Section 518

Where we endeavor to stay positive about the 2011 Mets…

Posts Tagged ‘Alex Cora’

Felipe Lopez, Revisted

Posted by JD on September 22, 2010

First things first: this post definitely qualifies as “beating a dead horse”. A very dead horse, at that. But I just can’t help myself, so here we go.

During the off-season, I made the case that the Mets should have signed Felipe Lopez here and here (while committing the sin of not clarifying that I was using Baseball Reference’s version of WAR). I even went so far as to sponsor his Baseball Reference page, because I’ll also take every opportunity to reference a Beatnuts’ lyric that I can get. My point? Felipe Lopez was/is better and cheaper than Alex Cora (I warned you that it was a dead horse).

Well, the Cardinals released Lopez yesterday because “they were sick of him showing up late for games”. That’s unacceptable behavior and I’m not going to try to defend him. I won’t be advocating his signing quite as much this off-season even if, as Aaron Gleeman suggests, he’s willing to settle for a minor league deal (I’ll try not to, anyway).

However, I will present these stat lines for your review:

Player A: .231/.310/.340, 26 extra base hits, 43 BB, 77 K, 77 OPS+, -0.2 BR WAR
Player B: .207/.265/.278, 9 extra base hits, 10 BB, 16 K, 49 OPS+, -1.2 BR WAR
Player C: .235/.338/.267, 6 extra base hits, 39 BB, 23 K, 69 OPS+, -0.1 BR WAR

I’m sure you figured out that Player A is Lopez and Player B is Cora. Player C is Luis Castillo. For the record, Lopez had 376 at-bats while Cora and Castillo have combined for 311 AB. Lopez made $1 million this year, Cora $2 million, and Castillo made $6 million.

Substituting Lopez for Cora and Castillo wouldn’t have made much difference this season: the Mets might have won one additional game had they done so. Given their current place in the standings, I’d much rather see Ruben Tejada (0.3 BR WAR) play over Lopez anyway. I know I’m not adding anything new to the discussion, but I had to follow my argument through to it’s final conclusion: signing Felipe Lopez and eating one (or both) of Alex Cora’s and Luis Castillo’s contracts would have (marginally) improved the Mets this season. “Clubhous chemistry” be damned.

Posted in Luis Castillo, Mets | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

The March to Vesting

Posted by JD on September 6, 2010

Alex Cora’s vesting $2 million option was rightfully bashed in every corner of the Mets blogosphere (including here, to pick one post among many). We don’t have to worry about it now that he’s gone, but there’s another, more ominous vesting option looming in 2011: Francisco Rodriguez’ $17.5 million 2012  option. From Cot’s Baseball Contracts (scroll down):

  • 2012 option becomes guaranteed with:
    • 55 games finished in 2011, and
    • 100 games finished in 2010-11, and
    • doctors declare Rodriguez healthy after 2011

For the record, the Games Finished (GF) stat is as obvious as it sounds: it does not require the pitcher to earn a save, he merely has to record the final out of the ballgame. Before his infamous altercation in the Mets’ family room ended his season, Rodriguez recorded 46 GF. That means K-Rod has to finish at least 64 games (and be “declared healthy” after the season, whatever that means) to see his $17.5 million option become guaranteed.

Sounds like a lot, right? Not really. He finished 66 games last year and 69 the year before. In fact, counting his shortened 2010 season, he’s averaged about 59 GF over the last six seasons. There’s every reason to believe that, if his hand heals properly this offseason (which it most likely will), he’ll finish enough games next year to at least get very, very close to vesting that option.

On top of that, while the Mets are obligated to pay K-Rod $11.5 million next season, his contract contains a “poison pill”: performance bonuses that vest based on Games Finished. He’ll receive $150,000 for finishing 50 and 55 games, and $200,000 for finishing 60 games (for a total of $500,000). I find it ironic that Jeff Wilpon will have to write out checks to K-Rod as he inches closer and closer to cashing in on that $17.5 million option.

At this point, you may be saying to yourself: “Big deal, the Mets are going to dump him this offseason anyway”. Sorry to break this to you, but probably not. The MLB Players Association is going to fight the Mets every step of the way: they’ve already filed a grievance on Rodriguez’ behalf, contesting the Mets’ move to make the contract non-guaranteed (this would allow the Mets to avoid paying K-Rod for the remainder of the 2010 season). The grievance will go before an arbitrator in October and the MLBPA stands a decent chance of winning. At the very least, it signals that the Mets can count on fierce resistance from the union from this point on if they try to alter Rodriguez’ contract in any way.

But wait, there’s more! K-Rod has a limited no-trade clause that allows him to block trades to 10 teams. I can’t tell which teams are on the list, but that’s one-third of the league. The no-trade could seriously limit the market for K-Rod, which almost ensures that the Mets will have to include a serious amount of cash to make a trade happen. Don’t forget that everyone’s favorite roster-filler, Oliver Perez, will be making $12 million next season, too. If the Mets do succeed in moving Rodriguez, I can guarantee you right now that they won’t spend the cash to move Perez, too. What strange bedfellows stupid MLB contracts make: because of that titanic contract option, I have to say that keeping Perez and moving Rodriguez is the smart move. I didn’t think there’d ever be an argument for holding Perez, but the Mets’ management might have one there. Sigh.

If you’ve read this far, I thank you (and applaud your fortitude). Here comes your payoff. You may ask yourself, is $17.5 million really too much to pay for an above-average closer? Well, yes. It’s a stupid amount to pay. Here’s why: let’s assume the 2012 Mets play 162 games (no playoffs, no games lost to weather). That translates to roughly 1,458 innings (I’m not going to try to factor in extra-inning or rain-shortened games). That means that the 2012 Mets pitchers will record 4,374 outs. In his eight full seasons, Rodriguez has averaged about 71 1/3 innings pitched per season. Let’s be generous and assume that he’ll pitch 72 innings in 2012, which would be his highest total since 2006. 72 innings pitched equals 216 outs recorded. 216 divided by 4,374 equals 0.0494. Translation? Your $17.5 million dollar closer is going to record slightly less than 5% of the team’s outs.

Let me rephrase that: if his option vests, the Mets are going to pay Francisco Rodriguez approximately $81,019 per out. What’s more, he’ll get a $1 million dollar performance bonus if he finishes 60 games that year that will raise that number to a nifty $85,648. Astounding.

Say what you want about the contracts of Carlos Beltran, Oliver Perez, or Luis Castillo: I maintain that the single most important contract to remove is that of Francisco Rodriguez. That vesting option looms as the single biggest waste of money in franchise history. Hyperbolic? Maybe. But if you thought the Mets were handicapped by payroll concerns this season, just wait until 2012.

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I’m putting this below the line because it involves total speculation on my part. The Mets average total payroll over the past three seasons was approximately $137,888,000. I have no way to forecast what it will be in 2012, so let’s just assume it will be about $145 million (again, total shot in the dark). If that’s the case, the Mets will be tying up around 12.75% of their total payroll in a pitcher who will record roughly 5% of their total outs. One-eighth of their total payroll will go to a player who might record 216 outs. Just…wow.

Posted in Carlos Beltran, Luis Castillo, Mets, Oliver Perez | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The End Of An Error

Posted by JD on August 8, 2010

Well, that’s done: the Mets have released Alex Cora. The move, in conjunction with the demotion of Jesus Feliciano, was made to free up space for the return of Ruben Tejada and Fernando Martinez. It also comes after his 62nd game, leaving him 18 games shy of vesting the 2011 option on his contract, saving the Mets another $2 million next season.

I love these moves. Cora was well past his prime and the thought of bringing him back for more next year was aggravating me to no end. I’m sure he’s a good guy. He’ll probably make a good manager someday, too. But watching him play was seriously testing my patience, so I’m glad that’s no longer a problem.

Of course, these moves aren’t going to make enough of an impact this late in the season. Even if you factor in the decision to bench Luis Castillo and (maybe) platoon Jeff Francoeur and F-Mart, the Mets would still need returns to full health from Jason Bay and Carlos Beltran (and a return to form from Jose Reyes) to make a run of any kind. When you consider how far they’ve fallen behind, it would also take some seriously average performances from the teams in front of them to make it a serious run.

No, these moves do not a contender make. But they do make our team a little more competitive and a lot less frustrating to watch. Considering how this season has developed, I’ll take the good news when I can get it. And on that note, I’m going to make myself a nice cold drink and get ready to watch one of the more intriguing pitching match-ups of the season: knuckle-ball tossing revelation R.A. Dickey versus hard-throwing Roy Halladay. Let’s go Mets!

Posted in Mets, Omar Minaya | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Star Returns, And A Role Player Departs

Posted by JD on July 15, 2010

Carlos Beltran is back! That’s the main story tonight as the Mets return from the All-Star Break. I’m sure he’ll be rusty and I’m sure he’ll need time to get his game back, but he’s an instant upgrade over Jeff Francoeur and a boost to the offense. It feels like forever since I’ve seen him play (or 10 months at least) and I can’t wait for his first at-bat tonight. It’s a much needed jolt of energy for me (as a fan): I look forward to watching him again.

This being the Mets that we’re talking about, of course there’s negative injury news to balance out my Beltran euphoria. Jose Reyes has again been limited to swinging from the right side only and is riding the pine tonight as the San Francisco Giants start Tim Lincecum tonight. I’ll admit to waffling on this one: half a Reyes is so much better than a whole Alex Cora that I can see why the Mets are reluctant to bench him. I can’t shake the feeling that this will end poorly, but I hearby waive my right to criticize the Mets for this move: I don’t think they’re wrong to keep him active. I’d much rather just continue to slam them for not signing Felipe Lopez instead of Cora in the offseason.

But I digress: the departure I refer to in my post title is that of Fernando Tatis, who was moved to the 60-day DL after he went under the knife on Wednesday. This move almost definitely ends his season, and most likely, his career. I know Tatis has been ridiculed by many Mets fans for the better part of two seasons, but I never quite thought that was fair. Signed to a minor league contract in 2008, Tatis was a revelation that year. He hit 11 home runs and had an 123 OPS+ while backing up in right and left field and first and third base.

He re-signed for $1.7 million in 2009, and while his 13 GIDPs earned him the wrath of many a Mets’ fan, he hit 8 homers and had a 105 OPS+ while adding second base and shortstop to his defensive resume. He wasn’t a whiz with the glove at those positions but he didn’t embarrass himself, either. Add in the fact that he served as the Mets’ emergency catcher and it’s clear that he was worth more than Cora, who had a 69 OPS+ last season while making $2 million dollars. Tatis was actually one of their better players during that lost season, and he took far more criticism than he deserved.

He re-signed again, this time for just $850,000 (or $1 million less than the aforementioned Cora). 2010 was admittedly a down year for Tatis, who found himself in Jerry Manuel’s doghouse, who limited him to a mere 72 plate appearances this season. Still, his 59 OPS+ is higher than Cora’s 58*.

*Can you tell I don’t care that much for Cora as a player?

When all was said and done, he was worth 3.3 WAR (according to Baseball Reference) for the Mets, not a bad return for the roughly $3 million they spent on him. By comparison, Cora has been worth -1.6 WAR. I’ll say it again: Tatis was worth almost five wins more than Cora. Think about that the next time you want to run him down. His career with the Mets may not be over, but if it is, this fan will remember him as a useful bench player acquired for a reasonable price. Tatis may not have helped them reach the playoffs, but he wasn’t the reason why they missed them either. I thank him for his service and wish him nothing but the best in the future.

That said, it’s time to watch the return of Carlos Beltran. The rest of the season starts today, and hopefully Beltran’s return key’s a successful road trip. Let’s Go Mets!

Posted in Carlos Beltran, Jeff Francoeur, Mets | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Another Domino Falls

Posted by JD on June 21, 2010

As you’ve undoubtedly heard by now, Jenrry Mejia was finally sent down to Binghamton to resume his rightful career path as a starting pitcher (Bobby Parnell will take his place in the bullpen on Tuesday). He logged 26 2/3 innings in the Mets bullpen over 29 games, including a scoreless inning (with one strikeout) in yesterday’s game against the Yankees. Even though he had a 122 ERA+ and accrued 0.3 WAR during his time in Flushing this is undoubtedly the right move: starting pitchers are more valuable than relievers, and the Mets should take the time to figure out whether Mejia has what it takes to be a successful major league starter. Kudos to Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel for finally doing the right thing.

The roster continues to evolve, and in a good way. Ne’er-do-wells Sean Green, Mike Jacobs, Frank Catalanotto, GMJ, John Maine, and Oliver Perez have either been consigned to the Disabled List or released and the Mejia demotion fits in this trend. He wasn’t exactly a liability in the bullpen but the franchise is far better served by allowing him to hone his craft as a starter in the minors instead of eating low-leverage innings in the Mets’ bullpen. We still have to deal with Alex Cora’s steady march toward a vesting option and the DL assignments are a ticking time-bomb (acutely highlighted by Maine’s recent rehab starts), but lately Minaya has been making all the right moves.

I’ll be honest: I feel weird writing that. However, the standings have forced my hand: it’s June 21 and the Mets are 2.5 games out of first place with 95 games to go, and I suppose it proves the cliche that “late” really is better than “never”. We’ll never know how much better off they would be if Ike Davis, R.A. Dickey, Chris Carter or Jesus Feliciano had been on the roster from day one (I suspect they’d have at least one more win, if not two or three), but in the immortal words of former Jets coach Herm Edwards, we can build on this.

What’s done is done. Cora aside, the Mets’ roster is about as about as optimized as it can be at this point. The next step is acquiring a starting pitcher at a reasonable price. If Minaya can do that without stripping the farm system the Mets should at least be able to contend for the Wild Card, which is better than I expected back in February.

***

But I digress…let’s get back to Mejia. The Eastern league plays 140 games in a season and Binghamton has already played 67 games. With 73 games left to play, I figure that Mejia can get 14 starts. If he averages seven innings in each he’ll get approximately 98 innings of work, which would leave him with a season total of 126 innings. That’s a big jump from last season’s total of 94 2/3 innings pitched. There’s some doubt as to whether the Verducci Effect is a reliable predictor of pitcher injuries, but a thirty-plus inning increase should be enough for one year. In other words, hopefully the Mets don’t call up Mejia for bullpen duty when the roster expands in September. The limited benefit would far exceed the possible risk.

***

One final tangent: Mejia will make his first start on “Salute to Boy Band” Night. The sheer awesomeness of the moment is unmeasurable. That is all.

Posted in Ike Davis, Jerry Manuel, Mets, Oliver Perez, Omar Minaya | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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