Second part in a series. For my plan for the catcher’s spot, go here.
There aren’t as many decisions to make in the infield as there are at catcher. The team is set at shortstop and third base, and likely second base as well. First base is a different story, as they will not have a starting first baseman under contract for 2010. I do think they have good options for the bench already under team control, but it remains to be seen if they view those options the same way I do. Let’s take a look at what they have.
Players under team control: Daniel Murphy, Nick Evans, Ike Davis
Expiring contracts: Carlos Delgado, Fernando Tatis
Potential free agents: Rich Aurilia, Hank Blalock, Russell Branyan, Miguel Cairo, Frank Catalanotto, Tony Clark, Nomar Garciaparra, Ross Gload*, Eric Hinske, Nick Johnson, Adam LaRoche, Doug Mientkiewicz, Kevin Millar, Chad Tracy*, Daryle Ward, Dmitri Young
* – team or mutual option for 2010
Trade candidates: Prince Fielder, Adam Dunn, Carlos Pena, Jorge Cantu
First thing’s first – Daniel Murphy should not be the team’s starting first baseman in 2010. They should not even think about going to a Murphy/Evans platoon, and I like Evans and think he is good enough to have a platoon role somewhere on this team. That is not an option for a contending team. What we learned about Daniel Murphy in 2010 is that he probably is not an option moving forward as a starter, until he proves otherwise. As a team that has an eye towards contention, the Mets are under no obligation to give him another starting job only to watch him perform inadequately yet again. There needs to be a better plan for first base.
That said, it doesn’t look like there’s a whole lot out there. The best option among free agents might be bringing back Delgado on a one-year, incentive-laden contract. I also like Nick Johnson, but I would be hesitant to bring him in as a starter when he has struggled so mightily to stay healthy. Russell Branyan has had a very good year in Seattle, finally given a chance to play every day. I wouldn’t mind seeing him come to New York, but expect to pay a hefty price for those 31 homers. Same with Adam LaRoche and his second-half numbers.
As far as trade candidates go, Prince Fielder intrigues me a lot. Sam Page at Amazin Avenue has made a case for acquring him, and it would probably behoove the Mets to check in on him. He has the power to hit home runs at Citi Field, and he would give the middle of the order a power bat it sorely lacked this year. Plus, he’s just entering his prime now, and figures to remain good for a few more years, unlike some of the dreck available through free agency. It would also open up Ike Davis to either move to a corner outfield spot, where he could better use his throwing arm, or to dangle as trade bait at another position, assuming that the Brewers would not take him back in a Fielder trade, as they have their own young 1B in Mat Gamel.
If the Mets don’t deal for Fielder, Ike Davis will be a name to watch this year. I listed him above because it isn’t out of the question that he could play himself into playing time at first base by the all star break, if he continues to progress as he has this season. Depending on what the team actually does at first base, if they bring in a stop gap guy like Johnson or Branyan, those guys tend to get hurt a lot, and if Davis tears up Buffalo enough, he could force his way into the picture. Or… Jerry will just go back to playing Daniel Murphy every day and ignoring Nick Evans.
My suggestion: Pursue Prince Fielder in a trade. If the Brewers are asking for too much, see if Carlos Delgado, Nick Johnson, Russell Branyan, or Adam LaRoche (in that order) will take a one year deal around $5 million with playing time incentives, and don’t be afraid to be patient and let their asking prices come down. There are likely more first basemen available than open jobs, so eventually the Musical Chairs Corallary will work in the Mets’ favor. Try to avoid bringing back Daniel Murphy as the starting first baseman, even as a platoon with Evans. Keep Murphy and Evans around as bench players, and make them both play the outfield more often to give them more value to the team.
Players under team control: Luis Castillo, Anderson Hernandez
Expiring contracts: Alex Cora
Potential free agents: Ronnie Belliard, Jamey Carroll, Craig Counsell, Mark Derosa, Jerry Hairston Jr, Orlando Hudson, Akinori Iwamura*, Adam Kennedy, Felipe Lopez, Mark Loretta, Pablo Ozuna, Placido Polanco, Freddy Sanchez*, Juan Uribe
* – team or mutual option for 2010
Trade candidates: I can’t see the Mets trading for a starting second baseman, or even a reserve for that matter.
First, I can’t believe that the Mets are actually thinking about bringing back Alex Cora. While I’m sure he’s a swell guy, as a ballplayer, he was a waste of $2 million in 2009. He is neither an adequate fielder nor an adequate hitter. If he’s such a great clubhouse guy, make him a coach, but as a player, he’s simply inadequate. Same with Anderson Hernandez. He isn’t good enough defensively to play shortstop even as a backup, and he’s not a good enough hitter to play second base with any regularity. He is Triple-A fodder at best, and haven’t the Mets made the poor people of Buffalo suffer enough?
Anyway, I don’t think Luis Castillo is in serious danger of losing his job at 2B. I expect there will be rumors about the Mets pursuing Orlando Hudson again, and frankly, it’s not a great move. Hudson is a better player than Castillo, but between the cost of having to dump the last two years and $12 million to get rid of Castillo, and the added cost of having to sign Hudson (and it can be assumed he will not come as cheap to the Mets as he did to the Dodgers, although he will wind up making around $8 million this year per his playing time incentives. Castillo isn’t great, but neither is Hudson, and even if the Mets could find somebody to pick up the full tab on Castillo, going out and giving Hudson a 4-5 year deal will give the next GM the same headaches that Minaya has had with Castillo, and that just doesn’t seem fair.
My suggestion: Status quo for one more year. Also, hope Reese Havens has an Ike Davis-level bounce back next year. Don’t bring back Cora.
Players under team control: Jose Reyes, Wilson Valdez
Expiring contracts: Alex Cora
Potential free agents: Orlando Cabrera, Craig Counsell, Bobby Crosby, Adam Everett, Chris Gomez, Alex Gonzalez*, Khalil Greene, Jerry Hairston Jr, John McDonald, Marco Scutaro, Miguel Tejada, Omar Vizquel, Jack Wilson*
* – team or mutual option for 2010
Trade candidates: Nobody.
Who knows what’s going on with Reyes. James Kannengieser of MetsGeek and Amazin Avenue makes a very strong case for bringing back Valdez as the backup shortstop. He’s the “Infield Endy,” meaning he won’t be a good hitter, but when called into action, he’ll play strong defense up the middle at 2B and SS. Between Cora, Valdez, and Hernandez, you have three infielders who can’t hit, but only one can play a good defensive shortstop, Valdez’s error last night nonewithstanding. Knowing this organization, he will be the one they don’t keep.
Since I’m writing about shortstops, now would be as good a time as any to talk about the terrible news that came in last night about Jose Reyes’ hamstring. The one guy I feel for more than anybody else this year is Jose Reyes. He started slow this year, and because this is New York and nobody has any patience, he took a bit of grief. When he first sat out a game in San Francisco earlier this year, talk radio automatically assumed it was a cover for a suspension for…I don’t know, not running out a ball? It was so long ago and seemed so ludicrous at the time, I can’t remember what it was.
Ever since that day, Reyes has had to hear about it from management, from teammates (and that includes David Wright, who was out of line) and from fans, saying he’s dogging it or that he isn’t as hurt as he claims, that he’s babying the injury. Obviously, it was a pretty serious injury, one that the team mishandled, and one that Jose Reyes himself mishandled by trying to come back too soon, first making an aborted comeback attempt a few games after suffering the injury, then by furiously rehabbing to try to get into even one more game this season, so as to give himself something to build on for next year, and perhaps as to not disappoint the fans.
It’s for this reason where I will never, ever call out a player for silly things such as a lack of grit or heart. I can watch every game every season, and still not know what these guys are putting their bodies through in order to win a game, a championship, whatever. Jose Reyes did everything he could to play one more game, and now tore his hamstring. The man makes a living based on his ability to run fast. He may not have that ability anymore. And he may have sacrificed it to play in one game? A game that meant nothing in the standings, and nothing to anybody else other than himself, just to show that he could come back, just to show what he went through. If you ever questioned his guts, his heart, whatever, shame on you. That’s not your call to make, and it never was.
My suggestion: This is a tough decision. On one hand, it would be foolish to overpay for another Alex Cora-esque veteran who isn’t very good. On the other hand, who knows what the team is going to get out of Reyes for 2010. I would kick the tires on some of the available shortstops, see if any of them are willing to take a minor league or one year, incentive-based contract, and hope Reyes is healthy. Keep Valdez around because his defense has value, even if it means keeping him in Buffalo. Only bring Cora back if he would take a minor league deal, which he probably wouldn’t unless the market is as soft as last year.
Players under team control: David Wright, Daniel Murphy
Expiring contracts: Fernando Tatis
Potential free agents: Who cares? The Mets aren’t signing another third baseman
Trade candidates: See above.
David Wright will be the starting third baseman in 2010. Murphy has played 3B in the minors and could probably be called upon to do so again if Wright was hurt. Don’t bring back Fernando Tatis on a major league deal. If he takes a minor league deal, great, but he’s not worth a guaranteed contract. The one position the Mets are almost guaranteed not to screw up.
My suggestion: Wright at third base. Murphy is the reserve. Tatis only comes back on a minor league contract, or not at all.
Next: The Outfield