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Thoughts on Lowe-balling Derek

Posted by jmkraft on January 14, 2009

Well, it appears that the Mets will not acquire the services of Derek Lowe after all. We learned yesterday that he will be heading to Atlanta instead for a four-year, $60 million deal.

With few other good pitchers on the market, it was clear that Lowe would be getting a pretty good deal somewhere. But the Mets obviously considered the 35-year old overpriced, and he probably was. Four years for someone in the later stage of their career is a lot, and on one hand, I’m happy that the Mets were conservative on their offer instead of making a Castillo-esque mistake. 

But on the other hand, Lowe is a low-risk (how many times can I use this pun in this post?) player who will probably mature well. Lowe has no injury history, and sinkerball pitchers seem to mature better than fireballers (like Pedro Martinez, for instance). 

I really think the Mets were convinced that their low-ball offer would hold up until the Braves became involved. Once that happened, it was pretty clear that they had a dilemma on their hands. But with Omar preferring Oliver Perez to Lowe anyway, the last thing the Wilpons probably wanted  was to get into a bidding war with a team desperate for a front-end starter.

Now we have to assume that the Mets will get more aggressive about Perez. It’s far from a foregone conclusion that Perez returns, but I can’t see a scenario in which the Mets don’t sign him. The Mets are going to have to accept the fact that Perez will make more money than they want to pay him, because Scott Boras, Perez’s agent, knows that the team is backed into a corner now. Sure, Omar can go out and sign Randy Wolf, Jon Garland, or Pedro Martinez, but those are three much less desirable options. 

In Perez (assuming the signing actually does happen), the Mets move forward with a pitching enigma. Perez can be really, really good or really, really bad. All of the talk about his maturity improving because he got married is ridiculous, and I don’t really see how that’s going to affect him on the mound. There’s tremendous upside with Ollie, but how much longer can we talk about upside with a 27-year old pitcher? But the fact is that a four year deal for a pitcher of his stature, at his age, is not a bad deal. Physically, he is entering his prime. Mentally, well, who knows?

I’m not happy about missing out on Lowe, but Perez is really not a bad section option. Let’s just hope that the Mets don’t drop the ball on him too.

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It’s time to stop whining about Luis Castillo

Posted by jmkraft on January 12, 2009

Here’s what I don’t understand about the Luis Castillo situation. Everyone is complaining that the Mets can’t sign a better second baseman like Orlando Hudson or trade for Michael Young because Castillo’s egregious contract extension is blocking the way. It would be impossible, they say, to pay two second basemen at once.

My answer: Give me a break.

We’re not talking about the Tampa Bay Rays here. The Mets are one of MLB’s most successful franchises, and the team’s payroll reflects that. Sure, Fred Wilpon has taken a few hits this offseason, but that hasn’t prevented the Mets from paying two managers or two closers at once. Is it fiscally responsible to sign Hudson or trade for Young while still paying Castillo? Absolutely not. But who cares? The Mets are going to sign either Derek Lowe or Oliver Perez for big money. Great. But it can’t stop there. Castillo is a major liability in the starting lineup, but would be a perfectly fine utility player on the bench. 

Look at the Red Sox. They made a similar mistake in Julio Lugo. Rather than complain how they can’t play anyone else at shortstop because of Lugo’s contract, they benched him and called up Jed Lowrie. It may have not been signing an expensive free agent like Hudson, but it was doing what needed to be done to field a competitive lineup. 

That’s what the Mets and Mets fans need to understand. This team needs to be competitive this year. After the past three seasons, the Mets need to make a run in the postseason. So you don’t want to sacrifice the future by trading for Young? Fine, go out and sign Hudson. If you don’t the Nationals will, and you’ll come to regret not pulling the trigger. 

Some will argue that we’re not the Yankees, and don’t need to sign every big name to try and make a run. I hate the Yankees as much as every Mets fan, but one thing is true, and that is that the Yankees field a competitive team more years than not. Their model works. So stop whining about Castillo’s contract and go make a deal.

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Pedro may be a goner

Posted by jmkraft on January 9, 2009

Looks like the Mets are getting closer to signing Tim Redding to a one-year deal which means that, in all likelihood, Pedro Martinez will not return to the Mets next year. I feel very conflicted about this. On one hand, Pedro looked awful last year, and should not have even been pitching at certain points. But while Redding might be a more reliable choice, there has to be something left in Pedro’s tank. Last year was a disaster for him, both personally and professionally. So part of me really wants to see if he can bounce back this year. 

Pedro really represents the spirit of the “new” Mets, the “Los Mets” team. His signing opened the door to Carlos Beltran and others, and while he may not have achieved his goal of winning a World Series with the Mets, he helped anchor one of baseball’s most competative franchises. Is it time to move on? Probably. But even though Pedro will enter the Hall of Fame in a Red Sox cap, Mets fans will always have a special place in their collective heart for him.

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Yanks want to trade Nady, let’s make a deal

Posted by jmkraft on January 8, 2009

Just heard from MLB Trade Rumors that the Yankees might be looking to deal OF/1B Xavier Nady. I know it’s one of the more common refrains heard from Mets fans, but I would like to bring Nady back to Queens. 

In his time with the Mets in 2006, Nady fit in nicely to the Mets’ lineup. He’s not a star, but he’s a nice complementary player, and fits on this team for several reasons:

1) We need another outfielder. The chance of both Fernando Tatis and Daniel Murphy coming back strong is small, and it’s likely that one or both will not repeat their unlikely success of 2008. Even if they do, there are always lingering questions with Ryan Church, and Nady could platoon with him. 

2) What if Carlos Delgado slumps again? What if his resurgence from last year turns out to be a fluke, and Delgado can’t hit again? Nady provides insurance at first, and can also spell Delgado once in a while, which isn’t something that should be overlooked given Delgado’s age. 

3) Nady’s value is lower now than it was at last year’s trade deadline when many called for the Mets to trade for him. He hit .268 with the Yankees in the second half, compared to .330 with the Pirates, and the Yankees need to move either him or Nick Swisher. I’m not saying that he would be a steal, but if Omar wants to bring him back, the time is now. 

I’m still in favor of signing a big bat for the outfield, whether that be Manny Ramirez, Bobby Abreu, or Adam Dunn, but if the Mets have no intention of spending big after signing two starters and K-Rod, trading for Nady would be a good solution.

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10 free agents who should be on the Mets’ radar

Posted by jmkraft on January 7, 2009

With the signings of Pat Burrell and Milton Bradley by the Rays and Cubs respectively, experts are predicting that the floodgates will now open, and teams will actually start to sign players, as opposed to sitting on rumors, which is what they’ve pretty much done for the past few months. 

Before I list the ten players who I think the Mets should consider, here’s something worth considering for Omar & Co. The Mets are one of baseball’s richest franchises, and, being in that enviable position in this year’s harsh economic climate, should really cash in this year. With all due respect for baseball’s “suffering” owners, this is the time that the Mets should act like the Yankees and sign the best talent that they can. Economics dictates to buy low, and that is precisely what the Mets have already done in the case of K-Rod, and what they should be doing from here on out. 

Anyway, here goes:

1) Manny Ramirez. I put Manny first on the list because it’s impossible to stretch how impactful he can be on a team. We all saw what happened when Manny joined the Dodgers last summer, and we all know that he’s a surefire Hall of Famer. But he’s also Manny, the circus freak. Unleashing him in New York could be a huge mistake. But he’s Manny Ramirez. The guy makes a team (some might say he breaks it). Seriously try and make the argument that a platoon of Dan Murphy and Fernando Tatis is an improvement over Manny. Even defensively, try and tell me that two converted infielders can cover left field better than Manny, no matter how dicey his defense may be. I understand why the Wilpons are nervous about dealing with such a high risk personality, but if your ultimate goal is to win baseball games, there is no reason why Manny Ramirez, whose price will ultimately prove too high for almost everyone, should not be a New York Met. If the Wilpons want to contend in the NL East, then they should tell Omar not to sign Manny. If they want to win a World Series this year, they must sign him.

2) Derek Lowe. It’s all but clear that the Mets will sign either Lowe or Oliver Perez. The question is, who is the better choice. Lowe represents the dependable veteran. He won’t blow anyone away, but you know what you’re getting. 

3) Oliver Perez. With Perez, unlike Lowe, there is electric potential. When Perez is on, he is a shutdown southpaw who blows batters away. But when he is off, he can’t make it past the fourth inning. There is no question that Perez needs to get his walks down, something that has always been the case with him. But he can flat out dominate when he brings his “A” game. Plus, he is a whole lot younger than Lowe, which should mean something in a long-term deal for a pitcher. 

4) Orlando Hudson. If hell freezes over and Luis Castillo is somehow unloaded from second base, I would love to make a play for Hudson. He’d be a terrific fit in the number two slot for the Mets; he’s fast, he hits for average, and he has some power. Plus, Hudson is an excellent defender, which is always an improvement over Argenis Reyes. Hudson is well known as a clubhouse leader, something the Mets have been lacking for some time now.

5) Bobby Abreu. Why does everyone love to hate on Bobby Abreu? I’ve never met a Phillies fan who actually liked him. That should be the first reason why the Mets sign him. But seriously, Abreu is a really good player. All he did last year was hit .296 with 20 HR, 100 RBIs, and 22 SB. No big deal. Here’s what Jerry Crasnick has to say about him:

  • This year Abreu joined Barry Bonds and Rickey Henderson as the only players to amass 200 homers and 300 stolen bases while maintaining a .400 on-base percentage.
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  • Abreu is one of five players with 100 RBIs and 100 runs scored in each of the past two seasons. The others: Chase Utley, Adrian Gonzalez, David Wright and Alex Rodriguez.
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  • His run of six straight 100-RBI seasons is third-longest among active players behind Rodriguez and Pujols.
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  • In 2008, Abreu amassed 35 or more doubles for the 10th straight year, tying the record held by Colorado’s Todd Helton. Hall of Famer Tris Speaker is next on the list with nine straight 35-double seasons, and he did his best work during the Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge administrations.
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  • Abreu has the longest-running streak of 20-steal seasons in the game, with 10. Jimmy Rollins, Ichiro Suzuki and Juan Pierre are next in line with eight.
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  • Abreu is currently working on a streak of 11 straight seasons with 150 or more games played. The only big leaguers with longer streaks are Willie Mays, Billy Williams, Pete Rose and Cal Ripken Jr.

6) Alex Cora. First of all, he gives the Mets an improvement over Damian Easley because he’s actually been to the playoffs. Cora has starting experience, so he could certainly give David Wright or Jose Reyes a day off once in a while, which might pay dividends come September. He’d be a nice addition to the bench.

7) Tim Redding. The big news on Redding this morning is that the Mets have reportedly made an offer to the journeyman. Redding is not spectacular by any means. He did win ten games for the Nationals last year, which says something, but he was also dreadful in the second half of the season, which was probably to be expected after Jim Bowden failed to sell high on him, instead non-tendering him this fall. The reason for signing Redding has more to do with Jon Niese than with Redding himself. The biggest mistake the Mets could make this offseason is in failing to sign a fifth starter to compete with Niese for the fifth spot in Spring Training. Without opening that spot up to competition, the Mets are making a huge gamble that Niese is Major League-ready, which probably is not the case. Behind Niese, there is little pitching depth in the farm system, meaning that the Mets would have to turn to an AAAA type pitcher to take the mound every fifth day. While there have been some nice surprises here and there like Brandon Knight and Brian Stokes, I’d feel much more comfortable with a more established starter holding down the spot until Niese is ready, or another pitching prospect emerges, which is also entirely possible.

8 ) Randy Wolf. He’d be the backup plan to Redding.

9) Chad Cordero. If the season started today, the Mets would have a pretty solid bullpen. Led by Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz, the pen is also anchored by Sean Green and Pedro Feliciano, who will finally be used in his correct role as LOOGY. But why stop there? The most significant problem in the bullpen last year was the lack of depth. Should one or more of the aforementioned pitchers hit the DL, I would hate to count on Bobby Parnell or Eddie Kunz in a big-time situation. Cordero is a former lights-out closer coming off of a bad injury, so who knows how he’ll rebound. But the potential should be enough to convince Omar Minaya, his former GM in Montreal, to sign him. Should Cordero return to form, imagine a 7-8-9 combination of Cordero, Putz, and K-Rod. Holy @*#$!

10) Adam Dunn. Ahh, the other guy everyone loves to hate. But seriously, someone tell me how a guy who hit 40 HR with 100 RBI last season, who also posted an OBP of .386, is still on the market. “Yeah, but he strikes out too much,” everyone loves to whine. The truth is that Dunn is one of the most misunderstood players in baseball. Putting a player like Dunn in the middle of the Mets’ lineup automatically ensures that David Wright, Carlos Beltran, and Carlos Delgado see better pitches. Sure, his defense is sub par. But as with Manny or Abreu, tell me how that would be a downgrade from the Murphy/Tatis platoon.

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Why is everyone trying to sign Tim Redding?

Posted by jmkraft on December 21, 2008

When the Washington Nationals non-tendered Tim Redding last week, it seemed that no one would really care. The only team linked to Redding, in fact, was the Colorado Rockies, who were about to acquire him for Willy Taveras before that deal fell apart the week before. But since then, Redding has become one of the most talked about free agent pitchers on the market, reportedly targeted by up to nine teams, including the Mets.

This interest is puzzling at best, and goes to show how trendy certain free agents can become. Redding is not a bad pitcher, but he’s not a good one, either. He’s a serviceable, affordable fifth starter, and, at best, he’ll give his team a chance to win every fifth day. And that is exactly why he is attracting so much interest on the market.

In today’s climate of inflated prices for starting pitchers (see: Silva, Carlos), pitchers like Redding become more desirable because of their price. For a team like the Mets, who are waiting for Jon Niese to develop, a pitcher like Redding would provide a good stopgap until Niese is ready. Of course, the danger is that Niese will not be ready this year, and that the Mets will have to go through the season with Redding in the rotation. 

Of course, Redding would not be the only starting pitcher signed by the Mets this offseason. The Mets will almost certainly sign a more established starter, whether that turns out to be Oliver Perez or Derek Lowe. In a rotation of Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, Perez or Lowe, and John Maine, Redding would fit in nicely as the fifth starter. But before jumping on the journeyman, the Mets must ask themselves, is Redding the best man for the job?

Let’s compare Redding with two other pitchers who have been discussed for the fifth spot, Jason Marquis (who would have to be acquired via trade), and free-agent Freddy Garcia. Here are the 2008 pitching lines for Redding and Marquis, and the 2006 line for Garcia, who was injured in 2007 and most of 2008:

Redding: 33 GS, 1 CG, 0 SHO, 182.0 IP, 195 H, 100 ER, 27 HR, 65 BB, 120 SO, 10 W, 11 L, 95.1 P/GS, 1.43 WHIP, .275 BAA, 4.95 ERA

Marquis: 28 GS, 0 CG, 0 SHO, 167.0 IP, 172 H, 84 ER, 15 HR, 70 BB, 91 SO, 11 W, 9 L, 94.2 P/GS, 1.45 WHIP, .267 BAA, 4.53 ERA

Garcia: 33 GS, 1 CG, 0 SHO, 216.1 IP, 228 H, 109 ER, 32 HR, 48 BB, 135 SO, 17 W, 9 L, 100.5 P/GS, 1.28 WHIP, .267 BAA, 4.54 ERA

One thing is clear upon comparing these lines; these three pitchers are very similar on paper. So the question is, if these are the three candidates for the fifth spot (plus Niese), which would be the most desirable? Marquis is a New York native (and, as Mets fans know too well, he can hit), but the Mets would have to surrender a prospect or two in return. Garcia is the most dominant of the three, but he is unreliable and an injury risk. Redding is cheap, used to pitching in the NL East, and acceptably mediocre. Of course, the last time he pitched for a New York team, he surrendered six earned runs in one inning pitched, so who knows how he would respond to the big stage. But Redding seems to be the prototypical fifth starter, and that is why I believe Omar Minaya will ultimately sign him.

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Yankees sign A.J. Burnett

Posted by jmkraft on December 12, 2008

MLB Trade Rumors is reporting through Jerry Crasnick that the Yanks have inked Burnett to five years and $82.5 million. It was that fifth year that Burnett was requesting, and my guess is that the Braves, who were the other bidder, wouldn’t give him more than four. 

I hate the Yankees for being able to do this, but I’m happy that Atlanta lost out. Now for the Braves, the question is who they’ll be able to sign. Will they resign John Smoltz? Will they bid for Derek Lowe? Or will the Atlanta rotation continue to be mediocre? My money is on the third choice, at least for now.

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Phillies sign Raul Ibañez, Mets don’t really care

Posted by jmkraft on December 12, 2008

Sure, the Mets had been linked to Raul Ibañez for some time, and sure, it would have been an nice story for the native New Yorker to come home and open up Citi Field in left field. 

But while the Mets are hardly starved for cash, Ibañez would have been an expensive solution to a problem that can be solved very easily. In fact, it might not even be a problem at all. While many are wary of leaving left field to a combination of Fernando Tatis/Daniel Murphy/Nick Evans, keep in mind that the Mets were getting excellent production out of this position last year.

Even if Omar Minaya desires an upgrade at the position, there are plenty of other more than adequate outfielders on the free agent market. I’m a big fan of signing Juan Rivera, who could be this year’s best free agent bargain. Rivera has been hidden on the Angels bench for much of the past few seasons, and he provides the right-handed power that the Mets have been looking for. In 2006, with the Angels, he hit .310 with 23 HR and 85 RBIs in 124 games. 

Then, there is Ibañez’s fielding. I didn’t realize what a bad fielder he really is, but Matthew Artus of Always Amazin’ does a great job of summing it up:

Yes, Ibanez can hit. He put up a .293/.358/.479 in 2008 with 23 HRs and a BB/K ratio of 0.58 in 707 PAs. And both Bill James (.278/.343/.448 with 22 HRs and a 0.57 BB/K ratio) and Marcel (.277/.342/.461 with 21 HRs and a 0.51 BB/K ratio in 617 PAs) project numbers in that neighborhood for Ibanez’s 2009 season. So he’s consistent. Then why not sign him? 

Because he’s dead weight in left field. That’s a big statement, considering most teams hide their worst defender in left field as its the least busy position on the field. But Ibanez is at the bottom.

Of players with over 500 PAs this season, Ibanez put up a -17.1, ranking last among left fielders in average BIS and STATS rating (as provided by Justin’s Stats). For perspective, Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun led left fielders with 500 ABs, posting a 9.1 rating while Fernando Tatis (-3.1 in 306 PAs) and Daniel Murphy (-1.3 in 151 PAs) kept their defense in more respectable areas than Ibanez.

So the only reason to be upset about the Phillies signing Ibañez is the fact that he’s on the Phillies, which means that he will take Pat Burrell‘s place as Met Killer.

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Heyman: Mets, Cubs talking Marquis trade

Posted by jmkraft on December 11, 2008

Per Sports Illustrated‘s Jon Heyman:

The Mets and Cubs are discussing a trade that would send Jason Marquis home to New York.Marquis, a Staten Island native, would fill a need in the Mets’ rotation at a reasonable cost. The Cubs are offering to pay some of Marquis’ $9.5-million 2009 salary to defray the cost. The Mets could also consider sending reliever Scott Schoeneweis to the Cubs to further offset Marquis’ salary.

Not a total surprise here, as Marquis fits the bill for the fifth starter the Mets have been looking for. At the very least, acquiring Marquis would have two nice side effects. One would be to put some pressure on Jon Niese, who otherwise would come into Spring Training annointed as the fifth starter, which has trouble written all over it. The second is to get rid of Scott Schoeneweiss, who is probably unfairly maligned by Mets fans because he has been grossly misused in his tenure with the team. But with two lefty-specialists on the roster, the bullpen is unfairly constrained, and it’s time to get rid of one of them. 

Here are Marquis’ stats from last season:

29 G (28 GS), 0 CG, 0 SHO, 167.0 IP, 172 H, 87 R (84 ER), 15 HR, 70 BB, 91 SO, 11 W, 9 L, 94.6 P/GS, 1.45 WHIP, .267 BAA, 4.53 ERA

Those stats are almost identical to his career averages, so we know what we would get. I don’t like his WHIP or K/BB, but he’s a serviceable fifth starter who gives his team a chance to win every fifth day (gotta love those baseball cliches).

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