Izturis, Cedeno, Francis, Young Off the Table
Regardless of whether the Mets plan to go into 2014 with Ruben Tejada as their starting shortstop or not, Flushing seemed a plausible landing place for veteran middle infielder Cesar Izturis. Instead, the soon-to-be-34 year-old defensive whiz inked a minor-league contract with the Houston Astros, which includes an invitation to spring training.
The slightly less-slick fielding, slightly better-hitting, and slightly younger version of Izturis — Ronny Cedeno — accepted a minor-league contract and ST invite from the Philadelphia Phillies. We enjoyed watching Cedeno perform in the orange and blue in 2012, and though he was far from spectacular in that 78-game stint, the .741 OPS he posted as a Met dwarfed those put up by Omar Quintanilla (.589) and Tejada (.519) last year. Granted, Cedeno followed that career-high OPS with a paltry .617 in 2013, but, heck, that’s still almost a hundred points better than Tejada’s output. I’m not suggesting that the Mets should have brought back Cedeno to be their starting shortstop, but would it have been so terrible to bring him in for depth and competition / motivation?
More to the point, there aren’t many utility infielders left on the open market — are the Mets going to go into spring training with only Wilfredo Tovar as the main backup? Are they counting on Quintanilla remaining unemployed until the last minute, again?
In other earth-shattering news, Jeff Francis signed a minor-league contract with the Reds. He and Chien-Ming Wang will battle for a nonexistent job at the back of Cincinnati’s rotation, and he may also get a look as a reliever. Why should you care? Because it wouldn’t hurt the Mets to have someone stashed in AAA who has big-league experience — particularly, someone who appears healthy enough to take the ball. The Canadian lefty was absolutely awful last year, and nearly as terrible in 2012 — pitching both years with the Rockies. I don’t believe Francis would have any shot at earning a spot in the Mets rotation in spring training, but his signing reminded me that the Mets really, really need to ink someone like him to a minor-league deal for insurance against the inevitable injuries that will occur.
Finally, the Orioles signed Delmon Young to a minor-league contract, inviting him to spring training. Before you dismiss that piece of news, compare his production last year to that of the Mets’ big free-agent signee Chris Young. In 103 games and 361 PAs, Delmon knocked 11 homers, drove in 38, and posted a .715 OPS. Meanwhile, Chris appeared in 107 games with 375 PAs, hitting 12 homers, driving in 40, and posting a .659 OPS. Oh, and if you want to consider the two players’ career 162-game averages, Delmon’s is 16 HR/.739 OPS while Chris’ is a bit better at 24 HR / .746 OPS. Delmon — who is remarkably only 28 years old (he seems so much older, doesn’t he?) signed a minor-league deal that could be worth up to $1M if he makes the big club, with another $750K possible via incentives. The 30-year-old Chris was handed a guaranteed one-year deal for $7.25M. Now, if it’s assumed that Chris Young plays primarily in CF and gives the Mets average to above-average defense there, is that worth 5-7 times more than a corner outfielder like Delmon Young? Maybe. But, if Juan Lagares is the Mets’ primary centerfielder in 2014, and Chris Young makes most of his appearances in a corner spot, will his glove, versatility, and better all-around athleticism be worth the extra millions? Hmm …