Who Should Really Be Auditioning at 1B
After 65 games at first base, Dan Murphy has shown he can be defensively adequate at the position. Other than a few brain farts and errors due to inexperience, Murphy is, right now, better than Mike Piazza ever was at the position.
If the Mets are serious about going into 2010 with Murphy penciled in as the starting first baseman — or even if they’re not — there is another player who should be getting reps at first base:
Matt Cerrone has stated that “… if Sheffield is on the Mets next season than something went very wrong this off season…” But I beg to differ.
First of all, I don’t expect anything to go “right” this offseason. The Mets have more question marks at the end of this year than they did after the 2008 campaign came to a close. And you saw what last winter brought — a setup man with a bum elbow, 3/$36M for Oliver Perez, and an emptied farm system — that’s just for starters. This winter, the Mets have more needs but less money and fewer trade pieces. That said, these late-summer auditions have significant importance in terms of planning for 2010 and the moves made prior to next April.
The Mets put Sheffield on waivers and pulled him back, which suggests that either they’re planning to do something with him next year, or they feared he would not report to the claiming team. Whatever the case, he’s still a Met, and it should be discovered right now whether he has a future in the orange and blue.
I agree with Matt Cerrone in this sense: if the 2010 Opening Day lineup has Gary Sheffield in left field and batting cleanup, then yes, something strange has occurred. But, there’d be nothing wrong if Sheffield was the #1 righthanded bat off the bench — and if he was a combination fourth outfielder / backup first baseman.
Despite his advancing age and ailing hamstring, Sheff holds his own in the outfield. He’s no Cory Sullivan out there but he’s an upgrade over Fernando Tatis. But, to keep him healthy, and to have true value to a club, Sheffield either has to be on an AL team so he can DH, or he needs to play 1B. He cannot be expected to be an everyday outfielder, but it’s within reason to believe he can garner 300-350 at-bats in a more versatile role — one where he plays RF, LF, and 1B, and is “the guy” pinch-hitting in late innings.
But we don’t know if Sheffield can play as adequately as, say, Murphy, at first base. A stunted and inconclusive 9-game experiment in the Bronx is the whole of his pro experience at the position. The time is now to start putting him in there, get a look at him for 25 games or so, and see if it’s something he can handle without embarrassing himself. Rumor has it he has a brand-new first baseman’s glove, so it’s already on his mind.
And while Sheff’s getting reps at 1B, why not see what Murphy can do at third base? There’s nothing more Murphy needs to do at 1B — defensively — to convince the Mets one way or another. With David Wright out of action, wouldn’t it make sense to see Murphy at his “natural” position? After all, if the Mets surprise everyone and sign someone like Adam LaRoche to handle 1B, that will leave Murphy without a job — unless he’s versatile. I can easily picture Murphy as a LH-hitting Don Money or Mark DeRosa — a super-sub, if you will — playing almost every day but at different positions.
The Mets have continually been burned by setting positions in stone, and then being caught without adequate replacements. With nothing for the Mets to play for this summer, it’s time to turn lemons into lemonade — use these last 40-odd games as an opportunity to create more versatility and value on the roster.