Posted in Baseball, Uncategorized

Rolling the dice with Chris Young

New Mets outfielder Chris Young celebrates an Oakland Athletics' victory in August (Photo credit: Keith Allison, cropped by UCinternational via Wikimedia Commons)
New Mets outfielder Chris Young celebrates an Oakland Athletics’ victory in August (Photo credit: Keith Allison, cropped by UCinternational via Wikimedia Commons)

The Mets reportedly agreed to terms with free agent outfielder Chris Young on Friday, their first major league acquisition of the off-season. ESPN reported that the deal is for one year at $7.25 million and is contingent on Young passing a physical.

I have to admit, my initial reaction was disappointment. There are plenty of things not to like about Young:

  • in 107 games for Oakland last year, he hit .200 / .280 / .379;
  • for his career, Young has struck out in 23 percent of his plate appearances
  • Young has a lifetime on base percentage of .315 and a lifetime batting average of .235

But further consideration, there are reasons to like the signing.

On the bright side, Young will be 30 next season and he was an All-Star in 2010 when he hit .257 / .341  / .452 with 27 home runs and 28 stolen bases. According to Baseball Reference’s calculations, Young had back-to-back seasons where he was worth 5.0 WAR or better, and he’s never been worse than the mythical “replacement level player” that the stat uses to compare value.

And getting away from numbers, it should be really fun to see Young and Juan Lagares playing next to each other in the same outfield next year.

As much as I’d like to see the Mets target players who aren’t coming off of terrible seasons, injuries, or both, the reality of their financial situation means that they have to roll the dice.

If they get lucky, Young helps the Mets win a few more games than they otherwise might have and Sandy Alderson can flip him for prospects at the trade deadline or the postseason eligibility deadline, like he did with Marlon Byrd this year.

If the Mets are unlucky, they have a player who will not hurt them all that much and who will go away at the end of the season when his contract expires.

It may not be the most exciting move, but the 2014 Mets are probably a little bit better off for it.

Posted in Baseball, Uncategorized

7 Mets became free agents Saturday

From the New York Post’s Mike Puma yesterday:

Scott Hairston, Jon Rauch, Ramon Ramirez, Ronny Cedeno, Kelly Shoppach, Tim Byrdak and Chris Young are the Mets who became free agents at midnight. In all likelihood each has played his last game for the team.

I wish them well, but I won’t miss any of them very much.

Scott Hairston takes batting practice before a game at Citi Field in 2011 (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)

Scott Hairston had a nice year, and by the end of the season he was one of very few Mets who could be counted on to produce runs with any regularity. But he’s 32 and coming off a career season – Omar Minaya would have handed him a big raise and a multi-year deal. Sandy Alderson is probably smarter, even though he couldn’t put aside thoughts of an extra win or two in 2012 to trade Hairston for whatever kind of borderline prospect he could get.

Ronny Cedeno was a competent backup infielder for the 2012 Mets, and I wouldn’t mind if he’s still here in 2013. But there are probably cheaper options available for a cost-conscious team.

Kelly Shoppach was another in a long line of mediocre catchers who played for the Mets. I’d rather see him return than watch Miguel Olivo, who has been linked to the Mets in published rumors. But I’d really like to see the Mets develop a decent catcher – think about this for a moment: Todd Hundley is probably the best catcher who ever came up through the Mets’ farm system.

Tim Byrdak seems like a great guy, and was effective in his role as a lefty specialist for the Mets. But he’s 39 and coming off surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule. Let’s see what Josh Edgin and Robert Carson can do, and look at the minor league free agent pool for added depth.

Jon Rauch and Ramon Ramirez occasionally showed why Alderson acquired them for the Mets bullpen last season, but they were too inconsistent for anyone to feel comfortable when they were called on. Rauch is 34 and earned $3.5 million in 2012, Ramirez is 31 and made $2.65 million. Let some other team take a chance that they will rebound next year.

And I really hope that Alderson is ready to turn the page on Chris Young. Although Young is usually brilliant twice through the order, opposing hitters almost always have him solved by at-bat number three. Five-inning starters lead to over-worked and over-exposed bullpens, and the Mets’ desire to get him extra rest helped to sabotage the entire starting rotation late in the year. And unless he’s willing to sign a minor league contract (preferably without an opt-out date), he can’t be viewed as rotation depth – with the Mets’ financial situation, any free agent signed to a major league contract is going to make the Opening Day roster.

 

Bell not quite untradable, Red Sox get their manager & other weekend news items

Yesterday, four teams took advantage of the NLCS day off to announce significant moves.

Signed Heath Bell baseball card from my collection
Signed Heath Bell baseball card from my collection

The Miami Marlins unloaded disappointing former closer Heath Bell on the Arizona Diamondbacks and only had to pick up $8 million of the $21 million owed to him over the next two years, according to MLB Trade Rumors.

Aside from the $13 million salary relief and the removal of a potential clubhouse distraction, Miami also receives minor league infielder Yordy Cabrera from the Oakland Athletics. The disappointing minor league stats of the 22-year-old 2010 second round draft pick suggest he’s not too likely to make it to Miami, though.

The three-team deal also sent disappointing outfielder Chris Young from Arizona to Oakland, and infielder Cliff Pennington from Oakland to Arizona.

While some Mets fans might see this as a missed opportunity to acquire a power-hitting outfielder, I don’t think Young was a particularly good fit. His 2012 on-base percentage was actually worse than Andres Torres‘ and his last good season came in 2010.

More damning, he will make $8.5 million in 2013 and has a $1.5 million buyout on an $11 million club option for 2014. That’s a lot of money to commit to a “project,” especially for a team that doesn’t have a lot of payroll flexibility.

What’s encouraging is that the Marlins were able to rid themselves of an expensive problem – and if they can, maybe the Mets can too.

Meanwhile, in Boston, the Red Sox announced that John Farrell will be their next manager. I think everybody had the sense that Boston wanted him to succeed Terry Francona. Let’s see if he can do what Bobby Valentine could not and turn the Red Sox into a good team again. It would certainly make all of those four-hour Yankee-Red Sox games a lot more watchable.

And with the Yankees season over, we’re starting to find out more about medical issues surrounding their aging stars. Derek Jeter had surgery on his broken left ankle Saturday, but he’s expected to be ready for Opening Day. We’re also learning that CC Sabathia may have bone spurs that could also require surgery.

And according to the New York Times’ David Waldstein,

The Yankees are also expected to conduct examinations on Alex Rodriguez’s hip, which was surgically repaired in 2009, Curtis Granderson’s eyes and Mark Teixeira’s calf.

I’m just surprised they didn’t find some medical issue to explain Robinson Cano‘s poor ALCS performance, too.

Ryota Igarashi, before a New York Mets game in 2010 (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)
Former New York Mets relief pitcher Ryota Igarashi, seen here in a photo from 2010, may return to Japan in 2013 (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)

Finally, a pair of former Japanese stars may be returning to the NPB in 2013. The Hanshin Tigers have interest in former Chicago Cubs outfielder Kosuke Fukudome and former Mets reliever Ryota Igarashi, according to YakyuBaka. Neither player was able to replicate their NPB success in Major League Baseball, but I enjoyed watching them and wish them well.

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Baseball 101: you have to score runs if you want to win games

The Mets lost again Tuesday night, falling to the Reds 3-0 when Jay Bruce hit a walk-off home run off of Josh Edgin.  Don’t look now, but the Phillies are just one game behind the Mets for third place… I guess I shouldn’t have been so quick to write them off at the All-Star Break – while they won’t make the playoffs, it’s certainly starting to look like the Phillies could finish 2012 with a better record than the Mets.

Chris Young (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)
Chris Young (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)

It’s tempting to point to Edgin for giving Bruce too good a pitch to hit, and Manny Acosta for failing to record an out in the ninth inning as the reasons the Mets lost the series opener, but that’s really not the whole story.

Chris Young had one of the most strangely impressive outings of his Mets’ career. He was in trouble of his own making in every inning, allowing eight hits and four walks over 5 2/3innings, but he didn’t allow a run. And until the ninth inning, the bullpen was flawless. Ramon Ramirez bailed Young out of a bases loaded jam in the sixth, while Bobby Parnell and Jon Rauch pitched scoreless innings in the seventh and eighth.

The hitters let the team down again. The Mets’ offense left 10 batters on base and was 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position. No matter how good your team’s pitching is, you can’t win games if you don’t score runs.

“Obviously we’re not swinging the bats very good,” Terry Collins said after the game. “We talked all summer long that some place along the line we had to get David [Wright] some help. Right now he’s not swinging like he was in April. We’ve got to get some guys to step up and try to get some runs in.”

The Mets manager stopped short of criticizing the front office, instead directing his words to the players on the current 25-man roster. But the truth is, the Mets need to look outside the organization for some medium- and long-term help. Looking at the roster objectively, how many of the Mets’ position players would you want on your team? How many of them would be starters?

Wright told the New York Post that winning is more important to him than money when deciding where he wants to play when his current contract expires. When asked to assess the Mets’ progress towards building a winning team, Wright said “We’ve taken a baby step in the right direction and I still think there’s a long way to go…”

I guess we’ll find out soon enough if Sandy Alderson can sell Wright on his plan for rebuilding the Mets. Unless ownership is prepared to increase payroll above this year’s level, Alderson is not going to be able to make big changes in 2013. They’ll have to wait until 2014, when Johan Santana and Jason Bay come off the books. The problem is that Wright and R.A. Dickey, the Mets’ two best players, will also reach the ends of their contracts that winter.

If Alderson is not going to be able to re-sign his stars, it would be smarter to do the unthinkable and trade them this off-season. But with season tickets to sell and an All-Star Game to promote, who knows if ownership would let him make the best baseball move if that’s what it comes to?

Not a fun thing to think about… but it could be worse. Just look at the mess they have up in Boston.

Posted in Uncategorized

“Best team in baseball” loses another one

The Mets lost another game to the Washington Nationals on Wednesday, 4-3. They have dropped six in a row, are 3-9 in July and have fallen to just one game above the .500 mark.

But never fear: Miguel Batista says the Mets are the best team in baseball.

I just couldn’t make this stuff up.

Chris Young pitched well twice through the lineup, but again ran into trouble on his third go-around.  Batista came out of the bullpen to give up some tack-on runs which turned out to be important later.

The hitters, except for David Wright and (bizarrely) Jason Bay, did little. (I guess I should give Lucas Duda and Andres Torres credit for putting the Mets’ first run on the board too, but Torres loses points for over-aggressive baserunning worthy of Angel Pagan.)

R.A. Dickey starts against Gio Gonzalez in a matchup of 12-game winners tomorrow afternoon. Normally, I’d DVR the game to see those two pitch… the way the Mets have been playing lately, I probably won’t bother. Thanks to previously-made plans to see some minor league games, I’ll be taking a bit of a break from the Mets. (Though I’m overjoyed that I will get to see Batista’s 248th career start on Saturday.)

Hopefully, the Mets will start a new winning streak while I’m not paying so much attention to them.