Josh Willingham a Target?

josh-willinghamAccording to a tweet by Washington Nationals beat writer William Ladson just before he left for the winter meetings, the Mets may be interested in Josh Willingham.

Though there are concerns about his defensive skills, Willingham certainly fits the description of “left fielder who can hit with power”. He hit 26 HRs and 29 doubles last year in only 427 ABs, and walked 61 times. That power and patience more or less negates his habit of swinging and missing (104 Ks), but is it enough to make up for his defensive deficiencies?

Look at it this way: this time last year, the Mets had penciled in Daniel Murphy as the starting left fielder, with Fernando Tatis as his primary backup. That said, Willingham may be inferior to other MLB leftfielders, but would represent an upgrade in ALL areas compared to last year’s plan for the position.

In other news, Jack Cust will likely be non-tendered by the A’s now that Jake Fox is Oakland’s property (wow, Fox would’ve been a nice pickup for the Mets … oh well). At least one source indicates the Mets may be interested in the NJ native. But, Cust makes Willingham look like a Gold Glove candidate, and I’m not sure his around .800 OPS and homerun power can counteract both the bad glove and the one whiff per three plate appearances he’s produced in the past two years.

By the way, Willingham has catching experience. And we know the Mets can use another catcher.

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. isuzudude December 6, 2009 at 9:24 pm
    I fret what it would cost the Mets to obtain Willingham, especially considering he’s under team control for 2 more years. My guess is the Nats start out asking for Fernando Martinez, which I’m sure many fans would jump to pull the trigger on right now. But that’s not a good trade, regardless of how many home runs Willingham can hit in 2010, or how many blisters FMart has to pee on. Also consider Willingham will likely be making at least $12M in arbitration over the next 2 years. It’s not a king’s ransom, but it’s no bargain either.

    Now, if the Nats feel inclined to non-tender him, Omar should be all over him. But I doubt it’s going to get that far.

  2. gary s. December 6, 2009 at 9:50 pm
    dude, whenever i comment that citicavern is too big, i get blasted for it and i’m told that we just need to add speed, pitching and defense.willingham can’t run a lick.why would we want him to play left field even if he’s nontendered??
  3. isuzudude December 7, 2009 at 10:17 am
    I wouldn’t necesarily say Willingham ‘can’t run a lick.’ He’s no speed demon, but it’s not as if he’s a base to base runner, either. Regardless, I admit Willingham has deficiencies in his running ability and OF defense, but he makes up for that by being able to get on base at a .360+ clip and by being able to hit 20+ homers in 450 ABs. I’d actually say Willingham compares very well to Gary Sheffield, whom a large percentage of Met fans would say did a very admirable job in LF in ’09 despite his lack of speed and defensive range. Willingham would be a 30 year old version of Sheffield, and, to me, that’s worth looking into, especially if all it costs is money to obtain.

    Also, my point of view is based on me believing that Angel Pagan is best used as a 4th OF. I just don’t think he has the mental capacity and proper fundamentals to be an everyday player. And, when looking at the other LF options the Mets have to sort through this winter (excluding Holliday and Bay, who are out of price range), I’d much prefer Willingham over Jose Guillen, Pat Burrell, Jermaine Dye, Milton Bradley, Hideki Matsui, Vladimir Guerrero, Gary Matthews Jr, Garrett Anderson, or Randy Winn. Do you not feel the same way?

  4. Mike December 7, 2009 at 11:29 am
    ‘dude when you put it that way Willingham doesn’t sound so bad. He seems like he could transition well into a platoon/bench role if his overall production goes down over the next year or so because in addition to LF he can play RF, catch a hand full of games and probably learn to play a spot of 1B over the course of a season. But strictly as a starting LFer, I think you have shown you can do much worse. I think it is clear that Willingham is the type of player that the Mets should have at worst on the bench. They should be able to afford a 6 mil a year part time player if he produces like Willingham can over 120 games. The Mets should be thinking like the Yankees do, in that Eric Hinske (a guy MetsToday advocated as being brought in to play 1st base 4 times a week) barely saw the field for the world champion Yankees. The Phillies have guys like Stairs and Greg Dobbs who no one thinks is a starting player but they get the job done and produce when called upon. I can see Willingham being one of those guys.
  5. gary s. December 7, 2009 at 11:43 am
    dude, of all the players u mentioned, i would probably put willingham at the top of the list.Can he play 1b??I’d like to platoon him with murphy and still look for a everyday left fielder.by the way, in today’s daily news, adam rubin writes that the wilnots are thinking of lowering the deepest outfield fences in citicavern in 2010…I wouldn’t think about it too long..just do it..it would be a nice christmas present for david wright
  6. joejanish December 7, 2009 at 11:55 am
    As I mentioned in the post, last year the Mets were counting on Murphy/Tatis, who combined for exactly 20 HR last year in over 800 ABs. Willingham hit 24 in 427 ABs.

    Put it that way and Josh Willingham sounds pretty darn awesome.

    I don’t know if he can play 1B, but he’s more athletic than Mike Piazza, so there’s hope. In fact he played 1B and 3B in the minors in addition to catching and the OF — and he even played a dozen games at 2B !

    Of course, he’s probably worse than Dan Murphy at 2B, but just sayin’ – he can probably learn to play 1B well enough not to hurt the team.