What’s the Point of Hairston and Harris?

It occurred to me that both Scott Hairston and Willie Harris have a very good chance of making the 25-man roster when spring training breaks in late March.


Remember this time last year, when people were wondering why the likes of Alex Cora, Fernando Tatis, Gary Matthews, Jr., and Frank Catalanotto were taking at-bats away from youngsters and eventually, 25-man roster spots? It was a bad idea then, when the team had the illusion that they were a pennant contender. It’s an even worse idea when we know the team has little to no chance of finishing higher than fourth place.

I could sort of understand wanting a “veteran presence” or “reliable veterans” on the roster of a team looking to get to the postseason — particularly a team whose regulars are set and is simply looking for the “final pieces of the puzzle”. A cool-headed, experienced pinch-hitter makes sense to have around, for example. But on a team going nowhere and at the beginning of a long-term rebuilding process, it makes little sense.

Let’s get one thing out of the way: I like what both Hairston and Harris bring to the table in terms of approach, professionalism, attitude, and unselfishness. If they were in camp for the purpose of teaching young kids how an MLBer should carry himself, prepare, and execute, then I’m all for it. I also have no problem with bringing in these veterans to create competition and push a youngster into earning a roster spot. In the case of Harris, who has a minor-league deal, that seems to be the case. However, Hairston has a guaranteed MLB contract worth $1.1M and another $400K in performance bonuses. It’s eerily similar to the Cora and Henry Blanco deals of last year, in that, if the bonus is paid, it means the team has had some terrible misfortune — and is essentially paying extra money to an individual during a season that is likely an unsuccessful one for the team.

I also get the idea of having veterans on the bench so that youngsters can stay in the minors and play every day — for example, maybe the Mets would prefer to have Lucas Duda getting 500+ ABs in Buffalo this year, rather than getting only half that many as a fourth outfielder. But then what do the Mets do with Nick Evans, when April Fools’ Day comes around and he has to be placed on waivers? Is one year of Scott Hairston worth losing several cheap years of Nick Evans to a team that might pick him up?

My beef is not so much with the Harris contract — which, as previously mentioned, is non-guaranteed — but rather with the Hairston deal, which more or less guarantees him a roster spot. Considering the unknown health issues of Carlos Beltran, I understand why the Mets wanted to have around veterans with centerfield experience (though, even then, it’s strange, considering that either Beltran or Jason Bay could conceivably fill in for a few innings or even a few games if something happened to Angel Pagan). What I don’t understand is why a team in financial straits and in rebuilding mode would make a 7-figure commitment to a player they didn’t necessarily need.

One possibility: they believe that Hairston could draw interest in a trade near the deadline. But even then, what can they obtain in return for a fourth outfielder / super sub? A nondescript A-ball pitcher?

Maybe you have an explanation — post it in the comments.

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. Jay March 7, 2011 at 1:24 pm
    I want to be very clear here that I’m not speaking for myself but rather trying to divine what the Mets front office might be thinking and this is what I’ve come up with:

    You note that the presence of Hairston and Harris makes no sense “on a team going nowhere and at the beginning of a long-term rebuilding process.”

    Alderson, at least publicly, has disavowed any such concept and portrayed himself (in his words “perhaps naively”) as a glass half full optimist.

    So in the context that he views the team as closer to a contender than you do he stocks the roster differently than you might.

  2. Walnutz15 March 7, 2011 at 1:29 pm
    Why, to provide middle of the order presence – of course!!

    “Terry Collins has a plan for getting Beltran rest in April and May, which, as Adam Rubin explains at ESPN New York, will mean Willie Harris and Scott Hairston starting in right field on certain days while hitting in the middle of the order.”


  3. hernandezhofer March 7, 2011 at 1:45 pm
    The ONLY way the Hairston move makes sense is if the Mets sincerely believe that Evans is not a major league player. Collins has been hyping Evans up, but that may just be in the hopes of dealing him (which won’t happen, because other teams see the same thing we do – Evans is destined for the waiver wire).

    Evans’ inability to hit righties, and his bad defense, may have doomed him in the Mets’ eyes.

    • Joe Janish March 7, 2011 at 2:03 pm
      That’s a valid point … and you’re right — if they do hope Evans can be a trading chip, it’s not realistic since he’ll be available via waivers and therefore the Mets have no leverage to make a deal.

      Still, I don’t get the guaranteed deal for Hairston, when there were several other adequate centerfielders available on the market — as well as a few already in the system on minor league deals (Harris, Pridie).

  4. Bubb March 7, 2011 at 2:10 pm
    Evans makes the team,Harris doesn’t?
  5. Mic March 7, 2011 at 2:21 pm
    Cover for the coming fire sale.
  6. Kevin Buckley March 7, 2011 at 7:12 pm
    Signing Harris and Hairston really was a puzzle to me. For one thing, I’ve previously written here that the Mets in 2010 gave up nearly 30% of their overall AB’s to a very underachieving group of players. They lost a lot of close games as a result. Therefore, the Bench needed to be a priority for 2011 and Hairston and Harris just seem to be much of the same as what the Mets had in 2010.
    To be honest, I’m a big Nick Evans fan. I see good potential there. Jerry Manuel had some sort of problem with Evans and never really gave NIck a chance to show what he could do last year. When Murphy came up and had an impressive year three years ago, Omar made a point of mentioning Evans’ potential several times. Is Murphy more liked on the basis of his personality (his work ethic is now a given) which Evans can’t match?
    The Mets missed out on Jose Bautista, the AL Home Run Champion last year, trading him the same day they acquired him. We know what Harris and Hairston can do, and sadly, it’s pretty limited; we really have no idea what Evans can do. No, Evans can’t play CF, but he’s a much better bet off the Bench than the new acquisitions.
  7. NormE March 7, 2011 at 8:31 pm
    Let me interject a cynical thought (though I’m not sure I
    believe it fully). In the past few years we’ve seen the Mets
    bring in bench players like Marlon Anderson and Damian Easley. Could the inclusion of Hairston and Harris be based on the desire to include African-Americans on an all white
    and latino ballclub?
  8. John March 8, 2011 at 9:25 am
    I think the issue really has to do with Beltran. There has to be a real belief that he will not last the season physically and that there was a need for a major league ready outfielder. The alternative would have been Duda or Martinez and I think Alderson wanted to play in Buffalo to start the season. When Beltran goes down, there would then a decision to bring up the one who has made the most progress could be made.
    As for Evans, there is no reason that he couldn’t go North while Harris goes to Buffalo. Evans could then be shopped without time pressure. If either Duda or Martinez are playing well they could be late April call ups or Harris would be available.
    I am not a big fan of Hairston but it really does make some sense. In any case it will allow the younger guys time to get some ABs in the minor leagues, something that the previous regime couldn’t comprehend.
  9. Joe March 8, 2011 at 11:01 am
    I don’t really see much concern in risking $1M or something given how much money is being wasted on the likes of Castillo. Like who cares? And, it really boils down to Evans. If they don’t trust him or don’t expect him not to go through waivers, it really comes down to the money.

    Which, not speaking for real people like myself, doesn’t really seem to matter much.

    • Joe Janish March 8, 2011 at 5:21 pm
      $1M to any other team in MLB is not much, but when you’re on the brink of bankruptcy and your entire budget for winter signings was less than $10M, then every single dollar counts.

      Also it’s not the amount of money so much as the fact it’s guaranteed, and therefore more or less cements a spot for Hairston on the Opening Day roster.

      • Joe March 8, 2011 at 10:54 pm
        They aren’t forced to play him — they can give him the 1M and let him go, so it’s the money, and bankruptcy or small budget or not (who else would they get for 1M anyway?) it isn’t much. It also seems a sign they don’t really trust or care about Evans. Recent events suggest SH is a cheap insurance policy. One that might be needed for more than a game or two. Not wishing to concede and the other OF options leaving something to be desired, it seems not really a big deal one way or the other.
        • Joe Janish March 8, 2011 at 11:25 pm
          Maybe it’s not a big deal. But the Mets made a ton of similarly “not big deals” over the past few years and now they’re bankrupt.

          Hairston had a .640 OPS last year; Nick Evans can’t do at least that well for the MLB minimum? Or Lucas Duda? Or Russ Adams? Even Willie Harris did better than that, and he was awful last year and has a non-guaranteed deal.

          This new front office is supposed to be so “smart” but the Hairston signing looks a lot like something the previous regime would do — overpay for mediocrity.