According to Mets.com, the Mets have agreed to terms with Alex Cora.
Well I guess that’s it — the offseason roster makeover is complete!
Cora should step right in to left field and provide the Mets with the much-needed power bat they need to …. oh, wait a minute ….
Last I checked, Alex Cora was a light-hitting middle infielder with a good glove and a good attitude. The kind of guy who is a capable middle infielder and can play a few other positions in a pinch without embarrassing himself (he’s played one career game each at 1B and LF, and has played 16 at 3B). On an American League team, he is an ideal backup / late-inning defensive replacement second baseman / shortstop for a team that has offensive-minded middle infielders. He’s also a good guy to have around in the event of an injury, as he can play competently for stretches at a time.
In other words, he’s Damion Easley, except that he has zero power, not as strong a bat overall, is a lefthanded hitter, and a better fielder. Oh wait, so maybe he compares more closely to Argenis Reyes or Anderson Hernandez … except he’s not a switch-hitter. And he costs at least four times more.
In short, I’m not sure about the logic behind this signing. With a roster comprised of a dozen pitchers, bench spots are precious, and need to be filled by people who can play both sides of the game — offense and defense. Cora doesn’t have much of a bat, and is only an average baserunner. I’m assuming he can bunt. He does have a career .264 average as a pinch-hitter, which is pretty good. However, as a lefthanded hitter, he strangely has a much better average against lefthanded pitchers — not righthanders — and we know that Jerry Manuel will either not notice this fact or ignore it, and use him exclusively against righthanded pitchers.
Speculation is that Cora would push Luis Castillo, and possibly take over second base eventually. Hmm … so, the Mets won’t go after Orlando Hudson because they don’t want to eat Castillo’s contract, but it will be OK to bench Castillo (and, effectively, eat his contract) to play a mediocre talent such as Cora at the position? More to the point, does this mean that the Mets find Cora to be a better low-cost alternative for second base insurance than, say, David Eckstein?
I don’t mean to bash Cora — I actually believe he’s a solid all-around ballplayer. Nothing special, but solid. He’s not unlike Miguel Cairo. A good guy to have on the team, if you can afford the luxury. And that’s where I have a problem. The Mets supposedly don’t have the money to spend on a top-flight pitcher such as Derek Lowe, but they have no problem spending an unnecessary $2M for a veteran utilityman that is not necessarily an upgrade over a player who would cost the league minimum (such as Argenis Reyes, Alex Cintron, Angel Berroa, Chris Burke, or Ramon Martinez). This is my point: if you are willing to spend $2M for a utility infielder, why in the world aren’t you spending it on someone like Nomar Garciaparra, Mark Loretta, or Ray Durham — in other words, a guy who you know can give you an offensive boost? Because last I checked, the Mets don’t need a defensive replacement for Jose Reyes nor David Wright — and I’m not seeing Castillo leaving games because of his defense, either. (Loretta, by the way, signed for $1.25M, and would have been a much more interesting option to platoon with / push Castillo).
Overspend for a substitute player of which there is a surplus of talent, but underspend for starting pitching. Not exactly the trend followed by championship ballclubs.