Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Jason Bay is a Colossal Mistake: How Bay-watch became Omar-watch

The News
The Mets signed Jason Bay to a four year, $65 million dollar contract yesterday. It has an easily-attainable option which would push the contract to a staggering five years and over $80 million dollars.

This is it - the beginning of the end for Minaya. This is EXACTLY the kind of move that ends a tenure as a GM. That, while receiving lukewarm approval from the fanbase and newspapers today, will be a complete and utter disaster by the end of the contract.

You do not sign low-average, defensively-challenged sluggers to five year contracts when they are 31.

Bay is not a terrible player. We have analyzed Bay extensively at this site, and many others have done so as well elsewhere. He's been an above average player for a number of years. He is a good complementary piece. But that is NOT the way in which mega-contracts should be evaluated. In my last post on Bay, I asked:
Is this the guy we want to occupy 10% of our payroll with? Is this the kind of player we want to shape the rest of our roster around? Is he a cornerstone for the next Mets World Series team? I don't think so.

He's' a great hitter for the six-hole on a contending team. But he's not getting paid like that. He's getting $16.5 million dollars a year UNTIL HE IS 36. He's being given one of the largest free agent contracts ever awarded by the Mets.

The Folly of Mega-Contracts
Long-term contracts usually don't work out. By definition, signing a guy for five guaranteed years is a huge risk. Five years is a very long time to forecast ANYTHING to happen, much less that an athlete will maintain his phenomenal peak performance.

You wouldn't want to buy a stock that you couldn't sell for five years. You wouldn't want to take a girl on one date and then sign a five-year contract with her --- unless of course, she was Heidi Klum. Some singular talents are worth taking a risk for. Heidi Klum, Brooklyn Decker, Gisele Bundchen, Carlos Beltran. Risks this big should be reserved for superstars.

Cot's Contracts has a list of players, sorted by highest average annual value on their contracts. Here is the list of outfielders who have EVER averaged more than $13 million dollars a year.

Vlad Guerrero: $14M - 5 years
J.D. Drew: $14M - 5 years
Magglio Ordonez: $15M - 4 years
Carlos Lee: $16.6M - 6 years
Alfonso Soriano: $17M - 7 years
Carlos Beltran: $17M - 7 years
Vernon Wells: $18M - 6 years
Ichiro Suzuki: $18M - 5 years
Torii Hunter: $18M - 5 years
Andruw Jones: $18.1M - 2 years
Manny Ramirez: $20M, $22.5M - 7 years, 2 years

This list is occupied by one type of player -- players better than Jason Bay. Above him on the list are generational talents, the guys who we will look back at this era on and remember as superstars: Manny, Andruw, Ichiro, Beltran, Soriano.

Some of the contracts on this list worked out okay. Beltran is one. Vlad Guerrero is another. But half of them did not -- and those were for players who were better than Bay. Does anyone really think that Jason Bay belongs on this list? Should his name be in the same sentence as Vlad Guerrero, Magglio Ordonez, or Alfonso Soriano? Even the Carlos Lee signing, which was broadly dismissed as a mistake, is a better signing than this.

Jason Bay is not one of those players.

If Not a Star, Then What...?
He is a clearly second-tier talent with a profile which indicates that he is a higher than average risk of collapse. So who is Bay actually comparable to? There are some players which come to mind -- here are their stats per 162 games and through their age 31 seasons:

Jason Bay: 33 home runs, 86 walks, 157 strikeouts, .280/.376/.519.
Geoff Jenkins: 29 home runs, 54 walks, 148 strikeouts, .279/.350/.499
Jeromy Burnitz: 30 home runs, 83 walks, 130 strikeouts, .259/.365/.498
Richard Hidalgo: 28 home runs, 60 walks, 120 strikeouts, .273/.350/.497 (through age 30)

Jenkins was out of baseball two years later. Hidalgo was already out of baseball. I don't have to tell you what happened to Burnitz. Jenkins and Hidalgo are high up on Bay's list of similar players. Burnitz is a Mets-related example.

Another guy who he really reminds me of is Danny Tartabull.

Jason Bay: 33 home runs, 86 walks, 157 strikeouts, .280/.376/.519.
Tartabull: 31 home runs, 90 walks, 157 strikeouts, .278/.374/.505

His next year, with the Yankees and Oakland in 1995, he hit .236. He bounced back in 1996 to hit 27 home runs while batting only .254. The next season, he was out of baseball. Two years later.

His MOST SIMILAR player -- and this is not a joke -- is Ryan Klesko. Klesko was a legitimately good hitter. He was underrated. Through age 31, Ryan Klesko hit 30 home runs per 162 games, drove in 100 runs, struck out only 103 times, and batted a robust .285/.372/.528. Klesko and Bay had identical OPS+ marks of 131 through age 30. This would seem to be the most helpful comparison Bay could ask for.

From age 32 to 36, Klesko hit only 54 more home runs. He batted .264/.366/.432, missed his age 35 season entirely, and was out of baseball the next year.[1]

The Impact

Metsblog did a great job aggregating the reactions from around the blogosphere:

Ed Ryan from Mets Fever says, “Nice job, Omar.”

According to John, from Metstradamus, “This is a good move. In a vacuum, it’s a great move.”

On the other hand, while Mets Grrl likes Bay, she explains why her reaction was just, ‘ehhh.’

Mike Silva of NY Baseball Digest explains, “When it’s all said and done, the Mets needed Bay.”

I disagree. The Mets needed to use their money wisely and did not. The Mets did not need to give Vladmir Guerrero money to the next Danny Tartabull, Bobby Higginson, or Geoff Jenkins.

Shortly after the trade, my friend texted me this: "Let me know how that expensive DH in a huge NL park experiment goes." He's right. Even setting aside all the talk about Jason Bay's defense for a moment -- Jason Bay is going to need to hit just about as well as he has for the next FIVE years in order to come anywhere close to justifying his contract. And the odds of that are enormously long.

When all is said and done, Jason Bay will own the third largest contract on the Mets.[2] I believe that Jack Moore over at fangraphs nailed it on the head in his short article about Bay:
This deal definitely improves the Mets’ offense for 2010 ... Bay’s bat combined with Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, and David Wright gives the Mets a scary top of the order for opposing pitchers. That’s about where Bay’s effectiveness ends.
Of course, the real interesting point of the contract is the dollar value...Given the current market, $3.5M per WAR, the Mets are expecting 4.5 wins per season out of Bay. Is Jason Bay the type of tier-2 superstar that deserves this contract?

The Mets can afford to overpay given their place on both the revenue curve and the win curve... [but] this move appears to be one of the more significant overpays of the offseason, and it by no means vaults the Mets into the playoffs. Much needs to go the Mets’ way for this contract to work out as planned[.]

On the field, the Mets are going to be better with Jason Bay than without him. That is not the question. The question is whether they will be more well-positioned to be successful with Bay and his contract than without him, both this year and in the future. I believe that the answer to that question is no.

Mets fans were antsy for a move and they got it. The reaction today is relief. I believe Roger also nailed it when he called his post about Bay "The Sound of Settling." But when history looks back at the Minaya regime, I believe this signing is going to be one of those OBVIOUS mistakes.

I certainly hope not. I will be rooting for Bay.


postscript: When we acquired Bobby Bonilla, he had the exact same career OPS as Jason Bay, at 131. He averaged 21 home runs per year, and struck out only half as much. He was a superior player to Bay at the time, and younger. As a Met, he almost replicated those numbers, posting OPS+ marks of 121, 132, 128 and 160.

However, he was so grossly overpaid that the fans reviled him. In fact, the Mets had to trade him in the midst of a season he was hitting .325/.385/.599, for an OPS that would have placed him fourth in the NL ... behind only Bonds, Piazza, and Larry Walker.

Mike Vaccaro actually had an excellent article equating Bonilla and Bay over at the Post a few weeks ago. He is wrong on some of it, calling Bay "a better player than Bonilla," for one ... but generally, his premise is sound. He asks the Mets this:

How many times do you need to have anvils fall on your head before you take a step out of the way? How many times do you have to sign Kevin Appier and Bobby Bonilla before you recognize the difference between attracting the cream of a good free-agent class (see Sabathia, CC, and Teixeira, Mark) and the prettiest homecoming queens of Homely High?

Bay is going to have a huge contract to live up to, and that is going to affect the way that he is perceived.

Dan over at Amazin Avenue asks whether Jason Bay is going to be the Mets' best hitting LF of all time. He may well be. I've also heard him be compared to Cliff Floyd minus the injuries. All these sound good only until you consider the price.

In fact, Cliff Floyd from age 24-31 (the ages Bay has been in the majors) hit a robust 28 home runs per 162 games, with 115 strikeouts and a .289/.370/.515 line and identical 131 OPS+! Sounds great right? Sure ... until you consider that Floyd earned only $6.5 million a year as a Met. Even the world's strongest proponent of Bay cannot come close to justifying investing $82 million guaranteed dollars.


[1] For anyone who worries that I am cherry-picking, others who made his list of comparables include:

Tim Salmon - 60 home runs after age 31, batted .262, out of baseball by 35

JD Drew - In the middle of his contract now but performing well

Bobby Higginson - The poster boy for inexplicable collapses, batted .235 and was out of baseball in three years

Jim Edmonds - Who is not actually comparable to Bay at all in that he was a phenomenal athlete who played center field

George Foster - Who is also not comparable because he was a vastly better hitter than Bay, had three top-six MVP finishes and a 54 home run season before he was 31... though for what it is worth, he proves our point, batting only .258/.316/.434 from age 32 to the end of his career.

Willie Stargell - Another player a universe better than Bay, with an OPS+ of 142 entering his age 32 season and with five years with MVP votes, including a second place finish.

Kevin Mitchell - Similarly to Stargell/Foster, already had an MVP win and a career OPS+ of 142. For what it is worth, the next five years of his career he only had 702 at-bats and only once played more than 65 games in a season.

[2] When they hit free agency, Wright and Reyes will surpass him, but for now, only Johan Santana and Carlos Beltran, two of the best players in the game, were awarded larger contracts. If the contract is backloaded (as is being reported by Metsblog), when 2011 rolls around, our payroll is going to look like this:

Santana $22.5M, Beltran $20M, Bay $21M, Perez $12M, K-Rod $12.1M, Wright $14.2M, Reyes $11M ... that's $113 million committed to 7 players. That is going to be VERY ugly.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Sound of Settling

Weeks after being offered the contract, Jason Bay has reportedly agreed to a 4-year, $66 million deal, with a vesting option for a fifth year. (Which would bump it up to 5-year, $80 million.) This was announced by Mike Francesa on his radio show at 2:05PM EST this afternoon and was immediately confirmed by Jon Heyman.

Mike Francesa? That was strange. Why have Francesa break this story? There are a few theories floating around. For one thing, there's the possibility that the Wilpons are absolutely scared to death of the prospect of Omar Minaya announcing anything anymore, following the Adam Rubin incident. For another, the Mets offices are closed this week, so they couldn't make any announcement. However, they wanted to make sure the fans got hold of this news before January 1st. Why? That's the deadline for season ticket holders from last year to renew or update their ticket plans. Oh clever clever Metsies.

My bitter cynicism aside, I kind of like this deal. I don't LOVE it on account of all I keep reading about Jason Bay's terrible defense, and I simply don't believe Bill James's prediction of 32 home runs and 102 RBI's for 2010 factored into the possibility of him playing half of his games at Citi Field, but my gut instinct tells me to look at the lineup now. I mean, look at the projected Opening Day lineup now:

1.Jose Reyes SS
2.Luis Castillo 2B
3.David Wright 3B
4.Carlos Beltran CF
5.Jason Bay LF
6.Jeff Francoeur RF
7.Daniel Murphy 1B
8.Henry Blanco C
9.Johan Santana P

Not terrible. I'm just glad to see Francoeur out of the 3-4-5 area to be honest. I do feel a little bad for Angel Pagan, who hit .306 and had 11 triples in only 88 games. Theoretically, couldn't Minaya build the Mets around pitching and speed? That would be ideal for a team playing at Citi right? It doesn't sell tickets though. And to be fair, Pagan has never stayed healthy. Nono...I like the Bay signing. I'll stop complaining. The press conference next week should be fun. I really hope Bay doesn't flat out lie and say his dream has always been to play for the Mets. That'd be kind of bad. Of course he can end up charming us all with his rye Canadian wit. You just never know.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Outside the Box, Part 5: Dan Uggla Instead of Bay

If the Mets are really hurting for some power in the lineup, and are hell-bent on acquiring some, then they should trade for Dan Uggla instead of signing Jason Bay. And they should play Uggla in left field or outright bench Castillo.

Jason Bay and Dan Uggla have a LOT in common. Bay is the better hitter, don't get me wrong, but they are much more similar than you would think, based on how they are discussed in the media.

Here is a comparison of the two players stats over the last four years in some important categories:

Plate Appearances: Bay 2611, Uggla 2698
Home Runs: Bay 123, Uggla 121
RBI: Bay 413, Uggla 360
Strikeouts: Bay 596, Uggla 611
Batting Line: Bay .272/.371/.503, Uggla .257/.344/.482

The major difference between the two is that over that time, Uggla walked 285 times to Bay's 336. That's 50 walks over four seasons. Twelve walks a year. Less than one walk every ten games.

Both are bad defenders, but Bay is far worse in left field than Uggla is at second base. We looked at Bay last week, where we discovered that:
Jason Bay is a horrendous defensive outfielder... 'His defense is so bad in such a non-premium defensive position that he was merely a replacement level player in 2007 when his bat disappeared.' (Fangraphs)

His fielding ratings over the last three years were -11.5, -18.4, and -13.0. Carlos Lee, a big man with a bad defensive reputation, has only posted rates of -4.4 and -5.4 the last two seasons. Bay is way worse."

Over the last three years, Uggla was -11.3, -2.0, and -9.6 at second base. Not stellar, to be sure, but with his bat he was still worth an average of $12 million per year because second base is such a difficult position to play and because his hitting was so good.

The most recent rumor involving Uggla, on December 18th, had him going to the Giants for a package surrounding mercurial lefthander Jonathan Sanchez. Sanchez, of course, is like a lefthanded Oliver Perez -- he walked 4.8 batters per nine innings last season, but also threw a no-hitter. He is young and cost controlled, and would have made a good addition for the Marlins.

Could the Mets match a package like that? They would probably be hesitant to -- but since the Marlins are primarily concerned with cutting costs, they might be able to acquire Uggla for a couple of low minor leaguers and avoid trading any of their hotter prospects.

If the Mets were to trade for Uggla, they could play him in left field and he would probably not be any worse than Bay is. Or, if they were uncomfortable with that plan, they could put him at second and bench Castillo. Castillo could then continue to be floated in trade offers.

Over the last three years, Uggla has hit 31, 32, and 31 home runs. He's got real power, which would likely translate just fine to Citifield -- for his career, he has more home runs at home in spacious Dolphin Stadium than he does on the road.

If the Mets are dead-set on making an acquisition which will improve their power, Uggla is just as good as Bay. Uggla isn't the hitter that Bay is, but he plays a MUCH more difficult defensive position and can be had in a trade. Uggla is also two years younger than Bay and will not require a $65 million dollar commitment.

Monday, December 21, 2009

You Know Your Offseason Is Going Bad When....

... you get upset that Jason Marquis signed somewhere else

... that Jason Marquis chose the Nationals over your team

... when your biggest acquisition so far is a 38-year-old catcher who hit .235 last year

... or if not him, then a relief pitcher who wasn't good enough to make the Pirates last year

... and his name is Elmer

... when Jason Bay won't accept a $65 million dollar offer to come to your team when there are no other offers out there.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

DeRosa Not Worth The Cost relayed a report by the Boston Globe saying that Mark DeRosa's asking price may have come down to $10 million. They opined:

…i like DeRosa in a platoon situation with Daniel Murphy, and i also can envision him in a part time role in the outfield…i would not look for him to be an everyday solution right now, but his versatility is something i feel the Mets could use, especially with all of the health issues that has plagued this team in recent years…
I respectfully disagree. Daniel Murphy had a rough season last year, hitting only .266/.313/.427. Mark DeRosa, on the other hand, was almost EXACTLY the same hitter, batting .250/.319/.433. They were nearly identical.

However, DeRosa is expensive and older. DeRosa is going to play this season at age 35. His career batting line is .275/.343/.424, although he had a nice little stretch from 2006-2008. The point is, he is old and getting older, and his absolute ceiling is that of a hitter with an 800 OPS.

Metsblog mentions DeRosa's versatility as a plus, but it is common knowledge that baseball players defensive value falls off a cliff in their 30's. Just because a guy PLAYS several positions, does not mean he plays them well. He went from a peak defensive value of +7 in 2006, to 1.7, to -0.9 and then finally down to -2.7 last season. He had a -8.7 UZR at third base last season and he was atrocious at second base the last time he played there - although his stats in the outfield were great in limited action. The stats back up what common sense and personal observation would imply - that DeRosa is a not one of those useful swiss-army-knife players anymore.

Basically, DeRosa would be relegated to the outfield or to first base, and he does not hit NEARLY well enough to justify a contract at either of those spots.

If the Mets want to bring in a platoon partner for Murphy, who struggled against lefties last year, there are other options, including many non-tendered players. Jack Cust has a career 864 OPS against righties and 58 home runs in the last two seasons. Ryan Garko has a .313 career average and 887 OPS against lefties. Another site speculated that Troy Glaus, a career .277/.399/.558 hitter against lefties, could be an option as well. All would be infinitely cheaper and more useful than DeRosa.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Distinguishing the Mid-Range Pitching Options - Marquis, Piniero, Garland

The Basics - 2009 and Career Stats

Joel Pineiro
3.49 ERA, 214 IP, 27 bb, 105 k, 1.14 WHIP, 9.2 h/9, 1.1 bb/9, 4.4 k/9

Before last year, Joel Piniero basically stunk. A career 4.55 ERA and 1.37 WHIP, but even worse recently -- he had a ghastly 5.50 ERA since 2005. But last year, for whatever reason, he pitched fantastically. Piniero was 4.8 Wins Above Replacement last year, by far the best free agent remaining.

Somehow, Joel Piniero was able to take his career ground ball to fly ball ratio, which has hovered around 1.5 for EIGHT seasons, and ramp it all the way up to 2.54. That's right, 2.54 ground balls per fly ball. Mike Pelfrey's GB/FB ratio has been between 1.68 and 1.71 for four years straight. His GB/FB ratio was the highest in baseball last year by HALF a point -- Derek Lowe was second, at 2.18. (Incidentally, Marquis was third at 2.03).

Jon Garland
4.01 ERA, 204 IP, 61 bb, 109 k, 1.40 WHIP, 9.9 h/9, 2.7 bb/9, 4.8 k/9

Garland was across the board worse than Piniero last year. Probably the best part of his resume was his brief National League audition. After eight years in the American League, he had 36 great innings for the Dodgers down the stretch this year, posting a 2.72 ERA. Overall, Garland was 2.4 Wins Above Replacement.

Aside from his 2005, which was excellent, Garland has been mediocre throughout his career. Although durability is a big point in his favor, he's basically a lock to post an ERA around 4.41 - his four year average - unless something has changed in his approach.

Jason Marquis
4.04 ERA, 216 ip, 80 bb, 115 k, 1.38 WHIP, 9.1 h/9, 3.3 bb/9, 4.8 k/9

Take Garland, allow a few less hits, and walk a few more guys and you have Marquis. Marquis had a pretty decent season last year, posting the numbers that he posted while pitching in Coors Field. For comparison, Marquis' 4.04 ERA was good for a 113 ERA+ (after adjusted for field, etc.) while Garland's 4.01 ERA was only a 111 ERA+.

Over his career, Marquis has been less consistent than Garland. He posted a career best 3.71 ERA for St. Louis back in 2004 at the age of 25, and a career worst of 6.02 in 2006. Since then, he's got a fairly consistent statistical line.

The Stuff, the Stories

If you were looking only at the surface stats, everything about Joel Piniero's season last year would scream FLUKE. But because of his increase in ground balls, he allowed less home runs. He allowed less line drives. His unusually low BABIP of .293 might be close to sustainable.

He relies primarily on his fastball, throwing it 71% of the time last year. That was by far a career high. He throws a sinking two seamer which averages 89 mph. Not overbearing stuff, but we knew that already. His slider was once a very good pitch, but nowadays, his other pitches are all about average.

Jon Garland is a big guy, listed at 6'6" and 210 lbs. He relies primarily on his fastball, which averages about 90 mph, and also throws a slider, curveball, and changeup. According to fangraphs, he's also added a cutter this season. I've never seen Garland pitch, but according to fangraphs once again, all of his pitches were league average or worse except the cutter, which was pretty good.

I like Jason Marquis because he has the most diverse repetoire of useful pitches. He throws a fastball which averages about 90.5 mph, a slider which comes in at 84 mph, a cutter, and a changeup (and a curveball which he throws about once a game). According to fangraphs, the fastball is slightly above average, but the slider is good and the cutter is excellent. With three useful pitches, he's way less likely to regress next season.

The Big Question

Pineiro: Was last year's improvement for real?

Probably. He may not be able to lead the universe in ground balls again next year, but he was able to do this over the course of a full season - it was no fluke. He was equally good in the first and second half of the year.

My only concern with Pineiro is that he might be an injury risk. His worst month last year was September, and he only pitched 148, 97, and 165 innings the previous three years after breaking onto the scene with the Mariners.

Garland: Will his predictable mediocrity be worth the contract?

Garland has been worth approximately $11 million a year over his last five seasons because of his durability. A starter who posts a mediocre ERA is still valuable if they can stay healthy and pitch a lot of innings. The Dodgers declined to pick up their one year, $10 million option on Garland which would indicate to me that his perceived value is lower than that.

He'd need to maintain his level of performance and remain just as durable to command a contract approaching the size I am hearing rumored. Odds are, one or the other will not happen if he's given a multi-year deal.

Marquis: How seriously can we take his Coors Field performance?

A 4.04 ERA in general is okay, but if history is any guide, a 4.04 ERA for a pitcher pitching half his games in Coors is even better. This year, his ERA was actually LOWER at home, a 3.92 ERA at Coors and 4.16 ERA away. Perhaps Coors Field is particularly well suited to sinkerballers?

In any event, I would look at his away statistics as more indicative of his true talent. His 4.16 ERA, 1.32 WHIP and 1.7 strikeout to walk ratio are basically in line with what you would expect of Marquis if he were to make an incremental improvement. With his improved cutter and slider, in addition to ditching his ineffective changeup, Marquis may have taken a slight step forward.


In order of projected performance, I like Pineiro, Marquis, and Garland. In terms of what they are likely to receive, however, I think I might put Marquis first.

Pineiro is good, but between the fact that his ERA last year was SO good, and that he's probably going come back to earth slightly, may lead to him being somewhat overpaid.

It'll be interesting to see how this all shakes out - but after digging through the numbers, I wouldn't be at all unhappy to see the Mets with Pineiro or Marquis.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Recent Transactions Potpourri: Minaya Asleep At The Wheel?

These are not huge transactions, but they both are very, VERY significant for the Mets. In my opinion, both of these moves were far more relevant to the Mets interests than the Lackey signing, or the Halladay trade.

Both of these moves involved players who could have addressed the Mets needs - yet neither of them were linked in rumor to our team. Both of them are structured in ways that would have helped a team in the Mets' position.

Usually I defend Minaya -- but right now, I'm worried.

Nick Johnson signed with the Yankees

The Good:
- Nick has a career .402 on-base percentage. He's been even better recently, posting OBP's of .428, .415, and .426(!) the last three seasons.
- He's been rated as an above-average defensive first baseman for five out of the last seven years.
- He signed a contract which was short in length (one year) and small in value ($5.5 million).
- He is only 31.

The Bad:
- He doesn't hit for much power - only 8 home runs last season.
- He is injury prone, playing 131, 147, 0, 38, and 133 games in the last five years

That is a VERY reasonable contract for a VERY good hitter. He would have been a perfect fit on the Mets. Sure, he may have wanted more money to come here than to go to the Yankees, the team he came up through the minors with, but still.

His short contract would have been perfect for the Mets, if they think Ike Davis is the real deal. He won't insist on playing 150 games, as he's a veteran with a history of being injury prone and bouncing back and forth in the lineup. He's a perfect fit for Citifield itself as his value stems so much from his ability to work pitchers and get on base in front of the big boppers.

I think it would have been a complete dereliction of duty if Minaya was not in on negotiations with Nick Johnson at this price.

From 06-09, Johnson has hit 283/.426/.462 for an 887 OPS in 318 games.
From 06-09, Bay has hit .272/.371/.503 for an 874 OPS in 610 games.

Bay is probably a better bet because of his durability, but Johnson has been a BETTER hitter and BETTER defender when healthy. And I'd rather have Johnson for $5.5 million than commit five times the years and over TEN times the salary to Bay.

Mariners Trade Carlos Silva to Cubs for Milton Bradley

What can you say about Milton Bradley? He's a hitter. A great hitter. Over the last five years (on five different teams) he has hit .289/.390/.483 for a 873 OPS. He's hit 74 home runs and struck out only 360 times. Some believe he's a headache but when you are, on average, a three wins above average hitter, it's worth it.

The thing that makes this trade a master stroke for Seattle, is that they got rid of Carlos Silva. Silva is a disaster -- a worse pitcher than Oliver Perez with the exact same contract. How the Mariners were able to flip Silva for Bradley is a mystery to me, but congratulations to them.

Dave Cameron broke down the trade here. And he's right in saying Carlos Silva might find new life in the National League. But more importantly - where were the Mets on this?

For a team looking for offense, Bradley would have been a great fit. The Mets have more than enough personality and leadership in their clubhouse that Bradley would not have been a problem (if one even believes in things like that affecting a baseball club). Also -- we had just the bad contract to trade the Cubs!

Instead of the rumored Castillo-Bradley swap we heard about all winter, how about a Perez-Bradley swap? Perez is infinitely more talented than Carlos Silva. Does anyone think the Cubs would have said no if we offered them Perez for Bradley? Especially in light of this trade? I don't.

Right now, cash is going from the Mariners to the Cubs to compensate for Silva's uselessness -- but that doesn't change things. At the very least, the Mets NEEDED to be in on this negotiation. Where were they?


I'm not saying this is what I would have done, but if the Mets had signed Johnson and traded for Bradley, the lineup they could have put out there every day would have been phenomenal.

SS Reyes
1B Johnson
CF Beltran
3B Wright
RF Bradley
LF Pagan
C Blanco/Thole
2B Castillo

At this point, we'd only have added $5.5 million to the payroll because of the Johnson signing. We'd have the rest of our budget free -- as reported, in the neighborhood of $25-$30 million -- to address the rotation. And even if things didn't work out, Johnson would be gone in 2011 and Bradley in 2012.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Outside the Box, Part 4: John Lackey Still Available

What? John Lackey already signed with the Red Sox, you say? Are you sure? Because there is a guy just like him who is available right now.

Lackey: 6'6" , 205 lbs
Player X: 6'7", 240 lbs

Lackey: Born October 23, 1978
Player X: Born May 9, 1978

Lackey: Drafted in 1999, made his debut on June 24, 2002.
Player X: Drafted in 1999, made his debut on May 25, 2002.

From 2005 to the present...

Lackey: 1.262 WHIP, 8.8 hits allowed per 9, 2.6 walks per 9, 7.6 k's per 9
Player X: 1.284 WHIP, 9.3 hits allow per 9, 2.2 walks per 9, 7.8 k's per 9

Lackey: 990 innings pitched
Player X: 1024 innings pitched

For their careers...

Lackey: 4.00 xFIP, 1.21 GB/FB
Player X: 4.02 xFIP, 0.93 GB/FB

Lackey: 91.6 mph fastball, thrown 58.6% of the time
Player X: 90.4 mph fastball, thrown 68.1% of the time

Lackey: Slider (13.3%), curveball (24.7%), changeup (3.3%).
Player X: Slider (21%), curveball (6.5%) and changeup (4.2%).

Lackey: Gets swings on 25.5% of pitches outside the zone
Player X: Gets swings on 24.0% of pitches outside the zone

Both are four pitch pitchers, though Lackey uses the curveball more. Both are significantly above average for their careers. It's clear from the statistics that Lackey is the better pitcher, but not by much.

Player X has spent the last six and a half years pitching in the ballpark that was 6th best for hitters to hit home runs in 2009, fourth best in 2008, and second friendliest to hitters in 2007. It's a hitter's park.

Lackey just signed a five year, $85 million contract with Boston. Player X is owed $12.5 million next year and $14 million in 2010 if he is traded (with an option to buy out). Instead of a $85 million dollar commitment to Lackey, Player X is only under contract for 2 years and $26 million. It's a relative bargain.

Best of all, Player X is on the trading block from a team that is looking to cut payroll.

By now, you may have figured out that we are talking about Aaron Harang. He's a big righty with a good fastball who has been durable and the Reds are trying to trade him. Just this morning, he was linked to the Dodgers in a potential deal.

Harang was considered a big bounce-back candidate for 2009, but it didn't really happen. Fangraphs did a great job breaking him down here, pointing out that:

Aaron Harang plays for a mediocre team, in front of a poor defense, in a hitter’s park. However, he is also a very good pitcher who is likely to put up numbers that are much better than his 2008 line. It’s reasonable to expect an ERA between 3.50 and 4, and a strikeout rate somewhere around 8 batters per nine.

His numbers didn't bounce back all the way, but a lot of that was luck. His BABIP last year was .339 - extremely high. His components are good - strikes out a lot of guys, doesn't walk that many, etc. I think he needs a change of scenery. He posted ERA's of 3.83, 3.76 and 3.73 in Cincinnati before his disaster of a year in 2008, and I think he stands a great chance of getting back to that level this year if he were to leave the Reds.

He'll come with a short commitment at a reasonable price, and could be acquired relatively cheaply. He would be a great #2 to slot in behind Johan - big and durable. Even if he doesn't rebound, he'll repeat his 4.21 ERA of last year and be good, not great... and he'll be off the books in a year.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ryota Igarashi

Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post earlier this evening retweeted a tweet from NPB Tracker, which said the following:

Despite Mets reports, Japanese media has Red Sox in the lead for Igarashi with a 2-year, $2-3m deal.

If you clicked on that link you may notice is it not in English. In fact, it is not. Good job! It's actually in Japanese. So I emailed our resident Japanese expert, Brian Jackson. Jackson, who speaks Japanese fluently, translated for us:

the article basically says:

the Red Sox offered Igarashi a two year deal reportedly worth 2 - 3 million dollars. the Mets and Phillies have made offers too but the Red Sox are the front runners right now. He trains at the same place as Dice-K, who has described Red Sox camp to him.

The Red Sox have Papelbon, Okajima and Bard who are solid, but they are looking for someone reliable to pitch the 6th and 7th innings.

One point of appeal to Igarashi is that with Dice-K and Okajima already on the team, they would be the first American team with three Japanese pitchers.

He went with Dice-K to the Athletes Performance Institute in Phoenix today to start training to be in shape for camp.

The Mets and Phillies are still possibilities but the Red Sox appear to be in the lead. Igarashi says that American teams change their minds a lot, so you don't know what's going to happen until you sign.

Oh those bipolar American teams...

It seems like the Red Sox seem like a natural fit for Ryota Igarashi. Damn.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Halladay/Lackey Aftermath

I, like many other of the Mets people out there, don't see this as the end of the world. I'm sure that many people are in a panic right now, and that when the papers come out tomorrow that it will be littered with columns criticizing Minaya and co. for his non-action. But that's silly. There is still a ton of offseason left to go.

More importantly, these trades and signings have drastically altered the shape of the market. Sure, some of the premiere players are gone -- but just as importantly, many of the BUYERS seem to be finished. The Sox are done, having signed Lackey and Cameron. The Yankees did not look to be active in this market after acquiring Granderson. The Phillies have already added Polanco and Halladay. The Angels are quiet now, and apparently signed Matsui today to fill their DH void. So who is left? Who is out there still buying?

I see this moment as a great opportunity for the Mets. In fact, it could be a historic opportunity. Bay and Holliday are still unsigned -- and now Bay's original team is out of the running. These two men now have a ton less leverage -- who is still in the market for a big bat right now?

The Yankees are lukewarmly interested. The Cardinals, of course, are strongly pursuing Holliday, but with Albert Pujols' contract expiring soon, they may not be able to afford him. A late-breaking story (hat tip indicates that the Cardinals have upped their offer to EIGHT YEARS for Holliday - but the average annual value is still only in the neighborhood of $16 million a year.

Either way, there exists a stronger possibility than before that the Mets could swoop in and get Holliday or Bay for less than market -- or in the alternative, could clean up on the mid-level free agent market because so many of the other buyers are out early.

With non-tenders included, the Mets could conceivably pick up a half-dozen players who could help now and in the future at reasonable rates. How would you feel if the Mets were able to do something like this?

P Ben Sheets or Erik Bedard, 2nd starter ... could come discounted with injury risk
P Jason Marquis, 4th starter ... many speculate he could be had around 2y/$16M
P Matt Capps, set-up man ... due a pay cut
P Joe Beimel, LOOGY ... earned only $2M last year
OF Marlon Byrd or Ryan Church, to battle Pagan/Francoeur to start ...earned only $3M last year
1B Ryan Garko, 1B platoon partner ... hasn't been to arbitration yet

Granted, this plan takes a chance on Sheets/Bedard and Capps, but in a buyer's market, those might be risks worth taking - particularly if the Mets don't have much of a chance to compete in 2010 without some luck. The grand total of all those signings, factoring in some raises, would be in the neighborhood of $29 million for 2010 (9+8+3+3+3+3).

I'm not saying it's a plan I've committed to, but it would:

1) Provide some organizational depth
2) Allow us to keep our minor league system intact, and allow F-Mart and Thole to begin the season in Triple-A
3) Give us a chance to be competitive in 2010, and
4) Let us see how things shake out and who may or may not contribute to the 2011 team (i.e. will Reyes be healthy, will Beltran be healthy, will Santana be healthy, will Wright hit for power...)

And now there is an opportunity to carry it out.


The Mets lineup and rotation with the above acquisitions would look like this:

SS Reyes
LF Pagan
CF Beltran
3B Wright
1B Murphy/Garko
RF Francoeur/Byrd
C Blanco/Thole
2B Castillo

p.s. did anyone realize that Francoeur hit .344/.356/.521 for an 878 OPS against lefties last year? And has an 827 OPS against them for his career? Marlon Byrd hit .300/.344/.491 for an 835 OPS against righties while Ryan Church has hit .280/.353/.460 for an 813 OPS against righties in his career... just saying.

P Santana
P Sheets
P Pelfrey
P Marquis
P Perez

(Niese, Figueroa in AAA, Mejia in AA)

P Rodriguez
P Capps
P Maine
P Feliciano
P Beimel
P Green
P Stokes/Parnell

p.s. Capps and Green will face righties, with almost identical splits. Capps has a career 777 OPS vs. lefties, 669 vs. righties; Green has a career 788 OPS vs lefties, 669 vs. righties.

Reaction: Phillies Acquire Halladay, Mariners Acquire Lee, Red Sox Sign Lackey

All of the above, it bears mentioning, are just being reported... and here on ESPN.

That said... WOW. Three huge names moving on the same day? And none to the Mets? It could be cause for alarm for some of our fans.

Matt Cerrone over at Metsblog just published a note called "I'm Freaking Out a Bit," which is hilarious and honest:

Right now, today, seeing how other teams are improving, and being creative in doing so, I can’t help but freak out a bit.

I know I shouldn’t, but I am.

What’s more, I’m most worried the Mets might freak out too and do something crazy, making matters worse, just to try and ‘make a splash,’ like step up and sign Joel Pineiro to a terrible contract, or overbid to sign Bay, just to have something to put on disaply.
THAT is my concern. I'm not bothered at all by the fact that the Phillies swapped Halladay for Lee, or that Lackey is signed. I've said all along that the Mets were more than one piece away from contention. What does worry me, however, is the fact that the Mets might feel compelled to make a move and respond to this -- either to make a visible splash or because they see their window of opportunity to improve closing.

An hour ago, Ken Davidoff tweeted the following: "With #RedSox out and #Mariners taking on pitching, #Mets appear to be leading Jason Bay sweepstakes. Ms wary of Bay's defense, anyway."

Yeah... this is not a move I'd like. I'm wary of Bay and don't think he'd make for a good investment at 4 years and $65 million. Over the last three years, Bay has been 6.4 wins over replacement -- that's less than $7 million of value per year.

The Mets shouldn't do anything rash. I'd rather the Mets sit tight and do their best to improve now and in the long term. One big free agent signing is only going to make a tiny difference next year - even if it's Bay. Three or four wins, tops.

Whether the Mets win 83 or 87 games next year won't matter, because Philadelphia and/or Atlanta are good bets going to win 95. Let's be prudent. And patient. And then dominate the NL East for a decade, rather than patching up holes each year.

Mets Offer to Bay, 4 years/65 million? No thank you.

Nothing against Jason Bay, but I think this contract offer is a mistake. It would be nice to have his bat in the lineup in 2010, but it is a terrible bet beyond that. It is a lot of money to commit to a player who is not a star.

For starters, Jason Bay is a horrendous defensive outfielder. According to Fangraphs:

Jason Bay leads off this series with his 64.9 runs below average. His defense is so bad in such a non-premium defensive position that he was merely a replacement level player in 2007 when his bat disappeared.
His fielding ratings over the last three years were -11.5, -18.4, and -13.0. You can believe in the numbers or not, but for the sake of comparison? Manny Ramirez had -18.6 and -21 his last two full seasons with the Red Sox. Carlos Lee, a big man with a bad defensive reputation, has only posted rates of -4.4 and -5.4 the last two seasons. Bay is way worse.

I'm not a professional scout, but Bay just looks unathletic. Jason Bay is already 30 years old, though he seems younger, because he has not been in the league for long. It is unlikely that he will age gracefully.

He's a terrific hitter, but he's not without his flaws. He doesn't hit for a high batting average. Players with good isolated power and good plate discipline, but who have poor batting averages, tend to fall off more abruptly later in their careers. And he NEEDS to stay a great hitter in order to be worth a big contract because his defense is so bad.

He's already had an injury-marred season where his production fell off a cliff -- in 2007, when he batted only .247 and had an OPS of 746. At the age of 28, people wondered if he was done.

That's not the kind of player I'd like to see the Mets give a long term contract to. How will the Mets look in 2011 if we signed Bay at that price? He'll be a bad defensive left fielder, who is 34 years old, making $18 million per year at least. He'll be the third most expensive Met under contract, after Santana and K-Rod.

Is this the guy we want to occupy 10% of our payroll with? Is this the kind of player we want to shape the rest of our roster around? Is he a cornerstone for the next Mets World Series team? I don't think so.

2000-2009 In a Box

I'm totally ripping off my favorite baseball writer's (Bill James) concept from his New Historical Baseball Abstract and recapping the 2000-2009 decade "in a box." By the way if you consider yourself a baseball fan and you do not own that book you should hang your head in shame. Anyway here it is, everything you need to know about baseball in the last decade in a very simple form.

All Gold Glove Team
C - Ivan Rodriguez
1B - Albert Pujols
2B - Orlando Hudson
3B - Scott Rolen
SS - Adam Everett
OF - Andruw Jones
OF - Ichiro Suzuki
OF - Carlos Beltran
P - Greg Maddux

All Decade Team
C - Jorge Posada
1B - Albert Pujols
2B - Jeff Kent
3B - Chipper Jones
SS - Alex Rodriguez
OF - Vladimir Guerrero
OF - Manny Ramirez
OF - Gary Sheffield

SP - Johan Santana
SP - Randy Johnson
SP - Roy Halladay
SP - Roy Oswalt
SP - C.C. Sabathia

RP - Mariano Rivera
RP - Billy Wagner
RP - Joe Nathan

All Glove-No Hit

2007 Kansas City Royals

All Hit-No Glove

2005 New York Yankees

Best Staff

2002 Atlanta Braves

Best Outfield

2002-2005 Boston Red Sox, 2002-2003 Atlanta Braves

Best Infield

2002-2009 New York Yankees

All Pitching, No Hitting

2003 Los Angeles Dodgers, 2009 San Francisco Giants

All Hitting, No Pitching

2008 Texas Rangers

Best Throwing Catcher

Ivan Rodriguez

Best Infield Arm

Rafael Furcal

Best Outfield Arm

Vladimir Guerrero

Brien Taylor Award

Ryan Anderson

Ozzie Guillen Award

Angel Berroa, Miguel Olivo, Yuniesky Betancourt

Three Finger Brown Award

Antonio Alfonseca

Best Hitting Pitcher

Mike Hampton

Worst Hitting Pitcher

Doug Davis

Most Home Runs

Barry Bonds 73 (2001)
Decade: Alex Rodriguez 435

Most Stolen Bases

Jose Reyes 78 (2007)
Decade: Juan Pierre 459

Most RBI

Sammy sosa 160 (2001)
Decade: Alex Rodriguez 1,243

Highest Batting Average

Nomar Garciaparra .372 (2000)
Todd Helton .372 (2000)
Ichiro Suzuki .372 (2004)
Decade: Albert Pujols .334

Lowest Batting Average

Brady Anderson .202 (2001) - a special shout out to Tony Pena's .169 in 2008 that didn't qualify
Decade: Jack Hannahan .224

Most Hits

Ichiro Suzuki 262 (2004)
Decade: Ichiro Suzuki 2030


Randy Johnson 24 (2002)
Decade: Randy Johnson 143


Randy Johnson 372 (2001)
Decade: Randy Johnson 2,182

Heaviest Player

C.C. Sabathia, Ryan Howard or Adam Dunn

Lightest Player

David Eckstein

Tallest Player

John Rauch

Shortest Player

Dustin Pedroia or Aaron Miles or Mike Fontenot...maybe Danny Ray Herrera

Best World Series

2001 - Arizona Diamondbacks over New York Yankees

Highest Attendance

New York Yankees (2008) - 4,298,655
Decade: New York Yankees 37,775,583

Lowest Attendance

Montreal Expos (2001) - 619,451
Decade: Florida Marlin 13,505,428

Largest Home-Field Advantage

Colorado Rockies (2003) 24 more wins at home than on the road
Decade: Colorado 135 more wins at home than on the road

Having Their Best Decade Ever

Los Angeles Angel of Anaheim, Philadelphia Phillies, Seattle Mariners

Having Their Worst Decade Ever

Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals, Washington Nationals

Changing Directions

Oakland Athletics, Tampa Bay Rays, Detroit Tigers

Best Major League Player

2000 - Jason Giambi
2001 - Barry Bonds
2002 - Barry Bonds
2003 - Albert Pujols
2004 - Barry Bonds
2005 - Alex Rodriguez
2006 - Albert Pujols
2007 - Alex Rodriguez
2008 - Albert Pujols
2009 - Albert Pujols

Decade: Albert Pujols

Best Major League Pitchers

2000 - Pedro Martinez
2001 - Randy Johnson
2002 - Randy Johnson
2003 - Pedro Martinez
2004 - Johan Santana
2005 - Roger Clemens
2006 - Johan Santana
2007 - Jake Peavy
2008 - Cliff Lee
2009 - Zack Greinke

Decade: Johan Santana

Hardest Throwing Pitcher

Billy Wagner or Joel Zumaya

Best Curve

Mike Mussina or Ben Sheets or Roy Halladay or Barry Zito

Best Changeup

Johan Santana or Trevor Hoffman

Best Slider

Randy Johnson or Billy Wagner

Best Power/Speed Combination

Alfonso Soriano

Best Switch Hitter

Lance Berkman or Chipper Jones

Iron Man

Miguel Tejada

Best Bunter

Luis Castillo

Most Aggressive Base Runner

Carl Crawford

Fastest Player

Jose Reyes

Slowest Player

Bengie Molina or Jose Molina

Best Control Pitcher

Roy Halladay

Best Looking Players

Grady Sizemore, David Wright, Chris Young (P), Brad Ausmus, Torii Hunter

Ugliest Players

Randy Johnson, Hideki Matsui, Sal Fasano

Cap Anson Award

Barry Bonds

First of his Kind

Junichi Tazawa

Last of his Kind

Tim Wakefield?

One of a Kind

Josh Hamilton

Mr. Dickens I'd Like you to Meet

Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Most Admirable Superstar

Derek Jeter

Least Admirable Superstar

Gary Sheffield

Franchise Shifts

Montreal Expos to Washington Nationals

New Ballparks

2000 - Detroit
2000 - San Francisco
2000 - Houston
2001 - Milwaukee
2001 - Pittsburgh
2003 - Cincinnati
2004 - Philadelphia
2004 - San Diego
2006 - St. Louis
2008 - Washington
2009 - New York (AL)
2009 - New York (NL)

Best Pennant Races

2007 and 2008 NL East

Odd Couple

David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez

Highest Winning Percentage

Seattle Mariners .716 (2001)
Decade: New York Yankees .597

Lowest Winning Percentage

Detroit Tigers .265 (2003)
Decade: Pittsburgh Pirates .421

Worst Award Selection

2002 AL MVP (Miguel Tejada)

Best Player to Never win the MVP

Manny Ramirez


Garrett Atkins had an .892 OPS at home and a .735 OPS on the road

Yellowstone National Park Award

Adrian Gonzalez had a .795 OPS at home and a .935 OPS on the road

Tough Luck Season

Matt Cain 2007

Could I try this Career Over?

Mark Prior

Best Double Play Combination

Luis Castillo and Alex Gonzalez

Worst Double Play Combination

Alberto Callaspo and Yuniesky Betancourt

Paul Krichell Talent Scout Award

Bartolo Colon for Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips, Cliff Lee and Lee Stevens

Best Unrecognized Player

Bobby Abreu or Adam Dunn

Highest Paid Player

Alex Rodriguez

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Non-Tendered Players - Yes on Capps, No on Atkins

As most of you know, last night was the deadline for teams to offer contracts to their arbitration-eligible players. Any player not "tendered" a contract is non-tendered and becomes a free agent, eligible to negotiate with any team. Here is the list of non-tenders, courtesy of MLB Trade Rumors.

Matt Brown, Dustin Moseley, Ryan Garko, Clay Condrey, Josh Whitesell, Adam Miller, Anthony Reyes, Jose Veras, Matt Capps, Phil Dumatrait, Raul Chavez, John Buck, Josh Anderson, Mark Worrell, Jackson Quezada, Shawn Riggans, Gabe Gross, Ryan Langerhans, Mark DiFelice, Mike Rivera, Brian Anderson, Jack Cust, Mike MacDougal, D.J. Carrasco, Brian Bass, Neal Cotts, Jonny Gomes, Alfredo Amezaga, Scott Olsen, Chien-Ming Wang, Kelly Johnson, Ryan Church, Garrett Atkins, Seth McClung.*

Of those players, there are several I think could contribute to the 2010 Mets. Loosely in order of preference:

Matt Capps
Matt Capps is only 26, has 67 career saves, and a career 3.61 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. Why was he non-tendered? He struggled last season.

Capps was due a raise from his $2.35 million salary, and the Pirates ultimately determined that such a cost outweighed Capps' value.

"If Matt is what he was in '07 and in the first half in '08, it's a no-brainer to tender him," Huntington said on Sunday. "While we believe Matt can be a bounce-back candidate for next season, we just weren't willing to go through the arbitration process and risk losing. We got to a number that was our final offer, and when they rejected it, we felt like this was our only option."

He finished the year with a 5.80 ERA, eight losses and five blown saves. It is worth noting, though, that of the 35 earned runs Capps allowed in 54 1/3 innings, 12 of those came in just three appearances (two innings), which certainly swelled his ERA. Source:
Poor, small-market Pirates. Couldn't afford to take a chance on Capps when last year his ERA was an unsightly 5.80. He is a perfect candidate for the Mets, a team with bullpen problems and a big wallet.

He was coming off injury last year, and there are a lot of reasons to believe that he was just unlucky. His fastball last year was the best it has ever been, registering 93.6 MPH on average - up from 91.5 MPH the year before. He got swings on 29.7% of hit pitches out of the zone last year, above his career average of 28.1%. He allowed only 18.7% of hits against him to be line drives, down from his career average of 20%. Finally, he may have been a little unlucky with home runs - 13.5% of fly balls against him went for home runs, an unusually high rate.

The Mets should scoop this guy up quick, even if he is a due a slight raise. He'll want a one year deal to reestablish his value, and he'll provide insurance for K-Rod.

Mark DiFelice
Mark DiFelice had a 2.84 ERA in 2008. He had a 3.66 ERA in 2009. His WHIP is 1.20 for his career. Unfortunately, he'll be missing the year with shoulder surgery. I hope the Mets pick him up on a minor league deal with sights towards 2011.

Ryan Church
Let go by his third organization in as many years, there has to be more to Church than meets the eye. Is he a massive jerk? Whatever it is though, there is one thing that we know he is -- a great defensive outfielder. His UZR/150 for his career as a left fielder is +3.7, and as a right fielder is a phenomenal +14.2.

Church hit .273/.338/.384 last year for an OPS of 722 - down from 785 the year before, and 813 the year before that. He didn't hit well at all. Despite that, however, he was still worth $4.3 million dollars according to His average value from 2006-2008, per year, was around $7 million. I think Church is a solid bet to bounce back and if he could be had cheaply, would make an *excellent* fourth outfielder and insurance plan for Pagan/Beltran in case of injury or Francoeur in case of sucking-at-baseball.

Jack Cust
The Good: For his career, Jack Cust has an 864 OPS against right handed pitchers. He's hit 58 home runs over the last two seasons in Oakland.
The Bad: He struck out 185 times last year in only 513 at-bats. His career batting average is .239. He is a terrible defender everywhere.

That said, Cust is another guy who would be helpful if he could be had cheaply. He could provide late power off the bench, and might want to come to New York to be part of a contender after spending his career in Arizona, Baltimore, San Diego and Oakland on bad teams.

Garrett Atkins

Matt Cerrone over at has talked about Atkins for a while. He pointed out the following:

Despite hitting just .226 last season for the Rockies, Atkins hit .268 against left-handed pitching; he hit .357 against lefties in 2008; .286 in 2007; and .341 against lefties in 2006.
With that left-right split, he becomes an ideal platoon partner for Daniel Murphy at first base. Murphy hit .275/.324/.430 against right-handers last year -- as opposed to .223 agaisnt left-handers.

For what it's worth, I think Atkins is done. Atkins' OPS has decreased steadily over the last four years, from 965 to 853, to 780, and then bottomed out at 650 last year. His career statistics away from Coors Field have been terrible. He is only 30 years old, but he was never the most physically fit player. Finally, he experienced a drastic jump in walks last season (from 40 in 664 ab to 41 in 339 ab) -- which is usually a bad sign for players at the end of their careers.

Others of interest:
Ryan Garko
Adam Miller
Neal Cotts
Jonny Gomes

Edit: James pointed out to me that Garko might be the best non-tender of them all - especially for the Mets. A writer over at fangraphs really destroyed Giants GM Brian Sabean for letting Garko go, and he's probably right.

Garko has a career .313 average and 887 OPS against left handed pitching - the perfect compliment to Dan Murphy in a platoon at first base. He's not a world-beater in general, being a 28-year-old first baseman with an average bat and average-to-below-average glove, but he has his uses.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Mets 2010 ZiPS Projections, Part 2: Pitching

In Part 2 of this series, I am going to take a look at Dan Szymborski's ZiPS projections for the 2010 New York Mets pitching staff.

[I broke down the hitters in Part 1]

First of all, let me just say that this is NOT a pretty set of projections. Unlike the hitters, who fared relatively well, the Mets pitching staff looks like an absolute wasteland. Time for Optimistic/Pessimistic/Just Right:

Too Optimistic
Francisco Rodriguez: 3.13 ERA, 72 IP, 37 bb, 88 k

I think this link tells you EVERYTHING you need to know about K-Rod. Of course, just because all of his stats have gotten worse for the last four years running doesn't necessarily mean that they will again this year -- but it's not a good sign. Simply put, there is no reason to believe that he is more likely to be 2006 K-Rod next year than a repeat of 2009 K-Rod. And 2009 K-Rod walked 5 batters per nine innings, had an ERA of 3.71, and had a WHIP of 1.31. u-g-l-y.

John Maine: 4.20 ERA, 122 IP, 57 bb, 103 k

Before John Maine's 7 inning, 7 strikeout performance against Houston on the third to last day of the season, a line like this would have seemed like complete fantasy. Now, however, there is at least a little reason for optimism. I still think he falls short of this goal, either because of ERA or innings. I have a hard time believing that his course of action last year will help the shoulder long term.

Jennry Mejia: 4.90 ERA, 75 IP, 44 bb, 55 k

Yep, believe it. According to ZiPS, our 20-year-old pitching prospect would be our fifth best starter next year if pressed into action at the major league level (behind Santana, Maine, Niese, and Pelfrey, but AHEAD of Perez). I think this is a little much. Mejia just finished putting up a 12 ERA in the Arizona Fall League, and has yet to throw a pitch above AA, where he posted a 4.47 ERA. I think the kid has a good chance to be a stud, but I doubt he can put up an 88 ERA+ this soon.

Too Pessimistic
Oliver Perez: 4.93 ERA, 142 IP, 87 bb, 132 k

Okay, I have a soft spot for Ollie. Maybe it's the fact that everyone gets on his case but he really seems like a nice guy who tries hard. And -- despite the ulcers -- he's not been a bad pitcher for us. In 2007 he was phenomenal, with a 3.56 ERA. And in 2008, he had a 3.56 ERA the final 2/3 of the season. Then, in a stretch of 13 starts stretching into September, he pitched 6 innings or more in every start. He might not be an ace, but he's been better than people give him credit for.

So 2009 was a lost season. He pitched in the WBC, came back out of shape, got injured, and struggled mightily. He has to come back this year and REALLY prove something to us. But it would be foolish of us to forget what he did in 2007 and 2008:

371 IP, 184 bb, 354 k, 3.91 ERA, 1.35 WHIP

Instead of looking at what Ollie is not, let's look at what he is. If he comes back this year healthy and in shape, there is no reason to think he can't pitch to an ERA right around 4. And I think that is exactly what he will do.

Nelson Figueroa: 5.06 ERA, 131 IP, 46 bb, 91 k

Okay! I give up. I'm on the Figgy bandwagon. I for one doubt that gets the opportunity to pitch 131 innings for us this year, but facts are facts - he posted a 4.57 ERA for us in 2008 and a 4.09 ERA in 2009. He shredded AAA this season to the tune of a 2.25 ERA, and for his career, has a 3.49 ERA over a whopping 1,758 innings. Sure, some pitchers are Quad-A guys who never break through. But Figueroa has 115 innings in the majors as a Metropolitan and he hasn't looked bad. He won't be great, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him provide some servicable innings with around a 4.50 ERA.

Brian Stokes: 4.54 ERA, 81 IP, 38 bb, 56 k

Brian Stokes wins my 2009 Heath Bell Award, for the player that management wasted or misused the most. He appeared in games anywhere from the 4th to the 11th inning. He pitched on zero to six days rest. A closer look is also instructive.

There were FOUR appearances this year where Stokes gave up more than three runs -- one was on five days rest, and the other was on EIGHT days rest. Opponents OPS numbers against Brian on normal rest were miniscule - 680 with zero days, 681 with one day, 775 with two days, 706 with three days, 403 with four days. They balloon to 1418 with five days and 1058 with 6 or more days.

Brian put up a 3.51 ERA in 2008, and a 3.91 ERA in 2009. If he's used properly, Stokes and his 95 mph fastball ought to beat that projection handily. I'd project him around a 3.75 ERA if he were used regularly.

Mike Pelfrey: 4.86 ERA, 189 IP, 69 bb, 111 k

The thing about Mike Pelfrey that confuses me, is why everyone expects him to be good. He's never shown us anything. His best stretch ever was in 2006 in AA, when he posted a 2.71 ERA. The next year, in AAA, he was getting hit around at a 4.01 ERA and 1.35 WHIP pace. There was room for growth, but as a 23-year-old, he didn't have the makings of an ace.

I was glad when he broke through in 2008, but I wasn't really expecting it. The truth is, he was a little lucky in 2008 and a little unlucky in 2009. His tRA (a metric which is available on fangraphs and is explained here) has his tRA as 4.49 in '08 and 4.52 in '09. And all things considered -- like, with what we saw with our naked eyes -- Pelfrey was very much the same guy. The real difference between that year and this one was that more hits made it through the infield and less guys got stranded on base - his fastball was the same speed, he walked and struck out about exactly the same number of batters.

I see Pelfrey's luck turning again this year, at least back to average. A lot will depend what the Mets do with their infield defense (i.e. will Reyes be healthy? Will Castillo still be here?) but he is a better pitcher than he showed last year. In addition, he's got a year more of experience under his belt and he's a year further removed from his first season as a 200-inning workhorse. I think he'll be fine.

Just Right
Johan Santana: 3.23 ERA, 206 innings, 52 bb, 203 k
Jon Niese: 4.57 ERA, 143 IP, 55 bb, 103 k


Well, we're in trouble. Our rotation according to ZiPS (with ERA+ operating the same way as OPS+ ... 100 is average, above 100 is better):

Santana, 133 ERA+
Maine, 103 ERA+
Pelfrey, 89 ERA+
Perez, 88 ERA+
Niese, 95 ERA+

And our bullpen:

K-Rod, 138 ERA+
Feliciano, 110 ERA+
Green, 101 ERA+
Dessens, 98 ERA+
Stokes, 95 ERA+
Knight, 94 ERA+
Misch, 89 ERA+

We honestly have about three guys who can pitch on the entire staff. And I have no idea why the Mets as an entity, or the writers, or the blogosphere, are not worried about it. Granted, I am optimistic about Pelfrey, and Perez, and Stokes -- but luck can break both ways and there are reasons to be pessimistic about some of the better projections.

As 2009 demonstrated, we can't just depend on a superstar or two. Especially not when it comes to pitching. We are honestly one injury (Santana) and a continued regression (K-Rod) away from having ZERO pitchers who we can expect to be anywhere above league average.

This is why I think the Mets are more than a year away from contention, and this is what I'll address in Part 3.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

From the Rumor Mill: NYY/DET/ARI *UPDATED

*Scroll to the bottom for the update on this trade

Here is a potential trade that had a little bit of buzz this morning.

Yankees Get:
Curtis Granderson (from DET)

D'backs Get:
Edwin Jackson (from DET)
Ian Kennedy (from NYY)

Tigers Get:
Max Scherzer (from ARI)
Phil Coke (from NYY)
Mike Dunn (from NYY)
Austin Jackson (from NYY)

Yankees' Perspective
Coming In: They get the best player in the deal, Curtis Granderson. A lot of people have been taking shots at Granderson this off-season, talking about his decline in batting average and issues against left-handed pitching. Both of those are legitimate concerns, but Granderson is still a vast upgrade in CF for the Yankees. The fact that he is a pull-hitting lefty is also a plus with that short porch at the new Yankee Stadium.

Heading out: The Yankees lose a lot of pitching depth here. I personally don't think Kennedy will ever have much success in a hitters park in the AL so losing him is not that big of a deal. Similarly, Coke's breaking ball has never missed enough bats for him to be a lefty specialist so he is not a huge loss. Dunn is a bit like Coke but with better stuff and less command. I like Dunn, I was expecting him to play a role for the Yankees this year but relievers are volatile and replaceable so no matter how much you like them, losing one should not block a larger trade. Finally we come to Austin Jackson, long hailed as one of the Yankees best hitting prospects; however, Jackson's stock has fallen a good deal in the last 18 months. He's lost some of his athleticism and now does not project as being either a burner on the base paths or having plus power. He had only four HR in over 500 at-bats in AAA last year and his 300/354/405 line was bolstered by a .390 BABIP. True he was only 22 and playing in AAA but those are not exactly inspiring numbers. Combined with a 3:1 K:BB ratio and Jackson no longer looks like a stud prospect.

Overall: Although generally trading 4 major league ready or near major league ready players for one player with plenty of faults does not make sense, I believe it does in this case for the Yankees. Granderson has already played at a level in the past that is better than Jackson's ceiling appears to be and none of the pitchers they are trading away are high-impact. Because the Yankees are so capable of filling in depth with free-agents because of their budget, this is the kind of trade they should be making, quantity for quality.

Diamondbacks' Perspective
Coming in: In Edwin Jackson the Diamondbacks get a durable, consistently mediocre starting pitcher. Jackson has essentially pitched his entire career in the American League and I would expect him to post better numbers in the more pitcher-friendly NL. He has two more arbitration years left and should be pretty cost effective even if his ERA never gets below the mid 4's. Ian Kennedy has proven he can dominate every level of professional baseball except the majors. Still, he is a good, cheap, low-risk option for Arizona. With his fringy fastball Kennedy probably fits best in the NL, and the Diamondbacks might be able to extract some good years out of him in the same way Milwaukee did with Dave Bush from 2006-2008.

Heading out: Arizona has to part with one of their best young players in Max Scherzer. Scherzer made 30 starts in 2009 and was very effective for Arizona, posting a 4.12 ERA (3.87 FIP) with just over a strikeout an inning. The only concern with Scherzer is his durability. He has a bit of an awkward arm action and a lot of scouts have suggested this will lead to injuries down the road; in fact most projected him to be a reliever while he was in the minors because of those concerns.

Overall: This seems to be a slam-dunk for the Diamondbacks. They would be bringing in two capable starters for one. Scherzer obviously has a higher ceiling than Jackson or Kennedy but if you believe he is an injury waiting to happen, then this is the time when his value is the highest. This is also simply a numbers game for Arizona, would you rather get 400 IP at a 4.30 ERA or 200 IP at 3.75 and 200 at 5.00+? For a team that had to use Yusmeiro Petit, Billy Buckner and Kevin Mulvey for 34 starts last year, that extra depth is very compelling. Also, it is important to realize that Brandon Webb will be coming off an injury and Doug Davis is a free agent. After trading Jon Garland late last year, this team has a lot of rotation slots to fill in.

Tigers' Perspective
Coming in: The Tigers are getting one very hard throwing righty in Scherzer to replace Jackson. Scherzer also has a higher ceiling and is, most importantly, cheaper. Detroit also gets three young players who are playing for peanuts right now. That is essentially the biggest factor for Detroit. They will be getting back four guys that they could put on the 25-man roster right now that make very little money. Sure Jackson and Dunn could use more time in the minors but they are probably advanced enough at this point that they will not completely embarrass themselves and Coke is a capable reliever.

Heading out: Granderson has been the face of the franchise in a lot of ways the last couple of years and it seems harsh to trade him away without getting much back. 2007 probably was a career year that will never be repeated, but in his three other full seasons he had a WAR ranging from 3.4 to 3.9. That's solid production for a player that still has two years of arbitration remaining. Jackson's raw stuff is still great but his command has never really come around and everybody seems to realize that his first half in 2009 was a fluke. At this point, he is what he is; an average pitcher with one plus pitch (his slider) and command issues. However, average pitchers get signed to huge contracts every year and Jackson is cheaper than most of those.

Overall: I know the intent in Detroit is to save money, but is this really the best they can get four two useful players? Sure they save a lot of money, but they have to be able to get more value back than this. If I was Detroit I would ask for more back from the Diamondbacks since they are so clearly coming out ahead in this scenario.

End Result: This trade probably will not come to fruition because the Tigers simply are not getting enough value back for their two best trade chips. Arizona would do this deal in a heartbeat and the Yankees probably would but it is much closer for them.

**Update Below:
It now appears this trade is going to happen but with one important change. Instead of the Tigers getting Dunn from the Yankees they will be getting Daniel Schlereth from the Diamondbacks. For the Yankees, since this trade seemed doable before it now is a must-pull-the-trigger situation. Schlereth is a much better prospect than Dunn is so for the Tigers it now goes from a questionable move to one that has to be considered. I still think they could probably get more for Granderson and Jackson but they know their situation better than I, and for a team that is desperate to shed salary they could do worse.

The new trade is much worse from Arizona's perspective because they now have to include one of their best relieving prospects. This now moves the trade from slamdunk territory to questionable for Arizona in my opinion. The difference in production between Scherzer and Jackson will probably be fairly negligible but the difference in salary is not. Also Kennedy is a low ceiling guy while Schlereth is a potential closer. If the Diamondbacks are really scared about filling in that last rotation spot I can see why they would pull the trigger here, but they are now giving up a lot of future value; a questionable move for a team that won only 70 games last year.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Mets Should Acquire Brandon Lyon

According to Ken Rosenthal of

While the Phillies like free-agent reliever Brandon Lyon, they are unwilling to pay the necessary price for him, according to a major-league source.

The Phillies plan to spend between $4 million and $6 million on their bullpen. Lyon would command all or nearly all of that money, leaving the team with little payroll flexibility.

I would love to see the Mets acquire Lyon. He is willing to set up instead of close, and it looks like his salary demands are not out of control. Over the last four seasons, he has posted a 3.45 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. He'll be 30 this season.

He made only $4.25 million last year as a member of the Tigers, and if the above snippet is correct, should be in the market for a similar deal this year or a reasonable raise.

He's not an ace closer, but he's good enough to set up and be reliable - at least relative to relief pitchers in general. According to, he is a three pitch pitcher: He has a 92 mph fastball he throws 60% of the time, a very hard slider he throws 19% of the time, and a curve he throws about the same amount.

Even better, he is equally effective against both righties and lefties. Righties hit a pathetic .205/.256/.379 against Lyon last season, and lefties hit .205/.331/.286.

I think he'd be the perfect set-up man and fill in closer should anything happen to Francisco Rodriguez... who by the way, was very bad in the second half last year.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Mets 2010 ZiPS Projections, Part 1: Offense

Dan Szymborski's ZiPS projections for the Mets have finally arrived!!! It's like an early Christmas. In short, ZiPS projections are a quick and dirty forecast of how players will perform in the upcoming year. You can read more here.

ZiPS, like any computer projection, are not perfect. But I do like to look at it often -- if only because it is purely mathematical. It doesn't get caught up in hype. It doesn't develop personal likes and dislikes. It'll give you a cold hard look at the statistics and how they indicate that a player might do the next season.

As for the Mets, ZiPS had a couple of personal victories last season with regards to players who the media felt strongly about. For example, many writers and bloggers loved Daniel Murphy's grit and toughness. They thought his approach at the plate was great. They thought he'd hit .300 for sure. Well, ZiPS didn't. ZiPS projected him to hit .273/.324/.422 and he ended up hitting .266/.313/.427.

Fernando Tatis: ZiPS: .262/.327/.431, Actual: .282/.339/.438
Luis Castillo: ZiPS: .279/.351/.348, Actual: .302/.387/.346
Mike Pelfrey: ZiPS: 4.24 ERA, Actual: 5.03 ERA
Bobby Parnell: ZiPS: 5.38 ERA, Actual: 5.30 ERA

It was more optimistic than most on guys like Tatis and Castillo, who were not favored sons of the media... and they had seasons better than the expectations of most. Conversely, it was cautiously pessimistic on Murphy, Pelfrey and Parnell, who were both disappointments this year. Of course, it had its share of misses, but no more or less than anyone else.

So now, this year's projection is out. Here are some of the projections that stand out to me:

Too Optimistic

David Wright: .307/.396/.507, 140 OPS+

David Wright is a great player - but he only slugged .447 last year. Sure, his career mark is .518, but it is hard to point at one factor explaining the decrease. He also managed to bat .307 last year, but he did it despite striking out a disturbing 140 times. He was lucky to put up as good stats as he did last year, and suffered a concussion. I'd sign up for his above line right now if I could, because I could see him not doing quite as well.

Fernando Tatis: .277/.345/.458, 113 OPS+

I love Fernando Tatis, but this projection has him hitting better than last year and better than his career line. He'll be playing this season at age 35, so I think a duplicate of this years .282/.339/.438 line is more likely.

Luis Castillo: .290/.368/.349, 94 OPS+

Castillo's renaissance last year was great to watch, but this line projects him to be just about as good as last season's .302/.387/.346 line. He's hit about to that line over the last three years, but I see him falling off some at age 34 and on reconstructed knees.

Too Pessimistic

Daniel Murphy: .274/.326/.408, 95 OPS+

As much as I rag on Murphy, I think he's more of the hitter we saw in the second half than in the first half. With a year of experience I expect improvement - lots of players experience sophomore slumps. He hit .282/.313/.485 in the second half and I think he ought to have an OBP somewhere around .330 and slugging around .450.

Fernando Martinez: .251/.297/.406, 86 OPS+

I've spoken at length about Martinez before, so I'll be brief. When healthy, I think he'll hit better than this (though it's worth noting that his slugging percentage forecast here is generous).

Alex Cora: 251/.322/.336, 77 OPS+

Cora we've blogged about here as well. He's not a great player, but he did play last year with torn ligaments in his thumbs and had his stats hurt as a result. He hit .256/.330/.370 for Boston in 2007-2008, and I see him outperforming this projection.

Just Right

Carlos Beltran: .294/.381/.514, 137 OPS+
Jose Reyes: .294/.363/.455, 117 OPS+

Beltran and Reyes are absolute studs - potential future Hall of Famers who you build a team around. If they are healthy, they'll meet these. In fact, Reyes might do better than projected to - he was showing great discipline at the plate last year before he was hurt and is entering his prime, age 27 season.

Angel Pagan: .285/.335/.446, 107 OPS+

Angel had a great year last year, hitting .306/.350/.487. I love the guy, but he played over his head (probably). His career line is .281/.331/.443, so this projection has him hitting that almost exactly. I think he'll be a little better, but even if he does hit to a 107 OPS+, he'll be a fantastic player when you factor in his speed and defense.

Josh Thole: .273/.335/.360, 87 OPS+
Omir Santos: .247/.289/.342, 69 OPS+

Well... this has also been discussed at length on this blog. On November 3rd, I wrote "being conservative, I'd forecast [Thole] somewhere around .290/.320/.360." Santos, of course, can't hit a lick. With the addition of Blanco, this does not mean that Thole MUST start the year in the majors -- but it certainly is a compelling data point.

Jeff Francoeur: .269/.310/.425, 94 OPS+

Yeah. This looks basically like what Francoeur is and is going to be. As one of the commenters at BaseballThinkFactory pointed out, "He is 26 years old, coming of a 93 OPS+ season, and has a career OPS+ of 92. A projection of 94 is reasonable."


The Mets offense looks pretty good according to ZiPS, as it always does. Despite conventional wisdom, the Mets offense has been pretty good for each of the last few seasons (the last one, with the injuries, being the exception). If the Mets can remain reasonably healthy next year, they can put a good offense out there even without the addition of Matt Holliday or another frontline stud.

The OPS+ figure next to each player's name indicates their OPS relative to league average. A player with a 100 OPS+ is average. An OPS+ of 110 or 120 would be above average. For a position where hitters are typically poor, like second base for instance, an OPS+ of 90 might be perfectly acceptable.

The best possible Mets lineup, according to the forecast, and with the players we have right now, might look something like this:

1. Reyes, SS 117 OPS+
2. Castillo, 2B 94 OPS+
3. Beltran, CF 137 OPS+
4. Wright, 3B 140 OPS+
5. Pagan, LF 107 OPS+
6. Murphy, 1B 95 OPS+
7. Thole, C 87 OPS+
8. Francoeur, RF 94 OPS+

This team would be alright on offense. A short term solution like Delgado at first base, or perhaps a good platoon situation with Francoeur (who for his career has hit .298 against lefties) would help immensely.

Overall, and as will be obvious after Part 2 of this review, the money would be MUCH better spent on pitching.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Mets Catcher Situation, Part 2: The Plot Thickens is reporting, via Francisco Blavia of Lider en Deportes, that the Mets have signed C Henry Blanco to a one year, $1.5 million dollar contract.

Blanco is a career .228/.292/.366 hitter - though that number improves to .252/.304/.384 in the last four seasons. He is not much of a hitter, obviously, but he has a reputation as a STERLING defensive catcher. In fact, last week when comparing Josh Thole's ability to check the opposition's running game, Jonathan Mayo used Henry Blanco as a comparison. He is playing this season at age 38.

This, along with the signing of Chris Coste, gives the Mets four catchers who played in the majors last year. Um... what are we going to do with all of them?

Initially, I believe this to be a decent signing. Although $1.5 million represents a raise over what he earned last season, and he is going to be 38 this year, it's not the kind of signing, in dollars or years, which hurts the Mets. This is how I see the Mets catching situation panning out in the early part of the season:

MLB: Blanco/Santos
AAA: Thole/Coste

The thing about this arrangement which, frankly, is dumb, is that Blanco and Santos in a lot of ways replicate one another. Both have no upside, both have excellent defensive reputations. But there is one good part to this -- their splits:

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.[1]

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. As a bonus, Thole will have Chris Coste take him under his wing[2] and teach him a little about defense[3] and adjusting to the major leagues. In fact, Adam Rubin, the Mets beat reporter for the Daily News, had this to say about Coste:
Praised for his grit and willingness to teach, Coste likely will be assigned to Triple-A to mentor Thole, help the Bisons have a winning season after a woeful 2009 and provide depth.
HOWEVER, if the plan is (as Rubin reports in that same article) to trade for or sign yet ANOTHER catcher, this move makes no sense at all. If the Mets acquire a #1 guy -- then where does Omir Santos go? Do the Mets carry three catchers at the major league level? Will this catcher even be better than Josh Thole is likely to be (probably not)? Will this catcher have the same favorable platoon split as Santos/Blanco?[4]

As for now, I like the plan. But this is the Mets... so stay tuned.

[1] All splits courtesy of the fantastic

[2] Remember, Coste was the 33-year-old rookie and might be an excellent role model for perseverence, etc. Indeed, succeeding so late in his career, it may have been because he was a great student of the game. All speculation of course.

[3] As for defense, though, Coste's reputation is poor. But that may have to do more with his age and lack of athleticism than it does with technique.

[4] If it's Molina, it won't.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Improvement, But At What Coste?

As you may have heard, the Mets made two minor signings this week, bringing back Alex Cora and signing former Phillies catcher Chris Coste.

Much has been made of the Cora signing:
Jon Heyman of recently twittered, "alex cora's financial breakdown: 50 grand for ballplaying, $1.95 mil for being a helluva nice guy." Brooklyn Mets Fan said "I certainly know better than to be surprised when a ball player is being ludcriciously over paid for his services but the Cora deal really seems to stick out." Ted Berg called Cora a guy who "is not very good," and "should be competing for [a roster spot]."
At this point, Cora is a proven commodity. He's a decent player, and he belongs on someone's roster somewhere. Over the last five years, he has been worth $2.9, $0.4, $2.3, $3.3, and -$0.1 million dollars to his teams.

His last healthy season, he hit .270/.371/.349. Last season, he hit .251/.320/.310 for us. His projection for his age 34 season is not pretty. Barring some kind of injury like he suffered last season, he'll MAY be worth about $2 million dollars again this year.

The problem, however, is that there is no upside to this signing. There is no possible way that he could be better than that. That means that NO MATTER WHAT, the difference between Alex Cora and the theoretical "replacement level player" that the Mets could call up from the minors for free is less than a win. It's probably half a win over the course of a year. The thing is, there are literally hundreds of players out there who could probably be that good and play for the major league minimum.

Dan Szymborski's ZiPS projections for major league teams have begun coming out for this season. As an example, we can take a look at the projections for the Washington Nationals -- a struggling organization. The Nats have a few players who will make the minimum who project in the same neighborhood as Cora. Alberto Gonzalez, age 27, is projected to hit .267/.304/.361 this year. Danny Espinoza, 23, is projected to bat only .211, but with an on-base percentage of .303 and a slugging of .345.

MetsCitiBlog used the Red Sox and Nick Green as another example. "Nick played for Boston last year and had roughly the same number of at bats as Cora...Last year Cora made $2 million and Green made about $500K (courtesy of Baseball Reference). Cora beat him in average by only about 15 points, however, Green had 6 homers to Cora's 1. Also, Green had twice the RBIs and 7 more doubles."

In addition to Green, the Red Sox have Jed Lowrie, Travis Denker, Ivan Ochoa and others in their system who play shortstop and all are projected to hit approximately as well as Cora will. Even the Reds have Danny Richar, Drew Sutton, Paul Janish, and some guy named Chris Valaika.[1] Even Ruben Gotay is a career .255/.315/.371 hitter, and he had a fantastic year in the minors last year, putting up a .429 on-base percentage.

The problem with Cora is that even if he has a year that is good by his standards, it won't matter. He may not be "overpaid" and he might not even be "bad." Cora may have a fine year. But there are a ton of other players who we could acquire, or who we already have, who would be either just as good, or barely worse. The same goes for Chris Coste.

The Mets should not be focusing on this kind of personnel move at this stage of the offseason. They should not be committing their (reportedly) scarce offseason budget to bits-and-pieces which might be replaced internally.

What the Mets need to do is focus on their areas of weakness, and take a look at the players on the market who can improve them, now and in the future. Enough with trying to trade Castillo and sign a player who is marginally better. Enough with speculation over players at the end of the roster. The Mets need to be looking at the big picture.

[1] If the Mets projections were out, obviously, I would have used those.