Browsing Archive March, 2008

Last-Minute Pickups

The Mets’ roster is set, and, barring an injury, there is next to no possibility of a change being made for at least two weeks — when Duaner Sanchez is eligible to come off the disabled list.

However, there are a handful of mildly interesting ballplayers available after final cuts were made around the Majors.

Nelson Cruz, Rangers
Cruz was the loser of the Jason Botts vs. Nelson Cruz spring training smackdown. I like Cruz — who happened to pass through the Mets organization early in his pro career — and think he’d be valuable off the bench for his power potential. He is out of options so Texas designated him for assignment. While I love Brady Clark, he or Angel Pagan becomes redundant when Moises Alou returns. The 27-year-old Cruz is the type of player the Mets don’t currently have: a slugging righthanded-hitting outfielder about to enter his prime years.

Jay Gibbons, Orioles
The Mets are desperate for a legitimate, veteran, righthanded-hitting outfielder / first baseman with power. Gibbons — released by the Orioles — fits the bill only too perfectly. Except for one thing: he has a 10-game suspension pending due to an HGH purchase in 2005. The Mets may not like the idea of bringing in a player with that kind of baggage … but who knows?
*** UPDATE ****
I’m an idiot … Gibbons is a lefthanded hitter. Thanks to isuzudude for setting me straight.

Woody Williams, Astros
Counted on to be the ‘stros #2 or #3 starter, Williams shat the bed this spring (11.25 ERA) and was released. Upon his release, Williams announced his retirement and stated that he would not pursue an MLB job elsewhere. Too bad, he might have been a decent option as a #5 starter.

Edgardo Alfonzo, Rangers
This is an emotional choice — though, Fonzie did hit .308 before being amongst the last cuts by the Rangers.


Ryan Church : Xavier Nady

Mets outfielder Ryan ChurchA few years ago, the Mets made a very unpopular trade during the offseason, trading one outfielder for another. The trade seemed illogical, nonsensical, and a complete mis-read of the market.

After all, the Mets swapped a Gold Glove centerfielder — Mike Cameron — to the Padres in return for an unknown corner outfielder, at a time when it seemed like half the league was in dire need of a centerfielder. Heck, it was the same offseason that journeyman Gary Mathews Jr. netted himself a five-year, $50M payday.

Everyone said that Omar Minaya was an idiot for dealing away the popular Cameron for some guy named Xavier Nady. Nady, after all, wasn’t even a fourth outfielder for San Diego — he was a converted third baseman with a suspect glove and an inability to hit righthanders. The deal was universally panned by every respected news authority.

Somehow, Nady beat out Victor Diaz for the starting rightfield spot. Somehow, Nady hit 14 homers in half a season, and became not only a formidable force in the lineup but also a fan favorite. And when the young slugger was shipped to Pittsburgh for Roberto Hernandez (and some throw-in named Oliver Perez), people were again up in arms over a Nady trade — only this time they said the Mets were crazy for trading him away. Ironically, Omar was correct in the initial Nady deal, as well as the second Nady deal. In Omar We Trust.

Once again, Minaya made a universally unpopular move in a trade of two outfielders. This time, it was Lastings Milledge going to Washington for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider. Never mind that it’s rare for a non-MLB player to fetch two legitimate MLB starters — the Nationals stink, right? Milledge will run and hit circles around both of those scrubs.

Or will he?

Like Nady, Church is coming in as a result of an extremely unpopular deal. Like Nady, Mets fans barely heard of Church before the trade. Like Nady, Church comes in with a reputation as one who can’t hit pitchers who throw from a particular side. Like Nady, the expectations are low — everyone’s expecting this deal to look like a really bad one on Omar Minaya’s resume.

And with a little luck, like Nady, Ryan Church will silence the critics, and be a guy that no one wants to see leave at the trading deadline.


Top Hitter in a Pinch

In 2007, Ruben Gotay led the Mets with 15 pinch-hits. The next-closest compiler was Marlon Anderson with 10. Gotay also led all Mets pinch-hitters with 19 total bases.

Overall — meaning as a regular, as a pinch-hitter, etc. — Gotay was second on the team (to Anderson) in batting average with runners in scoring position, smacking the ball safely to the tune of .356.

Gotay also led all Mets last year in the “close and late” category, batting .349 in those situations (he edged out David Wright by 3 percentage points).

Strange, isn’t it, that Ruben had to fight for a job this spring?

Stranger still, that Ruben Gotay was waived and is now a member of the Atlanta Braves.


Strange Moves

The 25-man roster has been established, and one must wonder what went into the final decisions — and whether the spring training game performances had any effect.

There were only a few open spots, and one huge question mark. The 13th position player, the 12th pitcher, and the 5th starter.

Brady Clark won the lucky 13th positional spot, barely edging out the .210-slugging Fernando Tatis and earning himsel a place on the bench right next to the water cooler. I’m 100% on board with this decision, but only because Ruben Gotay is now a Brave. Had Gotay still been Mets property, I might have some problem with Clark getting the nod, but bygones are bygones.

Miraculously, Mighty Joe Smith was handed the final bullpen spot. Notice I stated “handed” and not “earned”. Ricardo Rincon, Nelson Figueroa, and Steven Register all outpitched Smith this spring. Heck, even Nate Field and Joselo Diaz looked better. But Smith got the spot. I don’t get it — and I LOVE Joe Smith, but it seemed to me that it would make more sense to option Smith down and hold on to one of the aforementioned — particularly Register, who had to be sent back to Colorado, or Rincon, who I feel is this year’s J.C. Romero.

Finally, there is the utterly illogical handout of the #5 spot in the rotation to Mike Pelfrey. Like Smith, I love Big Mike and want to see him do well — but I’m not wearing rose-tinted glasses when I watch him. He still doesn’t have an off-speed pitch, and in fact doesn’t have much of a second pitch. El Duque needed to go to the DL and he did, and Pelf needed to go back to AAA to hone his game. The Mets could have slotted Jorge Sosa into the role, and then kept Figueroa, Rincon, or Register. Or, they could have given Figueroa a shot at the fifth spot. Again, not understanding why they wouldn’t take advantage of the opportunity to option Pelfrey.

We could say, aw, heck, what’s the big deal about the last three scrubs on the roster? But remember the Mets lost first place by one game in 2007 — so every man counts.

Hopefully, I have no idea what I’m talking about, and everything will work out just fine.


You Pick the Cover

Johan Santana Gotham Baseball CoverJohan Santana alternative Gotham Baseball coverJohan Santana third option Gotham Baseball cover

Gotham Baseball magazine is giving YOU — the Mets fan — the chance to pick the cover of their next issue.

Shown above, all three cover options feature newly acquired ace pitcher Johan Santana, but with different backgrounds.

The depiction of Johan was created by Gotham Baseball artist John Pennisi, who paints a picture for every “GB” cover. Very classy … one day I believe these covers will be collector’s items.

Oh, and if you register at the Gotham Baseball forums, cast your vote, and provide your mailing address, you get FREE subscription to Gotham Baseball magazine as a thank you for your time and effort. Pretty nice deal, eh? No-brainer, from this point of view.

So go vote for your favorite cover … personally, I like the “vintage” option.


Goodbye Gotay

It’s not bad enough the Mets gave up on Ruben Gotay … but to make it worse, the hated Atlanta Braves were the team that claimed him off waivers.

Early on, it looked like Gotay might win a job on the Mets roster, but the ankle injury he suffered completely demolished his chances. The 25-year-old will join the Braves, though I can’t figure out how he fits in over there. Bobby Cox already has Kelly Johnson starting at 2B and likely playing 140-150 games at the position, with Martin Prado backing up. Prado hit well this spring (.338), as did fellow utility infielder Brent Lillibridge (.348). Presumably, one of them will start the season in the minors — though I wouldn’t want to be the informant.

What further bothers me is that the Braves do a really good job of evaluating young and “on the cusp” talent — and they’re obviously very high on Gotay’s skills. While I doubt Ruben will be much more than a utility guy and pinch-hitter, I would have preferred to see him not getting playing time with the Mets than not getting playing time with the Braves.

One last issue that bugs me comes from Willie Randolph, who said this about Fernando Tatis in a NY Post article:

“Tatis gives you more versatility,” Willie Randolph said Wednesday. “He played winter ball, so he’s in great shape. I’m not going to hold that [arrival] against him. If we feel like he can help us, then we’ll see.”

So … in other words, Willie isn’t going to hold Tatis’ late arrival to camp (due to visa problems) against him, but he IS going to hold Gotay’s ankle injury against Ruben. Because really, what’s the difference?

Gotay only hit .229 in a measly 17 ABs but he did post a .435 OBP and .529 SLG in his short trial, while playing acceptable defense at three infield positions. Tatis, on the other hand, has hit .212 with a .229 OBP and .364 SLG in twice as many at-bats. He also played adequately in the field, though his skills in LF look a little scary … and we only saw him play a few innings at 1B. Of course, there’s always the possibility that Tatis doesn’t make the team either, but I have a feeling Brady Clark is the next player cut.

In other news, Steven Register was welcomed back by the Colorado Rockies with open arms. They were only too happy to pay $25,000 for the private instruction services provided by Rick Peterson.


Brady Clark or Fernando Tatis

The Mets’ 25th man is down to Brady Clark and Fernando Tatis.

Clark is a much better outfielder and can play all three outfield positions. He’s a good singles hitter with not much power, and he runs fairly well. He strikes out more than he used to, but all in all at a less frequent rate than most batters — he’s a contact hitter and someone who can reliably execute the hit and run and drop down a bunt.

Tatis is only an okay outfielder, and is limited to the corner spots, but can also play 3B, 2B, and 1B. He once had a 34-HR season but that was a “Brady Anderson” year — he’s really more of gap hitter. His speed on the bases is somewhere between average and above-average. He’ll strike out a lot and probably won’t take too many walks.

Tough call.

On the one hand, Clark is an older, righthanded-hitting version of Angel Pagan, so once Moises Alou returns, he’s kind of redundant. On the other hand, Tatis is basically the same player as Damion Easley.

I get the feeling the Mets will lean toward Tatis, partially because they think he’s going to re-discover his homerun power, and partially for his versatility.

Either way, Ruben Gotay gets the short end of the stick.