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Posts Tagged ‘Mets’

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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The Mets, Nats Pipeline keeps on growing

Posted by jmkraft on January 10, 2009

metsnats

Ken Davidoff is reporting that the Tim Redding deal is pretty much done, and that the former National will be making his way to Queens to compete with Jon Niese for the fifth rotation spot (assuming that we actually do sign Derek Lowe or Oliver Perez). More reaction here, here, here, and here. Reaction from the Nationals’ blogosphere here.

Most Mets fans probably have no idea who Tim Redding is, other than that guy who somehow won ten games for the Nationals last year. Having worked for the Nationals, I’ve seen Tim pitch a lot, and my impression of him is more favorable than not. He’s an innings eater who will always give his team a chance to win. In short, you know what you’re getting with him. And anecdotally, I’ll say this. The guy is serious about his game. I saw him in the clubhouse before a couple of his starts and no one goes near him. His expression is somewhere in between Mel Gibson in Braveheart and Russell Crowe in Gladiator. I think he’ll do well in New York, even if it’s only until Niese is ready to go. 

What’s amusing about this signing, should it go through, is that is represents yet another link between the Mets and Nationals organizations. Let’s take a look at the players who have worn both blue and orange and red and white in their careers.

1) Lastings Milledge. Probably the most obvious player to have played for both organizations, Milledge was a top Mets prospect for years before wearing out his welcome in New York. Touted as a five-tools player, Milledge showed flashes, but never matured (or was given a chance to mature), and it was pretty clear that he wouldn’t stick around for long. He was seen as immature by Mets fans and players, a young punk who high-fived fans after hitting an inconsequential home run and who released an infamous hip hop record (Bend Ya Knees by L’Millz–best lyric: “L. Millz, not George Bush, be the President). Traded for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider, Milledge’s arrival in Washington was celebrated as an integral move in the Nationals’ youth movement. But after a mediocre year in which he hit .268 with 14 HR and 61 RBIs, and proved unfit to play center field, the Nationals have soured on him, and rumor is that a) the Nationals are trying to trade him and b) that they will open the center field position up for competition between Milledge, should he stay, and Elijah Dukes. Clearly, the Mets knew what they were doing in getting rid of him.

  

 

 

 

 

2) Ryan Church. It’s hard to judge this one, because Church really hasn’t had a fair shot in either Washington or New York. In DC, Church was seen as unable to hit lefties, and he platooned in left for a long time. He even made a trip to the minors in 2006. I’ll admit that I was less than excited for Omar to annoint him the everyday right fielder last year. But Church proved that he could hit anyone, and he was unquestionably the Mets’ MVP before getting his brains knocked around last summer. We’ll see if he regains his pre-second concussion form this year. As a sidenote, Church also infamously asked the Nationals’ chaplain if Jews could go to heaven. A perfect fit in New York.

3) Brian Schneider. The other piece of the trade for Milledge, Schneider supposedly would be the defensive catcher who the Mets lacked. As it turns out, he’s pretty mediocre, although he is a very nice guy, one of the nicest in baseball according to some. He also wears a hockey mask behind the plate. He’s been the same kind of player in both Washington and New York, a good clubhouse guy who apparently calls a good game, but a guy who can’t hit for anything. 

4) Paul Lo Duca. The heart and soul of the 2006 Mets, Paulie broke our hearts when his name was announced on the Mitchell Report. Lo Duca was really the face of the Mets’ franchise, but it was clear by 2007 that he no longer had a place in the lineup as his skills began to diminish. He was also a pretty awful defensive catcher, and everyone stole on him. I mean I could probably steal on him. When the Nationals signed Lo Duca, there were plenty of questions about his steroid-using past, but a general optimism associated with his status as a clubhouse leader. And let me tell you, the Nationals need a clubhouse leader. I’ve met Paul, and he is that type of guy, a player who can motivate his teammates to win. But he couldn’t stay healthy on the Nationals, and was rendered useless once Jesus Flores (we’ll talk about him later) emerged. There was an attempt to transform Lo Duca into a utility player (he played first base and left field at various points in the season), but there was no room for four (yes, four) catchers on the Nationals’ roster, and he was released on August 1. 

5) Anderson Hernandez. This is a strange case. Hernandez was the Mets’ opening day second baseman in 2006, but although he was flashy in the field, he couldn’t hit, and he soon became mired in Triple-A. He had no real future with the Mets, and then, suddenly, was traded for Luis Ayala this past August. When Hernandez arrived in Washington, he started a new life, and became a prolific hitter, hitting .333 in 81 plate appearances. WTF?!? As of now, Hernandez is the second baseman in Washington, and while I thought the Nats would sign Orlando Hudson to take over that position, they now say that they may be done with free agency for this year, which, in Jim Bowden‘s language, means that they are.

6) Luis Ayala. So I’ll admit it, I rooted for the Nationals last summer. I was working for them, so I sort of had to. But it was nice to root for the little team to succeed, except when it was against the Mets, of course. So this is why, when the Mets’ announced that they acquired Luis Ayala, my friends and family were confused to why I rattled off strings of expletives while pounding my fist repeatedly. Ayala used to be a good pitcher. Then he broke down, and started to royally suck. I mean, the guy was like Aaron Heilman‘s less-talented brother. I’ll admit it though, he held it together with the Mets for a while, and I was about to eat crow. That’s until he gave up quite the untimely home run in the last game of 2008, the icing on the bullpen cake. He also made fun of me in Spanish when I was interviewing his best buddy Saul Rivera. I’m not a fan.

7) Jesus Flores. Omar fails to protect him in the Rule-V draft, and he goes on to be the catcher of the future for the Nationals. Nice.

8 ) Endy Chavez. We’ll remember him for The Catch. The Nationals remember him for 7 games.

9) Marlon Anderson. I like Marlon Anderson. He seems like a good guy. He had a great year with the Mets in 2007, and I thought Omar made a great choice adding him to the team mid-year. But he was dreadful this year, and was probably more hurt than we knew. Anderson also played for the Nats, in 2006, hitting a respectable .274. He was traded to the Dodgers after scoring the winning run of a dramatic extra-innings game. Nice.

10) Manny Acta. Ah, the one who got away. A player favorite as a coach in New York, Manny soon found himself in greener pastures a couple of hundred miles south. But he may be soon put out to pasture if his team doesn’t turn it around. This after he received Manager of the Year votes in 2007. Interesting. I’m a huge Manny Acta fan. First of all, he’s a no-BS kind of guy. He looks like the rest of us, speaks like the rest of us, and acts like the rest of us. I remember standing at the Milledge/Lo Duca press conference last year and Manny walked in looking like a 13-year old whose father just tied his tie for him, with a smile from ear to ear. But don’t let the apppearance fool you, Manny Acta is an innovator. He is well known to use Sabermetrics in his daily decision-making, and I have no doubt that he will be a general manager in the future. I’m a Jerry Manuel fan, but should Acta become available, the temptation to bring him back to New York will be great (and, if you believe the rumors in Washington, Manny already wants to come back). 

11) Omar Minaya. Technically, he was never employed by the Nationals, but Omar Minaya’s warmup gig came as General Manager for the Montreal Expos. But this counts, because several moves Omar made were pivotal in ruining the Nationals’ future. The most notable was a trade bringing Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew to Montreal in exchange for Lee Stevens, Brandon Phillips, Cliff Lee, and Grady Sizemore. Omar’s tenure in New York has been less disastrous, but still marred by several late-season collapses and a few head-scratching moves (ahem Luis Castillo ahem). But the fact is that the Mets are a stronger brand because of Omar Minaya, and more of the moves he makes than not turn out well (in particular, the Johan Santana deal was very well done on his part). 

So when Redding joins the Mets this spring, he’ll hardly be the first person to move from one franchise to the other. It’s a curious connection between these two teams that keeps getting more interesting.

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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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David Wright, no one else, to play in World Baseball Classic

Posted by jmkraft on December 23, 2008

According to the New York Post, among others, David Wright has agreed to play for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. Because Alex Rodriguez will play for the Dominican Republic, Wright will start, alongside Derek Jeter

I think it’s great that Wright is playing for his country, and I’m ashamed that, unfortunately, he will not be joined by the best players that we have to offer. A laundry list of stars, including Ryan Howard, Brad Lidge, Cole Hamels, Brandon Webb, CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, and Josh Beckett, have decided not to play in the biannual event, because they would rather hang out in Florida or Arizona, and not risk injuring themselves before the season begins.

The injury claim has some merit, but it harkens back to a similar type of excuse, which is the one that football players use to turn the Pro Bowl into a joke. There are many WBC detractors who say that the event is a farse, and has no legitimacy. But the question is, how does the World Baseball Classic gain legitimacy if some of the top players in the game stay away? 

As a fan of the game of soccer, I cannot even begin to imagine the reaction should David Beckham refuse to play for England, Cristiano Ronaldo not play for Portugal, or Ronaldinho say no to Brazil. Why, then, should it be acceptable for Sabathia, Beckett, or Howard to sit out for Team USA? There is a certain element of pride that comes with playing for one’s country, and it’s a shame that certain athletes can’t see that. Complain all you want about the timing, about how you’d rather prepare for the season, but trust me here, if Sandy Koufax, Jackie Robinson, or Babe Ruth were asked to play for Team USA, they would jump at the opportunity. 

Part of what makes the World Baseball Classic a great event is watching teams like Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Japan, or Venezuela play with the ferocity of national pride. It’s a shame that in a country that counts baseball as its National Pasttime, we can’t do the same.

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Same s#@t, different sport

Posted by jmkraft on December 22, 2008

It was nice for a while. After watching the Mets collapse, again, the Jets surprised us, and actually looked like the team they were supposed to be. They beat Tennessee, and if they could do that, they could go to the Super Bowl.

And then, the ghost of bullpens past arrived from Queens and cast its miserable spell on the team that used to share that cursed stadium. The Jets were suddenly a different team, a mediocre team, a choking team, and that miserable pit in my stomach that I got every time I watched Luis Ayala take the mound this September resurfaced, only now it came every time Brett Favre dropped back to pass. 

So now, with just one game to go in the season, it’s basically the same situation as it was for the Mets just a few months ago. Only this time, the Jets don’t control their own destiny, and need Buffalo, of all teams, to beat New England. Ha! Seriously, someone up above has a plan for Mets and Jets fans, and that plan involves decades of suffering. But not just simple suffering suffices, this plan involves actually harboring the belief that your team has a chance, only to see it all come crashing down.

Look, I was excited to see Brett Favre put on a Jets jersey for the first time. But I was also excited to see Billy Wagner show up at Shea before he started to blow saves like it was his job. And just like it’s time for Billy to go back to his llama farm, it’s time for Brett to go back to the bayou. 

So for all of us who are Mets and Jets fans, that miserable breed of self-loathing cynics, all we can do is sit back and watch a guy named Putz don the orange and blue, and wait until the Mets give us something to look forward to again. That is, until the next collapse.

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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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Could two closer situation get awkward?

Posted by jmkraft on December 12, 2008

closers2

First of all, let me clarify that I am very, very happy that the Mets have acquired the services of both Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz. Ecstatic is more like it, actually. But I couldn’t help but think, as the cynical Mets fan I am, that having two All Star closers in one bullpen could possibly lead to an awkward situation. Here is what Keith Law had to say about the acquisition of Putz:

If he’s fully healthy, he’s one of the most dominant late-game relievers around, with outstanding control and an out-pitch splitter. He’ll make more of a difference to the Mets’ bullpen than the other guy they acquired this week.

So the possibility of Putz out-pitching K-Rod seems a real possibility. Let’s compare their pitching lines from 2007, because Putz was injured for part of last season.

Putz: 68 G, 71.2 IP, 37 H, 11 ER, 6 HR, 13 BB, 82 SO, 6 W, 1 L, 40 SV, 2 BLSV, 1.38 ERA

Rodriguez: 64 G, 67.2 IP, 50 H, 21 ER, 3 HR, 34 BB, 90 SO, 5 W, 2 L, 40 SV, 6 BLSV, 2.81 ERA

Yep, Putz was better in 2007. Not that K-Rod was particularly bad, though. So the question is, should Putz prove to have a better start to the year than K-Rod, does he assume the closer role? Or does Jerry Manuel realize that K-Rod is the guy signed for three years while Putz is a free agent after the season in all likelihood, and keep the roles as they are now for the purposes of continuity? Note here that Jerry has said before that he likes to play the hot hand. But, then again, he seemed to lock Luis Ayala into the closer role very, very quickily as to better define roles in the bullpen last year. 

The Mets have had two closers before. In 1986, RHP Roger McDowell had 22 saves, while  LHP Jesse Orosco recorded 21. In 1999, LHP John Franco had 19 saves and RHP Armando Benitez had 22. So it’s been done before. But let’s be real here, the Mets have never had two pitchers like Putz and K-Rod in their bullpen at once. Not only that, both of these guys are established closers, two of the best in the game. So the possibility of a power struggle is real. 

I’m encouraged by the fact that, apparently, Putz’s agent told him that he’ll be a set-up man for a championship team for just one year and then he can cash in on the free agent market. And, apparently, that was enough for Putz to accept his new role. But I wouldn’t be totally surprised if this topic comes up again in the future.

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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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