Archive: June 26th, 2008

Curious Moves

Yesterday I caught wind of changes blowing in Shea, and wrote about it on MetsBlog. Already some of the moves have occurred, but I have to say I’m scratching my head.

For example, the DFA of Claudio Vargas. Yes, we found out why the Brewers let him go — he’s an eternal enigma, a guy with good stuff who may never get it together. However, he’s not on the Oliver Perez level, and in fact outpitched Ollie. Before sending him packing, you’d think Perez would get moved to the long man role and Vargas given a shot to start in his spot. In the four games he started, Vargas pitched into the seventh twice, once into the sixth, and the other only five. He wasn’t great, but he put up fairly solid numbers for a #5 guy.

Instead of flipping Vargas and Perez, Vargas has been DFA’d and Carlos Muniz has been recalled. I do like the move in that I’m assuming Muniz will be given the opportunity to take over the old Aaron Heilman role of 7th inning fireman. I’d like it even more if Heilman were moved into the long man role, with an eye toward pushing him back into the rotation eventually — even if eventually means 2009. It’s clear that Heilman is a much better pitcher when he starts “clean” innings (in other words, no inherited runners).

The second strange move was the acquisition of Andy Phillips, once the fourth-string first baseman for the Yankees (back when the Mets kept 5-6 second basemen on their roster, the Yankees did likewise with first sackers). Phillips doesn’t hit much for average, doesn’t have much power, isn’t too swift on the bases, and, ironically, hits righties better than lefties. What he has going for him is a good glove and versatility — he can play 1B, 3B, and 2B in a pinch. In other words, he’s a lighter-hitting version of Fernando Tatis.

The Phillips move wouldn’t bother me so much except I get the very bad feeling that his presence means the jettison of Trot Nixon — as Ryan Church will be returning this weekend and the Mets don’t need all these lefthanded-hitting outfielders. Now I realize Nixon hasn’t set the world on fire offensively, but he’s only had 27 at-bats and has been an absolute “charlie hustle” all over the field. If you’re going to bring in someone with some swat, OK, I don’t have a problem releasing Nixon. But Andy Phillips? Please. I’ll take Trot’s hardnosed play and all-out hustle over Phillips’s “good glove” any day of the week. The Mets have needed a guy like Nixon to show them how to win for some time, and I think it’s too early to cut bait with him. Let his hustle rub off on some guys first.

But, the writing is on the wall, if the start of Marlon Anderson last night is any indication. I love Marlon and HIS hustle, but his overly aggressive approach at the plate (3 walks in 86 ABs) is disconcerting — particularly for a guy at the Mendoza Line. Nixon has almost twice as many walks in only 25 at-bats. It’s these little things that can make a big difference. And no I’m not campaigning to cut Marlon instead … rather, I’d like to see both Anderson and Nixon stay on the roster for another week or so. The lefty-righty thing means nothing to me — especially when you’re bringing in Phillips, who as a righty is no better against lefties than any LH hitter. You want to cut a lefthanded hitter? Consider the cement-footed guy lumbering around first base. Institute a platoon of Marlon Anderson and Fernando Tatis at first and give Nixon a shot at left field.

Perhaps more confounding is the Mets’ continuing to ignore Val Pascucci, who has a 1.000 OPS in AAA, and Tony Armas, whose 2.50 ERA is a miracle in the PCL. Pascucci might have holes in his swing, and an iron glove, but he might also give the Mets a mild boost. We won’t know until he’s given a fair shot. Again, Andy Phillips instead of this guy? I don’t get it.

More moves had better be on the way. Andy Phillips ain’t exactly what I’d been looking for when I asked Omar Minaya to be “creative”. Get me Nelson Cruz, who is hitting .357 with 23 homers in 250 at-bats, a .437 OBP, and .714 SLG in AAA. Offer the Rangers Claudio Vargas, who can step right in to their starting rotation. Then I’ll feel like the Mets are trying to do something, rather than just spinning their wheels.

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