Mets Sign Hairston, Byrdak, and Boyer

Tim Byrdak catches two fish

Mets' big catch Byrdak poses with his own big catch

Sandy Alderson and his Fantasy Front Office began the offseason like a lamb, but is going out like a lion. After months of ho-hum-drum transactions / inaction, the Mets are really turning up the heat on the hot stove, picking up high-impact AAA players like it’s nobody’s business. If you are considering purchasing season tickets, hurry over to Mets.com and reserve your package now, because this past week’s rash of acquisitions is sure to motivate fans throughout the tri-state area to buy up every last seat in Citi Field.

As if the signings of Chris Young, Willie Harris, and Taylor Tankersley weren’t enough to bowl you over, the Mets have followed up that trio with another triumphant triumvirate: Scott Hairston, Tim Byrdak, and Blaine Boyer.

Hairston is the younger, taller, less-skilled, non-enhanced brother of Jerry Hairston, Jr. He plays the outfield and second base with equal adequacy, and hits the ball infrequently. When he does make contact, he occasionally sends the ball over a fence — he blasted 10 homers in only 295 at-bats last year, while posting a .210 average and .295 OBP. He had a career year in 2009, with 17 homeruns, .265 AVG, .305 OBP in 116 games and 464 plate appearances. With too many offensive-minded outfielders already on the roster, the Padres had no room for the soon-to-be 31-year-old slugger, and the Mets are the beneficiary of their surplus. Yet another brilliant, under-the-radar move by those very smart and efficient people in the front office. This strategy of exploiting market inefficiencies is so exciting!

Byrdak is a similarly smart move — I know this because the Mets made it, and everyone keeps telling us how smart they are now. Byrdak is one of those little old ladies lefties who everyone undervalues just because he has underwhelming stuff, walks too many people, gives up too many hits, and allows too many homeruns. What people forget is that in his 9-year MLB career, he twice averaged more than one strikeout per inning, and he limits lefthanded hitters to minuscule batting averages (righties rake him, but as long as he doesn’t face any, everything will be fine).

Boyer might be more interesting if his first name was Ken or Clete, instead of plain Blaine, but we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Interestingly, Boyer is basically the mirror image of Byrdak, in that he is murderous on righthanded batters, but gets killed by lefthanded batters. I’m wondering if the Mets can teach both of them to play first base, and then in the late innings, switch them back and forth between 1B and the mound depending on the batter’s handedness? If not, I suppose Terry Collins can politely request that the opposing manager not use pinch-hitters.

Strangely, neither Boyer nor Byrdak have had serious arm surgery within the past two years — which seems to be inconsistent with another market inefficiency being exploited by Alderson. However, if you look back far enough into their histories, you’ll learn that Byrdak did undergo Tommy John surgery in 2001, and Boyer had shoulder surgery in 2006 … so there you go.

All sarcasm aside, Boyer and Byrdak are perfectly fine, low-risk, mild-reward signings that could turn out quite well. Byrdak, in particular, has been something of a late bloomer, re-making himself into a crafty and efficient LOOGY in his mid-30s — kind of like the one-batter version of Jamie Moyer. He throws a four-seam fastball that rides in the 88-89 range and occasionally breaks 90; a running, sinking, two-seamer that’s a few MPH slower; a slider; and a forkball that he uses to change speeds. His varied repertoire has the potential to keep batters off balance, but because he doesn’t have great velocity on his heater nor great bite on his slider, his effectiveness is dependent on keeping the ball away from the plate and hoping batters extend their strike zone; therefore, he tends to walk too many batters.

As for Boyer, he was a top prospect in the Braves’ organization until the shoulder problems and eventual surgery briefly detoured his career. It took about 2-3 years for him to regain his velocity, which can get up into the 95-96 MPH range on occasion. He mixes in pretty good overhand curve and a hard slider, and was a workhorse for Bobby Cox in 2008, appearing in 76 games. However, he tends to get hit hard, as his fastball is pretty straight and control inconsistent — a combination that leads to frequent meatballs. He kind of reminds me of Brian Bruney.

Regarding Hairston, I don’t get it. Like Willie Harris, he can play both 2B and CF in a pinch, but probably best suited to left field, and isn’t going to offer much on offense. Harris hits from the left side and Hairston from the right, so I suppose they complement each other. But it would’ve been more efficient to get switch-hitting Delwyn Young to do the same thing, no? (Young was signed by the Phillies earlier this month.)

I know that neither Hairston nor Harris are going to be difference-makers, and their purpose is to provide depth, but my concern is they will be taking reps away from Nick Evans, who is out of options and will need to really wow Terry Collins in order to make the team.

In related news, the Mets DFA’d outfielder Jason Pridie and pitcher Tobi Stoner to make room for Hairston and Chris Young. Not a huge deal; I was actually surprised that Pridie and Stoner were on the 40-man roster in the first place.

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. CatchDog January 23, 2011 at 10:00 am
    Joe; check out Hairston’s unusually low BABIP. Raising that up will also raise his average. Also, his UZR ratings are above average in all three outfield spots so he’s a decent fourth outfielder.

    What I see is a team that now has plenty of depth at the major leauge level and at Buffalo, utilizing the little resources alotted to Sandy. This should ensure players like Tejada, Duda, Mejia, Gee and perhaps Kirk Nieuwenhuis from winding up at Citi as bench reserves. Let the kids get their reps in Buffalo.

    Interesting point; if all of the signings hit their incentives this season (which is impossible but we may see some surprises), the total output in payroll is under 20 mil. That’s the lowest the Mets have spent in an offseason since 1997.

    Hope for the best this season with all eyes on 2012 and beyond.

    • Joe Janish January 23, 2011 at 1:33 pm
      CatchDog, how is Hairston going to raise his BABIP? It’s low because he consistently refrains from making solid contact with the baseball. And even if he raises his average, he’s still going to have an OBP in the Alex Cora range.

      As for his defense, Hairston hasn’t played in nearly enough games for his UZR to mean anything. But I agree he’s “decent” defensively. As for being a “decent fourth outfielder”, I guess — if your team isn’t looking to contend. Which, I suppose, is the case with the Mets in ’11 so there you go.

      Interesting point on the offseason spending. That might be a good headline for a future post.

      • CatchDog January 24, 2011 at 12:02 pm
        Hairston consistently refrains from making solid contact with the baseball?

        He walks a little less than average (7.1 career as compared to about 8.5) and whiffs a bit more than average (23.1 career as compared to about 20.2), but neither number is too far from the median. Hairston’s low average is the result of a low BABIP, built on hitting the ball in the air more often than not (.72 GB/FB ratio, fly balls have lower BABIPs).

        But that also accounts for 45 homers in 1009 plate appearances for the Padres, with 24 in 528 at bats coming in pitcher friendly Petco. In addition, Hairston’s .109 isolated slugging percentage is above average.

        It’s about making the team better in any way possible. And getting a mashing backup that can play all three outfield positions on a cheap salary seems to qualify.

        • Joe Janish January 24, 2011 at 6:23 pm
          Oy! All the numbers make my head hurt!

          I’m not understanding your argument re: fly balls vs ground balls. First, his career GB/FB ratio is .56 (per Baseball-Reference) and it’s never been more than .60. Where is the .72 coming from? Even if it was .72, that means he’s hitting more ground balls, doesn’t it?

          His career OBP is .303. That’s awful.He’s had an “average” BABIP (in the .290-.300) once in 7 years, which tells me he’s either incredibly unlucky every year or he’s just not a good hitter.

          I sort of believe in the BABIP concept to explain an aberration in batting average that can’t otherwise be explained. But when a guy hits .230-.240 every year, I don’t wonder if it’s luck.

          Yes, he has the ability to hit homeruns on occasion; he’s not unlike Rod Barajas when it comes to offensive performance. Personally, I’d rather have someone who hits the ball safely more frequently, even if it means sacrificing homeruns — especially considering the expanse of Citi Field.

        • CatchDog January 25, 2011 at 9:14 am
          Joe; here’s the link from where I gleaned the info.

          http://www.amazinavenue.com/2011/1/18/1942191/mets-sign-scott-hairston-to-minor-league-deal

          I agree on a number of levels at this point, the most important being that Hairston doesn’t deserve this much debate time. You’re right in that the .72 GB/FB does not make sense. So much for rushing thru my side of the debate without factually checking the numbers. And, so much for the source.

          Perhaps Nick Evans beats Hairston out and all of these numbers are moot.

          Thanks for the reply. I’m a smarter Met fan today. :-)

        • Joe Janish January 25, 2011 at 11:09 pm
          I agree to agree with you: Scott Hairston DEFINITELY does not deserve this much debate!

          This is what happens on a slow news day / week / month / entire offseason !!

          February 15th cannot come soon enough ………..

  2. mic January 23, 2011 at 11:46 am
    Ok, lets review; we got a LOOGY and a ROOGY but ur not happy? And potentially a defensive OFer , so Dmurph obviously wont be in LF.

    PS: If position players play the RIGHT positions…what happens to Nick evans and D.murph? We have 3 3rdbasemen now (magically).

    Note to Joe: Apparently Tejada is EXCLUSIVELY a SS now. So what then for Willmer and J.Marte?

    • Mike January 23, 2011 at 12:39 pm
      Wilmer and Marte are future problems. Unlike fans, organizations don’t think ahead like that, instead they focus on doing what is best for the player. If they pigeon hole Florez or Marte and they turn out to not be a fit there, then what have you accomplished? Wilmer and Jefrey will stay where they are until they prove they cannot handle it, this is the best thing for their development.
    • Joe Janish January 23, 2011 at 1:37 pm
      Of course Tejada is exclusively a SS — it’s his best position and the Mets will need one in 2012 after Reyes leaves. Flores and Marte project as corner OFs, so it’s a moot point.

      I’m not happy about anything the Mets have done since 2006, and getting a ROOGY and a LOOGY off the junk pile is not enough to change that stance.

      I don’t understand the “RIGHT positions” comment. Murphy is a “supersub”; he’ll fill in at 2B/1B/3B/LF. Evans projects similarly; he can handle 1B/3B/RF/LF.

  3. James K. January 23, 2011 at 11:56 am
    Have to say Joe — I know sarcasm and crankyness are part of your analysis but this is laying it on pretty thick. “Fantasy Front Office”? Do you like the front office? If you do, what’s the point of mocking them like that? They’ve held the job all of 2 months, why not give them some time before the sarcastic monikers are busted out? If you don’t like the FO, may I ask why?

    It’s pretty obvious the FO doesn’t have much to spend this offseason, so these little moves are basically all they can do. If the spending is the problem, why not target the Wilpons? “Fantasy Owners”?

    The first time with the “buy your season tickets now!” it was funny. The second time a little less so. But the 10th time it’s grown pretty insufferable.

    That’s just me, and you can continue to do what you do.

    • Joe Janish January 23, 2011 at 2:44 pm
      Welcome back, James!

      You’ve been gone for a while, I guess, as I’ve been using the “Fantasy Front Office” moniker since December. You see it as mocking them? Weird, I thought it was a compliment … it’s like the “Dream Team” from the ’92 Olympics, but the alliteration of the “Fs” works better … you think “Dream Front Office” has a better ring to it?

      As for the sarcasm, people would be very disappointed if they came here and didn’t get it. Why should I give the front office time before voicing my opinion? There are no games to analyze in the winter, so this blog’s focus is opinion until spring training starts.

      Further, why is it OK for 90-95% of Mets blogs to lavishly praise the new front office and nearly every move they make, but it’s not OK for me to criticize them and their moves on occasion? Are you asking those other blogs to give the front office some time before complimenting them? Or is it a one-way street?

      For the record, I neither like nor dislike the new front office. If anything, I might be ambivalent, but closer to neutral.

      Thanks for setting me straight on my lack of humor (“insufferable”? wow). I have a tendency to tell the same jokes and stories over and over — that’s what happens to some people when they get old.

      Also, thank you — so much — for allowing me to continue to do what I do; I’m grateful for your kindness in giving me the opportunity to exercise my right to the freedom of speech.

      • James K. January 23, 2011 at 4:44 pm
        Hmm. If you neither like nor dislike the front office then why the “Fantasy Front Office” nickname? You can call it a compliment, but if you’re neutral then it’s obviously sarcastic.

        I’ve been reading the whole offseason, but only commented now because the shtick is really tiresome and tough to read at this point. I appreciate the sarcasm and crankyness (I share both of those traits as well) but at some point the jokes get old. Maybe other readers feel differently.

        Nowhere in my comment did I say that you shouldn’t give your opinion on the individual moves of the FO. I simply said it’s a bit early for the mocking front office nickname.

        And are 90-95% of blogs really lavishing praise on these moves? Are people going nuts over signing Tim Byrdak and Taylor Tankersley? I read a lot of Mets blogs and it doesn’t seem that way to me. Seems more like people understand the ownership-created limitations and are generally pleased with the offseason based on that. I haven’t loved every move (a major league deal for Hairston is strange to me; I’m bearish on Chris Young) but I’ve liked most of them (Carrasco, Paulino, Harris, Capuano).

        • Joe Janish January 23, 2011 at 7:12 pm
          I didn’t realize emotion was tied to applying nicknames; though, it could be because I’m a Vulcan.

          Did someone like or not like “The Dream Team” when it was coined? Did George Brett not like Mario Mendoza when he turned his name into a demarcation point for the .200 batting average? Is Ed “Too Tall” Jones “too tall”?

          I don’t believe there has ever before been a front office assembled with as many high-profile, highly publicized, former GMs. These guys are big names and their hirings have received a lot of hype and interest. So, to me the Alderson / DePodesta / Ricciardi assembly struck a parallel to the Dream Team. Maybe you’re too young to remember The Dream Team and understand why it clicked in my head, but it did. And fantasy is a synonym for dream. Ergo, “Fantasy Front Office”. There has to be a like/dislike involved in that?

          My percentages are probably off. But you should expect that, you know I’m bad with numbers. I regularly make exaggerations. It’s probably closer to 70-80% of Mets blogs, who are happy with the moves because of the reasoning you suggest and/or simply because they’re being made by a GM not named Minaya (people tend to like shiny and new things). Either way the bulk of the reporting is consistent with a “honeymoon period”, so my job is to be overly negative and balance the scales.

          If my posts are tiresome and tough to read, why are you bothering? Check back here in March, when I’ll be focusing on physical analysis / mechanics. The dead of winter, with the cold weather, lack of daylight, and no baseball, makes me most angry and brings out my most scathing, ornery, and least-enjoyable posts. This winter is especially dreadful because it appears that the Mets will be a fourth- or fifth-place team for the next three years at least.

        • Steve Mattan January 23, 2011 at 7:49 pm
          Joe,

          I found your blog because of Rob Neyer.

          I think he made a mistake.

          I agree with James K., and you’re just not worth reading anymore. The jokes are stale. Saying your readers expect the same tired old stick is insulting to your readers There is no value added in your commentary. We know the moves suck. We know the team is going nowhere this year (and perhaps the next few).

          Why not tell us what you would have done differently? Which big ticket free agent would you have made the next Beltran or Santana? What trades would you have made with all the Mets “assets”?

          Sorry you don’t like the front office, and don’t pretend you don’t, your constant mocking gives it away. Yes, the moves are underwhelming, but then so is your analysis (or lack thereof).

          I’m sure, as with your responses to James, you’ll sarcastically mock me as well. Doesn’t matter, because I won’t be around.

          To answer your question to James, I won’t be bothering.

        • Joe Janish January 23, 2011 at 8:42 pm
          Thanks for stopping by, Steve. Sorry to have disappointed you.

          Check out the site James K. writes for, it’s AmazinAvenue.com. The content posted by authors there is much better. People come here mainly for the conversation in the comments section, as well as the lyrics to Lazy Mary, rather than for my less-than-brilliant, often insufferable story posts.

          BTW why are you apologizing for the Mets’ front office? Are you one of the Mets owners who hired the new staff?

        • jesse January 23, 2011 at 10:57 pm
          The day a douchebag accountant knows jack about baseball is the day Sandy Alderson wins a WS ring without steroids and a big payroll. Get over yourself, nerd.
  4. murph January 23, 2011 at 3:16 pm
    I think your LOOGY/utility 1B idea could be the next revolution to the game.
    But they would have to start developing them in the minors first.
    If you can ask a guy like Daniel Murphy to start learning another position, why not a pitcher? And as a lefty, they would be well suited for first base, and would not have to put undo stress on their arms as they might at another position.
    • Joe Janish January 23, 2011 at 4:31 pm
      40 years ago, people might not have believed that MLB bullpens would eventually be based around ONE guy to pitch the 9th inning. 30 years ago, people might not have believed that a “setup man” would be designated for the 8th inning. 20 years ago, it still would have been silly to suggest that teams would have “one-out guys”.

      And the way things are going, teams may soon expand their pitching staffs to 13 or 14 pitchers. If that’s they case, someone is going to have to produce / suggest a two-way player (pitcher/player).

      I bet Ike Davis — who pitched in college and threw gas — could be a decent LOOGY. Hmm … maybe that could be a future post ….

  5. gary s. January 24, 2011 at 1:17 am
    Steelers 24 my Jets 19.Something about teams whose names end in “ets” always seems to end in a choke or a loss.Not really that upset though,Coach Ryan taking the jets to 2 AFC title games twice in 2 years is very impressive.Would anybody on this website be unhappy if Terry Collins takes the mets to the playoffs in his first 2 years a s manager?
    • Joe Janish January 25, 2011 at 11:17 pm
      Did Collins proclaim the Mets a World Series team?

      I know most people pooh-pooh the idea that a team can play better because of mindset, but you have to wonder if the Jets would’ve made it to the title game twice if they didn’t have that confidence and boldness instilled in them. I still think back to Joe Girardi’s one year with the Marlins, and how he insisted that the team was gunning for a World Championship — yes, they fell short, but they achieved much more than anyone expected that year.

      I think Ralph Waldo Emerson was the one who said, “man becomes what he thinks about most of the time”.

      The mind can be a powerful thing, if you give it the chance to be so. (quote by Joe Janish).