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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.