Browsing Archive December, 2010

Happy New Year

Thanks so much for making 2010 a wonderful year. Even if the Mets stunk (and will continue to stink), it’s still great — in my mind — to have the chance to connect with you and banter about baseball.

I wish all the best for you and your family in 2011, and look forward to interacting with you in the New Year.

Please, please, please enjoy ringing in the New Year SAFELY. And if you are in the NYC area and still unsure of what you’ll be doing to celebrate tonight, be sure to check out MurphGuide for some ideas. In addition to being THE online reference for what’s happening in NYC, the site’s owner is a regular visitor and commenter on MetsToday … so he and his site are obviously cool.

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Next Mets Free Agent Target: Jeff D’Amico

This offseason has been trying, to say the least, for most Mets fans. Yes, I get the whole idea of rebuilding, the constrained budget, the need for MLB to take over the organization, and that 2011 is a throwaway season. But it’s still disappointing to see that the “big” acquisitions of the winter are D.J. Carrasco, Ronny Paulino, Boof Bonser, and Chin-lung Hu. Seriously?

But there’s still another month to six weeks of potential activity before spring training opens; meaning, there could still be some “big” free agent signing coming up. Unfortunately, “big” means a cheap bullpen arm (Manny Delcarmen? Randy Flores?), a fourth outfielder (Fred Lewis? Delwyn Young?), and/or a high-risk, low-reward starting pitcher coming off injury (Jeff Francis? Chris Young?).

Wait … did I get that term confused? Isn’t it supposed to be “LOW-risk, high-reward” ?

Yeah, but when you’re talking about Chris Young and Jeff Francis, it’s the other way around.

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Quick Look: DJ Carrasco

The Mets biggest winter acquisition thus far has been the signing of free-agent pitcher D.J. Carrasco. Personally, I don’t know much about Carrasco, since he spent most of his career in the Adulterated League and Japan. What little we saw of him in 2010 with the D’backs and Pirates was inconclusive.

That said, I called on fellow SweetSpot blogger Jim Margalus of Sox Machine to give us a quick and dirty background on Carrasco:

First of all, Carrasco wears some kick-ass stirrups. If that was his only contributions to the Sox, I’d be thrilled with his career.

But beyond fashion, he’s extremely useful. Ozzie Guillen called him his team MVP in 2009 for pitching nearly 100 innings in relief thanks to his rubber arm. Aesthetically, his stuff doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in high-leverage situations, because he will subtract off his fastball and throw a lot of sweeping curves. Throw in his deceptive delivery, and it looks like he’s experimenting with pitches.

Watch him for a while, and that’s just the way he attacks hitters. He compensates with a lack of power by not giving in. It’s worked for him for three years now, ever since the Sox picked him up off the scrap heap. I’m a fan.

Stirrups? Heck, right there he’s pulling on my old-school heartstrings. “Useful” and “rubber arm” are descriptors I like to see from someone in the bullpen, as well.

D.J. Carrasco may be no Rafael Soriano, but he should be adequate in his role of reliever / swingman. Barring injury, we’re likely to see him fairly often in 2011.

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The Fourth Outfielder

I keep reading in various places that the Mets have earmarked a portion of their meager winter budget for a fourth outfielder. If this is true, why?

It’s pretty much been established that the 2011 season will not be one seeing the Mets fighting for a playoff spot. Call it “rebuliding”, “assessing and evaluating”, “reconstructing”, or whatever you wish — the bottom line is that the team is not making a conscious effort for the short-term, and is only in the nascent stages of the long-term plan. That said, why would there be any concern about acquiring a fourth outfielder — even if it is low on the list of priorities?

Moreover, don’t the Mets already have a fourth outfielder somewhere in their system? Unless something changes between now and opening day, the starting outfield will consist of Carlos Beltran, Angel Pagan, and Jason Bay. None of these three men need a defensive replacement in the late innings, and none are likely to be lifted for a pinch-hitter in any situation, either. Beltran is the only of the three who may require regular rest; if he’s the starting centerfielder, Pagan will slide into his spot on those days and a the “fourth” outfielder will step into a corner.

Now that we’ve established the regular routine, what do the Mets need from that fourth outfielder?

Ideally, he’s someone who can provide some power on the days Beltran (or Bay) is absent from the lineup. It would help, but is not necessary, if he can cover all three outfield positions; if Pagan turns out to be the starting centerfielder, both Bay and Beltran are capable of handling CF when Pagan needs a break. Additionally, this extra outfielder should also be a potentially strong pinch-hitter. In reality, the Mets probably are best suited with not only a fourth outfielder but a fifth one as well — but that “fifth” would also be versatile enough to handle an infield position (or catch) and have a slightly different skill set (i.e., hit from the opposite side, provide speed if the other has power, etc.).

Taking a cursory look at the Mets 40-man roster and high-level minor leaguers, there are several candidates to fill these roles:

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Himelfarb Hears a Hu

I have no idea who Hu is, nor if Horton heard about it. But this is the biggest acquisition Sandy Alderson and his fantasy front office have pulled off since the deft signing of D.J. Carrasco, so it must be important. That said, we are lucky to have Matt Himelfarb give us the down-low on the newest addition to the Mets’ 40-man roster. — Joe

Amid widespread protests from fans decrying the organization’s inaction, the Mets acquired infielder Chin-lung Hu from the Dodgers for southpaw Mike Antonini.

Hu, 27, hit .317/.332/.438 in 223 plate-appearances last year in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League last season. That translates to a .285/.310/.397 at Buffalo and a .247/.263/.329 line with the Mets. In 191 career big league PA’s, he has hit .191/.241/.283 . By all accounts, he is a very good defensive shortstop who can also play second, but his bat has precluded him from developing into an everyday player at the big league level.

Despite Hu’s defensive prowess, unless he puts on a legendary display during Spring Training, I don’t expect him to be seriously in the mix for the second base job. He is certainly behind Daniel Murphy, Brad Emaus, and Justin Turner on the depth chart, and there is only so much playing time to go around in March. Heck, it is hard to say he is much of an improvement over Ruben Tejada at this point.

Hu is, however, a potential backup option given his ability to shortstop. If Reyes’s health is an issue again, I would rather see Hu at short than call up Tejada, whose development is best suited at AAA.

Antonini, 25, went 8-12 with a 4.69 era.  in 168.1 innings between Binghamton and Buffalo last season, striking out 131 and walking 23. He has posted some decent numbers and shown impressive control, but his stuff fringy. He could develop into a decent loogy, although he has actually performed better against right-handed hitters than lefties.

Overall, this trade will probably not amount to much more than a wash, but I see some upside for the Mets. At the very least, Hu will come $1.5 million bucks cheaper than Alex Cora.

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