Rolling the Dice

Pitchers and catchers have reported, spring training has begun, yet there are still several free agents still out there looking for a job. Further, there are still some holes and question marks on the Mets’ roster. How about rolling the dice on a few of the available options — especially since they can be brought in for little risk and at fairly low prices?

The Mets have already missed out on two of the most remarkable values of the offseason — Bobby Abreu at $5M for one year and Orlando Hudson at $3M (plus incentives) for one year. Both players publicly stated their desire to play in New York City, so it wasn’t an issue of the Mets having to do much convincing. And the idea that Hudson might have caused tension on the team because Castillo was still around is absolute insanity. How can a team that collapsed two years in a row be worried about retaining its personality? If anything, the Mets should have been hell bent on stirring up the comfort in the clubhouse.

Anyway, the point is, there are still a few undervalued gems waiting to be picked up, for a beggar’s purse. Let’s take a look at a few in particular, who are worth a roll of the dice.

Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez

Pudge has been telling people he wants to play for the Mets since last October. He’s going to come at a significant discount — probably less than $1M — and he might even be open to taking a minor league deal. How often do you find players who WANT to play in New York, and not because of money? The Mets are desperate for a solid, veteran righthanded hitter for the bench, and Pudge would be an ideal platoon partner with Brian Schneider — not to mention the winning background, leadership qualities, and strong clubhouse presence he brings to the equation.

Yes, the Mets already have Ramon Castro, but Castro has had trouble staying healthy his entire career — and it’s hard to believe that factor will change at age 33. The other argument is that Castro is a friend of everyone on the team, and keeps things loose in the clubhouse. Well guess what? Him keeping things looser and being such a strong personality has not helped this team get to the postseason the last two years.

For those who don’t like Pudge because he has a perpetually low OBP, hit poorly in his one month as a Yankee, and isn’t the same player he was 4-5 years ago, I agree. However, I also believe that Ivan Rodriguez in the twilight of his career is still at least twice as good — overall — as any combination of Robinson Cancel, Rene Rivera, and whatever other independent league backstop the Mets can scrape up when Castro goes to the DL multiple times during the season.

Ray Durham
I thought for sure the Mets would be all over Durham, especially since he played four seasons under Jerry Manuel. But then, maybe he and Uncle Jerry don’t get along? (Yes, Virginia, Jerry Manuel had major problems with his players in Chicago … oh, you weren’t aware? Anyway, that’s for another day.) Durham hits from both sides, can play 2B and the outfield equally adequately, has some punch, can still run the bases, and is an on-base machine. He’s currently contemplating retirement because no one is interested in his services, but if a potential contender such as the Mets made an inquiry, he might just consider a minor league deal. The shame is that the Mets were so quick to lock up Alex Cora on that ridiculous, guaranteed, $2M contract, and now are committed to handing him the backup infield job.

(Wow … think about that … the Mets signed Alex Cora for one million less than the Dodgers are paying Orlando Hudson. Who would you rather have? Alex Cora and Livan Hernandez or Orlando Hudson? Tough pill to swallow. Anyway, I digress …)

Joe Beimel, Will Ohman, Dennys Reyes, Ricardo Rincon

All four of these LOOGYs are still available. I like Rincon, Beimel, and Ohman in that order, and even though Reyes scares me, at this point he should be a relative bargain. So what the hey? The Mets can’t possibly think that Casey Fossum or Valerio De Los Santos can be trusted against the likes of Utley – Howard – Ibanez.

Mark Mulder

Mulder may never, ever return to being a solid starting pitcher. But what’s to say he can’t evolve into a LOOGY? No one is offering Mulder a contract of any sort, so he might be willing to take an incentive-laden minor-league deal as he continues his comeback. At 31 years old, he still has time to make it back.

Jay Payton

I can’t believe I’m suggesting the Mets sign Jay Payton, but let’s think about this objectively. The Mets could really use a solid, veteran, righthanded hitter who can play strong defense in the outfield and hit with occasional pop. Check, check, check. Give the guy a minor league deal and a chance to win a spot on the bench.

Chuck James

James was absolutely horrid in 2008, posting a 9.10 ERA before discovering he had a rotator cuff tear. Most likely, he won’t be able to contribute at the big league level in 2009. But hey, he’s a lefty, he’s only 27, and he wasn’t a power pitcher so the shoulder issue may not adversely affect his performance. Sign him to a cheap minor league deal, stash him in A ball, and look for him to help out late in the season or to compete for a job in 2010. The kid knew how to pitch before the surgery, so who knows — he might be another Jamie Moyer.

Nomar Garciaparra

Yes, he’s only a shell of what he once was, and he’s injury prone. However, his injuries are due to a medical condition that is pronounced by playing every day. With the Mets, he’d be a part-time player, filling in at several positions and being the first RH bat off the bench. The guy knows how to play the game, plays it hard, knows how to win, has performed under pressure, and can hit in his sleep. Watch him sign with the Phillies instead and get big hits to break the Mets’ back late in the season.

Ben Sheets

Take a page from the Jon Lieber chapter of Yankees history and sign Sheets to a two-year deal. Pay the man to rehab in 2009, and have one of the top righthanded pitchers in the NL East competing for a spot in 2010. What do you have to lose?

Did I miss anyone? Post your comments below.

Orlando Hudson
The price has now dropped to under $5M and only one year. You’re telling me that the Mets won’t bite, because they don’t want to sit Luis Castillo’s $18M on the bench? Surely you jest … if the Mets had been able to dump Castillo in, say, October, they might have considered Hudson’s 5-year, $50M demands. At

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.
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