Goodbye Guillermo

This is NOT Johnny EstradaOmar Minaya has pulled off the impossible: he found a taker for Guillermo Mota.

Oh, but it gets better — Minaya managed to obtain a live human being with some baseball skill in return.

The Mets traded Guillermo Mota to the Brewers for catcher Johnny Estrada in a deal that may or may not help both teams.

On the surface, it looks like the Mets have their 2008 catcher and the Brewers have an extra arm in case they lose both Francisco Cordero and Scott Linebrink via free agency. Not so fast, however,

It was generally expected that the Brewers would non-tender Estrada in a few weeks, so his exit is not mind-blowing by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, the Brew Crew is on the brink of signing free-agent catcher Jason Kendall, so the writing was on the wall. So before you go thinking, “what are they crazy for taking Mota?” the fact is, it was either get Mota or nothing at all in return. Yeah, I know, the latter seems more effective. But, Mota does provide last-gasp insurance for their bullpen depth.

Additionally, I wouldn’t get so attached to Estrada just yet. My guess is that he, also, is an “if all else fails” option — and a pretty decent one at that. I would not be surprised in the least to find out that Omar is still working the phones for someone such as Ramon Hernandez, and if he can pull of a deal, to then see the Mets non-tender Estrada when the time comes. Having a veteran catcher in place makes trade negotiation much easier with other teams — the Mets’ desperation has been removed.

Assuming there is no other deal, Estrada makes a lot of sense from several points of view, and in my mind is a better option than Yorvit Torrealba. First, the negatives: Estrada is not a very good defensive catcher — he was last in the league in throwing out runners (13% … ironically, Torrealba was second-to-last). He is also damaged goods, having just had knee surgery. Further, for a guy who is supposed to be an offensive catcher, he hit only .278 last year with a horrible .296 OBP (patient, he’s not). Add to that the fact he may or may not have punched his manager in the nose during this past season, and that he’s been traded three times in three years … well, something must be wrong with him, right?

But now the positives: Estrada is a one-year commitment, a stopgap if you will. He’ll likely cost around the same $3.5M he earned last year — pretty cheap. And before dropping off last year, he was a fairly consistent .300 hitter with some pop, hitting about ten homers a season. His ability to switch-hit is nice, and guess what — he’s generally better from the left side, hitting .283 from that side in his career, as opposed to .269 as a righty. That means he’d be an ideal platoon partner for Ramon Castro.

So now the Mets have a decent catcher … or catching tandem … if all else fails. But my money is on Omar to keep calling and to bring in someone even better before the winter is over.

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. skibolton November 20, 2007 at 8:13 pm
    Wow!!!!! Estrada isn’t my first choice by any stretch, but I’ll be ecstatic even if the mets non-tender him. Just getting rid of mota without eating any salary is the best move of the off-season. The team can go shopping for bullpen help now if they need, but I think it makes it much more likely that they re-sign sosa. I think this may help push Castro into the starter role, while making Estrada a decent back-up. I can’t believe they took mota off of our hands. If they can land another catcher, I’m sure they can send him along in the deal. If not, Castro starts. I love the move. They actually got him for the worst player on their 40 man roster. Wow!
  2. isuzudude November 20, 2007 at 9:13 pm
    There’s no doubting this was a fantastic trade, especially in comparison to signing Yorvit to $14.4-mil over 3 years. In pretty much every sense of the game Estrada has more to offer than Yorvit, and comes much less expensively. Pair that up with the fact that the Mets gave up nothing for a career .280 hitter who serves as the perfect platoon partner for Castro. It doesn’t get any better than this.

    I wouldn’t get too caught up in Estrada’s subpar numbers when it came to throwing runners out last season. He had a bone spur removed from his throwing elbow this offseason, which was likely causing him discomfort when throwing to 2B. I feel much more comfortable getting a catcher with a definitive reason and solution for his throwing woes than one with a cranky shoulder that seems unlikely to ever heal. I’m also not too worried about his knees. It’s not like we’re expecting him to be a base stealer, and as long as he holds up to play somewhere around 100-110 games and 400-450 atbats (all of which he’s done 3 of the last 4 years) he’ll be much more of a help than a hinderance.

    Also, as Estrada only has one year left on his contract, he’ll be singing for his supper this year, looking to get a big money deal next offseason as a free agent. If he performs well, he can get rewarded by the Mets with a new deal, and for a 32 year old it wouldn’t be so tough to hand him a 3-4 year deal. If he stinks, let him go his own way and maybe we go back to the Bengie Molina/Ramon Hernandez/Kelly Shoppach trade rumors.

    I don’t disagree that Omar could continue to monitor teams for another catcher, but at this point his priority should be filling out the rotation and adding at least one more quality arm to the bullpen (my personal favorite is Riske, but there are a few other options available). If no other position players are acquired, the everday lineup of Reyes, Castillo, Wright, Beltran, Alou, Delgado, Milledge, Estrada/Castro is already solidified, and it’s not even Thanksgiving yet. For all intensive purposes, if Silva and Riske are signed, the Mets may decide they’re done making any major moves in preparation for 2008 (but still keeping an eye on signing guys to minor league contracts).

    In Omar We Trust! Now, let’s see if Minnesota will take A-Hern and B-John for Johan. Then we’ll be in business :-p

  3. joe November 20, 2007 at 11:23 pm
    Shouldn’t we be concerned about Estrada’s ability to block balls in the dirt and his lack of energy?


  4. whatdatmean November 21, 2007 at 7:54 am
    In his walk year? This guy is going to play like he is superman! His D is not as bad as advertised, he is coming off an injury, and did have the surgery to fix that. The fact that we have 2 offensive catchers is a major plus for the mets lineup. It s even better that he is a switch hitter. In our lineup, we are looking at a .280 hitter that has a little pop, and a bat from the left side to balance out the lower end of the lineup. Plus, him and castro are interchangeable offensively, so they can bat 6/7/8 as needed, and lineup adjustments have to be made. They can slide up in the order when alou or delgado need rest, or alisde down when they are in. It also takes the pressure of needing production from your RF whether it be LMilz, Gomez, or Chavez,, they just have to hold that spot and occasionally contribute. Whereas Yorvit would have been a mark for the 8 hole, making our RF have to produce a little more.
    Sweet Move!
    Mota may be a useful arm for the Brew-crew, he does have good stuff, and has had marginal success. But now its niot in willie’s hands to ride him into the ground.