Second Base Plan B

Josh Barfield hitting for the Cleveland IndiansSo Omar Minaya and Mark Shapiro had lunch and were supposedly talking about a deal that would send LHP Cliff Lee to the Mets. That would be a typical Omar move — pick up a guy who had success in the past, but is coming off a down year and whose value has sunk to minuscule levels.

But hold on here, the Indians have another guy whose value has shrunk, at a position where the Mets have a need: second base.

While watching the playoff games between the Indians and Red Sox, I completely lost sight of the fact that Josh Barfield was riding the pine — rookie Asdrubal Cabrera had stolen his job late in the season and proved to be a spark for the Injuns. It’s a foregone conclusion that Cabrera will enter 2008 as the starting second sacker.

So what does that mean for Barfield?

As a rookie in 2006, Barfield played in 150 games for the Padres and hit .280 with 32 doubles, 13 homers, and a .423 slugging percentage, while stealing over 20 bases. Yes, his OBP was abysmal — only .318 — but he was a 23-year-old rookie. After his successful inaugural season, it appeared that Barfield would be manning the keystone for years to come in San Diego, but they shipped him out to Cleveland for third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff. With the Indians, Barfield was so-so, with his offensive numbers dropping off significantly — 3 HR, .243 average, .270 OBP, .324 SLG. Yes, those numbers are ugly, and he’s still way too aggressive. But he turns just 25 next month, has enjoyed success in the recent past, and had a pretty slick glove before moving to Cleveland. Maybe the trade messed with his psyche, or maybe he pressed with the bat. Point is, he’s young enough and talented enough to reverse the slide and make progress again — and he’ll come REALLY cheap.

Back in 2005, the Indians gave up on another 25-year-old second baseman who appeared to be regressing instead of improving. He was dumped on the Reds for a PTBNL. His name was Brandon Phillips. (Ironically, Phillips was acquired by the Indians along with Lee, in the deal with the Expos for Bartolo Colon.)

Wouldn’t it be just like Omar to make an under-the-radar deal for Cliff Lee, and get Josh Barfield as a “throw-in” ? And then see Barfield return to the form that made him the #1 prospect in San Diego’s organization just two years ago?

From Baseball America, circa 2005:

“Barfield has a quick swing and uses the whole field, with no discernible weakness when it comes to pitch location. His power continues to develop and he projects to hit 20-25 home runs annually in the big leagues. Barfield provides an argument to those who believe that there’s no such thing as clutch hitting. He seems to take pressure situations as a personal challenge. Over the last three years, he has hit an average of 52 points higher with runners in scoring position, including a .331 mark in 2004. He’s an average baserunner, making up for speed that’s a tick below-average with excellent instincts.”

So if talks with Luis Castillo fall through, perhaps Barfield could be an option as “Plan B”.

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 November 8, 2007 at 9:01 am
    I can’t I don’t see the logistics in acquiring Lee/Barfield this offseason, as both have great upsides and would fill holes the Mets currently have. But I have to wonder…

    1. What would the Indians ask in return for two guys who have yet to prove themselves at the major league level? I know Lee is a former 18-game winner, but the theory of “the league figuring a pitcher out” needs to be applied, as he has had an ERA of 4.40+ over the last 2 seasons. Barfield has great potential too, but he wouldn’t be the first prospect with rave reviews to never make a name for himself in the majors. For such a couple of question marks, would it be worth giving up 2 of our more highly touted prospects? I mean, we could go out and sign guys like Odalis Perez and Marcus Giles and get very similar production without giving up anything. I think, if a deal were to be reached, a lot would depend on what Cleveland would be asking for in return.

    2. In a season where the Mets had a monumental collapse, and in an offseason where making at least one big trade is absolutely necessary, is the the trade we want to settle on? Two guys who have yet to prove they belong at the major league level? With potential deals possible that could net Javier Vazquez, or Joe Blanton, or Jeremy Bonderman, or Brian Roberts, a Lee/Barfield trade seems very bland.

    I remind myself the title of this article is 2B Plan B, so obviously this isn’t our first option. Maybe not even our 2nd or 3rd. And I concur this is a classic Omar trade in which he buys low and either looks really smart, or took a calculated chance without giving up too much. But I think that’s the key. Don’t give up too much. I agree that Lee and Barfield SHOULD be had cheaply, which means Pelfrey, Humber, Mulvey, Milledge, Gomez, etc should remain Mets property after a transaction transpires.

    Wouldn’t it also be classic Omar to deal for Ramon Hernandez without giving up a major prospect either? If those are the only 2 trades the Mets pull off this offseason, what grade would you give them? Obviously, it depends on free agent pickups, but I like the idea of holding on to all of our prospects and still improving in the process. If Barfield is obtained, could he spend a year at AAA if Castillo is resigned? Maybe a better question, if Castillo is resigned, could a Barfield trade still be possible?

    Among other things:
    Hearing rumors Mike Pelfrey and Carlos Gomez are being sought by the Nationals. Safe to say they’re just rumors.
    Also, Brad Lidge is now a Phillie. Another closer trade between Houston and Philly (Billy Wagner). Lidge looked a lot more like himself last season, but I’m interested to see what he can do at Citizens Bank Park. Still, at least on paper, looks like the Phillies improved themselves quite nicely.

  2. isuzudude November 8, 2007 at 9:24 am
    I apologize. The first line of my previous post should have started “I can’t SAY I don’t…” This is what happens when I don’t proofread what I write.
  3. Matt Himelfarb November 8, 2007 at 9:42 am
    I can see why the Mets might look into Barfield as well, but at that point, why don’t they just go with Gotay without giving up anybody? I think the Mets, with bigger needs this off-season, will platoon Gotay and Easley.
  4. joe November 8, 2007 at 9:43 am
    I don’t think Omar trades any of the top prospects for Ramon Hernandez, nor in a Lee / Barfield swap. That was pretty much my point in the Barfield idea — that Omar would get him on the cheap, i.e. for a Willie Collazo or a few nondescript A-ball players. The thinking is that the Indians won’t have any reason to keep him around, so maybe they’ll dump him the way they did Brandon Phillips. As for Hernandez, I bet the O’s just want to get rid of salary, and won’t demand a Gomez / Pelfrey etc.

    I’m a little upset about the Lidge deal — the Phils gave up practically nothing. Geoff Geary and Michael Bourn? Please. Where the heck was Omar while the Astros were giving away guys like Lidge? I’d have been OK with the Mets trading Guillermo Mota and Endy Chavez for Lidge — which would have been essentially the same deal. Oh I know Endy’s legendary and a huge fan favorite but seriously, who will help the Mets more in 2008, especially when you have Gomez around? Or who knows maybe Ben Johnson could have been the guy instead of Endy. I’m flabbergasted that the Astros got so little in return, in a market where every team in baseball is dying for setup relief.

  5. skibolton November 8, 2007 at 9:58 am
    I’d love to see a trade like this happen, even if we have to give up one of the outfielders. There is plenty of young outfield talent in the system, but the cupboard is pretty bare at the upper levels as far as infielders. Barfield could be sent to AAA this season if the team didn’t think he was ready to start right now. I think Lee would be a nice fit towards the back end of the rotation, and a lot cheaper than silva or livan will be. I wouldn’t make this trade in replacement of going after a front end starter, but I think it may help us to match up better with teams like the blue jays or twins who need infield help come the trade deadline.
  6. Matt Himelfarb November 8, 2007 at 10:00 am
    I think you’re a bit off with the comparision deal. For one, they also gave up Mike Costanzo, who put up some nice numbers in AA last year, and I see him putting up league average 3B numbers in the future. Also, Michael Bourn is 24 and is your prototypical type leadoff hitter, while Chavez has never proven to be much of a bench player.

    For the sake of conversation, I’d say the equivalent deal would be Mota, Carp, and say, Gotay.

    With that being said, I’d strongly consider that deal. Which raises the question, if you have a bullpen of Lidge, Hernandez, and Humber, (who I believe can be very good out of that spot) do you talk about moving Heilman to the rotation?

  7. isuzudude November 8, 2007 at 10:15 am
    As per Lidge: I think the reason why Houston was so quick to part with Lidge for so little in return was because of his contract. He’s arbitration eligible in 2008 after making $5.35-mil last season, and then he’s due to be a free agent next offseason. They also have Chad Qualls, who appears to be just as safe a bet in the 9th inning as Lidge, or maybe they decide to enter the Francisco Cordero sweepstakes, or go cheap and sign a Todd Jones/Eddie Guardado/Octavio Dotel and take their chances with one of them on a one-year deal for less than what Lidge makes. Whatever, I’ll let the Houston blogs figure out why the team wanted to trade Lidge. The bottom line is you’re right on both accounts, Joe. The Phillies got a potentially lights-out closer for virtually nothing, and I’d like to know why the Mets weren’t as involved in these talks. Bourn and Geary are probably no better prospects than Ben Johnson and Carlos Muniz, and for that package I would have jumped all over acquiring Lidge, even if just for one season. Instead, Philly now has a bullpen built around Lidge/Gordon/Madson, and a rotation of Hamels/Myers/Moyer/Kendrick. And now instead of spending money on starting pitching, they can focus on re-signing Rowand or targeting Mike Lowell for 3B, making their offense that much more potent. Not good for us Met fans.

    As per Matt’s coments: I don’t like the idea of a Gotay/Easley platoon at all. I agree the Mets have some big needs, but signing Castillo to, say, a 2-yr, $10-mil contract isn’t going to put a damper in any of their grandiose plans.

  8. Micalpalyn November 8, 2007 at 12:07 pm
    Isu: You have this post covered from all angles. But I’d like to turn you to your first comment, with a slant.

    a. How does Gotay compare to Barfield (whose brother Omar drafted)? I LOVE the idea of Gotay at 2nd in a platoon. But note to blog- I dont know if Willie Randolph can spell platoon much less use one. Plus per an earlier post, if the Astros sign Castillo then who gets Loretta? There are other options. Heck Dan uggla came from nowhere to be a stud…(albeit with hands of stone).

    b. Castillo is going to be a hot property because you dont lose a pick to get him. I’d also like to note THIS same Castillo used Jim Duquette to get a sweeter deal from the Fish previously. So despite the cliche’s Castillo is not necessarily enamored with the Mets.