Section 518

Where we endeavor to stay positive about the 2011 Mets…

Archive for the ‘Offseason Moves’ Category

Nick Evans, And The Battle for Bench Spots

Posted by JD on February 27, 2011

Jack DiLaurio had a decent debut season with the 1969 Mets, a less-successful second season with the Astros, and was out of the majors (never to return) before his third season started. Reading his SABR Bio Project entry I was struck by his approach to his situation. I don’t know if “fatalistic” is accurate, but DiLaurio knew that his path to the majors was blocked in the Detroit organization by better pitchers. He realized that, at age 26, he was running out of time to realize his dream of making the majors and consigned himself to retiring if he didn’t make the team in 1969. Fate intervened (in the form of then farm director Whitey Herzog pushing to first trade for, then promote, him) and DiLaurio made some useful contributions to the Miracle Mets, but his struggle to make the majors really stuck with me.

In terms of the current roster, I can’t help wondering if Nick Evans feels that same desperation (again, not sure if that’s exactly the right word, but it feels close) DiLaurio felt. The Mets’ treatment of Evans has been puzzling at best. Originally an injury replacement for the concussed Ryan Church, Evans made the jump from AA on May 28, 2008 and it was impressive: 3 for 4 with 3 doubles, 2 RBI and a run scored. He was sent down on June 4th after hitting just .174/.208/.304 in nine games, but came back on July 10th and steadily improved. His final line: .257/.303/.404 in 119 plate appearances. Not great, but not bad either (he was only 22 at the time).

Evans didn’t make the club out of spring training (Gary Sheffield took his spot at the last second) and split the season between AA Binghamton, AAA Buffalo, and the Mets. 2010 wasn’t much different: he opened the season in Binghamton, was promoted to Buffalo, and spent September with the Mets. What’s more, he spent most of his time in the minors even though it was apparent that Ike Davis was solidifying his claim as the first baseman of the future.

To this fan, it appeared as if the organization was neglecting his development. Yet, there was reason for him to be optimistic about his chances: not only did a new management team take over with a mandate to limit off-season spending, but Fernando Tatis was allowed to depart as a free agent. Tatis filled the role most suited for Evans: right handed hitter off the bench who had some power and could fill in adequately as a corner infielder and outfielder. With Terry Collins elevated from farm coordinator to major league manager, it seemed as if Evans had a clear path to the majors.

And then the Mets signed Scott Hairston. A second baseman who can play all three outfield positions capably, Hairston is a right-handed hitter who has good power, especially to pull. He doesn’t play first or third, but when you consider that both Brad Emaus and Daniel Murphy play third and Murphy was an above-average first baseman for the Mets in 2009, Hairston’s versatility in the outfield suddenly loomed as a major road block for Evans.

I see the bench competition unfolding like this: Ronny Paulino (Mike Nickeas until Paulino’s PED suspension runs out) as back-up catcher, Chin-lung Hu as back-up middle infielder, the loser of the Emaus/Murphy second base competition, Willie Harris as back-up outfielder/lefty pinch hitter/pinch runner, and Evans or Hairston.

In my eyes, Harris’ presence negates the advantage that Evans has over Hairston, and vice versa. Evans advantage? Corner infield. Willie Harris has played 28 games at third. Hairston’s advantage? Center field. Harris has played 230 games in center. Evans is out of options, but Hairston was signed to a major league deal.

It will come down to who performs better in Spring Training, which is how it should be. The competition should bring the best out of both players and will strengthen the Mets’ bench. I just can’t help but wonder what Evans’ frame of mind is. He’s 25, which is young in real-life terms but dangerously middle aged for a baseball player who hasn’t established himself as a major leaguer. Does he doubt himself at all? Is he hoping to be traded or released or claimed on waivers, to get a fresh start somewhere else? Is he feeling emotions similar to what DiLaurio felt? It’s not the biggest story in camp this year, not by a long shot. But it’s intriguing enough to merit watching.

I don’t know (can’t know, really) who will help the Mets more this season. Hairston has a longer track record and is more athletic, so it seems to me that he has to be the favorite. But I feel for Nick Evans, and hope he has an excellent spring training. And, I hope that he’ll be given a fair shot to win a job on the bench. If he gets a shot and fails, so be it. But given his performance and how well he’s handled being bounced around over the past two years, he’s earned a fair chance to win a spot.

Posted in Daniel Murphy, Ike Davis, Mets, Offseason Moves, Spring Training, Terry Collins | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Biding Time Till Spring

Posted by JD on January 27, 2011

It’s been quiet in Mets-land lately, and that’s ok. A productive offseason is just about finished and there’s not much more to do but wait for spring training to begin. In that spirit (and to get back to writing: I’ve been seriously slacking this month), I’m going to count down the days till pitchers and catchers report by looking at a player whose uniform number matches the number of days left.

This is not to be confused with Patrick Flood’s statistics-driven Top Fifty Mets of All-Time or the Real Dirty Mets’ blog’s fan-submitted Top 50 list, both of which are thoughtful projects that required serious thought and effort on the part of their authors and editors. Nor is it an exercise to determine the best player to ever wear a particular number for the Mets. No, this is a lark, inspired by Lohud.com columnist Rick Carpineillo, who went through a similar exercise prior to the start of NY Rangers training camp on his excellent Rangers Report blog. If a particular number brings a different player to mind for you, please: use the comments section to tell us why. Let’s have fun with this.

One last note: this project would be impossible without the Numerical Roster put together by Jon Springer of Mets By The Numbers, a truly indispensable asset when researching Mets uniform numbers.

#21 – Herm Winnigham

Drafted by the Mets in January 1981, Winningham debuted with the Mets in 1984 with a .407/.429/.519 slash line and a robust 167 OPS+. The Montreal Expos suffered the brunt of his offensive onslaught (he slashed .500/.500/.700 against them) and immediately traded future Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter to the Mets to secure his services.

Or something like that. Hubie Brooks was probably the Expos’ main target. Or Mike Fitzgerald. Or Floyd Youmans. But Winningham was definitely included in the deal. He went on to slash a less-impressive during his time with the Expos. He earned a ring with the World Champion Cincinnati Reds in 1990, and finished his career with the Red Sox. For his career, he slashed .239/.296.334, was worth -2.0 rWAR (B-R.com), won a World Series (not by himself: that would be amazing) and was part of the trade that brought one of the most important 1986 Mets to Flushing. Not bad.

Fun fact: His middle name is Son. Herman Son Willingham. That’s awesome all by itself.


Posted in Mets, Offseason Moves | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Willie Harris, Full Disclosure

Posted by JD on January 14, 2011

Adam Rubin of ESPN NY is reporting that Willie Harris will sign a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training. Harris has earned a reputation as a “Mets killer” over the past few seasons, not without justification. It started with this game in 2007, in which he caught a Moises Alou drive at the wall and robbed Carlos Delgado of a game tying home run. He would go on to make several high profile catches over the years, cementing his place as one of the Mets’ most hated opponents.

The thing is, he did his damage almost exclusively with his glove. His career slash line against the Mets (in 143 plate appearances) is .159/.319/.212. That .532 OPS translates into a 58 tOPS+, 32% lower than the average player who faced the Mets in those seasons. Here are his full splits against the Mets:

Year G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS tOPS+
2006 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2007 10 6 26 19 3 4 0 0 0 4 1 1 5 6 0.211 0.385 0.211 0.595 64
2008 15 9 45 35 6 7 2 0 0 0 0 0 9 5 0.200 0.364 0.257 0.621 67
2009 15 9 42 36 2 3 1 0 0 0 1 0 5 2 0.083 0.195 0.111 0.306 -18
2010 16 5 30 23 4 4 0 0 1 4 0 0 6 5 0.174 0.367 0.304 0.671 110
Total 57 29 143 113 15 18 3 0 1 8 2 1 25 18 0.159 0.319 0.212 0.532 58

His career numbers aren’t much better: .239/.327/.352, 79 OPS+. According to Baseball Reference, he’s compiled 3.8 WAR over parts of 10 seasons. As a fourth outfielder who can play all three spots and pinch hit (well, kind of: .226/.325/.336 95 tOPS+ in 171 plate appearances), Harris could be a good fit, especially when you consider the fact that he’s only signed on a non-guaranteed minor league deal. There are worse options out there.

Harris is a complimentary piece that adds to the organization’s depth. Realistic expectations are the key here: just because he “killed” the Mets over the past few seasons, don’t expect him to be a game changer for them, especially at the plate. Providing steady glovework as a backup in the outfield is about what we should be looking for from Harris. Anything else is gravy.

Posted in Mets, Offseason Moves | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Quality Moves, Done Stealthily

Posted by JD on January 4, 2011

As you know, the Mets added Chris Capuano and Taylor Buchholz (for details on the signings, see here, here and here). These are nice, solid moves. Neither pitcher will change the competitive balance in the NL East, but they represent smart gambles. Their injury histories are not insignificant (two Tommy John surgeries for Capuano, one for Buchholz), but as a result, neither are their salaries (roughly $2.1 million combined). They’re not sure things, but there’s a reasonable chance that they can contribute positively and only a minimal financial commitment if they don’t. These are exactly the types of moves a team with budget constraints should be making.

Come to think of it, all of the Mets’ acquisitions have fit this mold. Whether it be solid complimentary pieces (D.J. Carrasco and Ronny Paulino), cheap young talent (Brad Emaus and Pedro Beato), or other reasonable gambles (Chin-lung Hu, Boof Bonser, Dusty Ryan), Sandy Alderson and Co. have maximized their available resources to bolster the existing roster. You can complain about the lack of big names or the long periods of inactivity, but the fact is that the Mets are acting with severe restrictions. They will no longer wantonly toss around their money in pursuit of the next quick fix.

Considering that framework, I think the Mets are doing an excellent job of maximizing their available resources. We don’t know for sure if this group of players will be better than the supporting cast from last season, but we do know that they’re track records indicate they will be (and their price tags limit their downsides if they aren’t). That’s good enough for me.

On a related note, I can’t help but be impressed by Alderson & Co.’s stealthiness. There was minimal warning time before the Carrasco and Paulino signings and no indication that Emaus and Beato were targets in the Rule 5 draft, but the Capuano and Buchholz signings came out of nowhere. I’ll grant that the pursuit of Chris Young has been somewhat more public, but even that has been largely without fanfare. What a breath of fresh air when compared to the near-constant flow of leaks from the previous organization. If nothing else, I think we can all agree that Alderson & Co. have done their best to maintain their bargaining position by controlling the flow of information coming from their own staff. For that, they deserve kudos.

Posted in Mets, Offseason Moves, Sandy Alderson | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Joe Martinez: Why Not? (UPDATED)

Posted by JD on December 22, 2010

UPDATE: The Indians acquired Martinez for a PTBNL or cash today. I like the guy and everything, but the only way I’d make that trade is if the BTBNL was Luis Hernandez.

From MLB Trade Rumors comes news that the Pirates have designated Joe Martinez for assignment today. Not the biggest of news, I know. But I’d like to see the Mets make a claim on him anyway.

Martinez will be 28 next seasons and doesn’t seem to have overwhelming stuff. Scouting reports that I’ve found on the web read much like this one from Pirates Prospects: four pitches with a fastball that sits between 86-90 but can touch 91-92 on occasion and some indication that he’s a “ground ball machine”. That hasn’t translated at the major league level: Martinez has pitched 49 innings over 18 games (six as a starter), generating a 6.16 ERA and 1.872 WHIP while striking out only 28 batters. Fangraphs.com shows that his xFIP is 4.76, indicating that he may have been victimized by some bad defense behind him.

Digging a little deeper, we see that he has 2.0 BB/9 and 7.3 K/9 ratios in his minor league career. Martinez also has a 3.58 ERA and 1.218 WHIP over 702 innings. Not the stuff that dreams are made of, but indicative that he could be a productive long man in the bullpen who makes an occasional spot start if necessary. And who knows? Maybe the change of scenery combined with a new pitching coach and a pitcher-friendly ballpark result in a slight bump in performance?

Martinez basically profiles as a right-handed Pat Misch: a replacement level pitcher who can contribute in spots. He’s not the fifth starter that the Mets need, but with an open spot on the roster they have the ability to take a gamble on him. Yes, they’ll need that spot (and more) when they sign a starting pitcher and a fourth outfielder, but what’s the harm in putting Martinez on the roster now? Worst case scenario, they DFA him when the time comes and the Pirates re-claim him.

I won’t be upset if the Mets choose to pass on Joe Martinez: there are plenty of other replacement-level pitchers in the free agent pool at this point. In fact, I kind of expect them to make similar moves (mostly involving non-roster invites to spring training) once they sign their free agent pitcher of choice. But why not take a shot now, while the Pirates are trying to use the holiday slowdown to pass a useful player through waivers? Can’t hurt, right?

 

Posted in Mets, Offseason Moves, Sandy Alderson | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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