Alou Out – Now What?

So the news before the All-Star Break was that Moises Alou was finished for the year, having torn his hamstring in a rehab game the night before.

There had been suggestions that Alou did not need to rush back, that the Mets would be fine with Alou returning some time after the All-Star break, but apparently Alou was allowed to begin his comeback prematurely. There goes $7.5M, down the drain!

Alou appeared in a total of 15 games … a few short of the 90 or 100 many of us had hoped for. Hmm … that comes to half a million dollars per game. Nice job, Moises — that’s a better rate than Alex Rodriguez!

Enough of the jokes. Personally, I’m crushed about this news. Yes, I know it was silly to believe Moises could have given the Mets anything this year, but when the guy is on the field, he’s one of the five or six players in MLB I absolutely love to watch. The way he carries himself, plays the game all-out, with outstanding instincts and intelligence, plus his innate ability to drive in runs, makes him a pleasure to watch. I suppose all those verbs should have been presented in the past tense.

Anyway, now what will the Mets do without him? Until now, Omar Minaya had been under the assumption that the parade of leftfielders were stopgaps, keeping the position warm until Moises healed (we knew better). Now, there is no question — the Mets need a strong-hitting outfielder. The issue is exacerbated by the questionable condition of Ryan Church. The Mets’ 2008 offense — and their ultimate success — was planned around the idea that Alou would play 100-120 games (however irresponsible that was, it WAS the plan). Alou’s absence was somewhat alleviated by Church’s rise to stardom. But now, without either hitter, the Mets need to find someone.

Yes, the Mets have been winning without Alou AND Church lately. That doesn’t mean they can keep it going over the long haul. I would really like to believe that Fernando Tatis is having a renaissance season — much like Jose Valentin’s 2006, as one MetsToday reader recently suggested — but the Mets can’t count on him staying this hot. Even if they could, that only accounts for one corner outfield spot — one that would be handled by a very shaky and inexperienced defender.

Let’s take a look at the Mets options for left and right fields, both in-house and outside the organization.

A combination of Fernando Tatis, Marlon Anderson, Endy Chavez, and Nick Evans / Chris Aguila

The righthanded hitters — Tatis and Evans — both started shagging fly balls a few months ago, so the outfield defense will take a hit when the opposing team puts a lefty on the mound. Anderson might be worse defender than both of them, and is still slumping as he struggles to stay near the Mendoza Line. Chavez brings a great glove to the table and has been a hot hitter of late — however, he also tends to be a streaky hitter, and is bound to hit a cold streak with regular duty. The jury is still out on Aguila. It’s not an impossibility to believe this ramshackle group can somehow pull off near-average production compared to other NL corner outfielders, though my guess is the power numbers will be lower than the mean for both positions. Still, the Mets could get by IF Brian Schneider hits better than expected, Damion Easley remains hot, and Carlos Delgado continues on the road back to respectability. However, those are all big ifs.

Trot Nixon

The forgotten Nixon is waiting around on the DL, and could be activated as early as Sunday. He could find time in the above menagerie while the Mets wait for Church to return, though eventually the team would have to decide between him and Marlon Anderson. Trot will never hit for the power he did a few years ago, but is still a solid defender and a good on-base guy who plays inspirational, all-out ball. If he gets another shot on the 25-man roster, he’ll have to hit to stick. Who knows, maybe he can.

Fernando Martinez

Omar Minaya did not hesitate to promote Carlos Gomez last season, despite his rawness. Gomez was clearly overmatched at the plate, but held his own in the field, made the most of his best weapon (speed), and provided a jolt of energy and spunk to an otherwise languishing lineup. Can F-Mart be a similar inspiration? Somehow I doubt it. Where Gomez already had at least three of the five MLB-ready tools (arm, fielding, and speed), Martinez doesn’t have any. One day, F-Mart will be a power hitter in the mold of Juan Gonzalez (we’re told). Otherwise, his fielding and arm are projected to be average, his running speed average to above-average, and his ability to hit for average will be, well, average. His most impactful tool will be his power, and unfortunately it hasn’t yet arrived (yes, he can hit balls out in BP, but he has only 4 HRs in 221 ABs — a rate similar to that of Luis Castillo). He’s probably running faster now than he ever will, but he’s no speed demon — it’s not like he can make up for his inability to make contact by dragging bunts, as Gomez did last year. At age 19, he’s an exciting bundle of talent, but nowhere near ready to contribute in the bigs yet. All that said, he’ll probably be promoted — but don’t rush to get him onto your fantasy team.

Dan Murphy

The 23-year-old third baseman for the B-Mets skipped all the way from 14 at-bats at short-season NY-Penn League in 2007 to AA this year and hasn’t missed a beat. He’s batting .311 with a .854 OPS though 75 games. However, his 17 errors at the hot corner and the presence of David Wright suggest he’ll need to move to another spot on the field before he moves up to the bigs (for the Mets, at least). How about moving him now and seeing what happens? I wouldn’t be surprised if B-Mets manager Mako Oliveras started inserting “LF” next to his name in the lineup. He’s a longshot, at best.

Valentino Pascucci

Some fans (including yours truly) were clamoring for Pascucci while he was in the midst of a torrid hot streak earlier this year. Since then, he has cooled considerably and scouts report he is a major liability in the field. If he’s not blasting homeruns, he’s not much help; his window of hotness may have passed.

John Rodriguez

A homecoming for the New York-born Rodriguez would make for a nice story. Unfortunately, I don’t know that he’d be much help. He’s essentially Endy Chavez, minus the speed. Good fielder, high average hitter off the bench, but no power, strikes out too often for a singles hitter, and only an average runner.

Nelson Cruz

MetsBlog reported that many teams around MLB were “interested” in Cruz, who is tearing up the PCL with a .343 average and 26 homers and 89 RBI in only 289 at-bats (take that, Josh Hamilton!). Anyone whose been reading MetsToday knows I’ve been screaming for this guy since January (and reiterated several times in March) — but hey, what do I know? Cruz can hit for power and play the field capably; his one issue is swinging and missing. But heck, that was Jack Cust’s problem, too, but he still did OK. If the Mets can pry him away for a few non-prospects, it’s worth the gamble.

Richie Sexson

Don’t laugh! Sexson came up as an outfielder / first baseman before settling in the infield. While true his Major League experience in the outfield is only 109 games, that’s still about 90 more than Tatis. And now that he’s been released by the Mariners, he can be obtained for nothing. Why not roll the dice? No risk, all reward. Besides, the Mets haven’t had a slugging, whiffing, sourpuss like this since Dave Kingman. It might be nice to have an ornery malcontent hanging around the clubhouse — the two Carloses would suddenly look like media mavens.

Billy Hall

Hall became a part-time player in May, and has been none too happy about it. He strikes out a ton, and can’t hit righties, but he’s still better than most of the Mets’ in-house options. He’d come much more cheaply than, say, Xavier Nady, and he could be emotionally inspired to prove the Brewers wrong. As an added bonus, he can also play 3B, SS, and 2B. If the cost is not too high, he’d be worth acquiring. Considering he’s already requested a trade, and he’s owed over $15M through 2010, he could be obtained for less than his true value.

Jason Bay, Xavier Nady, Matt Holliday, Adam Dunn

Not happening. If any of these players come the Mets’ way, please shoot me, because it means they sent away the last dregs of an already compromised farm system.

Ken Griffey

Could the Mets steal him for a few mid-level prospects? Probably not. The only decent chips they have are the aforementioned Murphy, Evans, Mike Carp, and Jon Niese. The Reds might be interested in Niese, but likely none of the others. I wouldn’t send away any man on the current 25-man roster for Junior (i.e., Aaron Heilman) — we need every one of them.

Frank Catalanotto, Kenny Lofton

Why? I’d rather stand pat with the current crew. We don’t need any more overaged singles hitters.

Raul Ibanez

If he can be had for less than I think, by all means a solid solution. At age 36, he fits right into Minaya’s ideal age range, and the New York City native coming home will be a more exciting story than the aforementioned Rodriguez. He still collects extra-base hits, fields his position admirably, and can drive in runs. Whether he can be obtained for a fair package, however, is another story.

Bottom Line

Omar Minaya WILL make a deal. His hand is forced, and his job is on the line. Ibanez seems like the most “Minayalike” acquisition, even though it’s been reported that the Mets are no longer interested in the lefthanded-hitting outfielder. I’d guess Hall is the second option being discussed — Hall fits the “salary dump” descriptive that the Mets are using as leverage in talks, and he hits from the righthand side. Third scenario would have to be something with Baltimore, though I’m not sure what the Mets have that the Orioles want. In conclusion, the player acquired is most likely to be no one mentioned in this post.

Share your guesses and thoughts in the comments.

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 July 16, 2008 at 8:06 am
    Nice, in-depth write-up, Joe. I agree that Omar will be acquiring somebody, especially if 1) Church continues to be plagued by post-concussion/migrane symptoms, 2) Nixon/Anderson continue to slump, 3) Tatis/Chavez cool off. And all 3 are strong possibilities. There are 2 in-house names you left out of the equation, though. Angel Pagan, who appears ready to be activated tomorrow for game 1 of the 2nd half in Cincy, could definitely get the bulk of the LF playing time; and Mike Carp, although he’s quickly gaining occupancy in the same “falling back down to earth” boat as Pascucci. There’s certainly no lack of bodies…it’s whether any of these guys can step up and give us production worthy enough of a starting job on a playoff contending team. We can hope, but it’s best to be prepared if the worst case scenario comes to fruition.

    I like the idea of Ibanez, who is definitely a candidate to be traded from Seattle’s sinking ship, and is a free agent after this season (so perhaps he can be had relatively cheaply). However, with Eric Byrnes also out for the rest of the year, I’m hearing the D’backs are the hottest on the trail for Ibanez, so it’s likely the Mets will need to look elsewhere. Like you, Joe, I don’t want Holliday. He’d almost certainly cost us F-Mart and Pelfrey, and perhaps more, and is only signed thru 2009. Plus he’s a guy notorious for padding his stats at Coors field, and is not the world’s greatest defender. I envision F-Mart being ML ready by 2010, so what Omar should be looking for is a stopgap who can be had on the cheap and can keep the position warm while contributing at a Shawn Green level. Find a downtrodden team looking to shed payroll who has a veteran in their OF clogging the path for a prospect and give them a nominal minor league player or two for his services. I’m sure that player exists somewhere. Jason Michaels? Randy Winn? Brian Giles? Just suggestions, although they all fit the bill.

  2. David W. July 16, 2008 at 8:50 am
    Our recent renaissance under Jerry M. has been based on better pitching much more than any change in the offense. Under Randolph, we averaged 4.8 runs scored/4.7 runs against. Over the last 26 games under Manuel, we are averaging 5.0 runs scored/3.8 runs against. If the pitching holds up, we are in great shape and don’t necessarily need a major upgrade to the offense. We are not going to throw four shut-outs a week, but if we can keep the runs against in the low-4’s, we’ll be fine. I am confident we can do that: Santana’s second-half performance should hold steady or improve, Pelfrey has established consistency (but look out for tiring), El Duque will be arriving for long relief, Maine needs only to be solid, not spectacular, and Ollie…..

    Al this is to say that I propose a conservative approach–no trading major prospects. Minaya’s best move, if it plays out to perfection, will not yield a huge offensive improvement. If the pitching tanks, we’re dead; if the pitching stays excellent, we’re in great shape.

  3. sincekindergarten July 16, 2008 at 10:09 am
    I’m in the same boat as David. Plus, on the pitching side, there’s Brian Stokes and Jon Niese waiting in the minors, not to mention Bobby Parnell. I see Carlos Delgado improving with the bat to around .260 or so, maybe a tad higher if he continues to take those inside fastballs that plagued him so much. With a Delgado hitting that well, the way opposing pitchers pitch to the rest of the Mets lineup has to change.
  4. Micalpalyn July 16, 2008 at 1:54 pm
    3 comments so far all saying the glass is half full…..hmmm

    1. On my part i agree with the latter. It is not even the overall ERA (3.8) but the consistency. Note on sunday Pel was hit but the D turned 3 nice double plays that earlier might have been one out.
    b. I think Santana’s sub 3.00 ERA speaks louder than his 8-7 record. I’d like to see him elevate up a notch and dominate.
    c. This latest surge may also coincide with Manuel splitting up the lefties which i think was overdue.
    d. My bottomline is still adding another BP arm. I like Sho’s work but i think Sho’s spot is ‘upgradeable’.

    2. Hitting: church is the key. If he comes back, i think rotating Tatis, Chavez in LF is fine. I think Omar gets a bat only for the right price. I do expect Fernando to get a look before the yr is out. I think past history in wwhich Millz, Gomez and now Evans were ‘expedited’ to the ML, suggests we could see Fernando soon

  5. Timo July 17, 2008 at 11:25 am
    I wish i was wrong now when i told you that it was a horrible idea when the mets signed Alou. BUT, it happened exactly how i said it would (him getting hurt).
    I feel we should promote Fernando Martinez to the majors, take our
    chances and not depleat our minor league system even more. Hope that Church comes back (which looks bad, concussions are not greatest injuries to make a full comeback from).
    i think we should stay away from the rent-a-players.
    later, timo
  6. isuzudude July 17, 2008 at 12:57 pm
    Timo – good call on Alou, although at “just” $7.5-mil there was no way Omar would or should have passed on re-signing a guy who hit .341 last year, despite a plethora of injury concerns. The problem wasn’t signing Alou…it was failing to sign a 4th OF who could play everyday in case Alou got hurt or Church stumbled against LHP. Reed Johnson was available, as was Kevin Mench, Jason Michaels, Brad Wilkerson, Jim Edmonds, etc. Instead, we got Angel Pagan, Brady Clark, a recovering Jose Valentin, and a slew of less-than-defensively-adequate backups in Anderson, Easley, and Tatis. And when Alou inevitably got hurt, Omar scrambled and added Nixon, Pascucci, Aguila, Evans, and Andy Phillips – none of whom has succeeded. The Chavez/Tatis platoon might work if 1) they stay hot, and 2) Church comes back and stays healthy, but I’m not banking on either happening.

    With that said, I think it would behoove Omar to be on the look-out for a “rent-a-player.” And there are several reasons why.
    1. A rent-a-player would not cost any of the organization’s prized prospects. Since a rent-a-player would have a soon-to-be expiring, high-priced contract, the selling team knows they wouldn’t be able to get top prospects back in return (unless they’re selling a bonafide stud, like we saw with Sabathia going to Milwaukee). Much like in 2006 when the Mets got Shawn Green for a AA nobody pitcher, someone of that caliber can likely be had for the same asking price this year.
    2. I disagree that Fernando Martinez is ready for the major league jump. Additionally, it would not be wise to let him get his feet wet (see: struggle mightily) while the Mets are in the midst of a playoff run. By obtaining a player whose contract only lasts thru 2009, it allows the Mets to be patient in developing their #1 prospect while his future position is kept warm by a very capable player.
    3. By trading for a LF who is under contract thru 2009, it means the Mets won’t need to go the free agent route to fill the position this winter, in which they would more than likely sacrifice a draft pick. And what with plenty of holes to fill for 2009 already (namingly 1B and SP), the Mets are going to need to conserve all the draft picks they have.

    If Mike Carp has no future with the Mets, if Dan Murphy’s path of progression is blocked by Wright, if Dylan Owen and Dillon Gee don’t project to be high-end starting pitchers, why not trade these guys now while their stock is high for someone who might help the Mets get to the WS? It makes perfect sense to me.

  7. Micalpalyn July 17, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    OF: Church was an outstanding pick up. It is nice to hear that Migranes not post concussion syndrome is the diagnosis. Also i think the probability he gets significant PT this 1/2 is good. On the 4th OF though you are harsh. I think Pagan was doing very well prior to his injury. I doubt Reed johnson was a significant upgrade. If Reed was available when Trot was i think Omar gets Reed.

    Now with alou out i think he might get someone… Xavier is statistically among the best OF in the NL. He’d be waaay too costly. I think Jason Bay is not an unreachable goal. I think a numbers package might entice Pitt.

    I agree that F-mart is best left alone.

    To throw some other bait out i think Matt murton might attract interest as could Jose Guillen.