Mets Sign Alex Cora

According to, the Mets have agreed to terms with Alex Cora.

Well I guess that’s it — the offseason roster makeover is complete!

Cora should step right in to left field and provide the Mets with the much-needed power bat they need to …. oh, wait a minute ….

Last I checked, Alex Cora was a light-hitting middle infielder with a good glove and a good attitude. The kind of guy who is a capable middle infielder and can play a few other positions in a pinch without embarrassing himself (he’s played one career game each at 1B and LF, and has played 16 at 3B). On an American League team, he is an ideal backup / late-inning defensive replacement second baseman / shortstop for a team that has offensive-minded middle infielders. He’s also a good guy to have around in the event of an injury, as he can play competently for stretches at a time.

In other words, he’s Damion Easley, except that he has zero power, not as strong a bat overall, is a lefthanded hitter, and a better fielder. Oh wait, so maybe he compares more closely to Argenis Reyes or Anderson Hernandez … except he’s not a switch-hitter. And he costs at least four times more.

In short, I’m not sure about the logic behind this signing. With a roster comprised of a dozen pitchers, bench spots are precious, and need to be filled by people who can play both sides of the game — offense and defense. Cora doesn’t have much of a bat, and is only an average baserunner. I’m assuming he can bunt. He does have a career .264 average as a pinch-hitter, which is pretty good. However, as a lefthanded hitter, he strangely has a much better average against lefthanded pitchers — not righthanders — and we know that Jerry Manuel will either not notice this fact or ignore it, and use him exclusively against righthanded pitchers.

Speculation is that Cora would push Luis Castillo, and possibly take over second base eventually. Hmm … so, the Mets won’t go after Orlando Hudson because they don’t want to eat Castillo’s contract, but it will be OK to bench Castillo (and, effectively, eat his contract) to play a mediocre talent such as Cora at the position? More to the point, does this mean that the Mets find Cora to be a better low-cost alternative for second base insurance than, say, David Eckstein?

I don’t mean to bash Cora — I actually believe he’s a solid all-around ballplayer. Nothing special, but solid. He’s not unlike Miguel Cairo. A good guy to have on the team, if you can afford the luxury. And that’s where I have a problem. The Mets supposedly don’t have the money to spend on a top-flight pitcher such as Derek Lowe, but they have no problem spending an unnecessary $2M for a veteran utilityman that is not necessarily an upgrade over a player who would cost the league minimum (such as Argenis Reyes, Alex Cintron, Angel Berroa, Chris Burke, or Ramon Martinez). This is my point: if you are willing to spend $2M for a utility infielder, why in the world aren’t you spending it on someone like Nomar Garciaparra, Mark Loretta, or Ray Durham — in other words, a guy who you know can give you an offensive boost? Because last I checked, the Mets don’t need a defensive replacement for Jose Reyes nor David Wright — and I’m not seeing Castillo leaving games because of his defense, either. (Loretta, by the way, signed for $1.25M, and would have been a much more interesting option to platoon with / push Castillo).

Overspend for a substitute player of which there is a surplus of talent, but underspend for starting pitching. Not exactly the trend followed by championship ballclubs.

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. sylvan January 14, 2009 at 8:21 pm
    I’m not sure you realize just how bad a hitter Argenis Reyes is, or just how bad a fielder Damion Easley is. Those guys weren’t even worth the major league minimum last year.

    It would have been nice to have a guy like Durham or Garciaparra, but I think they’re going to get a lot more than $2M. I agree about Loretta, though.

  2. joe January 14, 2009 at 9:30 pm
    I realize exactly how bad a hitter Argenis Reyes is … miraculously, though, half of the Mets fan base thought he was a star in the making thanks to Jerry Manuel’s constant gushing and the SNY announcing team persistently telling us how he was “always in the middle of something”.

    Maybe you don’t realize how bad a hitter Alex Cora is? Career .245 with a .313 OBP and .348 SLG. And he’s not getting any younger. He was an average hitting middle infielder as a 28-year-old, but other than 2004, compares very closely to what Argenis’ projected MLB output would be.

    Agreed on Easley, but it’s not like he hurt the Mets with his limited range — and his bat made up for his deficiencies. What I’m not understanding is how it can possibly be more important to have a great glove guy on the bench of this club, or any club in the NL. Also not understanding why the team spent so much for a utility infielder, when there is a surplus of them available. They can play chicken with Derek Lowe but cave in to Cora? Penny wise, pound foolish. This reeks of Tony Bernazard having too much control of the team … oops, did I forget to mention that Alex Cora is the brother of Tony B’s best friend Joey Cora? Funny how that works.

    I will be surprised if Durham and Garciaparra get much more than $2M, and won’t be surprised if both have to settle for minor league deals / ST invites.

  3. sylvan January 15, 2009 at 1:48 am
    Easley hit .269/.322/.370 to go with his lack of range last year. I wouldn’t call that “making up for his deficiencies”. .245/.313/.348 may suck, but it’s a whole lot better than .218/.259/.245. There’s just no reason to believe that Argenis is even a replacement-level MLB hitter.

    Anyway, I don’t think we’d be complaining about Cora if the Mets had bagged Lowe; that’s what it really comes down to. They need to stop screwing around and go after Sheets.

  4. joe January 15, 2009 at 2:41 am
    Why wouldn’t you call that “making up for his deficiencies” ? Easley was a part-time player who drove in 44 runs in 316 ABs while playing mostly 2B. If he had played a full season of 600+ at-bats he’d have compiled somewhere around 80-85 RBI, which puts him on par with Mark DeRosa. That’s pretty decent production for a 38-year-old guy coming off the bench and getting paid less than a million bucks. The Mets are going to pay Cora double that money and get less than half the offense … do you really believe Cora’s glovework will make up for the offense lost by Easley’s departure? Not unless he fields like Ozzie Smith.

    The argument is not necessarily Easley over Cora, or Argenis Reyes over Cora. The point is that there are about a dozen or more middle infielders on the market who have a similar or stronger skillset than Cora, who would have been attainable for the same amount or much, much less. I know the statheads love VORP but it’s really hard to to rely on that stat for scrubs who are lucky to get 200 at-bats. When your skillset limits you to such inaction, what does it matter, really?

    I am going to complain about asinine signings such as Cora and Redding until / unless the Mets sign an impact starting pitcher AND an impact bat. I agree that the screwing around has to stop … this team is acting like they play in Milwaukee or Minnesota or Manitoba. Either they need to bring in personnel that is going to make a difference from the last three years or they need to cut their ticket prices by 75%.

  5. isuzudude January 15, 2009 at 10:01 am
    I agree that the Mets could have done better than signing Cora. Seeing that the Mets already had Marlon Anderson, Jeremy Reed, and Dan Murphy on the bench, the addition of Cora now means the Mets have 4 left hand hitters on the bench along with Castro, the backup catcher. That’s just horrible planning, and unless Murphy wins the LF job flatout (making Tatis a bench player) or someone new is brought in to play LF, this lefty-heavy bench is going to come back and bite the Mets. Not to mention Cora will be the guy getting every at-bat at 2B if, or should I say when, Castillo gets hurt. That’s not the type of stick you want getting 250-300 at-bats in a season, especially when you already have sub-par sticks in LF and C.

    I have to assume the Mets are still praying someone dumb enough will come along and take Castillo away in order to create the space to sign Orlando Hudson, or trade for Michael Young. But that’s living in fantasy land. Obviously, because of the money Castillo is being paid, he’s going to get first crack at the starting job. But with Vegas installing the odds at 2-1 that Castillo will miss at least half the season due to injury, of course it would be nice to have some type of insurance policy waiting in the background in case the inevitable happens. And while I agree Alex Cora is not the end-all solution, I don’t necesarily agree that the Mets could have done better. You would figure that 2B free agents would be lining up to get a chance to play for the Mets, knowing that Castillo is one pulled hamstring or tight quad away from missing 2 months of action. However, we need to realize that not every player is knocking down Omar’s door begging to play in NY on a team now notorius for choking. Yes, Mark Loretta, David Eckstein, Ray Durham, Ty Wigginton, Mark Grudzielanek, and Juan Uribe all would have been better fits, but what makes you so sure they wanted to play for the Mets? I’m sorry, but you can’t just assume that the Mets are everybody’s first choice. We thought that way about Derek Lowe and now he’s going to be starting 5 times against the Mets for the next 4 years instead of 32 times for us. And regardless of how well that player could fit on the team, or the opportunity that could be given to him here, or the money he could have gotten from the Mets, it does not mean the Mets would be a guarentee to sign him. So I can’t accept the argument that the Mets could have done better than Cora if they had just signed one of the above because you don’t know for sure if the Mets had offered them a contract and they turned it down, or if they just had no interest in signing with the Mets in the first place.

    And I wouldn’t even consider Nomar. You don’t patch a leaky dam with bubble gum.

    However, I agree 100% with two statements found above.
    1. “Overspend for a substitute player of which there is a surplus of talent, but underspend for starting pitching. Not exactly the trend followed by championship ballclubs.”
    2. “…this team is acting like they play in Milwaukee or Minnesota or Manitoba. Either they need to bring in personnel that is going to make a difference from the last three years or they need to cut their ticket prices by 75%.”

  6. wohjr January 15, 2009 at 11:39 am
    Was Alex Cora the one who got into a fight and punched out Rey Ordonez on the team plane years ago?
  7. joe January 15, 2009 at 2:55 pm
    wohjr — i think that was Luis Lopez, and I think it was a bus. But good memory!

    ‘dude, other than Loretta, all of those second sackers are still looking for a job. If they’re going to be picky about the city they play in, with the economy the way it is, and about six weeks shy of spring training, well …. all I can say is good luck. You do have a point about a player wanting to play for the Mets …. though I know there was at least one guy who played multiple positions, with 2B as his primary spot, had good pop from the right side, and definitely would have enjoyed playing for the Mets in ’09 … his name is Damion Easley.

    It’s funny, Jeff Wilpon talked about “addition by subtraction”, and there was much made about “changing the culture of the Mets clubhouse” and/or the team chemistry, and the guys they’ve jettisoned are exactly the kind of personalities you’d think they’d want to bring in — hard-working, unselfish, team-first guys like Easley, Pedro, Endy, Trot Nixon, Heilman.

    Actually I think Cora is one of those unselfish grinder types, and since I’ve been so critical of this move it’s a near-guarantee that he’ll have a career year. The last two times I was this down on a move for a second baseman, it was Easley and Jose Valentin. A reverse curse, if you will.

  8. isuzudude January 16, 2009 at 9:28 am
    I’d be all for bringing Easley back, but for some reason he’s gotten a bad rap as a poor defender, which I don’t see. He’s also pushing 40 and hurt the Mets by getting injured at the end of last season, so I guess I could see why the Mets would at least want to get younger and more versatile. And Cora provides that. The worst part of the the signing is the price. Metsblog notes that $2-mil to the Mets is likely a drop in the bucket, even in these tough times. So I guess it’s more the principle of the matter that irks me. Eckstein just signed with the Padres for less than one million, and he’ll likely be their starting 2B or SS. I’m not saying the Mets should have signed Eckstein over Cora, because who knows if Eckstein wanted to play for the Mets or wasn’t happy knowing he’d have to wait for Castillo to get hurt to get to start. I am saying that if Eckstein, who has been a rather successful starter on many good teams over his career, has to settle for such a low-ball deal, there was no way in hell the Mets had to ante up $2-mil to get Cora locked up. Even if Cora was getting a sweetheart deal because of his ties to Bernanzard, at the least make the deal more realistic, like $1-mil for 2009 with a $1-mil option for 2010 or a $500k buyout, in which he gets all but $500k of the original deal. It’s just that in this market, a $2-mil deal for a backup infielder with very limited skills reeks of the wrong kind of favoritism. Omar and Tony better hope Cora has a career year, because this is just another straw on the camel of bad decisions so far in this offseason.
  9. joe January 16, 2009 at 10:27 am
    ‘dude, I’m with you. I don’t know, either, that Eckstein is definitely a better player than Cora, but if I had to make a decision between the two, w/o salary being a factor, I might give the edge to Eck because he is a RH hitter, which the Mets need, and he’ll definitely push Castillo to produce.

    Now, between the two, and add in the salary factor of $2M for Cora or UNDER $1M for Eck? Ha. No contest.

    Eck wanted to play for the Mets last year, and now he’s playing for a team that’s guaranteed not to make the playoffs. I’d be stunned if he wasn’t interested in NY this year.

    What it comes down to is this: the Mets didn’t want to bring in a “known” 2B because they want to make it look like Luis Castillo is still their second baseman. Passive aggressive?