Big News: David Newhan
OK, maybe it doesn’t seem like such “big” news that David Newhan has agreed to a minor-league deal with the New York Mets. But it is news, during what has been an excruciatingly slow week.
If Newhan makes the big league roster, he’ll make a significant impact off the bench. Because, the only way he’ll make the team is by bowling over Willie Randolph with his hustle, scrappiness, speed, fundamentals, and versatility — all virtues sorely missing among the current bench candidates.
With the departure of Mr. Everywhere, Chris Woodward, the Mets’ bench (not counting Ramon Castro) will likely be assembled from this assortment: Julio Franco, Endy Chavez, Damion Easley, Ben Johnson, Anderson Hernandez, Lastings Milledge, Ruben Sierra, and Ruben Gotay. You might even throw Jacob Cruz, Chase Lambin, Jonel Pacheco, and Michel Abreu into the mix, but those minor leaguers are very long longshots.
From that group, only AHern can play shortstop without embarrassing himself, but because of his weak bat, he doesn’t have much value off the bench. Easley can play some 2B and 3B, but it remains to be seen whether he still has enough pop in his bat to be worth keeping on the roster.
Newhan, however, can play nearly every position on the diamond, has good wheels, and does all the little things you need from a supersub. He’s shown a decent bat in the past, but his offense is somewhat questionable; one year, he batted .311 in extended playing time (95 games), the very next year, he hit .202 (96 games). In many ways, he’s Joe McEwing — can play anywhere, be a great team player, but will he hit?
Though many Mets fans were happy to see Chris Woodward go, if Newhan doesn’t bring a decent bat with him, we may very well miss the days Woody was backing everyone up. Much of Woodward’s demise last year could be attributed to an injury that he did not complain about, and the public did not know about, until he had surgery after the season. On the other hand, if Newhan can just bat around .250-.270, he’ll be an excellent addition to the roster. He is the type of guy you can rely on to pinch-hit in the leadoff of an inning, find a way on base, and then leave him to run the bases — whereas a guy like Franco or Sierra would almost certainly need a pinch-runner in the same situation.
Speaking of Franco and Sierra, we have to wonder whether these guys are going to really help the Mets in 2007. Sierra is a longshot to make the roster — that’s understood — but if he does, where does he fit in? He’d essentially be another Franco, only with more pop (we hope). And if Franco has another year at the plate like he did last year, it’s going to be tough to carry him throughout the season. By September and October of 2006, Franco was looking extremely weak, and in the postseason he was nearly embarrassing. Yes, he’s in better physical shape than most Mets half his age, but it doesn’t seem to help his bat speed, which is already affected by the crazy windup position where he holds his bat. At this point he is a guess hitter who can only hit one pitch — up and away. If he continues to regress, I could see him voluntarily stepping down in early summer, perhaps taking a position as a player-coach.
With Franco and Sierra creating a logjam, one wonders where the Bernie Williams talk is coming from — though it is probably just NY sportswriters speculating (i.e., daydreaming). With the Doug Mientkiewicz signing nearly official, it seems that there’s no room on the Yankee roster for Bernie. Personally, I’d love to see Bernie Williams on the team — he’d make a great corner platoon / backup to both Moises Alou and Shawn Green. True, his fielding and arm are less than mediocre these days, but he is a proven winner, knows how to play the game, is a great team player, and one of the greatest offensive performers in postseason history. He can still swing the bat a bit, and his poor defense is based on seeing him play centerfield last year; certainly he can play adequately in either of the corners.
Unfortunately, it’s doubtful we’ll see Bernie in a Mets uniform unless the Mets trade Ben Johnson. And there aren’t too many teams clamoring for Johnson. But, you never know — if he’s part of a package to land a pitcher, we could see Bernie at Shea this year.
Speaking of pitching, there is still talk that Tomo Ohka is negotiating with the Mets, as well as Jeff Weaver. However, they’re both looking for 3- or 4-year contracts, which I do not see the Mets doing. In fact, I’d be surprised if they went beyond one year for either. Supposedly, Ohka has 2- and 3-year offers on the table, and if he has any brain in his head he’ll jump for one of them. Even when healthy, Ohka is nothing more than an adequate five-inning pitcher. What the Mets need is someone who can get past the sixth, and into the seventh. Unfortunately, the Mets’ last-ditch target — Tony Armas Jr. — is just as mediocre, rarely getting through the sixth inning even in his best years. They may well stay with what they have — after all, Dave Williams and Alay Soler are fine for 5-inning starting.
41 days till pitchers and catchers report ….