As if the signings of Chris Young, Willie Harris, and Taylor Tankersley weren’t enough to bowl you over, the Mets have followed up that trio with another triumphant triumvirate: Scott Hairston, Tim Byrdak, and Blaine Boyer.
Hairston is the younger, taller, less-skilled, non-enhanced brother of Jerry Hairston, Jr. He plays the outfield and second base with equal adequacy, and hits the ball infrequently. When he does make contact, he occasionally sends the ball over a fence — he blasted 10 homers in only 295 at-bats last year, while posting a .210 average and .295 OBP. He had a career year in 2009, with 17 homeruns, .265 AVG, .305 OBP in 116 games and 464 plate appearances. With too many offensive-minded outfielders already on the roster, the Padres had no room for the soon-to-be 31-year-old slugger, and the Mets are the beneficiary of their surplus. Yet another brilliant, under-the-radar move by those very smart and efficient people in the front office. This strategy of exploiting market inefficiencies is so exciting!
Byrdak is a similarly smart move — I know this because the Mets made it, and everyone keeps telling us how smart they are now. Byrdak is one of those little old
ladies lefties who everyone undervalues just because he has underwhelming stuff, walks too many people, gives up too many hits, and allows too many homeruns. What people forget is that in his 9-year MLB career, he twice averaged more than one strikeout per inning, and he limits lefthanded hitters to minuscule batting averages (righties rake him, but as long as he doesn’t face any, everything will be fine).
Boyer might be more interesting if his first name was Ken or Clete, instead of plain Blaine, but we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Interestingly, Boyer is basically the mirror image of Byrdak, in that he is murderous on righthanded batters, but gets killed by lefthanded batters. I’m wondering if the Mets can teach both of them to play first base, and then in the late innings, switch them back and forth between 1B and the mound depending on the batter’s handedness? If not, I suppose Terry Collins can politely request that the opposing manager not use pinch-hitters.
Strangely, neither Boyer nor Byrdak have had serious arm surgery within the past two years — which seems to be inconsistent with another market inefficiency being exploited by Alderson. However, if you look back far enough into their histories, you’ll learn that Byrdak did undergo Tommy John surgery in 2001, and Boyer had shoulder surgery in 2006 … so there you go.
All sarcasm aside, Boyer and Byrdak are perfectly fine, low-risk, mild-reward signings that could turn out quite well. Byrdak, in particular, has been something of a late bloomer, re-making himself into a crafty and efficient LOOGY in his mid-30s — kind of like the one-batter version of Jamie Moyer. He throws a four-seam fastball that rides in the 88-89 range and occasionally breaks 90; a running, sinking, two-seamer that’s a few MPH slower; a slider; and a forkball that he uses to change speeds. His varied repertoire has the potential to keep batters off balance, but because he doesn’t have great velocity on his heater nor great bite on his slider, his effectiveness is dependent on keeping the ball away from the plate and hoping batters extend their strike zone; therefore, he tends to walk too many batters.
As for Boyer, he was a top prospect in the Braves’ organization until the shoulder problems and eventual surgery briefly detoured his career. It took about 2-3 years for him to regain his velocity, which can get up into the 95-96 MPH range on occasion. He mixes in pretty good overhand curve and a hard slider, and was a workhorse for Bobby Cox in 2008, appearing in 76 games. However, he tends to get hit hard, as his fastball is pretty straight and control inconsistent — a combination that leads to frequent meatballs. He kind of reminds me of Brian Bruney.
Regarding Hairston, I don’t get it. Like Willie Harris, he can play both 2B and CF in a pinch, but probably best suited to left field, and isn’t going to offer much on offense. Harris hits from the left side and Hairston from the right, so I suppose they complement each other. But it would’ve been more efficient to get switch-hitting Delwyn Young to do the same thing, no? (Young was signed by the Phillies earlier this month.)
I know that neither Hairston nor Harris are going to be difference-makers, and their purpose is to provide depth, but my concern is they will be taking reps away from Nick Evans, who is out of options and will need to really wow Terry Collins in order to make the team.
In related news, the Mets DFA’d outfielder Jason Pridie and pitcher Tobi Stoner to make room for Hairston and Chris Young. Not a huge deal; I was actually surprised that Pridie and Stoner were on the 40-man roster in the first place.