Ruben Gotay Back On the Radar

ruben-gotay-metsAnyone remember Ruben Gotay?

He was in the midst of being the Mets’ version of Robinson Cano a few years back, but was curiously hated repressed by then-manager Willie Randolph (and undervalued by Marty Noble). Willie valued defense at second base, but was generous enough to give the iron-gloved Gotay a start whenever Halley’s Comet appeared.

Though the switch-hitting second baseman hit .295 in limited duty in 2007, he didn’t make the club in ’08 and was picked up by the Braves, where he slipped to .235 in even more limited playing time. Last year was spent in AAA Reno (Diamondbacks system) and he hit 11 HR, 57 RBI, .292 AVG., .429 OBP, and .879 OPS — with an eye-popping 102 walks in only 118 games. This performance was enough to draw the interest of Dave Cameron over at FanGraphs, who put him at the top of the list of “interesting guys available” among minor league free agents.

I have to admit, I always had a soft spot for Ruben Gotay, and felt he deserved better from Willie and co. Now that the Mets could be in the market for a backup infielder, why not consider another go-around for Ruben?

True, his glove has never been great, but it’s not nearly as bad as Randolph made it out to be, and he did display the physical capabilities of range, strong arm, and soft hands. He’ll never win a Gold Glove but if he can get on base over 40% of the time and slug over .400 he won’t need to. Further, Gotay already showed he can both play in New York and be effective off the bench (if given the chance) — he led the Mets in pinch-hits in 2007.

Yes, he put up these impressive numbers in a “hitter’s league”. But Gotay always hit at every level in the minors — and in fact his numbers were almost identical to those of Cano at similar points in their minor league careers. I’m not saying he’ll turn into Cano — only getting across that Gotay has consistently been impressive offensively, and that his recent success is not a mirage.

To refresh your memory, Gotay is a switch-hitter, his primary position is second base, he can also play shortstop in a pinch, and he can handle third base. He has above-average speed that combines with heady baserunning and he hustles. And, he turns 27 on Christmas Day — so he’s about to enter his peak years as a ballplayer.

Oh, and may I reiterate that he’s a minor league free agent, and will cost nothing more than an ST invite? If he makes the team he’ll likely receive the MLB minimum salary.

Or the Mets can give Alex Cora a guaranteed, multi-million-dollar contract to hit a weak .250 and be a team leader (from the bench).


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. Joe D. November 17, 2009 at 6:54 am
    I would rather have Gotay as our utility infielder over Alex Cora any day.
  2. Paul November 17, 2009 at 9:03 am
    I’m all for bringing in a few guys on non-guaranteed contracts to compete for the bench spots.

    Unless the Wilpons are planning to go to a $200 million payroll, Alex Cora should not get a guaranteed contract from the Mets.

  3. trs86 November 17, 2009 at 9:25 am
    I am not interested in a guy who was so bad the Braves, who desperately needed offense, had no interest in. The guy can’t even play 2B well and we also need a guy that can play SS. Carry Gotay and you will need another backup middle IF.
  4. TheDZA November 17, 2009 at 9:58 am
    Well last season the Mets were collecting middle infielders, give him a shot – might well do away with the 10 guys covering SS last yr.
  5. isuzudude November 17, 2009 at 10:33 am
    You have to at least be somewhat interested in a guy who is only 27, can be signed for dirt cheap, and can handle the bat as well as he does. Who cares about his defense? Best case scenario is that he makes the team but is the backup to Castillo/Reyes, which means his primary role on the team is to be a pinch hitter. He’d likely only get a start once every 2 weeks, so his defense should not be a reason why you don’t consider him for a job. His bat, versatility, and low cost should be.

    trs86: most teams DO carry 2 infield bench players, along with 2 outfield bench players and a backup catcher. So, if it were their perogative, the Mets could carry Gotay AND still possess another infield bench player whose role is specific to defense.

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  8. Tommy2cat November 18, 2009 at 8:19 am
    I have always liked Gotay, a ballplayer just happy playing the game. In an odd way, his hitting skills remind me of a toned-down Carl Everett (without the beatings).

    Guys like Gotay and Pagan would make our bench very strong, albeit Gotay is somewhat of a defensive liability, but certainly not the worst fielder. He just seems to bear down and get a hit when it matters, and Pagan has a similar quality.

  9. Harry Chiti November 18, 2009 at 11:10 am
    If he’s so good like many of you indicate, why can’t he keep a job as a backup anywhere in baseball?
  10. joejanish November 18, 2009 at 11:17 am
    Harry, you’re cranky today, huh? 🙂

    But you raise a valid point — why has he been unable to keep a job at the MLB level?

    I’d guess it’s a combination of circumstances and not hitting enough when given the opportunity. His bat is his main tool, and if he’s not hitting, he has little value. While with the Braves he was slumping, and it’s hard to work out of a slump when you only play twice a week.

    I’m not making an excuse, rather trying to find a possibility as to why he hasn’t been an MLB player lately.

    In any case he’s a bench player — a 24th or 25th man — and unless you’re the Yankees you don’t expect to have a 5-tool stud with All-Star experience filling out your roster.

  11. Harry Chiti November 18, 2009 at 11:24 am
    Joe” I think your criticism of Willie’s use of Gotay is unfounded. Gotay started several games each month and about half the games in July of ’07 when suddenly what happended. The Acquired one Luis Castillo to play second base. so where was Gotay going to play after that deal was made?? And in ’08 it was the squeeze of who would be the 25th man. And he went to the Braves where the great Bobby Cox started him maybe 10 times all year. So why don;t you criticize the future hof manager for misusing Gotay even moreso than the horrible Willie Randaolph. or maybe Gotay got hius chance in July ’07 and proved to the world that he can’t be a big league guy, and Bobby cox re-proved that evalauation???
  12. joejanish November 18, 2009 at 11:50 am
    Harry – I criticized Willie here at MetsToday during most of the 2007 season for not playing Gotay more often — before and after Castillo was acquired.

    If you followed MetsToday back then, you would know my long list of reasons I wanted Gotay in the lineup. So my criticism isn’t exactly “unfounded” — you just have to comb through the archives to unearth my reasons.

    Also, if you remember, Gotay sprained his ankle early in ST in 2008, limiting his ABs and affecting his swing. He hit only .229 as a result and was DFA’d. He was still hobbling when the Braves picked him up, and he never “got it going” with the bat. In fact he was used almost exclusively as a pinch-hitter, not starting in a game until that June (he went 3-for-5). In the 88 games he played for the Braves, he started 9.

    I’m not going to criticize Bobby Cox for releasing Gotay, and I’m not sure that anything was “re-proved”.

    And once again, we’re arguing over a guy who is a 25th man — I’m not suggesting that the Mets pick him up and pencil him in at the top of the lineup, starting at 2B. Merely presenting him as a very cheap, young, and offensive alternative to Alex Cora.

    But hey if you don’t like Gotay for whatever reason, that’s cool. There are several other cheap backup infielders to consider.