Loney, Morse, Kubel, Uribe, Infante Off the Table

There was a rash of signings over the past few days — first let’s take a quick look at the position players locked up.

James Loney signed a 3-year, $21M deal to stay in Tampa Bay. With Loney locked up, the Rays, I imagine, are no longer interested in trading for Ike Davis (if they ever were). If you believe the buzz in the blogosphere, the only suitors left for Davis are the Brewers and possibly the Pirates. Per various reports, the Mets are insisting on Milwaukee pitching prospect Tyler Thornburg in return for Davis, but the Brewers refuse to part with the hard-throwing righthander. No word on what the Mets might be able to extract from the Bucs.

Mike Morse agreed to a contract with the Giants for one year, $6M. Wow, I like this move — it smells a lot like San Francisco’s signing of Aubrey Huff back in 2010. I’ve always been a big fan of Morse — when he’s healthy, he can rake. Of course, the “when he’s healthy” thing has been a problem, and there were reports that his injured wrist won’t hold up for the long-term. But if it holds up in the short-term, the Giants may have something. And if it doesn’t, well, the Giants are “only” out $6M. He had a terrible 2013, which can be attributed to the change in leagues and the wrist problem. His 2012 wasn’t great, but again, injuries played a role. In my mind, a $6M, one-year deal for Morse is akin to paying Ike Davis $6M for one year — if it works out and the guy hits 30 HR again, super. If it doesn’t work out, you cut your losses and move on. The main contrast, though, is that with Morse the gamble is on health, and if he’s hurt, you can put him on the DL. Whereas with Davis, you have to wait and see if the swing and confidence come back — and wait, and wait, and wait …

In a similar, but much less risky signing, the Twins brought back Jason Kubel on a minor-league deal. Kubel hit 30 homers in 2012, but struggled mightily in an injury-plagued 2013. Again, I like this deal — the Twins having nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

The Dodgers re-signed Juan Uribe for two years and $15M. Ouch. This deal I don’t like, mainly because I can’t figure out who the heck Juan Uribe is. Is he the clutch performer who drives in runs like a madman in the postseason, and hits about .280 during the regular season? Or is he that guy with the rusty-gate swing, rarely making contact, and struggling to stay near the Mendoza Line? His defense is solid, he’s a good guy in the clubhouse, but two years and $15M for a 34/35-year old who crapped out in the first two years of his last big contract? Hmm … scary. He appears to be one of those players who performs his best in a walk year.

With Uribe set to play 3B for the Dodgers, that means Hanley Ramirez will be the shortstop. Which, in turn, means that there likely isn’t any room for Dee Gordon — might the Mets make a play for the raw infielder? Yes, I’m still fixated on Gordon — I like the idea of athletic speedsters in a cavernous home park.

Finally, Omar Infante signed a four-year, $30M deal with the Royals. Infante is a solid all-around “ballplayer” — maybe not spectacular in any area, but good to very-good in every area of the game, can play just about anywhere, solid fundamentals, rarely makes a mistake. Though he spent most of his career with the Tigers, I always think of him as a Bobby Cox Brave, because he fit so well into the Cox system of executing, avoiding mistakes, grinding it out. In that way I’ve always seen Infante and Martin Prado as essentially the same person. Is it a good contract for a 32-year-old? Well, if the market says Juan Uribe is worth 2/$15M then I guess so. By moving to Kansas City, Infante is off the list of targets for the Yankees, who considered him as the second base replacement for Robinson Cano. There aren’t many second basemen left on the free-agent market — might the Yankees call the Mets and find out what they’d want for Daniel Murphy?

We’ll take a look at the recent signings of pitchers shortly.

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. argonbunnies December 15, 2013 at 3:39 pm
    You missed one: Mike Pelfrey to the Twins. In 2013, Pelf averaged just over 5 innings per start and posted a 5.19 ERA in a pitcher’s park, for a negative WAR. In theory, most teams have a guy in AAA who could do better. So, was he rewarded with the traditional minor league offer or Invite to Spring Training? No; the Twins gave him 2 years for $11 mil.

    Is the state of pitching today that bad?

    • argonbunnies December 15, 2013 at 3:41 pm
      Oh wait, I see you said position players. Perhaps Pelf posting is coming…
    • izzy December 15, 2013 at 6:34 pm
      Pelf came back from TJ too soon, but e regained his velocity in spetember so there is a chance the Twinkies new something since he pitched for them.. And anyway, at least he isn;t a fat 40 some year old convicted PEDster. Morse, surprised Loserson didn’t go after him. another cheater, looks like his PEDs wore out. Uribe? They should have traded for Murphy and let him play his real position for that money. Murphy to the Yankees? For whom? Gardner? I don’t think either GM has the you know what’s to risk losing a deal with the city enmy.
      • Steve Hussy December 15, 2013 at 11:42 pm
        Put your reputation where your mouth is, Izzy. How many wins next year for “Loserson”? Are you predicting a losing record?

        And do you think Pelf (at 11 mil + 3.5 mil incentives) will outpitch Colon (20 mil)?

        • izzy December 16, 2013 at 7:28 am
          Lets see, I have to put my mioney where my mouth is while Loserson lover has to do what? Nothing!!! OK, Lets Loserson has had nothing but losing teams every year he was in Queens and every year he eas in Sand diego. He has not improved the team at all, even though he actually signed some guys, he hasn’t replaced the pitchers he’s lost and he’s maybe replaced the outfield numbers and his infield isn’t major league D up the middle, and if he makes Duda his star at first it can’t field at three of four spots. Tough prediction Steve. LOSING 2014. Pelfrey vs the Cheat. Will Pelf outpitch the fat cheating old over the hill guy….. I would think so. Now lets see what you can do beside try to belittle anyone who doesn’t worship Loserson’s/Wilpon’s feet.
        • Steve Hussy December 16, 2013 at 2:11 pm
          Gimme a number of wins, Izzy. You said on the Granderson post: “Analyzing and trying to predict takes brains…….. Use them next time you want to go off.”

          So do it, Izzy. Man up. I’m guessing you’re picking 75 wins? Am I right? Pick a number. You get three wins either way. I’m happy to run it on a website and we can see if you’re right in 2014. I’ll do the Izzy-o-meter myself.

          Be careful when you say people are worshipping anyone. I doubt anyone on Mets Today would debate that Alderson has been even close to perfect. The last few years have been largely depressing as a Mets’ fan. But I do think there have been gradual positive signs.

          Your determination to see the bad in everything the Mets do smacks of masochism. Do you want the Mets to win? You get offensively mouthy at Crozier and various other guys. Then you get suddenly pious when we talk back.

          Sports should be enjoyable. Some of us have played minor league baseball or other sports at higher levels. It was fun. Our teams are frustrating, of course, but there should still be the joy – sometimes the blind hope – in watching them win. And I do think the Mets will finally win more than they lose in 2014.

        • argonbunnies December 16, 2013 at 3:35 pm
          I would bet anything that Colon will have more positive value than Pelf, even if it’s by going on the DL while Pelf pitches below replacement level. Even if Pelfrey isn’t quite that bad, one healthy year of Colon is still better than two healthy years of Pelfrey.

          Pelfrey’s a nice dude, but he really only had 3 months of good pitching (early 2010) in the last 5 years. If the Twins “saw something”, they’re deluding themselves. He posted a decent ERA in July-August thanks to BABIP luck, then gave up 16 runs in 13 innings in September. He’s just not a good starting pitcher, and that’s been true regardless of what the radar gun’s said.

  2. argonbunnies December 15, 2013 at 3:57 pm
    Uribe is a weird guy. His body doesn’t look athletic, but he may be the most under-rated defender of the past decade. I don’t particularly trust dWAR, but the fact that Uribe has a positive ranking in every single one of his 13 seasons probably says something. Very few other infielders can boast that.

    If you watch him, he’s not an exciting finisher (he doesn’t make a ton of diving grabs or rocket throws), but his first-step quickness is second to none. Quick feet, quick transfer, quick release — the guy does everything fast except for running. He’s like Jose Oquendo wearing a barrel.

    Speaking of infield ability, I bet Murphy would excel as a Yankee — at the plate. With less pressure to be a lineup key and drive in runs, his selectivity might return, and he knows how to jerk an inside pitch now and then. I hope this trade doesn’t happen.

    Thornburg wouldn’t be an overpay for Ike, but the Brewers need a 5th starter. Do we have a low-upside guy who could survive in the majors now? Ike and deGrom for Thornburg? Or is deGrom better than that?

    • norme December 15, 2013 at 11:20 pm
      A-bunnies,
      I had a good laugh at your description of Uribe being “like Jose Oquendo wearing a barrel.” Great line. I’d have to look it up, but I’d be surprised if Jose O’s hitting numbers were as good as Uribe’s.
      When I watch Uribe I often wonder why any manager would allow his pitcher to throw a first pitch fastball any where near home plate when Juan is up with men on base.
      Too bad the Mets couldn’t swing Murphy to LA for some young talent (Gordon/Pederson etc.)
      • argonbunnies December 16, 2013 at 3:25 pm
        Oh, Oquendo made Ruben Tejada look like a masher. There’s power in that barrel!
  3. TexasGusCC December 16, 2013 at 1:52 am
    I have believed that Murphy would be perfect for the Yankees since September, when it was figured he would have to go. However, what do the Yankees have that we need?

    Even the Thornburg deal isn’t such a great get for the Mets: He throws in the low 90’s with spotty control, and his ERA will go up when his unrealistic 0.14% HR/9 innings ratio goes up.

    Actually, if the Mets can get rid of at least Duda, who I consider the least upside, maybe Flores can semi-platoon and get about 350-400 at bats all over the place while waiting to see if Murphy can show more power and be moved at the deadline.

    • Joe Janish December 16, 2013 at 11:25 am
      I’d do Murphy for Brett Gardner (though, no idea if the Yankees would do that). Then the Mets would have a leadoff hitter who can play any outfield position with aplomb. I realize Gardner is a little older and will be a free agent at the end of 2014, but every deal can’t be perfect — and sometimes a team is able to extend a player’s contract. Who plays 2B? I suppose give Flores a shot? Eric Young, Jr.? Too bad Turner was cut loose, as he’d be a good backup plan.
      • DaveSchneck December 16, 2013 at 7:21 pm
        Joe,
        Murph for Gardner is very intriguing. Besides the obvious NY-NY dealing, the problem is that Alderson signed Chris Young already, and a Gardner signing likely leaves Juan Lagares out of the equation. Now, I don’t consider this a deal breaker, because Gardner and Young are on 1 years, and Lagares could benefit by some more AAA offensive seasoning. E Young also scares me a bit at 2B, although I can’t imagine a drop off from Murph’s D. Yeah, I’d do it. Gets a more legit hitter for sure.
        • Joe Janish December 16, 2013 at 8:54 pm
          I don’t understand why the Mets keep chasing homeruns, when they can acquire speed at a lower cost (hmm … what a Moneyball concept!) and athleticism plays better in their park than the long ball. Agreed, Young,Jr. is no worse than Murphy at 2B, and imagine having both he and Gardner at the top of the lineup – make a deal for Billy Hamilton to play SS and there are the makings of the running Redbirds of the 80s.
  4. argonbunnies December 16, 2013 at 3:49 pm
    There’s a call for W-L predictions upthread. I can never resist those, so here’s mine. As currently constructed, I think the 2014 Mets are set up for a 3rd straight 74-win season.

    Granderson + Colon + Young are unlikely to make up for the loss of what Harvey and Byrd gave us in 2013, plus Gee and Wright might not be quite as good. Hawkins also had a very good year that will take some luck or some money (far more than the $2.5 mil the Rockies gave him) to replace.

    The Mets’ best hope for improvement lies in the growth of their own young players. If d’Arnaud and Flores can hit the way scouts thought they would, and Lagares can hit the way he’s hit in other leagues, and Wheeler can find his filthy stuff without shredding his shoulder, then these Mets can crack .500. I’ll take the under on everything breaking the Mets’ way, but I’d guess someone will improve enough to offset the losses elsewhere and bring us back to 74 wins.

    Add a SS, a bunch of good relievers, and good luck with the youngsters, and .500 should be achievable, with wild card contention a possibility. So we’ll see what the rest of the winter brings.

    • Steve Hussy December 16, 2013 at 6:54 pm
      Sadly I lack the predicting majesty of Izzy. I’m convinced he came back in a Delorean car from the future and already knows the Mets win total. I think he knows Wright and Wheeler will get injured.

      I’d rather wait until the end of Spring Training to fully gauge how the team is set up. But here goes.

      Guessing that the Mets will pick up a 5th starter, some bullpen help and a shortshop who can either field or hit (which would be a nice change) I think mid-80 wins is possible. I think they’ve picked up about 7 extra wins so far in the offseason, and will add a few extra pieces.

      There’s a long time to go before the start of the season so crying about things now seems borderline insane.

      Linking back to this thread, I would have liked the Mets to pick up Morse as their risky guess. But they’ve staked the house on Chris Young instead. Will either of them turn it around? No damn clue whatsoever. How can anyone?

      • Joe Janish December 16, 2013 at 8:51 pm
        It’s too bad the Mets couldn’t pick up BOTH Morse and Young, to hedge their bets. Oh well.

        When you estimate those “7 extra wins” picked up, did you subtract any from players lost? i.e., Byrd, Harvey, Hawkins, etc.?

        • Steve Hussy December 16, 2013 at 10:12 pm
          Yep, you’re right Joe. I bit my lip after reading 7 wins back after I posted it. 4 is more sane with just Granderson and Colon added.

          I’ll try to justify the 7 though:
          2 from Colon (Just based on Harvey’s win/loss record in his games he ranks – VERY unfairly – as zero. And Colon did pitch in the AL with their DH thing. Also, pitching to contact at Citi Field is helpful)
          2 from Granderson (the outfield was often awful and – unlike Duda – Granderson can actually move his legs. Even compared to Young Jr. it’s Grandy at around 760 OPS vs. 650 OPS)
          1 from Duda over Davis (because Davis was terrible)
          1 from d’Arnaud improving (700 OPS? Nice defense)
          1 from Lagares improving (680 OPS? With stellar defense)
          1 from Parnell not getting injured
          1 from Chris Young (for being able to field, at least)

          I think Hawkins – given the slight luck he had pitching last year – will be a close tie with Vic Black over the next year. (Much as I thought they should have brought Hawkins back) Let’s deduct 1 win.

          And Byrd wasn’t there for the whole year. But let’s deduct 1 win for his baffling ability to hit ground balls through the SS hole. I think Granderson can hit as many home runs.

          Well, it’s the view of an optimist. And one still ready to compare his one-eyed optimism to Izzy’s one-eyed pessimism over the course of 2014. Maybe players won’t get injured. Maybe they’ll get something good back for Murphy.

          I’d place you, Joe, as much more down the pessimistic side. But you insult people less. And you actually use reasoned evidence.

        • Joe Janish December 16, 2013 at 10:53 pm
          No need to bite the lip. I was genuinely curious, so thank you for detailing.

          For the record, I consider myself a realist, not a pessimist. If you go back to what I’ve written in the past about the Mets, much of it has, unfortunately for Mets fans, turned out as I’d expected. I do admit, though, that I thought the Mets would be closer to 100 losses last year — though, in my defense, I didn’t expect the Phillies and Nats to completely crap the bed, nor did I expect Harvey to be all-world and Byrd to have a career year.

          As a realist, I’m not expecting Lagares to get better — he doesn’t show physical skills nor the plate discipline to improve. And I think most scouting reports are on to his high-and-outside vulnerability, for which he didn’t (or can’t?) make an adjustment.

          I also debate the assumption that Parnell will be healthy, since the Mets have been shopping for backup closers. I’m wondering if they know something we don’t about Parnell’s disk issue.

          I’m not sure Granderson will hit well in his first year in Citi Field / in the NL. Young is a can of paint to throw at the wall; not sure whether he’ll stick.

          Colon? Scary proposition, but the Mets had little choice.

          On the positive side, I like d’Arnaud and hope he’ll stay healthy and be a 15 HR / .270 AVG / 80 RBI / .750 OPS guy with solid defense behind the plate. I think Duda will do better than Davis because I can’t imagine any MLBer doing worse. I bank on Wright doing his thing, as always. If Wheeler can stay healthy — and I’m not convinced he can — he will be fun to watch. I could be wrong, though, and Wheeler may have at least one more full season before his arm blows out.

          As currently constructed, my over/under for the Mets is around 75 wins. I honestly don’t think that’s being pessimistic, I think it’s a very realistic prediction. But, I’m also expecting the Braves to continue to be good, for the Nats to be a lot better, and for the Marlins to improve. Phillies? No idea, but my feeling is that it’ll be a three-team race to stay out of the basement (Mets, Fish, Phils).

        • Steve Hussy December 17, 2013 at 7:56 pm
          Today’s comment that the Mets are “fairly confident”- doublespeak for “not confident at all” – about Parnell’s health is not good news. But we’ll see. Getting a backup closer is never a bad idea.

          I have a good friend who is a Phillies’ fan (I am not teamist) and he’s appalled by the state of his ballclub. Doing a win/loss analysis of the 2014 Phillies is not positive. And the Marlins won’t hit much. So while I think the Braves and Nats will be good, the Mets can also try to feed off two bad clubs.

          The joke is that rarely plays out. The Mets stunk against the largely awful Marlins in 2013.

          I think the Mets have third place, barring injuries. And maybe – just maybe – they might squeak the second wild card place. I doubt it, but what do I know? And won’t it be fun if they do overcome the odds? I’ll spill my half full glass of water with glee.