Section 518

Where we endeavor to stay positive about the 2011 Mets…

Posts Tagged ‘Rod Barajas’

Lefty Luxuries

Posted by JD on August 24, 2010

All of the waiver-wire action of the past few days (Rod Barajas, Johnny Damon, and Manny Ramirez leap to mind) got me wondering whether the Mets will make any more moves before the August 31st deadline. The Mets have already passed a few players through waivers successfully, but I don’t anticipate any movement on them due to their price tags (Carlos Beltran) or limited value (Jesus Feliciano, Mike Hessman, Luis Castillo, Jeff Francoeur, and Oliver Perez).

There are, however, two other players on the roster who should be placed on waivers immediately: Pedro Feliciano and Hisanori Takahashi. Don’t get me wrong: both players are useful cogs in the bullpen. But given their respective ages and price tags, they are luxury items that aren’t necessary for a .500 team that’s fallen out of the playoff race.

Ted Berg addressed potentially trading Pedro Feliciano back in July. He was right then, and he’s still right today (the only difference being that the market has significantly narrowed due to the waiver requirement). Feliciano is earning $2.9 million and can expect a raise in the arbitration process this season. While the Mets almost never go in front of an arbitrator, but you can expect them to settle with Pedro somewhere between $3.5 and $4 million. Heck, the Mets signed Scott Schoeneweis to a 3 eyar/$9 million deal just three seasons ago, and I’m sure a) Feliciano is a better pitcher, and b) the market has gone up since then. Can the Mets really afford to pay a lefty-specialist that much when they have so many other roster spots to address?

Takahashi is only making $1 million and to the best of my knowledge (read: the Mets’ page on Cot’s Baseball Contracts), he won’t be eligible for arbitration until 2013, meaning the Mets can retain him until that time while giving him only minimal raises. However, he’ll be 36 next season and there’s no guarantee that he’ll be able to match his current level of success (a term I use loosely: his 98 ERA+ indicates that he’s a slightly below-average pitcher). Sure, there may not be a market for Takahashi, but it can’t possibly hurt to gauge other team’s interest.

As for Feliciano, there’s an additional wrinkle to consider: MLB Trade Rumors is predicting that he’ll qualify as a Type B free agent. As such, if the Mets offer him arbitration and he declines, they’ll receive a sandwich pick in next seasons amateur draft, which will likely be worth more than any prospect they could land after putting him on waivers. But, there’s definitely a market out there for him. For instance, the Yankees would probably be interested in adding a solid lefty-specialist, and that might force Tampa, Boston or even Texas or Minnesota to be interested, if only to their potential playoff opponents from adding to their arsenal. Heck, I could even see the Phillies claiming Feliciano just to ensure that he doesn’t land on the Braves and wreak his usual havoc on Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez, and Chase Utley in the playoffs. The Mets might luck into landing a prospect who can help them more cheaply, but if they don’t find a return that they’re interested in, they can still pull him back from waivers. There’s really no downside (aside from bruised egos, I suppose).

There are several scenarios in play and the Mets should at least take this opportunity to make Feliciano and Takahashi available to other teams.  Get a gauge of their value, see what they’re worth to the contending teams in both leagues. It’s possible that they’ve been placed on waivers and it hasn’t been leaked yet (waivers are intended to be confidential until another team claims a player), but if they haven’t yet, there’s no real excuse for it. They should be making every attempt to maximize their available assets.

Posted in Mets, Trades | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Barajas Goes Home (And, Is Jason Kendall A Good Comp For Josh Thole)

Posted by JD on August 23, 2010

As you’ve undoubtedly heard by now, Ontario, CA native Rod Barajas is headed home, claimed on waivers by the Los Angeles Dodgers. I wish him nothing but the best (his walk-off home run against the Giants on May 7 is one of my favorite moments of this season), but it was past time for him to move on: his OBP was below his already-meager career average and though his slugging percentage was slightly better than his career number, it has steadily declined since May. And given that his one definitive strength is hitting home runs, it was a little troubling that he hasn’t homered since May 31st. No, it was time for him to move on.

Was it disappointing that the Mets received only cash considerations for his services? Not really, as his departure clears the way for Josh Thole to assume the role of starting catcher. That makes it worth it, in my book. It’s actually one of the more exciting things left to look forward to in this lost season, in my opinion. I enjoy watching Thole hit: he looks like he has a goal in every at-bat and he’s produced a .289/.361/.351 line so far this season. He’s earned the additional playing time and I hope he makes the most of it.

I’ve been thinking about Thole and what he may become quite a bit lately. One of the comparisons that I’ve heard fairly often is Jason Kendall (a good example is found here), and it was kind of bugging me. Kendall has been around so long (he’s in his 15th season) and he’s been so bad for the past six seasons, that I forgot how good he was for the Pirates. His OPS+ in Pittsburgh: 101, 114, 131, 136, 124, 78, 86, 112, and 107, the last five of those coming after his horrific ankle injury.

Well, that’s intriguing. But I’m not a scout, and I’m not qualified to judge Thole’s potential strictly from watching him play. I like what I see, I appreciate his approach at the plate, and I can tell that he’s gotten better at handling pitchers (enjoying particular success with R.A. Dickey), but I have no idea whether that translates into “Jason Kendall, Jr.” or not.

I’m also not comfortable drawing conclusions from 167 plate appearances (Thole’s current career total). However, their minor league careers are strikingly similar:

Kendall: four seasons, 1,520 plate appearances, .301/.377/.398 slash line
Thole: six seasons, 1,733 plate appearances, .289/.376/.381 slash line

Twins, separated at birth? No, Kendall was a slightly faster mover: although they both reached the majors at 22, Kendall played 130 games in his first season, Thole just 17. But it is enough evidence to lend credence to the Kendall comparison. All the more reason why releasing Rod Barajas was the right move.

Posted in Josh Thole, Mets | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Bay Done For Season

Posted by JD on August 20, 2010

The beat writers provided the news today via Twitter (here’s a representative sample from Newsday’s David Lennon): Jerry Manuel expects Jason Bay to miss the rest of the year as he recovers from a concussion suffered back in July.

Great. As if the team’s play of late hasn’t been depressing enough, now one of the more expensive pieces of the lineup has been placed on the sidelines indefinitely. His production hasn’t matched his paycheck yet, but he gave an honest effort throughout the season (and was far more productive than his counterpart in right field). It’s a shame to see his season end this way.

Looking for a silver lining, it’s may actually be a good sign if Bay doesn’t return (I’m not bashing Bay here…stick with me for a minute). If he’s struggling with concussion-related symptoms, sitting him indicates that management is implementing their Prevention and Recovery policy. Medical science is still struggling to understand the full impact of head injuries, but one thing that we’ve learned is that they are no joke. Unlike broken bones, concussions have no timetable for recovery. Benching Bay for the rest of the season ensures that he’ll be given every chance to return to health. Even if we can’t reliably predict that he’ll return to his previous levels of performance, this will at least give him the best chance to do so. Short-term sacrifice is in his (and the team’s) best interests, and I’m glad Mets management isn’t rushing him back* needlessly.

*However, I’m not ruling out his return this season yet: after all, they did let Beltran play last September. I hope he takes all the time he needs. Pardon me for waiting to see it before I believe it.

What makes this situation entirely unappealing is Manuel’s (and, to a slightly lesser extent, Omar Minaya’s) roster management of late. I have no doubt that if the medical staff gave Bay a green light, Omar would throw him out there (and bat him clean-up, to boot). It was just a few weeks ago when we were told Fernando Martinez and Ruben Tejada would be receiving increased playing time. That turned out to be a pipe dream: not only has Tejada been replaced by Luis Castillo at second, but Mike Hessman has seen an increase in playing time at the expense of Ike Davis and Rod Barajas has returned, sending Josh Thole to the bench and Martinez back to Buffalo.

Why? Because Manuel is desperately trying to save his job and, in doing so, he’s advanced the near-ludicrous notion that the Mets are still in contention for a post-season berth. 11 games behind the Braves, 8.5 games behind the Giants, only 41 games left to play, and our lame-duck manager is harboring dreams of reaching the playoffs. And management (and ownership) is allowing it or, even worse, encouraging it. Absolutely ridiculous, yet that’s what we’re left to deal with for the short-term future.

Losing Jason Bay for the rest of the season is disappointing. What’s absolutely crushing is watching near-useless veterans receive the bulk of the playing time in a vain attempt finish in the playoffs. While I applaud this implementation of the Prevention and Recovery mantra, it makes me wonder: how did the Mets get this one instance right while in the midst of making so many other fundamentally bad decisions?

Cliches are worthless, but I keep circling back to an old standard: “It is what it is”. The Mets will continue to spin their wheels, I’ll continue to watch (as will you), and the organizational inertia will continue to mire the Mets in mediocrity. I hope Jason Bay gets well and has a monster season next year, yet I seriously doubt it will change much.

———-

Update: I really should edit my posts better before publishing them. Upon re-reading this post, I realized I failed to make one key point: Jason Bay has done nothing wrong here. His effort on the field lead directly to his concussion: he ran face first into a fence to make a catch. Sure, I think we would all like to see more production than “6 home runs, 47 RBI”. Heck, Jason Bay probably wouldn’t argue that point. But he gave a consistent, honest effort in each game he played and you can’t ask for anything more than that. Maybe the numbers weren’t there, but it wasn’t from lack of effort.

My issue is with how the Mets have approached the past 20 or so games since he’s been injured, and how they appear to be approaching the rest of the season. The announcement that Bay is likely done for the season triggered my frustration with the Mets’ (read: Jerry Manuel’s) insistence that they are still fighting for a playoff-berth. At this point that’s utter nonsense, and it set me off. Allow me to summarize:

1. Bay’s injury is unfortunate
2. The Mets appear to be handling it correctly, however;
3. They are handling just about every other roster/lineup decision incorrectly.

Apologies for any confusion, and let’s all hope Bay returns to full health as soon as possible.

Posted in Ike Davis, Jason Bay, Jerry Manuel, Luis Castillo, Mets, Omar Minaya | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Easiest Prediction of 2010

Posted by JD on February 23, 2010

There are several roster variables in play as we enter Spring Training, but I’ll give you one certainty: barring injury, Henry Blanco will be the Mets’ starting catcher on opening day. That’s not to say he’ll own the job for the whole year, because I think Rod Barajas will get significant playing time this season. But Blanco will own the first day and every fifth day thereafter for one simple reason: he’s going to be Johan Santana‘s personal catcher.

How do I know? Well, this report from El Universal Venezuala comes right out and states it (hat tip to Ben Shpigel of the NY Times). The key phrases are “receptor exclusivo del doble ganador del Cy Young, Johan Santana” and “ya que fue el propio lanzador quien lo pido a la gerencia del equipo*.” Kind of a dead giveaway, no? And there’s this: David Lennon of Newsday points out (from behind a paywall) that Santana “credits Blanco with helping him win his first Cy Young in 2004.”

*Very loose translation: the pitcher asked team management.

Throw in the fact that Blanco sandwiched his time with Santana in Minnesota with stints in Atlanta and Chicago as Greg Maddux’ preferred catcher and it’s a slam dunk that he’ll fill that role for the Mets in 2010. Not exactly groundbreaking stuff, I know. But that’s why it’s the easiest prediction of this year’s Spring Training.

Posted in Johan Santana, Spring Training, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Barajas AND Lopez. C’mon, You Know You Want To…

Posted by JD on February 17, 2010

It looks like the Mets are negotiating with Rod Barajas. Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com reports that they are making a “hard push” for Barajas, and Jon Heyman of SI.com tweets that it might only be a minor league deal (highlighting how badly the catcher and his agent misjudged the market).

I’ll go on record: I like Omir Santos. I know there’s little rational reason to do so. His defensive reputation is horrible and he’s due for a step back this season, but something about the underdog nature of his story and one totally awesome home run (do you believe in Omiracles!?!) have pulled the wool over my eyes. That being said, I’d give his job to Barajas in a heartbeat. And as excited as I am about Josh Thole’s potential, I’d rather see him get more Triple-A at-bats. A Barajas-Blanco catching tandem is far from ideal, but it’s the best they can do at this point and a decent upgrade over their current crew. Let’s hope they can get it done.

Here’s my follow-up question: why can’t they take a shot at Felipe Lopez, too?

I realize that the money and roster situations are different. Lopez will probably want around $1-1.5 million and a major league deal to sign, which means a spot on the 40-man roster would have to be cleared (I’m looking at you, Jason Pridie). Alex Cora already fills the utility infielder role and is signed for $2 million and it’s doubtful that Omar Minaya (or, more accurately, the Wilpons) would be willing to eat that contract.

That’s the biggest hurdle to signing Lopez: getting management to treat Cora’s contract as a sunk cost.  That $2 million is already spent and while $3.5 million* is a lot to pay someone who, in the best case, will be your backup middle infielder, is it really too much to spend? WAR (Wins Above Replacement) says it isn’t. Last year, Cora had a -0.6 WAR (which means he cost the team half a win) while Lopez had a 2.6. To summarize, Lopez was worth 3.2 more wins than Cora. I’m not certain what 1 WAR is worth, but I’m pretty $3.5 million for 3.2 WAR is not a bad deal (and yes, I’m trying not to mention that they never should have resigned Cora in the first place).

*I’m adding their salaries together and assuming that it’s an either/or proposition. God help us if they kept both players on the roster, though you could talk me into it if it resulted in them cutting GMJ.

Now, the possibility remains that the Mets can get Lopez to sign a minor league deal. If it happens, I’ll be first one to credit Minaya for being a savvy buyer. But I’d say that’s still a long-shot: it’s much more likely that I’ll be damning the Wilpons for clutching their purse strings too tightly again.

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

 
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