's run with the organization was likely over.
The official end came on Monday, prior to a deadline typically reserved for teams to cut ties with arbitration-eligible players.
Hefner, 27, was also non-tendered despite being ineligible for arbitration until after the 2015 season. He went 4-8 with a 4.34 ERA this past season before tearing the MCL in his right elbow and undergoing Tommy John surgery, which will force him to miss the entire 2014 season. The Mets could have retained him for the Major League minimum salary but chose not to.
Turner, 29, spent the past three seasons as a utility man, playing all four infield positions and recently learning left field. A favorite of Collins, he hit .280 with two home runs in 214 plate appearances this season and would have been due for a modest raise through arbitration.
Atchison, 37, was an obvious non-tender candidate given his age and injury history. Though effective in stretches when healthy, he has pitched since at least 2009 with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, which in 2013 created other issues that forced him to miss significant time. He would have been slated to make more than $1 million through arbitration.
Needing a veteran arm for their bullpen, the Mets could still bring back Atchison on a less lucrative deal, but plenty of options are available on the open market.
Quintanilla, 32, served as the backup and sometimes starting shortstop over parts of the last two seasons, hitting .222 with a .589 OPS in 2013. Though he proved integral when Ruben Tejada spent long stretches on the disabled list, Quintanilla spent most of his time in the organization as a bench bat. The Mets were satisfied with his work, but he would have made close to $1 million through arbitration. His non-tender, along with those of Turner and Valdespin, leave the Mets without an experienced backup middle infielder on the 40-man roster.
Monday was the deadline for teams to tender contracts to any players who did not have guaranteed deals. Clubs typically only non-tender arbitration-eligible players who are often due for large raises.
The Mets have seven other arbitration-eligible players: Tejada; first basemen Ike Davis and Lucas Duda ; second baseman Daniel Murphy ; outfielder Eric Young Jr.; and pitchers Dillon Gee and Bobby Parnell. Those players will exchange salary figures with the Mets next month.
New York's 40-man roster is now down to 35, meaning the Mets have room to add five players -- free agents, trade acquisitions or Rule 5 draftees -- without cutting anyone else.