The Mets finally added the last piece to the puzzle — a veteran righthanded-hitting bat to come off the bench and fill in at 1B behind Carlos Delgado. They’ve signed Olmedo Saenz to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.
Oops … hope you were sitting down for that; otherwise the excitement likely would have caused you to fall over. (Luckily most people surf the ‘net while seated.)
While many of us have been clamoring for Kevin Mench, he decided to take a minor league deal and invite from his former club the Texas Rangers. It’s possible that the Mets made him a similar offer, but he was more comfortable returning to his roots. By all public accounts, he was quite happy in Arlington, and not everyone is thrilled by the idea of the pressure cooker in the big city. So be it.
Before we all go crazy with criticism on the Saenz signing, remember that it is a minor league deal and he’ll have to earn a spot on the MLB roster. In addition, if his bat speed looks good in the spring, this could prove to be a great addition. Before hitting only .191 with the Dodgers last season, Saenz was one of the premier RH pinch-hitters in the big leagues — in 2006, he hit .296 with 11 HRs in 179 ABs, which were almost identical numbers to Damion Easley’s in ’07. In addition, Saenz can play both infield corner positions, and is generally considered to be a good clubhouse guy. Yes, he’s starting to sound a lot like Julio Franco, but at least in this case, there’s no multiyear, multimillion-dollar contract in place. So if he’s hitting .078 in late May, it won’t be a big deal to cut him loose or send him down to the farm.
Whether Saenz has a real chance to make the team depends a lot on how he looks when he reports. If he looks like Olmedo Saenz of 2002-2006, he has a chance; if he looks like Horatio Sanz, we could have another Bret Boone-like retirement within a week. All in all, I like the signing — no risk, decent return if he pans out.
Livan Off the Market
Besides Mench signing with Texas, the Twins quietly announced that they signed Livan Hernandez. Interesting move, as he steps right into the spot that Carlos Silva left behind — and he might well outperform Silva. Livan will be expected to eat up innings and take some of the pressure off the myriad young arms that will be on the mound for Minnesota in 2008. A wise, shrewd move by the Twins — and one that came almost out of nowhere.
The only other ST invites of consequence: Doug Mientkiewicz signed with the Pirates (why, no one knows) and the Orioles handed invites to Steve Trachsel and OF Luke Scott — who hit 18 HRs and 28 doubles in 369 ABs for the Astros last year.