The 25th Man

Omar Minaya has surprised us before, and in the past has made some outstanding trades as late as January. In fact, it was January 2006 that Minaya acquired Duaner Sanchez and John Maine in two separate deals.

However, assuming the Mets do not make any trades between now and spring training, this is what the 25-man roster looks like:


1. Pedro Martinez
2. Orlando Hernandez
3. John Maine
4. Oliver Perez
5. ?
6. Aaron Heilman
7. Billy Wagner
8. Pedro Feliciano
9. Scott Schoeneweis
10. Jorge Sosa
11. Joe Smith
12. Duaner Sanchez?

13. Brian Schneider
14. Ramon Castro


15. Carlos Delgado
16. Luis Castillo
17. Jose Reyes
18. David Wright
19. Damion Easley


20. Carlos Beltran
21. Moises Alou
22. Ryan Church
23. Endy Chavez
24. Marlon Anderson


I don’t think there is any argument about the starting position players — all eight are pretty much set, barring injury. And though there may be some arguments, proposals, and ideas about moving Orlando Hernandez into the bullpen, I’m 99.9% sure that the Mets will see El Duque as a member of the starting rotation when pitchers and catchers report in mid-February. The big question — as it was in 2007 — will be who is the #5 starter. Mike Pelfrey? Phil Humber? Kevin Mulvey? Someone else? Pelfrey likely is the frontrunner, unless the Mets sign someone such as Livan Hernandez or one of the other veteran arms still on the market.

The bullpen, however, is less set. Wagner, Heilman, and Feliciano almost certainly own spots, and we’ll presume that Schoeneweis has one too based on his guaranteed contract. If Sanchez is healthy, he would take a spot. The last two openings, right now, are up for grabs, with Joe Smith the frontrunner for one of them, and Jorge Sosa the leading candidate to take the other.

Regardless of how the pitching staff shakes out, there most likely will be at minimum 12 roster spots slotted for pitching, leaving 13 for position players. Eight of those are the everyday starters. Four of the five bench spots will go to veterans Castro, Easley, Anderson, and Chavez.

So who is the 25th man?

We’d like to think it will be either Ruben Gotay or Carlos Gomez, but there’s a very good chance it is neither. While Gotay played very well last year — particularly in the first half — the fact that he doesn’t hit well from the right side and the presence of Damion Easley seriously hinder his chances. Had Easley not been retained, Gotay would have been the no-brainer as all-around utilityman. But we’ll have to suffer through a year of watching Easley’s slow bat drag through to a .235 average before Wille Randolph realizes 2007 was a fluke.

Gomez has an outside shot at winning a spot because he hits from the right side, but if the Mets are looking out for his best interests, they’ll likely want him to be playing every day in AAA than once a week in MLB. Gomez needs to develop his bat, and it’s hard to do that sitting on the bench all the time.

So who will be the 25th man?

Originally, I had thought Ben Johnson had an outside chance, but he was non-tendered and there hasn’t been any word of the Mets re-signing him. I would think that the last roster spot would go to a guy who can hit from the right side, or switch-hit, since Randolph is wary of using Ramon Castro as a pinch-hitter (as there is no “emergency catcher” on the roster). Further, I would think that the ideal guy would also have the ability to play both the outfield and first base, so that he could give Carlos Delgado and Ryan Church a breather now and then. Yes, I now that the current Company Line is that Damion Easley is that guy. Unfortunately, Easley is neither a first baseman nor an outfielder, but rather a guy who was put into those positions. (It’s kind of like calling Eli Marrero a centerfielder simply because Randolph once started him there.) In a perfect world, the Mets would find a player who can switch-hit and play the outfield, first base, and catcher — but then, wouldn’t every team like to have a guy with that flexibility?

Last year, the closest thing to the ideal 25th man the Mets had was either Julio Franco or Jeff Conine. By May it was apparent that Franco was a poisonous waste of space, but Conine might have been a nice bench guy if only he’d approached his career .285 average. As long as it’s true that Ryan Church is the everyday rightfielder — which means it makes sense for Carlos Gomez to spend some time in AAA — the Mets probably should find another Conine-type of guy. In other words, a solid, veteran, righthanded hitter who has postseason experience, can handle a bench role, can play the outfield and the corners, and is a positive clubhouse presence.

Unfortunately, there aren’t too many of those guys available — at least, not on the free-agent market. Here’s who I see as potential 25th men, and no, they don’t necessarily have all of the desired traits.

Robert Fick – can catch, play 1B, and the outfield. However, he’s a lefthanded hitter, and ideally we’re looking for a RH. Having him around, though, frees Ramon Castro to be used as a pinch-hitter.

Mike Sweeney – the best pure righthanded hitter currently available on the free agent market. However, he’s also arguably the most fragile, and has never been a part-time player. He probably is better suited to signing with an AL team to be a DH, but we can discuss him here because we’re throwing out all possibilities. He has no experience in the outfield, but he came up as a catcher and would have no problem being an “emergency” catcher if asked. If he can handle a bench role, he’d be a fantastic bat off the bench — and perhaps push Delgado into performing at first base.

Tony Clark – Like Sweeney, he’s not an outfielder, though I vaguely remember him lurching around leftfield once or twice back in 2003 for the Mets. He is, however, a switch-hitter, has played for the Mets before, and has been successful coming off the bench. Clark’s limited skillset makes him look a lot like Julio Franco, except that he puts a ball over the fence once about every 12-14 at-bats (while Franco put the ball just over the second baseman’s head at the same rate). By all accounts he’s a leader in the clubhouse as well.

Reggie Sanders
– a solid big-league hitter and something of a good luck charm, as Sanders seems to appear in the World Series every other year — always in a different uniform. At age 40, he knows he’s no longer a starter nor a $5M player, and he would be an ideal RH bat off the bench, to occasionally spell Church in RF, and fill the DH role in interleague play. The one negative is he can’t play first base.

Preston Wilson
– another player limited in the positions he can play, and his skills have eroded greatly in the past few years. Wouldn’t it be nice to see him back in a Mets uniform, though, if for nothing more than nostalgia?

Mike Piazza – OK, we know he’s not coming back. Oh, and that’s right, he can’t play first base — despite playing the position from little league through college. Imagine if he wasn’t such skirt about playing first base, though? He might still be a Met, for all we know. At the least, he wouldn’t be looking to finish his career in Japan.

Mark Bellhorn – next to Sweeney, this is my favorite choice. Bellhorn is a switch-hitter with pop who takes a lot of pitches. I like guys who take pitches and wear out the opposition. Generally speaking, he either strikes out, walks, or raps an extra-base hit. He has played every position on the diamond except catcher. He’s a tough s-o-b who plays with some fire — i.e., he will break up the double play and barrel over a catcher when necessary. He’s also fundamentally sound — he can drop a bunt when called upon, for example. Maybe the best part is that Bellhorn would not require a Major League contract, and would not be considered to be someone blocking the way of a Gotay or Gomez. Rather, he’d be like David Newhan was last year — a guy who can be shuttled back and forth between the bigs and the minors as necessary.

In the end, if the 25th man is not Gotay or Gomez, I’d hope it would be someone who, like Bellhorn, would not interfere with roster flexibility. We learned from the Julio Franco fiasco what happens when an immovable object is not performing but taking up one of those precious few bench spots.

Any other ideas out there? Post your ideas 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. isuzudude December 18, 2007 at 1:16 pm
    Good article, Joe. I particularly enjoy discussing issues that are more realistic, like determining who will fill out our bench and who will be carried in the bullpen, rather tha n coming up with wacky trade proposals that would land the Mets all-stars in return for unimpressive prospects. I agree with many points you bring up: El Duque WILL enter Spring as a starter (despite wishes and rumors to the contrary), the bench DOES need another righty bat, and Pelfrey IS currently the favorite to be the #5 starter (as scary as that may sound).

    As far as the final bench spot is concerned, I think the favorite has to be Gotay based on his ability to play the left side of the infield and because he’s a switch hitter (even though he should convert to strictly left-handed). But Omar is more than likely going to bring in a few more bodies to compete for that 25th spot (i.e. the 2007 clan of Newhan, Ambres, Ledee, and Johnson), and will likely choose the player who performs most impressively in spring training to get the spot. I understand your infatuation with Bellhorn. He possesses a lot of what we’re looking for: switch-hitting ability, versatility, experience, plate patience, power. However, although I wouldn’t be against a ST invite, I don’t think he’s the best available option. He may be able to walk, but he also strikes out like the dickens (approx. once per every 3 at-bats career-wise) and hasn’t had an average over .210 since 2004. Even batting right-handed, he’d still present nothing more than what Newhan gave us in ’07.

    I think it’s vital to find a right-hand hitting OF to get that 25th spot, which means demoting Gotay to AAA or trading him. As I’ve said before, I like the idea of Kevin Mench. His pros are that he’s a beast against LHP, he’s fairly used to bench-duty, he has low strikeout rates, and has considerable power. His cons, though, are that he’s got no 1B experience, he’d likely command a major league contract, he doesn’t take many walks, and he’s not particularly fleet of foot. But I don’t think we can afford to be too choosy anymore. He’d provide a better bench presence that Franco/Conine did last year, and would provide Church with a very good platoon mate if Church falls on his face in his first season at Shea. Of the other names you listed above, I’m not sure if any are great fits. Clark is intriguing, but again his defensive range is a drawback (you’re right to recall him playing LF with the the Mets in ’03, but it was for only one game and he’s never played the OF for any other team over his remaining 12 big-league seasons). The rest of the 1B/OF options either blow completely (Craig Wilson anyone?) or are left handed (Mark Sweeney, Rob Fick, Geoff Jenkins, Shawn Green, John Mabry, Eric Hinske, etc).

    At the moment, it looks like the 38-year old Easley will be getting pretty close to 300 at-bats spelling for Church, Delgado, and Castillo and seeing pretty significant time at defensive positions he’s not used to occupying. That said, maybe it is more important to be focusing on finding another right-handed bat for the bench than trading away our depth and future for a starting pitcher we don’t desperately need.

  2. joe December 18, 2007 at 2:11 pm
    Mench! I knew I forgot someone … it’s the drugs, I think, affecting my brain.

    Yeah, you’re right about Bellhorn’s propensity to strike out, but at least it will take seven or eight pitches before he does. 🙂

    I like Wilson a lot before he joined the Braves and completely destroyed his career. Not sure what happened there — he simply stopped hitting. Does he need glasses maybe? Doesn’t hurt that he also has some catching experience. Let’s bring him in on a minor league deal.

    You might be right about making a trade for a bench guy. The free agents available don’t quite meet the standards.

  3. Walnutz15 December 18, 2007 at 2:44 pm
    Craig Wilson had major shoulder problems for 2-years — and played with it before finally having it operated on. That should shed some light on the subject….Papa Walnutz is a major Pirate fan, and I’ve always liked Wilson myself.

    That talk could be moot — especially since he’s expressed an interest in re-joining the Pirates, provided the Pirates actually wanted him back.

    Mench, though, makes perfect sense for this team — and should be explored.

  4. isuzudude December 18, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    Who would have guessed I’d be so excited over such a relatively small move….

  5. Micalpalyn December 18, 2007 at 5:20 pm
    You beat me to it.

    Adding Matt Wise makes sense, as Joe pointed to earlier. we need one or two bullpen arms. Otsuka? ALSO i disagree that joe smith is a lock for the 25man roster.

    I also agree Gotay may not be the 25th man. but maybe we have that guy in Marlon. I also think gomez could still factor in to Omar plans more than as a 6th OFer.

  6. Walnutz15 December 18, 2007 at 7:52 pm
    I beat everyone…lol, but the post apparently disappeared this afternoon when it happened. BOOO!!!!!

    In roaming around the net tonight, I can see why Wise was brought in: http://multimedia.nydailynews….chez/index.html

    Looks like Duaner’s back and rehabbing, though it doesn’t look like he’s laid off the beer or burgers much during his extended absence.

    (Hope he plans on dropping some weight! — His gut is prodigious if you look close enough, particularly with 34 seconds remaining on that slideshow. )

    There’s no reason for anyone to be penciling him in the bullpen with any surety right now — especially given his rehab history. Hopefully, any moves Omar makes going forward involving giving up bullpen pieces — is with this in mind. And really, it might give us some insight as to why Matt Wise has been brought in — moreso than any trade of Aaron Heilman.

    Joking aside, I wish Mr. Sanchez all the best in his return to the rubber. It will only be to our benefit if he comes back in peak form — however, as I’ve maintained in monitoring his work ethic for a year and a half now — I’m not holding my breath in those hopes.

  7. Walnutz15 December 18, 2007 at 7:54 pm
    Whoops! — here’s the full working link.

    Wow, Sanchez really looks like he needs to drop a good 20-25lbs.