Go read the Amazin Avenue Annual

March 5th, 2010

Things have been quiet around here for the past two weeks, mostly because there is little inspiring about the team right now.  If you are looking for something to inspire you beyond “Why the hell is Jerry Manuel batting Jose Reyes third?” (and if Jose Reyes’ thyroid issue hadn’t become the Mets injury du jour, I’m sure you would have read something from me decrying this), I’d suggest checking out the Amazin Avenue Annual, available here.  I am about halfway through an advanced copy I received this week, and it is really terrific, there is a lot of great information from respected Mets bloggers that any Mets fan is sure to enjoy, plus a lot of pretty pictures and graphs.  It’s available for free in PDF format, with Kindle and print versions to be available soon, so go check that out and enjoy!

One Mission Accomplished

February 18th, 2010

In honor of pitchers and catchers reporting, I will subscribe to the notion of spring optimism, for the failures of the winter have been exhausted and beaten to death. We all understand that this was a brutal off-season where the Mets didn’t accomplish many of their goals, inferred or stated. I will focus instead on one major objective that the organization did manage to achieve, and in my estimation, with great efficacy: assembling a potent club in Buffalo.

In the first of a two-year player development contract with the Mets, the 2009 Bisons were an International League worst 56-87. The league’s third best starting rotation (38.1 pitching runs above average according to StatCorner) was sullied by a most hideous roster of position players comprised primarily of journeymen, some with Major League experience and most too old to have any upside. Only Fernando Martinez, and to a lesser extent, Nick Evans were considered prospects. Once Martinez was summoned for big league duty (before falling to injury) and Evans was exiled to Port St. Lucie after a bad slump, the cupboard was bare. The likes of Jesus Feliciano (.339), Cory Sullivan (.336) and Argenis Reyes (.336) led the team in wOBA, Javier Valentin (Jose’s hefty brother) saw time at third base, Mike Lamb received 466 plate appearances and Chip Ambres led the team with twelve home runs.

A major reason why the 2009 Mets spiraled out of control was the inability to build a competitive team in Buffalo. When Beltran, Reyes and Delgado hit the deck, there were few candidates from the Triple-A club who could fill-in suitably. It’s not that New York should’ve had players of that quality in the minor leagues, nobody does (well, except maybe the Rays); it’s that nobody in Buffalo had useful skills. Players like Cory Sullivan don’t do anything particularly well – they’re average or below across the board.

This season, however, Bisons fans will see evidence of a wholesale makeover. In addition to the return of Martinez and the promotion of prospects Ike Davis, Josh Thole, Ruben Tejada, the organization made a host of minor transactions acquiring a group of useful players ticketed for Triple A. This roster will undoubtedly be better equipped to support their parent club, while providing the city of Buffalo with some entertaining baseball.

Infielder | Russ Adams

This former first round pick is a left-handed hitter with a patient, contact-oriented approach. He brings versatility to a franchise in dire need of middle infield depth. Though he lacks the range to play SS regularly, Adams could be used there in spot duty for the Mets should Alex Cora get injured. Russ and his .278/.354/.404 career minor league slash line ostensibly replace Argenis Reyes (.281/.331/.349) in Buffalo.

3B | Shawn Bowman

A Canadian with a sterling glove at third base, Bowman’s promotion is something of achievement in and of itself. Chronic back troubles limited the right-handed hitter to 125 games played between 2005 and the first half of 2008 (he’s remained relatively healthy since). Bowman is not likely to be much better than average (more than likely below) with the bat due to poor plate discipline and average power. Possessing good range and arm (he’s pitched in 30 minor league games), perhaps the Mets could use him in the same vein as the Jack Hannahan of the Mariners – a rangy reserve 2B/3B/SS, who’s not a complete sinkhole offensively. There’s value in such players, but in the meantime, he’ll be an asset to the ground-ball inducing Buffalo pitching rotation.

Hitter | Chris Carter

A career minor league slash line of .306/.380/.510 and no defensive ability, Chris Carter is your generic Quad-A player, who’ll entertain the crowd by hitting ropes all around the ballpark. He can hang in against left-handed pitchers, so expect him to be a staple in the potent Bisons lineup at first base, left field or designated hitter. Carter’s hitting prowess is something the Mets could use should Daniel Murphy turn out to be an offensive sinkhole and Ike Davis struggle adjusting to Triple-A pitching. He’ll work hard to get his defense comfortably below average.
Catcher | Chris Coste

Coste’s career .325 Major League wOBA is higher than the other catchers in camp, which in typical Mets fashion, places him fourth on the depth chart. He’s ticketed to Buffalo to mentor Josh Thole and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The veteran can teach the young catcher a thing or two about blocking balls in the dirt
Outfielder / 1B | Nick Evans

The Blue & Orange love affair with “Nasty” Nick Evans isn’t without merit. He was the 2008 Mets Minor League Player of the Year (co-winner with Daniel Murphy) and is a legitimate lefty-killer. The Mets soured on him due to 87 miserable plate appearances for last year’s Bisons, which is semi-chronicled here. Nick would be best served and optimally used in left or right field, where he has some defensive chops.

Utility Outfielder / Infielder | Mike Hessman

The former 2007 International League MVP owns a three true outcomes hitting profile (.229/.312/.454 career MiLB) that the Mets organization typically undervalues. He’s a four corners guy with a good defensive reputation (especially at third base) and middle infield experience, and can help the Bisons in a multitude of ways. He’s virtually a poor man’s version of Fernando Tatis, substituting contact for defensive acumen.

Center Field | Jason Pridie

Pridie, claimed off waivers to the chagrin of Dave Cameron, is a poor hitter, but an excellent defensive center fielder (+44 Total Zone in AAA). He’s fifth outfielder insurance, but will more than likely become Eric Niesen’s best friend.

Old hands / Bench Players | Andy Green, Jesus Feliciano, Val Pascucci (see Tedquarters.net for write-up, altar), Mike Cervenak, Jolbert Cabrera, Shawn Riggans

The Mets’ unfortunate history at 1B, LF, and RF in the aughts

February 11th, 2010

For the decade of the 2000’s, the Mets were 815-803, good for a .504 winning percentage.  That’s strange, because for much of the decade the team was either really good (2000, 2006-2008) or really bad (2002-2004, 2009).  But even when they were good, the teams left Mets fans wanting more, they still felt like they were underachieving, thanks to some sort of fatal flaw that showed itself at the wrong time, thanks to faulty roster construction.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Mets never gave J.J. Putz a physical

February 1st, 2010

J.J. Putz signed a one-year, $3 million contract with the Chicago White Sox this offseason.  His stint with the Mets will not go down as being particularly memorable.  He did not pitch particularly well when he was on the field, and spent the majority of the season on the disabled list.  It was speculated going back to late-April by Dave Cameron at Fangraphs that Putz did not look like himself, and pointed to evidence such as the loss of 2.5 MPH off of his fastball and a diminished strikeout rate.  When the Mets finally put Putz on the DL in June, I wrote:

[T]he team didn’t think then to investigate if Putz was truly injured, kept running him out there for a month, during which he gave the Mets several ineffective innings of relief, and only shut him down a few weeks ago for him to have surgery.  Dave Cameron is a baseball writer for a pretty good stats website; he is not a member of the Mets front office, and does not follow the team on a daily basis.  If he was able to figure out in late-April that something is wrong with JJ Putz, why did it take the team a full month for them to figure this out?

As it turns out, it didn’t take the Mets a full month to figure out that J.J. Putz was injured; they knew the entire time.  Putz gave an interview with Comcast Chicago that does not paint a pretty picture of the Mets’ front office.  The money quotes:

When the trade went down last year, I never really had a physical with the Mets. I had the bone spur (in the right elbow). It was discovered the previous year in Seattle, and it never got checked out by any other doctors until I got to spring training, and the spring training physical is kind of a formality. It was bugging me all through April, and in May I got an injection. It just got to the point where I couldn’t pitch. I couldn’t throw strikes, my velocity was way down…

…I knew that I wasn’t right. I wasn’t healthy. The toughest part was having to face the media and tell them that you feel fine, even though you know there’s something wrong and they don’t want you telling them that you’re banged up.

So according to the timeline being laid out here by Putz:

  • The Mariners’ doctors found a bone spur in Putz’s elbow during the 2008 season.
  • The Mets traded six players for J.J. Putz without conducting a physical of their own. I assume the Mets read the Mariners’ medical reports on Putz about the bone spur, though.
  • They checked out his elbow in spring training and discovered the bone spur for themselves.
  • They forced Putz to pitch through what I imagine is a very painful injury, while not allowing him to talk to the media about said injury.
  • Putz pitched terribly because, you know, having a healthy elbow is important to pitching.  In particular, his velocity and strikeouts were down.
  • Eventually, Putz went on the DL to have elbow surgery, never to pitch again for the Mets.  I cannot confirm this, but Omar Minaya probably called Putz a “pussy” afterwards.

I mean…in which of those steps do the Mets look good?  The part where they traded six players for Putz, Sean Green, and Jeremy Reed without making sure he was healthy?  The part where they discover the bone spur, make him pitch through it anyway, all while hiding it from the media?  The part where Omar Minaya called him a pussy?  OK, I made that up, but still, the other stuff is pretty bad.

There has been a lot said about the way the Mets’ medical staff handles injuries.  We got another glimpse of that a few weeks ago, with the Carlos Beltran debacle, and now J.J. Putz paints a pretty grim picture of the way this team handles injuries:  by sticking their fingers in their ears and pretending they didn’t happen.  This isn’t a total failure on the part of the medical staff; they have to share a pretty big part of the burden with the front office. 

The J.J. Putz trade and how it was handled is a fireable offense.  The Mets traded a good defensive outfielder, two relief pitchers of some value, a decent first base prospect (better than anything they will trot out at 1B in 2010, for sure), and two low-A minor leaguers, and all they currently have to show for it is one relief pitcher of some value, all because they never bothered to make sure the key part of the trade was healthy.  Hopefully this story gains some traction in the New York sports media and helps hasten the demise of Omar Minaya.  I’m disgusted with the way he is running this team, and it’s not getting any better.

At least the Royals have a process to trust

January 28th, 2010

After the Kansas City Royals traded for Yuniesky Betancourt (a trade more baffling than the Mets’ trade for Gary Matthews Jr, because the Royals actually gave up something of value for Betancourt), Royals’ GM Dayton Moore implored his fans to “trust the process.”  The folks over at the Royals Review blog gave that a sound thrashing at the time, and it has since become something of a meme to laugh at the Royals and their “process,” which has since produced signings like Jason Kendall for two years.  I’m not exactly sure what their process is, but needless to say, Royals fans do not seem to trust it very much.

If you look at the Mets, though, I’d struggle to find out what kind of process they seem to be following this year.  If you look at the moves they have made, it appears they saw their needs for 2010 as follows:

  • Backup catcher
  • Left field
  • The bullpen

While there have been rumors connecting them to every free agent starter that has been on the market this year, so far they have yet to seal the deal with even one of them.  Every day, another decent starter comes off the market. Given the tenuous nature of the Mets’ starting staff, which currently features four starters who failed to pitch a complete 2009 season and Fernando Nieve slotted into the #5 slot, this has fans understandably wondering what the hell is going on.  In the cases of John Lackey, Joel Piniero, Ben Sheets, Jason Marquis, Jon Garland, and Doug Davis, where there has been smoke, there has been no fire.  It’s not that the Mets didn’t need Jason Bay, or couldn’t use a restructured bullpen, or even a better backup catcher, these were all good moves in a vacuum.  The problem is that these moves have come off somewhat uninspired after how bad the 2009 season ended.

Thus, the recent reports that have surfaced regarding the Mets’ front office philosophy this offseason really shouldn’t be that surprising to anybody who has been following the team.  Really, this goes back even to last season, when the team was unable to concentrate on fixing more than one thing at a time, first adding Frankie Rodriguez and JJ Putz, before turning to re-signing Oliver Perez for the rotation, which ended their offseason before finding a way to dump Luis Castillo or improve their corner outfielders.  This is a front office that seemingly does not know how to multi-task, which is especially worrisome considering that this team has had many, many problems since Carlos Beltran struck out to end the 2006 NLCS.

I’m not going to pretend to be an insider who knows what’s going on in the Mets’ front office.  Truthfully, I have no idea.  But as an outsider, as a fan following the team on a day to day basis, I can tell something is wrong.  Last year, they were at least 1-2 moves short of a complete offseason.  This season, they look to be in even worse shape, with subpar players slotted in at catcher, first base and second base, and a starting rotation that looks paper-thin without a minimum of two decent signings, in a market where there simply aren’t two decent starting pitchers available.  Even if they sign John Smoltz (and the Cardinals are currently the favorite), are we certain that a rotation of Santana/Smoltz/Pelfrey/Perez/Maine will stay healthy enough to keep Fernando Nieve or Nelson Figueroa from having to make too many starts?

There needs to be some sort of deep organizational change in philosophy.  When the geniuses in talent evaluation identify Jeff Francoeur and Gary Matthews Jr, two outfielders who had combined for -2.0 WAR in 2008 and -0.8 WAR in 2009, as two players this team needs to acquire, we can safely assume that advanced statistical metrics are not used by this front office.  They should be.  Advanced metrics shouldn’t replace scouting, but they can surely supplement scouting and make it better.  Their talent evaluation could definitely use some improvement, if their record of player acquisitions is any indication.  Signing Jason Bay for his defense, when his defense has ranked among the worst defensive players in baseball over the past three years is a sign that the team needs to look more closely at how they are evaluating talent and where they might be falling short.

They need to know when to make one big move, and when to make a bunch of smaller moves.  They need to know when to cut ties with a sunk cost if it means improving the team.  They need to know that when a player is injured, it does not benefit the team for that player to continue to play through that injury.  They need to know that what some people consider good pitching is actually good defense, and how to properly evaluate the difference between the two.  They need to know that the amateur draft is an opportunity to replenish their farm system and improve the team’s future, not an opportunity to kiss Bud Selig’s ass.  While this isn’t completely necessary, it would also be nice to have press conferences that don’t degenerate into he said/she said arguments that only make the team’s front office executives look worse, which considering the results this team has produced, is saying something.

Basically, they need to have a better process.  I’m not saying anything I haven’t said a million times before.  Whether it’s Omar Minaya, John Ricco, Jeff Wilpon, or somebody else running baseball operations, they need to have a better plan.  Whatever they’re doing now isn’t working and hasn’t worked, and the sooner they realize it, the sooner they can actually benefit from their resources advantage in the National League, rather than having 2-3 contending years sandwiched around some miserable ones.  It’s not an impossible goal, but until those in charge realize they’re operating within a broken system, Mets fans will continue to be frustrated at the team’s results, and the primes of Wright, Reyes, Beltran, and Santana will continue to be wasted.

Nothing for Nothing Doesn’t Mean Nothing

January 22nd, 2010

When “Mets to Acquire Gary Matthews Jr.” pops up in your Twitter timeline, you begin to fear the worst. Thoughts collide and doomsday scenarios materialize: Mets trade something of value; Mets take on a chunk of the contract; Mets sign him to an extension with a vesting option. Using those alternatives as a basis for comparison, Brian Stokes for Gary Matthews and $21 million in salary relief seems like a good deal.
But it isn’t. And constantly having to judge a transaction in light of the worst possible outcome is probably the most pathetic part of cheering for this poorly run organization. The heart of the matter is that the Mets are going to devote a roster spot, perhaps over the next two seasons, to a replacement-level player. Where it would’ve been prudent to sign one of the available free agent outfielders, who in this depressed market, will be fortunate to get much more than the salary owed to Matthews, the Mets will instead settle for a two million dollar paperweight.
As Chris stated earlier, “Sarge Lite” neither hits nor fields well, rendering the notion of “Beltran insurance” laughable. Sadly, he was likely targeted because the front office views him as a center fielder. That is, Minaya and company probably popped in MLB The Show 2010, saw “#24 Matthews Jr., CF” and decided that it was more preferable than “#2 Winn, RF” and “#9 Johnson, OF”.
Tony Reagins and the Angels organization deserve kudos for recognizing a sunk cost and dealing with it swiftly. Hopefully, the Mets learned something here and will use the same tact to deal Luis Castillo immediately.
I somehow doubt it though.

Mets acquire Gary Matthews Jr for some stupid reason

January 22nd, 2010
The $50 million catch

The $50 million catch

Sometimes, when your favorite team makes a big transaction, it’s important not to overreact.  It’s easy to make a knee-jerk reaction that usually falls either north of “OMG THIS IS THE BEST TRADE EVAR, THE METS ARE GOING TO WIN THE WORLD SERIES!” and or south of “WTF I HATE MY TEAM WHY DO THEY INSIST ON HATING ME, WE WILL FINISH 20 GAMES BEHIND THE NATS!”  It’s important to try to fall somewhere in between, to try to keep a level head about this stuff, that rarely will any one move so drastically improve or so drastically ruin a team in one fell swoop.

 Then again, the Mets just acquired Gary Matthews Junior.
Sorry, I’m not seeing any upside here.


January 19th, 2010

After everything that went wrong last week (and be patient, I will have a take up on the site about that soon, it’s just been hectic of late), it’s been hard to find a silver lining.  Thanks to the San Francisco Giants, we have found one.  The Giants sign Bengie Molina for one year and $4.5 million, which means that the Mets will not be signing Bengie Molina.  Thank you, Brian Sabean, for being you and blocking poor Buster Posey.  And thank you, Omar Minaya, for once you have not made a soul-crushing decision that makes me hate life.  It might be because you are so utterly powerless that the Wilpons won’t let you do anything, but your inaction regarding Molina has ultimately helped this team.  Bring on the Henry Blanco/Josh Thole platoon.

Filling in the Gaps

January 8th, 2010

The 2010 Mets believe in comebacks. The additions of Jason Bay, Kelvin Escobar and Ryota Igarashi work to that end, but in order to truly support this aphoristic ad campaign, the front office must fill in the gaps.

The team is set at five positions in the field: Bay, David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Jeff Francoeur all project to start at their respective positions; Alex Cora, Angel Pagan and Henry Blanco have guaranteed bench spots;  Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez and John Maine will be in the rotation; Francisco Rodriguez, Sean Green, Pedro Feliciano, Bobby Parnell, Igarashi and Escobar will be in the ‘pen.

Assuming the club carries the usual thirteen position players and twelve pitchers, there are six or seven roster slots open and/or in need of an upgrade: catcher, first base, second base, starting pitcher (or two depending on Niese) and two bench spots.

I’m bored of making fun of Bengie Molina, especially when others have done it better. Molina and low free agent Rod Barajas are not good hitters. In fact, Chris Coste’s .325 career wOBA is compares favorable to the free agent pair, plus there’s reason to believe he is better than both defensively. The team’s current payroll is ~$123M with another $3M or so in obligations due to the rest of the 40-man roster. Assuming the team caps spending at last season’s $150M mark, there’s a $24M budget to address those roster spots. There’s no reason to allocate resources here, unless it involves trading Luis Castillo for Chris Snyder. Any combination of Coste, Blanco or Santos should be good enough to provide slightly below-to-average production.

First and Second Base

It’s possible that the Mets turn to internal options, namely Daniel Murphy and Luis Castillo, to fill the right side of the infield. This is the worst-case scenario, but one that’s become increasingly likely as the off-season’s developed. Castillo’s dime-sized range is a major liability and his lack of positional flexibility makes him nearly impossible to carry on National League bench. His absolute upside is one-and-a-half wins above replacement, with a reasonable projection closer to a win. Murphy’s a rangy fielder, probably better suited for a more difficult position — yes, I think he should still be used in the outfield — but his averageish bat doesn’t play as an everyday first baseman. Murphy, conservatively, is about a one win player.

The team must move Castillo, regardless of the cost. There’s a number of available second baseman on the market (Orlando Hudson, Felipe Lopez and to a lesser extent Adam Kennedy) and the team cannot eschew the opportunity to upgrade the position.  At minimum, Hudson and Lopez would add a full win over Castillo. More importantly, all three players are significantly better fielders than Luis, allowing the Mets to leverage defense to improve their pitching.
The rumored Mike Lowell for Castillo deal would work on multiple fronts. It would rid the team of Castillo and a $6M obligation next season. Lowell, a right-handed hitter and once excellent third baseman, could be platooned with Murphy at first base to minimize much of Murphy’s potential downside (i.e. issues with left-handers, continued BB rate erosion). Lowell is only marginally better than Murphy at this point in his career, but he’s much more of a known quantity. Should this trade not materialize, and many media sources have shot it down, Omar Minaya must look to unload a heavily subsidized Luis Castillo on any team willing to listen. If that fails, eat the entire contract.

The Mets have shown varying degrees of interest in first basemen Carlos Delgado and Russell Branyan this offseason. It’s obvious the team prefers Delgado, but both players represent an offensive upgrade over Murphy and neither necessitates a platoon. Unfortunately, the injury risk attached to both players is significant. Another option is right-handed hitting Ryan Garko, who sports a career .887 OPS vs. left handed pitchers. If all else fails, the team can bring him in to platoon with Murphy. Be it injury, age or talent level, these alternatives only stand to add a half win to one full win at first base.  The goal is to raise the production “floor” under the auspices of budget constraints.

Starting Pitcher

Improved defense at second base, the return of Jose Reyes to shortstop, Beltran’s knee condition and Bay’s below average defense should shift the focus to ground ball pitchers. This seems counter-intuitive, with Citi Field’s cavernous reputation, but given the pitching market and the players currently on the roster, it just makes a lot of sense. The best (healthy) free agents available – Joel Piniero (48.6% ground ball rate since 2002), John Smoltz (45.9%) and Doug Davis (44.6%) — are ground-ballers. Signing Joel Piniero to a backloaded three year contract with a vesting option would be Omar Minaya move of choice. He wouldn’t necessarily be wrong; clearly, Piniero offers the best combination of effectiveness and durability. Should contract negotiations prove difficult, the Mets should move toward signing the tandem of Smoltz and Davis. Such a move would bolster the rotation’s depth, protecting the team from the volatile and injury prone Perez and Maine and allow the team to take things slow with a rehabbing Jon Niese. Either alternative stands to add three wins to the pitching staff.


Given that the Mets most significant liabilities are in the outfield – Beltran’s knee, Bay’s defense, Jeff Francoeur – adding a reserve outfielder to pair with Angel Pagan would be the best use of the the final roster spot.  If Murphy platoons with Lowell or Garko, this player should bat left-handed/switch to compliment Francoeur’s right-handedness and play well defensively to replace Jason Bay late in games. Randy Winn (switch hitter, +17 UZR/150 last two seasons), Gabe Gross (left handed, +16 career UZR/150) and Endy Chavez on one-year deals would all fit the bill.

In the event of Delgado at first base, Murphy should move into a bench role, giving the team a left handed hitting reserve player. To balance the left-handed bench, the team would need a right-handed, defensive oriented outfielder. Reed Johnson is a good left fielder (+23 career UZR/150) and has an .841 career OPS vs. left handed pitchers. For a creative solution, Eric Byrnes’s .857 career OPS vs. lefties and +6 OF UZR/150 is an ideal match. Castillo for Snyder/Byrnes saves Arizona over $10M in contract obligations (perhaps more if there’s cash included) and fills a few holes for the Mets.

If deployed correctly, any of these players could add as much as a full win to the team. I’m looking at you, Jerry Manuel.


The Mets as currently constituted are about an 84-85 win team. Adding three wins to the pitching staff, a win and a half to second base, one-half win to first base and a full win to the bench would catapult this team over 90 projected wins, well within striking distance of the division and a favorite for a wild card berth.

It’s not about pitching, it’s about outscoring

December 31st, 2009

Upon hearing the news on Tuesday from Mike Francesa that the Mets and Jason Bay had reached terms on a contract, I texted a few friends about the news in case they hadn’t heard.  One of those friends was occasional Blue & Orange contributor Joe A Dig, who responded with the text, “Oh goody. The solution to none of our problems. Unless maybe he’s secretly a pitcher too.”

This has not been an uncommon reaction to the Bay signing, most of which has been somewhat muted.  Joe Janish from MetsToday tweeted something similar after the signing, and perennial nitwit John Harper buries the Mets for not acquiring John Lackey, even though the Red Sox gave Lackey more years and more guaranteed money than the Mets gave Bay, despite both being the same age, despite Lackey’s recent history of injury issues, despite Lackey being a pitcher and thus being more susceptible to injuries anyway, and despite Lackey’s downward trending peripherals.

Anyway, the point of this is not to defend the Bay deal.  It seems like a typical Omar Minaya deal, especially if it’s backloaded, in that it will be good in the short-term, potentially disastrous in the long-term, especially with the Mets’ salary commitments in 2012 (Santana at $24m, Bay at ~$19m, Wright’s $15m option, and of course, the bane of this blog’s existance, the Frankie $17.5m vesting option, giving the Mets a whopping $75.5 million in potential salary on the books for three seasons from now).  It’s more to discuss this idea that the Mets need to solely concentrate on pitching this offseason, because anybody that watched last year’s team would have to see that there was a lot more wrong with the 2009 Mets than starting pitching.

Last year, the Mets were 25th in the major leagues in runs scored, and 16th in runs allowed.  This does not mean to suggest that they were somehow “better” at preventing runs than they were at scoring them, because they were below average in both categories.  Plus, Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran are both scheduled to return in 2010, and hopefully both will be back as close to 100% as possible, which will help both run scoring and run prevention, since both are excellent all-around players.  Additionally, the Mets play most of their home games at Citi Field, and while we still don’t have enough evidence to say for certain, early returns are that Citi Field does play like a pitcher’s park, which will make the Mets’ runs scored ledger look worse and their runs allowed ledger look better than their true skill levels.

Still, it’s hard to argue that the Mets needed another good position player.  After Wright, Beltran, and Reyes, there is a steep drop in talent present in the lineup.  Assuming the Mets eventually sign Bengie Molina (an unfortuante inevitability), the rest of the Mets lineup will likely consist of Molina, Daniel Murphy, Luis Castillo, and Jeff Francoeur, and if the Mets hadn’t signed Bay, they likely would have started Angel Pagan in RF.  These are simply not players capable of playing competitive baseball.  Their deficencies range from an inability to get on base (Molina, Francoeur, Murphy), a lack of power (Castillo, Murphy, Pagan), and poor defensive skills (Castillo).  That is too many flaws surrounding the core.   I mean, Angel Pagan was clearly the best of these players in 2009, ironic considering he’s the player most likely to become a bench player in 2010, as the Mets set out to prove that Jeff Francoeur’s 956 plate appearances with the Braves from 2008 to 2009 was the sample size fluke, not his 308 Mets plate appearances.

While Bay brings his own defensive inabilities to the team, there’s no doubting the potent combination of power and on-base skills he immediately adds to the Mets lineup.  Considering that the Carlos Delgado of 2008 is gone, and likely never coming back, this team is going to need that sort of bat if they are to return to their 2008 levels of production, where they finished the year tied for eighth in baseball in runs scored.  He’s not the great all-around player that Beltran, Wright, and Reyes are, or even that Matt Holliday is, but it’s also likely that Bay becomes the best hitter on the team the second his contract is official.  Considering the Mets’ unfortunate history at the corner outfield spot dating back to late 90’s, he’s not a terrible player to acquire, especially since the Mets’ focus right now should be to win now, with Beltran’s contract set to expire soon and Wright and Reyes soon to become expensive.

The Mets focus shouldn’t be confined to simply focusing on hitting and pitching.  It should be on finding the most efficient way to outscore the competition.  Granted, signing Jason Bay doesn’t necessarily achieve that, but neither does simply signing John Lackey.  Pitching doesn’t win championships by itself, but putting together the best combination of hitting and pitching together does.  Look at the last three World Series champions.  The 2009 Yankees finished first in runs scored, 14th in runs allowed, and second in run differential.  The 2008 Phillies also weren’t a pure pitching team; they were 5th in runs allowed and tied for 8th with the Mets in runs scored, good for the third best run differential in the majors.  The 2007 Red Sox followed a similar path, ranking 4th in runs scored and first in runs allowed to put together the best run differential in baseball.  Run prevention is obviously important, but all of these teams could score some runs, too.  None finished lower than third in baseball in run differential, and that’s with the randomness of the baseball postseason working against them.

I’m not saying that the Mets don’t need a starting pitcher.  While I like Mike Pelfrey and Jon Niese more than most, the team obviously can’t go into 2010 and expect John Maine to be healthy enough to last an entire season when recent history shows that he probably can’t, and the team can’t rely on Oliver Perez to be good.  But there are still plenty of good starting pitchers available.  Ben Sheets is still on the market, as is Joel Piniero, Doug Davis, Jon Garland, and a bunch of other rotation filler guys.  Guys like Aaron Harang, Bronson Arroyo, and other starters making way too much money for their current teams are also available for a minimal prospect cost.  There are plenty of ways for the Mets to upgrade their pitching, to say nothing of improving their middle infield defense by dumping Castillo for Orlando Hudson or Adam Kennedy, who would make Pelfrey look a whole lot better than he was in 2009. 

The Mets can, and likely will, address their run prevention in the upcoming weeks.  It remains to be seen if their offense will score enough runs, as even with the addition of Bay, the Mets are likely to have three OBP ciphers at the low end of their lineup in Murphy, Francoeuer, and Molina, which will hurt their ability to score runs.  Still, having Bay can only help this team’s run scoring in 2010, and that is an area where the team was lacking in 2010.  Even if the team does eventually resign Carlos Delgado, they can’t expect the Delgado of 2008 to return, so adding another bat like Bay’s to the lineup will only benefit the team next year.  Adding Bay helps the Mets improve their ability to outscore the competition, at least in the short-term, and for that, the move was a decent one.