After a week where the Mets generally made little news at the Winter Meetings, to the degree that signing minor leaguer Mike Hessman actually became a notable Mets headline, Omar Minaya and company finally made a headline on the last day of the meetings when it was reported that the Mets had made an offer for free agent outfielder Jason Bay. This being the Mets, where no move they make can be taken at face-value, it was immediately speculated by Joel Sherman and Craig Calcaterra, among others, that the Mets had made Bay an offer primarily because of lagging season ticket renewals, and a lack of buzz in general for a Mets team that, so far, had only signed a slew of backup catchers and no-skill utility players.
Archive for the ‘2009 Offseason’ Category
Sinusitis, you cheat me of sleep. Joel Sherman, you separate me from sanity.
Contrary to much of the nonsense reported yesterday, this Maine-Hart rumor is completely plausible: both are non-tender candidates; the Brewers are looking for pitching; the Mets are looking for outfielders; and Rick Peterson is the pitching coach of the Brewers. It’s a perfect match.
If nothing else, a Corey Hart acquisition would be consistent with Omar Minaya’s affinity for bad corner outfielders. Hart posted a 4.4 WAR campaign in 2007 on the strength of career highs in BABIP and HR/FB ratio in conjunction with a total +7 center field and right field UZR in small sample sizes (232 innings in CF, 864 innings in RF). As those rates regressed and Corey settled in as the full-time Brewers right fielder, his value plummeted, accruing a measley 1.6 WAR in 2008 and 2009 combined.
I expect many to react to this potential trade thusly: “Maine is always injured and Corey Hart is an All-Star. Good deal for the Mets.” That line of thinking would be wrong. Both will command similar salaries in arbitration and they’re each two full years removed from their last good seasons. Though Maine’s shoulder issues may preclude him from pitching more than 140 innings, he’s likely to outperform a healthy Corey Hart (Maine 2008-2009: 2 WAR). Should his right shoulder fatigue, Maine can be moved to the bullpen or the disabled list for optimal roster performance. There’s no such way to “hide” Corey Hart.
Below average plate discipline, decent power and bad defense at a non-premium position make for a largely unappealing package. He’s Jeff Francoeur 2, a marginal corner outfielder with similar offensive skills, pushed into a starting role to diminishing returns. I fully expect Omar Minaya to be blinded by Hart’s 2008 All-Star Game appearance (ironically he won the final fan vote over David Wright) and back-to-back 20 home run seasons. If only Minaya could swing this deal and the Bengie Molina signing concurrently: “Whenever you have the opportunity to add 40 home runs to your lineup, you’ve got to do it, youknowwhatImsaying?”
I won’t be the first to mention this, nor will I be the last, but the Billy Wagner situation just highlights the lack of foresight in the Mets front office. Back in August, Wagner looked like a good bet to be worth Type A compensation in free agency, should he sign with another ballclub. That means if Wagner signed with another team as a free agent, his former team would be entitled to a first round draft pick (or lower, depending on a number of factors) plus a compensation pick between the first and second rounds. At the very least, the Mets would pick up a compensation pick for losing Wagner, which would make the blow of losing their second rounder by signing a Type A free agent (such as Matt Holliday) a little easier to take.
Instead, the Mets traded Wags to the Red Sox for Chris Carter and Eddie Lora. At best, Carter projects to be a Daniel Murphy-type with maybe a little more power, a fringe-average regular with no real position. He’s even left-handed, so they can’t platoon Carter with Murphy at first base. As a 20 year old in the Rookie League, Eddie Lora did not distinguish himself in any way, and would seem to be an unlikely bet to ever play a single game in the major leagues. They also saved $3.2 million, chump change for a New York based sports team.
In return for Carter, Lora, and $3.2 million, the Red Sox got Wagner for six weeks, where he produced an excellent (for such a short time period) 0.4 WAR, worth approximately $1.9 million in value to the Red Sox, and now two high draft picks. In essence, the Red Sox spent $1.3 million to buy two draft picks, at least one of which should be in the top 50, and if the Braves fail to sign another Type A free agent, one of those picks would be in the top 20. That would mean they could sign potentially two Type A free agents and still pick higher in the first and second rounds than they were originally scheduled, and that doesn’t even include receiving compensation if Jason Bay were to sign elsewhere.
These are the types of moves the Mets should be making. They should be willing to take the risk of Wagner coming back if he accepted arbitration, which he wouldn’t have. He made quite clear his desire to close next year, as he had tried to force the Red Sox to not offer him arbitration and wanted assurance that his option year would not be picked up by the Sox, as he did not want to set up for Jonathan Papelbon. This was essentially two free picks, and for a team that is often criticized (sometimes unfairly) for ignoring their minor league system, the return value could have been huge for the team.
Instead, they settled for a little bit of payroll relief and two minor leaguers unlikely to ever become stars. You can’t even compare the Mets to the Red Sox anymore, because the two teams are playing completely different games. It’s situations like this that just so clearly demonstrate that teams like the Red Sox are playing chess while the Mets are playing peek-a-boo.
A newspaper in Fargo, North Dakota reported yesterday that the Mets signed Chris Coste, with no promise of a major league job, but a promise of a 40 man roster spot. Coste showed his appreciation for the Mets keeping his dream of playing major league baseball alive by crapping all over them and praising the team that released him last year, the team that happens to be the Mets’ top division rivals. Classy. I’d say welcome to New York, Chris, but the only place you’re likely to play in New York next year is Buffalo. My only thoughts on the signing is that it leaves me feeling absolutely nothing.
Meanwhile, the Phillies signed Brian Schneider and the Rays traded for Kelly Shoppach. I mention them only because Schneider is probably better than Coste, and would have been a fine backup catcher if the team did not believe that Omir Santos was capable of backing up whomever they intend to sign at some point, and having a logjam of catchers in Buffalo next year when Josh Thole should be playing every day makes little sense. I hope it’s a sign that the Mets aren’t interested in signing Bengie Molina, but since I have no reason to trust this front office, I’m still pretty worried they’re going to sign him and his one baseball skill to a bad contract. I’d rather have a collection of backups like Coste and Blanco playing every day than Bengie Molina, because at least then they won’t be overpaying for lousy production, but either way, I’m not expecting much out of catcher for the Mets in 2010.
According to WEEI, the Mets and Alex Cora are close to a contract similar to last year, for one year and $2 million, although there is also talk of a vesting option for some silly reason. When I read the news that Omar Minaya values whatever Alex Cora does so well, that he is willing to pay Cora above market value for a backup middle infielder, I have to wonder if there is something I’m missing here that makes Alex Cora so special. (more…)
Earlier, I gave my plan for the 2010 Mets season, and while I’m not crazy about some things (in retrospect, I’d rather sign Matt Holliday rather than John Lackey, and go after another short-term pitcher for one year, like a Ben Sheets) that was what I would do had I been in charge of the Mets. This is about what I think the Mets will do, more than what I’d like to see them do. This is based on the Mets’ current needs, plus five years of observing Omar Minaya offseason plans. This is just a guess of how things will shake out for Omar Minaya this offseason:
November 19th is over, November 20th is here. Big time moves! Big time trades! Or just nothing for a long long time as I expect. This year’s class of free agents aren’t great. In fact, its kind of dismal. But as a Mets fan, you want your team’s owner to open his wallet (which is $30 million lighter this off-season so far) and spend some money because no matter what excuses you can make, 70 wins isn’t gonna cut it for a team that should be playoff caliber that played more like the Brooklyn Cyclones in 2009.
Can you imagine how bad this team might be without Jose Reyes and David Wright? Because it is by the grace of other baseball general managers that both are still on the New York Mets. Consider that in 2001, the Mets had originally offered Jose Reyes in the package of players that eventually netted Roberto Alomar. The Indians insisted on Alex Escobar, at the time the Mets’ top prospect. That very same offseason, Steve Phillips offered the Toronto Blue Jays David Wright in exchange for Jose Cruz, Jr. JP Ricciardi turned that one down since at the time, Wright was a 19 year old third baseman in the South Atlantic League.
I have thrown out a few ideas for what I’d like to see the team do. Now it’s time to put everything together. Let’s put together one plan for the offseason that would rebuild this team around its current core, featuring mostly free agent signings to help rebuild the supporting cast for this Mets team. Here it is, the Official Chris Wilcox’s BlueAndOrange.net Plan for the 2009 Offseason.
The last on-field part of this series will look at what might be the most difficult area to fix this offseason on the cheap, the rotation. I’ve listed ways to fix first base, catcher, and the outfield without spending a ton of money, but because other teams overvalue the cost of starting pitching, it artificially raises the cost of obtaining a good pitcher. That’s why it’s so important that the team work on developing pitching from within, with the hopes of churning out cheap starters year after year, and converting failed starting prospects into relievers to avoid offering closers $17.5 million vesting options. Alas, I digress.