Players Available

As spring training winds down, more and more players will become available. A few somewhat interesting players have already hit the waiver wire, and can be had for a song.

First, Javy Lopez has retired, rather than take a demotion to AAA. He looked OK, not great, when I saw him, and one must question whether his career highs were the benefit of “something extra”. It’s sort of too bad he’s retired, as the Mets *might* have considered him as a backup catcher, first baseman, and RH hitter off the bench — particularly with the hamstring problems hampering Brian Schneider and Ramon Castro. It’s probably just as well, as Lopez wouldn’t be any better than, say, Mike Piazza, and I think we’d all rather see Piazza return for a swan song at Shea than Lopez.

Here at MetsToday we briefly considered Morgan Ensberg; however he has just been added to the Yankees’ 40-man roster so we’ll presume he’ll either break camp with the Bombers or accept a minor league assignment. That could mean OF-1B Jason Lane will soon be available — not a terrible option.

The Padres have released OF Jeff DaVanon and C / 1B / OF Robert Fick. DaVanon was a borderline slugger before PED testing began. Fick would be an absolutely PERFECT fit for the Mets if he batted righthanded instead of left. I doubt either player are of interest at this point.

The Cubs sent LHP Neal Cotts to the minors. Cotts had a marvelous 2005 (1.94 ERA in 70 games) but has been awful ever since. He’s only 28 and could still bounce back … but it likely makes more sense for the Cubbies to keep him stashed in AAA than trade him away.

The Astros reassigned both Victor Diaz and J.R. House, and neither fit into Houston’s plans. My guess is the Mets have no interest in bringing back Diaz, though I always liked his bat. House is a RH-hitting catcher / first baseman who has hit well at every level but the bigs — he hit .298 last season in AAA and .345 in 2006. The Astros do not have a lefthander in their bullpen, so could use a guy like, say, Scott Schoeneweis. How about The Show for Diaz and House?

BTW, the Toronto Blue Jays have NOT placed OF Reed Johnson on waivers (yet), according to the Globe and Mail. I’m still trying to figure out the fascination with this guy, who is a slightly younger version of Brady Clark — except that he gets injured and strikes out a lot more often. The Jays likely will cut either Johnson or Shannon Stewart, and everyone is still wondering why Stewart was signed in the first place. While I don’t condone the addition of Stewart, I have this funny feeling that the Mets will jump on him if he’s available, for no other reason than he is a “name” veteran. Time will tell.

Interestingly, the Dodgers are “scrambling for infield help“, with the injuries to Jeff Kent and Nomar Garciaparra. The Mets may not have a spot for Ruben Gotay — sadly — so he could be a good fit for LA. Some readers here have mentioned Jason Repko as someone who might help the Mets, but he missed all of 2007 with a torn hamstring and is playing through a quad injury this spring. He’s only 27 and is a decent hitter, but like the aforementioned Reed Johnson, Repko’s skillset and value doesn’t project to be any better than Brady Clark’s. Repko still has options, which is an attractive trait — though teammate Delwyn Young does not. Young looks like he could be a fine hitter but again, is he an upgrade over Clark? IMHO, Young has more pop than Repko so he projects to be more valuable — but the fact he can’t be optioned down is a negative. Still, I could easily see a Gotay-Young deal go down (much as I’d prefer to see Ruben stay with the Mets).

Happy Easter !

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. isuzudude March 23, 2008 at 5:37 pm
    Joe – since the composition of this article, Reed Johnson has become a free agent:
    With this knowledge in hand, I think it should definitely be on Omar’s to-do list to snatch up this guy. Having read your post, I know you’re not too keen on Johnson, so allow me to try and sell you on him now.
    First and foremost, it would take nothing to bring Johnson to the Mets. Whereas a Marcus Thames, Delwyn Young, Victor Diaz, Juan Rivera, et. al. would cost a package of prospects or relievers, Johnson would come without having to give up any other player. To me, that alone makes him very attractive. I know we’re all hot on trying to dump Schoeneweis or Sosa, but who knows if there are even any takers for a couple of mediocre, over-priced middle relievers, let alone for something of any value. Add to the equation that the #5 spot in the rotation is in shambles, and suddenly Sosa and Show become all the more valuable for our own team. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I’ll hate it if we trade them now for a temporary LF fill-in, only to find out in June that we desperately need them back because of injuries to our other pitchers.
    On to Johnson as a player. The notion that he gets injured often is untrue. His only major injury since beng called up in 2003 was a herniated disk in his back last year which he needed surgery for. He missed almost 3 months recovering, but made it back by early July and didn’t miss any further playing time. As a strike against him, he only hit .235 over the season’s second half with just 1 HR, a sign perhaps that he wasn’t fully recovered from the injury. However, this Spring he was hitting .289 in 38 ABs before getting cut. Still no home runs – but it’s not as if Clark or Pagan have been losing balls over the fences this Spring with any regularity either.
    What I think we really need to focus on with Johnson, though, is the role he would play on the Mets. And the way I envision it, in Alou’s absence he’d platoon in LF with either Endy or Marlon, getting starts when the Mets faced a LHSP, and then perhaps platooning with Church in RF after Alou came back if Church proved he’s not able to handle lefties in Alou’s absence. This is what the Mets would be injecting into their lineup with Johnson vs. LHP: a career .308 hitter (including .325 last year) with a .462 slug%, .371 OBP, with a 46/103 BB-to-K ratio. In contrast, Brady Clark vs LHP is a career .273 hitter with a .401 slug%, .361 OBP, and a 70/53 BB-to-K ratio. Those numbers don’t lie. Considering the temporary LF will be hitting somewhere around 7th in the lineup, I’d rather have a power-theat presence like Johnson than a singles-hitting Clark.
    Johnson is also a tremendous fielder. Just 10 errors in over 4400 big-league innings with 35 OF assists. Clark has 18 errors in under 4400 innings with just 17 assists. There’s another edge for Johnson.
    Alot of conversation on this blog has also focused around finding a ‘gamer’. Someone who is scrappy, who does the little things, who takes pride in improving, who shows up to the ballpark everyday expecting to win. Well, reading Johnson’s profile on wikipedia, here’s what I found…

    “Johnson’s assets to the Blue Jays include his hard work ethic. He is known to hustle on every play. Reed also has a great defensive arm which is well scouted around the league. Many scouts have observed that he has great bunting ability, in particular his talent in bunting for base hits.”

    Does this not reflect the type of character and demeanor we’re looking for? Not only would it seem like he’d embrace a chance to play any type of role for a World Series contending team, but also bust his butt whenever given an oppurtunity to contribute, no matter how far between those opportunities might be.
    Don’t get me wrong here. I don’t think Clark is a bum by any stretch. I’ve admired his play this Spring and was happy the Mets decided to give him a look. I also am very impressed by Pagan’s play, but he has minor league options left and no one seems too confident he can continue his Spring swoon once the regular season opens. I think, for the role we’re looking for, Reed Johnson beats Clark and the rest of the competition in pretty much every category. Is Johnson necesarily a better overall player than Clark? Maybe, maybe not. But we’re not asking Johnson to steal 20 bases, or get 300 ABs vs. RHP. Johnson would simply get most of the LF ABs in Alou’s absence vs. LHP, platooning with Chavez/Anderson, and then switch to our #1 right-handed OF bench option, with Easley focusing more on backing up Delgado. To me, it seems like a no-brainer.

  2. joe March 23, 2008 at 9:26 pm
    Nice argument. I’m still not convinced he’s THAT MUCH better than Clark. He’ll likely have a bit more pop, but may strike out more often … 12 of this for a dozen of that. He’ll come for nothing, which is nice.

    BTW I have not advocated trading for Juan Rivera nor Marcus Thames. The Mets will never bring back Diaz so he’s not an option either. Delwyn Young is slightly interesting, but again, is he or Johnson any better — really — than Angel Pagan and/or Brady Clark? I suppose the one thing against Pagan is that in his career he’s like Ruben Gotay — not much of a RH hitter.

    Your argument is sound … but I see Johnson as the same player as Clark, in so many ways (skills, attitude, etc.).