Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Mets Geek column: Adding another lefty to the bullpen

Check out my latest Mets Geek column, where I advocate signing another lefty to complement Pedro Feliciano in the bullpen. Joe Beimel, Will Ohman, Dennys Reyes and even Brian Fuentes are free agent options.

In other news, these Andruw Jones rumors are pretty silly. The guy is done as a player and I don't think Omar Minaya is dumb enough to trade for him, even if he can unload Luis Castillo. Happy new year everybody!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Brad Penny to the Red Sox: Mets have clear path to Derek Lowe

Sean McAdam of the Boston Globe reports that the Red Sox have signed RHP Brad Penny:

Penny’s deal, which will be finalized tomorrow pending a physical exam and completion of contractual language, will pay the 30-year-old a base salary of $5 million. The deal has the potential to pay Penny $3 million more in bonuses, beginning with a 160-innings-pitched threshold and escalating from there.
This is great news for the Mets' pursuit of Derek Lowe, as the Red Sox now have 5 starting pitchers on their roster (Penny, Josh Beckett, Tim Wakefield, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jon Lester). The possibility remains that the Sox will go after Lowe and move Wakefield to the bullpen but that seems unlikely at this point. Any remaining suitor for Lowe will not have the financial resources the Mets do, so the Mets should be able to match or beat any other teams' offer. Get us Lowe, get us Lowe, get us Lowe.

Friday, December 26, 2008

How much were Mets hitters worth in 2008?

Fangraphs added a new section to it's already vast library of stats which calculates players' win values. This is better than any Christmas gift I got this year. Value wins measure how many wins a player contributes to his team, factoring offense, defense and positional adjustments. Read here and here for more. Additionally, Fangraphs provides how much each player was worth in millions of $$ based on the stat. Let's take a look at the Mets hitters' win values, $$ value based on win values and actual salaries, minimum 100 PA's (each win is worth about $4.5 million; actual salaries courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts):

Let's summarize:
1) David Wright and Jose Reyes are awesome. These guys were worth A-Rod money in 2008. Their contracts should continue to be huge discounts for the Mets in the foreseeable future.
2) Carlos Delgado finishing ahead of Carlos Beltran and Reyes in the NL MVP voting is a joke. But we knew that already. WAR factors defense and positional adjustments, which is why Delgado does not have a strong showing here.
3) Damion Easley was basically a replacement-level player in 2008.
4) Brian Schneider is no Joe Mauer, but his contract isn't bad.
5) Marlon Anderson sucks.
6) The Mets don't have too many bad contracts, for their hitters atleast. Omar Minaya is a smart GM, in my humble opinion. Compare to the Yankees WAR page - many of their contracts were poor (see Hideki Matsui, Derek Jeter, Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi, Ivan Rodriguez, Melky Cabrera).

I'll continue to explore this win value stuff, which isn't too complicated once you understand it. It took some time to grasp the concepts but it's worth the effort. Remember that this is not the end-all-be-all measure of a player's worth but it's pretty high-level.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Mets Geek column: Mets Holiday Carols

Check out my latest Mets Geek column, where I present some new holiday carols with a Mets theme. The songs are:

1) "Jerry 'The Gangster' Manuel" (set to "Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer")
2) "J.J. Putz Rocks" (set to "Jingle Bell Rock")
3) "Get Us Lowe" (set to "Let It Snow")

Mull over Barry Bonds during the holiday, and let's hope Omar Minaya can indeed get us Derek Lowe.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What's Barry Bonds up to?....

***Disclaimer***: Before I go any further, let me say I am not (yet) advocating the signing of Barry Bonds. I am merely taking a look at how viable an option he would be for the 2009 Mets.

Last week, espn.com reported that Barry Bonds may still be seeking employment:

"I'm not retiring," Bonds said Saturday night. "I'm not retiring."

Say what you want about the guy, but the last season he played (2007) was truly awesome. Just look at these numbers for Bonds, who finished the season at age 43:

He finished 6th in baseball in wOBA and 1st in the NL in OPS+ (for players with 400+ PA's), and yet no team was willing to sign him. I find this strange. Yes, he's one of the top villians in baseball for various reasons, most of them justified. His placement on a team instantly increases media scrutiny and ESPN's Pedro Gomez is dispatched to follow his every move. He's a pain in the ass. But is the headache of Bonds's presence that much worse than the circus following Manny Ramirez? I say no. Did Bonds use PED's? Almost certainly. But so did Paul LoDuca, Todd Hundley and Lenny Dykstra, players who are generally well regarded by Met fans.

After a year away from the game, 44 year-old Bonds would probably not put up the same numbers as he did in 2007. But is it that far off to think he could produce at a .250/.390/.480 clip? His defense in '07 wasn't as bad as I expected. Bad, but not any worse than Bobby Abreu, Pat Burrell or Adam Dunn. It too would worsen obviously, but to what extent? Would Bonds consider a 1-year, $6-7 million contract? There is a Marcel projection for Bonds in 2009, and it is not very optimistic about his chances of playing much - 248 PA's, 11 HR, .887 OPS. Also, he's solid vs. LHP: .985 OPS for his career, .991 in 2007.

There is basically a 0.01% chance the Mets sign Barry Bonds. It's barely even worth discussing. But 400 PA's from Bonds in LF in 2009 could be of some value to a team - and it wouldn't require a 3 year, $30+ million commitment.

***EDIT***: An interesting read today by Jack Marshall at The Hardball Times (via Rob Neyer), where he discusses the ethical implications of signing Bonds. He writes:

Are baseball commentators really so disconnected from the ethical imperatives of the game? Do they really not grasp what signing Barry Bonds, for any amount of money or no amount at all, would have meant?... But just as, in Sir Thomas More’s words, "it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world," signing Bonds in order to make the playoffs would have been a dubious and foolish deal for any team, even if one buys the questionable assumption that he would have played well enough to hold up his end of it.

I have no problem with the belief that signing Bonds is unethical because he is a cheat. A person is entitled to their opinion in this matter. My problem is this:
A team could employ one of the many mediocre, borderline or journeyman players whose names appeared in the Mitchell Report without making the implied statement that it was endorsing and rewarding a cheat. Signing Brendan Donnelly, Paul Lo Duca or Paul Byrd would not be seen as an enlistment in the Dark Side..Bonds was a different matter entirely, if for no other reason than he had ridden performance enhancement drugs to the pinnacle of baseball’s records.
Maybe I'm missing something here, but it seems like he says it's OK to sign Lo Duca or Byrd because they're mediocre players, but it's not OK to sign Bonds because he is one of the best players ever. I'm not an ethicist but this doesn't make sense to me. If you are against signing Barry Bonds because he is a cheater, that's fine with me. But don't simultaneously be OK with signing Lo Duca, Donnelly or Byrd. This is not ethics - it's hypocrisy.

Monday, December 22, 2008

'Til I Collapse: A summary of my last 15 months of fan-dom

I am a fan of the New York Mets, New York Jets and Georgetown Hoyas. The last 15 months or so haven't been very kind to my 3 teams. A quick summary:

1) 2007 Mets: 14-14 Sept. record, epic collapse
2008 Mets: 13-12 Sept. record, semi-epic collapse

2) 2008 Jets: 8-3 record to 9-6 record; playoffs unlikely

3) 2007-2008 Hoyas: #2 seed in NCAA tournament - upset in 2nd round by Stephen Curry's #10 seed Davidson Wildcats

No real point to this post, just a chance to reflect on how disappointing my favorite teams have been of late. I guess it's not too bad, considering the 2006 Mets made the playoffs and 2006-2007 Hoyas made the Final Four. But still, what a brutal 15 month stretch.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Mystery pitchers A, B, C & D

I got this idea from Dave at MetsGeek: I will present the 2008 statistics of 4 mystery starting pitchers who I think are similar in terms of the quality of innings they provide. A couple hints:
a) 3 of the 4 are free agents
b) 1 is reportedly available via trade
c) 1 is a Type A free agent and 1 is a Type B free agent
That's all the info I'll provide, so let's see how the 4 stacked up in 2008:

To summarize, these pitchers did not perform all that differently in 2008. Pitchers A and B tossed the most innings, Pitcher C gave up HR's at the lowest rate and Pitcher D gave up home runs at the highest rate. Now to reveal the mystery pitchers:

Pitcher A = Jon Garland, a 29 year-old Type B free agent I've covered here. He made $12 million in 2008 and will likely require a 2 year, $20-22 million commitment.
Pitcher B = Oliver Perez, a 27 year-old Type A lefty we're all familiar with. He made $6.5 million in 2008, is asking 5 years, $70 million (fat chance) and will likely require 4 years, $44-48 million.
Pitcher C = Jason Marquis, a 30 year-old available via trade who made $6.4 million in 2008 and is set to make $9.9 million in 2009.
Pitcher D = Tim Redding, a 31 year-old I've covered here. He made $1 million in 2008 and will probably require a 2 year, $7-8 million commitment.
There are other factors to consider here obviously (age of pitchers, career track record, lefty/righty, etc.), but the point is I think it would be a big mistake to sign Ollie or Garland when a guy like Redding is available. Redding is a step down from Ollie, but it is a small step. I wouldn't be opposed to trading for Marquis, provided the Cubs eat some salary. A Redding or Marquis acquisition should be coupled with a Derek Lowe or Ben Sheets signing. Ollie isn't worth more than $6 million a year.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A David Wright celebration

Happy 26th birthday to David Wright, one of the top 5 position players in baseball. I present a few of my favorite David related columns/links from the last few months:

1) This column from SNY's Ted Berg which tells us that:

"Wright is the Mets' rock, the core of their core, a recognizable All-Star and one of the best players in the game. "

Core of the core. I like that.

2) Mets Geek's Pat Andriola wishes Met fans realized just how good Wright, Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran are in this column:

"We should applaud Wright, Reyes, and Beltran for their fantastic seasons, not whine that they should have done more."

3) Lastly, a post I made back in September about the myth of long-term clutch-hitting ability and how David should be just fine hitting w/RISP in the future:

"The next time you hear Mike Francesca or some other windbag screaming about how the Mets should trade Wright or Jose Reyes because they are not "clutch", simply re-read this post and remind yourself how ridiculous they sound."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

5th starter option: Tim Redding

The Nationals non-tendered right-handed starting pitcher Tim Redding, and a report from the Denver Post says the Mets have shown some interest. I say go for it. Ideally, the Mets will sign Derek Lowe or Ben Sheets (or even Randy Wolf), and the #5 spot in the rotation will be up for grabs. Jon Niese and Brandon Knight are options from within the organization, but I would prefer the Mets sign a guy like Redding or Odalis Perez to compete for and hopefully win the job. Let's look at Redding:

Redding gets knocked around a bit, evidenced by his HR/9 and LD%. However, his FIP is just fine for a #5 starter. If he could have a performance identical to 2008 next season, Redding would be a nice pickup. I don't anticipate a big-time bidding war for his services, so maybe a 1 year deal for $3-4 million could secure him.

***EDIT***: For more on Redding, check out this FanGraphs post by Eric Seidman. Eric puts Redding's fair market value at $6.5 million. He'll likely end up signing for less.

Home-grown Mets vs. acquired Mets

Check out this awesome comparison at Sully Baseball of the best home grown Mets players and acquired players (via MetsBlog). It's pretty outstanding, and "Sully" includes a picture of each player on the teams. Sully is doing the same comparison for every team in baseball during this offseason.

After last week's fireworks, the Mets offseason activity is at a standstill. I don't expect things to pick up again until after Christmas. Hopefully Omar Minaya can give the people what they want: Derek Lowe.

In the meantime, enjoy this terrific picture of Mike Pelfrey dressed as Santa Claus.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Mets Geek column: All-Time Mets Roster

Click here for my weekly Mets Geek column, where I picked the best players to wear a Mets uniform. This was NOT a list of the best players in Mets history, but rather a list of players who played for the Mets at one time or another that had the best overall careers. This is why Willie Mays, Duke Snider, and Nolan Ryan (who played for the Mets but undoubtedly had their finest seasons elsewhere) made the cut. I thought it would be fun and debate provoking (i.e. Who was better: Yogi Berra or Mike Piazza?), but it wasn't too well received by the faithful MetsGeek readers. Anyways, here is the full column, reprinted to reflect changes I've made after reading some of the few intelligent comments on the MetsGeek site:

Tom Seaver’s number 41 is the only retired Mets player number, which is surprising for a team that’s been in existence since 1962. The Tampa Bay Rays have been around since 1998 and have retired a number: Wade Boggs’ 12. However, this does not mean the Mets haven’t had some truly great players don the orange and blue over the years. With the help of the great website Ultimate Mets Database, I compiled the all-time Mets roster, composed of the best players to don a Mets uniform. These players may not have had their best years in Flushing (just imagine if they had), but they are the all-time greats to play there, regardless of their actual level of play as a Met. Included on this roster are seven Hall of Famers and three likely future Hall of Famers. The years each player played for the Mets are listed as well.

Tom Seaver (1967-1977, 1983)
Nolan Ryan (1966, 1968-1971)
Warren Spahn (1965)
Tom Glavine (2003-2007)
Pedro Martinez (2005-2008)
Honorable Mention: Jerry Koosman, Bret Saberhagen, Dwight Gooden, Johan Santana, David Cone
Seaver, Ryan, Spahn and Martinez are four of the greatest pitchers of all time. As dominant as Ryan was, I think his ridiculously high walk totals would’ve driven me nuts, had I been alive to watch him in his prime. Ryan walked 100+ batters in a season 11 times. Compare that to Seaver who never walked more than 89 in a season. I’m still amazed by the fact that Saberhagen walked just 13 batters in 177.1 IP for the Mets in 1994. Santana might eventually supplant Glavine in this rotation.

Rick Aguilera (1985-1989)
Armando Benitez (1999-2003)
John Franco (1990-2001, 2003-2004)
Jason Isringhausen (1995-1997, 1999)
Tug McGraw (1965-1967, 1969-1974)
Jesse Orosco (1979, 1981-1987)
Billy Wagner (2006-2008)
Honorable Mention: Jeff Reardon, Mike Stanton, Roger McDowell, Mike Marshall, Randy Myers
This was the toughest group to decide, as all of the honorably mentioned players have a strong case. I may be biased towards the more recent pitchers, but keep in mind starters threw a lot more complete games and relievers weren’t used as much in the Mets’ early days. Marshall appeared in a record 106 games and threw 208.1 highly effective innings out of the bullpen for the Dodgers in 1974. Add that to the list of records that will likely never be broken.

Yogi Berra (1965)
Honorable Mention: Mike Piazza, Gary Carter
Piazza and Berra are interchangeable here, but I went with Berra because he was probably better than Piazza defensively. His endless list of great quotes adds to his value as well. Berra was no slouch offensively either, and he finished in the top-four in MVP voting each year from 1950-1956. His Mets career consisted of four games and nine plate appearances, but he coached for or managed the team from 1965-1975.

First Base
Eddie Murray (1992-1993)
Honorable Mention: Carlos Delgado, Keith Hernandez, Gil Hodges
Murray is the second-best switch-hitter of all time (Mickey Mantle is first) and still had some pop left in his bat when he came to the Mets in 1992 at age 36. Hernandez is one of the best defensive first baseman ever, and I think if he hit some more home runs his Hall of Fame case might have been stronger.

Second Base
Jeff Kent (1992-1996)
Honorable Mention: Roberto Alomar, Edgardo Alfonzo
I think Kent is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and the only thing that hurts his case is his prickly personality. Who knew in 1996 that he would eventually set the record for most home runs by a second baseman? Kent was a late bloomer, and continued to be a productive hitter even through his 40th birthday. Just reading Alomar’s name makes me cringe, as I am reminded of those painful 2002-2003 Mets seasons. However he is a very close 2nd here, and on any given day I'd put him above Kent.

Tony Fernandez (1993)
Honorable Mention: Jose Reyes, Bud Harrelson, Mike Bordick
Definitely the weakest position on this list, Reyes will probably replace Fernandez with about two more seasons like he had in 2008. How different is the game today? Harrelson slugged .288 in his career and managed to keep his starting job during most of it.

Third Base
Robin Ventura (1999-2001)
Honorable Mention: David Wright, Howard Johnson, Bobby Bonilla
There have been 138 third basemen in Mets history, but all four listed here made their name playing in the last 25 years. Baseball lifer Don Zimmer was the first, starting at third for the 1962 Mets on opening day. Zim put up a hilarious .077/.127/.096 line in 55 plate appearances that season. Give Wright four more seasons and he will be the greatest hitter in Mets history.

Willie Mays (1972-1973)
Duke Snider (1963)
Rickey Henderson (1999-2000)
Honorable Mention: Darryl Strawberry, Cleon Jones, Moises Alou, Carlos Beltran, George Foster, Lenny Dykstra
Mays, Snider, and Henderson all had some of their best seasons playing in New York – just not with the Mets. Mays’s number 24 remains unofficially retired to this day, although Henderson wore it during his rocky stints in Flushing.

Please share if you think any player has been omitted, and hopefully one day the Mets come to their senses and retire 17 and 31.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Derek Lowe updates

Check out this column from Bryan Hoch at mlb.com, which speculates that the Red Sox and Mets are the remaining top contenders in the Derek Lowe sweepstakes. Lowe is one another one of my offseason obsessions, and I feel the need to comment on a couple quotes from this column. First up:

"The Red Sox may take a closer look, however, if the price tag comes down to the arena of four years and $52 million. Those figures may also interest the Mets..."

Holy schnikes, if Lowe can be had for 4 years and $60 million or less the Mets must-must-must sign him. I'd pay even more for him, but I can't see the Mets ponying up much more than $60 million. Why do I have this awful feeling that Oliver Perez will be signed for like 4 years, $48 million and Lowe will end up in Boston for 4 years, $56 million? Next quote:

"'With me, it's all about winning,' Lowe said. 'The team with the best chance of winning, year in and year out, is where I want to go. Scott [Boras] understands that. I've already had clubs contact us that are interested, but they're not ready to win. Scott knows that's my No. 1 priority, and he's looking out for my best interest. He's done exactly what I've been talking about.'"

Really Derek? I know this is what athletes are programmed to say, but just cool it with remarks like this. Your agent is Scott Boras, comparer of Ollie Perez to Sandy Koufax. If Lowe doesn't sign with the Mets, I'd love to see a "team with the best chance of winning" like the Orioles or Nationals get him. Best post ever... good night.

Bullpen firing squad continues: Scott Schoeneweis traded

I'm a couple days late to this trade as I spent the weekend in D.C. watching my Hoyas beat Memphis in an overtime thriller. The post-game celebration is still a little hazy...

Anyways, Scott "The Big Show" Schoeneweis has been spared the embarrassment of being booed on opening day during pre-game intros in 2009. He was traded to Arizona for 27-year old RHP Connor Robertson. Whatever. This was the latest in Omar Minaya's bullpen house-cleaning, as Schoeneweis, Aaron Heilman, and Joe Smith have been shipped out in the last week. Schow had a terrible 2007, an OK 2008, and was always useful vs. lefties. Pedro Feliciano is the last lefty in the 'pen, and I think he's safe. Check out Metstradamus for a nice picture of Omar and his bullpen.

Schoeneweis kind of looks like Tony Romo. Robertson has minimal major league experience, but has a 3.33 ERA in 300 minor league innings. His minor league K/9 is 11.31(!!) and K/BB is an excellent 3.12. However, he only throws in the high 80's so who knows if his ridiculous strikeout ability will ever translate to the majors. The Mets cut some salary here so the trade is fine with me. I'd like to see another lefty added to the 'pen (Joe Beimel? Dennys Reyes?).

Friday, December 12, 2008

The nightmare is over!!! Phillies sign Raul Ibanez

The Phillies have supposedly signed OF Raul Ibanez to a 3 year, $30 million contract. I couldn't be happier, as the Mets will not be able to sign him and give up another draft pick. I previously wrote that Ibanez is basically an older and left-handed hitting Pat Burrell, so the Phillies lineup should be about the same.

Omar Minaya recently said:

"Before I start moving my dollars to offense, I've got to move my dollars to pitching."

I agree with his thinking, and let's hope this rumored trade for #5 starter and innings eater Jason Marquis is coupled with a free agent signing of Ben Sheets or Derek Lowe. Unlikely, but if Omar acquires Marquis he absolutely must also get a top-of-the-line starter. Marquis and Jon Niese will not cut it at the back of the rotation.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Breaking down the J.J. Putz trade

I like the acquisition of J.J. Putz. I look forward to Jerry Manuel using him as a “relief ace”, coming in to pitch in high leverage situations no matter if it’s the 6th or 9th inning. Games are shortened to 7 innings with Putz and K-Rod. Let’s hope they both stay healthy. The trade can be broken up into 3 parts, listed below:

Gave up: Endy Chavez (OF), age 31
Received: Jeremy Reed (OF), age 27

They are similar hitters and Reed is younger. Note that Reed played mostly CF entirely in 2008, while Endy played mostly corner OF positions. Reed is a serviceable defensive player and posted a 13.2 UZR in 2005 playing CF exclusively. He seems to have regressed since. Reed was once a highly regarded prospect and had great minor league success. It hasn't translated to the major league level after 1100+ PA's, so I don't think he's going to "figure it out" all of a sudden. This is the one part of the trade I don’t like, as Endy is more valuable both for sentimental reasons and, more importantly, his on-field contribution.

Gave up: Joe Smith (P), age 25
Received: Sean Green (P), age 30

It’s pretty amazing how similar these 2 are, outside of age. Green has held righties to a .683 OPS against in his career – Smith, .643. Both struggle against lefties. I like Smith and am sad to see him go, but this part of the trade is a wash. Green = Smith.

Gave up: Aaron Heilman (P) age 30, Mike Carp (1B) age 22, Jason Vargas (P) age 26, Ezequiel Carrera (OF) age 21, Maikel Cleto (P) age 19
Received: J.J. Putz (P), age 32

If Putz is healthy, this is a decent but not great trade for the Mets. The 2006-2007 version of Putz was one of the best relievers in baseball, if not the best. Strikeout ability is something the Mets bullpen has lacked the last couple years (outside of Billy Wagner). Putz is owed $5 million in 2009 and has a club option for $8.6 million in 2010. Hopefully he’s not too disgruntled about being a setup man, which I’m assuming is the plan at this point. I don’t know much about the minor leaguers to comment, but hopefully Carp gets a shot to play in Seattle. Heilman will probably be a starter, and I would love to him start 30+ games and have success. The Mets win this part of the trade, assuming Putz is healthy and dominant. Otherwise, it's a lot of players to give up for a setup man.

To sum up, I love having Putz in the bullpen, and I like this trade. If they could’ve kept Endy I’d like it more.

It Putz the lotion in the basket

Welcome to New York, J.J. Putz. In case you missed it, the Mets traded Aaron Heilman, Endy Chavez, Joe Smith, and minor leaguers Mike Carp, Maikel Cleto, Jason Vargas, and Ezequiel Carrera for J.J. Putz, Sean Green, and Jeremy Reed. The Indians were also involved, as they received Luis Valbuena and gave up Franklin Gutierrez to the Mariners. Click here for the whole trade.

My gut reaction is that it's a good trade that improves the Mets right now. If healthy, Putz is dominant. He and K-Rod would form the best 1-2 punch out of the 'pen in baseball. I also love the idea of Putz being utilized as a "relief ace", coming in to pitch during high leverage situations, no matter if it's the 6th or 9th inning. The 2007-2008 Mets lacked that pre-9th inning guy. However, the Mets gave up 7 players and got 3 in return, 1 of whom (Reed) I don't think is good enough to be on the Opening Day roster. I'll break the trade down later in more detail.

Omar Minaya covered his ass - now no one can say he didn't try to improve the bullpen.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Winter Meetings Day 3 roundup

Wednesday's Mets developments from the Bellagio:

1) "The Mets are looking at the Pirates' Matt Capps"

Capps is a 25 year-old, low 90's throwing reliever. In 217.1 career IP, he he's posted a 3.58 FIP and 1.06 WHIP. He is a stud. The Pirates will not trade him for cheap, meaning the classic "lets trade Aaron Heilman for him" is not going to cut it. I would love to see him as a Met, but it won't come cheap.

2) "The Mets were rebuffed in their attempt to trade Aaron Heilman to the Rockies for righty Huston Street"

Like Capps, I would love to see Street in a Mets uniform next year. Also like Capps, he will not come cheap. Street is death to right-handed hitters, but has also held lefties to a .710 OPS against in his career.

3) "The Mets have shown interest in trading for Juan Pierre"

This is preposterous. I'm guessing the Mets would trade Luis Castillo, who is like 10% the headache Pierre is considering their contracts. Pierre's OBP was .327 and OPS+ was 73 (as a corner OF!!!) in 2008. On top of that, his defense is slightly above average at best. He is owed an average of $9.5 million over the next 3 seasons. Stay away from Pierre.

4) "John Smoltz wants to pitch for a team that could take him to the World Series... the free agent is considering the New York Mets" amongst other teams including the Braves and Red Sox

I'd welcome Smoltz with open arms. I'm guessing he'd only get a 1-year deal considering his injury history and age, and that's fine. Smoltz was dominate in 2007 (3.21 FIP in 205.2 IP), and would be the Mets' #2 pitcher at this point if healthy.

5) "The Mets have a meeting scheduled Wednesday afternoon with Scott Boras to discuss both Derek Lowe and Oliver Perez. They also plan to meet with the agents for Randy Wolf and Jon Garland."

This is a step in the right direction, as it is the first I've read of the Mets aggressively working to sign a starting pitcher. The Yankees supposedly offered Lowe 4 years, $66 million, which is probably a slight bargain. I'd go as high as 4 years, $70-72 million for him. Perez isn't worth more than $6 million a year or so. I like Wolf as well, but would only be happy with signing Garland if Lowe, Ben Sheets, or Wolf are signed first.

6) "The Mets and the Seattle Mariners are in serious discussions on a trade that would bring Seattle closer J.J. Putz to the Mets in exchange for reliever Aaron Heilman and minor-league first baseman Mike Carp"

I like this trade. It seems like Heilman will be inevitably be traded, and I don't foresee Carp getting a shot at the big league level despite his minor league success. Putz is owed $5 million in 2009 and has an $8.6 million club option in 2010. His 2008 season was a little disappointing after a dominant 2007, but his career K/BB is an outstanding 3.24 and he throws 95 mph.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Winter Meetings Day 2, featuring K-ROD

Today's developments from the Winter Meetings at the Bellagio:

1) "The New York Mets have reached an agreement in principle with All-Star closer Francisco Rodriguez on a three-year, $37 million contract. The deal includes a $14 million vesting option for a fourth year that would raise the total value of the contract to $51 million."

Eh. The Mets get a proven closer and they do it early this offseason. I hate the 4th year vesting option - that's just too much $$ for a closer. FanGraphs is mixed on the signing but Beyond the Boxscore likes it. Omar Minaya has sent a message to the fans that he's not messing around this offseason with the bullpen, and I guess like that. But Omar - your job is far from over.

2) "The Mets inquired on [Texas Rangers SS] Michael Young"

No, thank you. Young is a 32 and owed a mind-boggling $16 million a year through 2013 (and we Met fans thought the Luis Castillo contract was silly). He would play 2B, assuming Castillo is traded. Young went .284/.339/.402 in 2008, doesn't steal many bases (though his SB% is strong), and has never posted a UZR better than -3.7 since becoming a full time major leaguer. Let's forget this "inquiry" ever happened.

3) "The Philles, Mets, and Cubs appear to have separated themselves from the pack of teams pursuing outfielder Raul Ibanez."

For the one thousandth time, please no. Click here for more on why not. I honestly don't think Omar Minaya is dumb enough to sign Ibanez, but the nonstop reports of Mets interest are scary.

4) Former Mets Kris Benson and Scott Erickson are attempting comebacks

Good for them?

Mets Geek column: What to do about leftfield

Check out my weekly Mets Geek column by clicking here. I weigh the current projected leftfield platoon of Daniel Murphy and Fernando Tatis vs. signing free agents Bobby Abreu, Pat Burrell, Adam Dunn, Raul Ibanez and Manny Ramirez.

In other news, the Mets are reportedly close to signing K-Rod for 3 years, $37 million with no 4th year option. Fine by me!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Opinions on today's happenings at the Winter Meetings

Today is day 1 of the baseball Winter Meetings held at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Let's run down the Mets rumors for the day and my quick thoughts on each:

1) "The Mets offered K-Rod a 2-year deal worth $12 million with a 3rd year vesting option"

I'll take K-Rod, Brian Fuentes, or dark-horse Kerry Wood (who was not offered arbitration wouldn't cost a draft pick) for a reasonable price. By reasonable I mean 3 years, $12 million or less per year. For whatever reason, Met fans seem to prefer K-Rod a heckuva lot more than Fuentes, but they're pretty much equal in actual value. Wood is a tier below these two and an injury risk.

2) "The Mets are desperate to trade Luis Castillo and sign Orlando Hudson"

I can't see any team taking Castillo in return for any worthwhile player (spare me this Jose Guillen stuff). Hudson is 31 years old and has had 2 seasons in a row end in injury. His career OPS+ is 99, and his vaunted defense might not be all it's cracked up to be (in 2008 he posted a -4 on the +/- scale, UZR of -6.1). Give Castillo another shot (shudder).

3) "The Mets have Jon Garland on their radar"

No. Just please no. Read here for more.

4) "The Red Sox are in trade discussions for Mets catcher Brian Schneider"

Whatever. The Mets could do a lot worse than Schneider and Ramon Castro at catcher. If they can get a solid prospect or 2 for Schneider, then fine, make the trade. I just don't think this should be a priority.

5) "Chad Cordero and his agent plan to meet with the Mets" and 4 other teams

Cordero is coming off a serious arm injury, which caused his fastball velocity to drop to 84 mph this season. I'd be OK with signing him, as long as it's not multi-year or too pricey. He may not even be ready for spring training. Omar Minaya loves his former Expos, so don't be surprised to see him sign with the Mets. Take a look at his medical records first, Omar.

6) "David Eckstein is drawing interest from 5 teams"

Good God, no. Luckily it doesn't specify that the Mets are one of the teams. However, for anyone who thinks Eckstein would be an upgrade over Castillo, look at the following:

Eckstein, career: .284/.351/.361
Castillo, career: .292/..367/.355

Bill James 2009 projection
Eckstein: .277/.346/.346
Castillo: .281/.362/.344

Their fielding skills are similar, and Eckstein has played 38 career games at 2B. There's no reason to get rid of Castillo only to replace him with Eckstein.

7) "Phillies enter Jake Peavy fray"

Say it ain't so. Peavy and Cole Hamels in the same rotation would be terrifying.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Don't get cheap on me Jeff Wilpon

The economy sucks, and I fear that the Mets will use it as an excuse for not spending this offseason. This excuse would be unacceptable, as the Mets were 2nd in baseball in attendance and 3rd in average ticket price in 2008. They have a TV network and a brand new stadium, featuring higher ticket prices but with about 10,000 fewer seats.

The Mets 2008 payroll was about $138-140 million. By my calculation, the projected 2009 payroll based only on players currently under contract is about $100-$102 million. This includes predictions about future raises to guys like Ryan Church and Aaron Heilman, as well as money still owed Billy Wagner. This leaves, conservatively, $36 million available for spending if they wanted to simply meet 2008's payroll. The luxury tax level is $162 million for 2009.

$36 million is no small chunk of change to work with, and I think they should be able to spend maybe $45 million without significantly hurting their financial statements. (Note: I have not inspected the Mets' books, so my $45 million figure is pretty arbitrary. I do think a $148 million 2009 payroll is reasonable though.) With this assumption, I see no reason why the Mets shouldn't be able to offer the following:

- 4 years, $60 million to Derek Lowe
- 2 years, $20 million to Brian Fuentes
- 2 years, $24 million to Adam Dunn

This comes to roughly $37 million, leaving a few million for scrap heap bullpen signings as well. Lowe and Fuentes were offered arbitration so the Mets would lose 2 draft picks if both signed. However, when another team unwisely signs Oliver Perez for like 4 years and $50 million, the Mets would get 2 picks in return. Some might balk at paying Lowe $15 million a season, but even this amount might be lower than what he's actually worth. I'm all for trading for Huston Street, if possible.

The crappy economy is indeed crappy. I have witnessed it's wrath firsthand in the form of layoffs of friends and 401(k) value decreases. However, if the Mets use it as a crutch for not spending this offseason, I'm going to call B.S. To paraphrase Dennis Nedry (as played by Wayne Knight) in Jurassic Park, "Don't get cheap on me Wilpon."

Friday, December 5, 2008

Omar: Say NO to Jon Garland

This is the 2nd installment in my “SAY NO” series, the first subject being Jason Varitek. Support for signing Jon Garland has been floating around, and I’m worried. Worried that Omar Minaya will sign him for like 3 years, $40 million and declare it the big off-season starting pitching acquisition. Let’s take a look at his relevant numbers:

To summarize:
a) His already underwhelming K/9 and BB/9 have worsened since his breakout season of 2005, when he posted a K/9 of 4.68 and BB/9 of 1.91.
b) His FIP is overly generous because he gets hit pretty hard. An LD% greater than 20% is generally cause for concern.
c) To his credit, he eats innings and hasn’t lost anything off of his fastball. He is just 29 years old and stands 6’6” tall. He and 6’7” Mike Pelfrey could stand next to each other and look intimidating in the back row of the team photo.

Garland is regarded as a strong pitcher mainly because of his good W-L record and World Series ring. Do not be fooled. His peripheral stats are not impressive, and they seem to be getting worse each season. I’m not saying Garland is worthless – I wouldn’t mind seeing him as the Mets 5th starter for a 1 or 2 year deal at $8 million per. This is not likely though, considering the Carlos Silva contract last offseason and Oliver Perez’s projected deal. Of course this could all be moot as Garland might accept the Angels’ arbitration offer. Omar Minaya: Just say no to Garland (at the projected 3-4 years, $12 million per year).

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Rob Neyer on Dunn, Burrell, Ramirez and the importance of defense

Check out this great read from Rob Neyer at espn.com, where he writes about the increasing availability of reliable defensive statistics for player evaluation. A couple snippets:

"Dunn, like Ramirez and Burrell, is a pretty lousy outfielder (though not as lousy as them, yet). All of these guys are worth a great deal of money. But while Ramirez might be a $25 million hitter, he is not a $25 million baseball player because he gives away a bunch of runs when he's in the outfield. Same goes for Burrell, a $12 million hitter but an $8 million player"

Here is my favorite line:

"According to BP, Burrell over the last two seasons has been 15 runs worse than average per season. It's such a fundamental thing but is so often ignored: all those plays lead to runs allowed, and those runs count, too. Doesn't mean he's not a good and valuable player. Does mean that if you ignore his defense when you're figuring out how much he's worth, you're going to overshoot by a big chunk of change "

The prevention of runs is just as important as the scoring of runs. It's a pretty basic concept that I think many fans (and GM's apparently) fail to grasp. Defense is a big reason why Carlos Beltran would possibly be worth about $30 million a year as a free agent this offseason. Defense is why Manny Ramirez is certainly not worth $25 million a year.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Bob Howry signs with Giants

For the 2nd time in as many days, one of my player acquisition suggestions was taken by a team other than the Mets. The Giants have signed relief pitcher Bob Howry to a 1-year, $2.75 million contract. Pretty reasonable contract for both parties, all things considered. Coupled with their earlier signing of Jeremy Affeldt, the Giants have the makings of a decent bullpen.

To counter this, the Mets made an earth-shattering signing of their own: re-signing Nelson Figueroa to a minor league deal.

Javier Vazquez traded to the Braves

The object of my offseason affection, Javier Vazquez, has been traded to the Braves. He will reportedly be headed to Atlanta along with lefty relief pitcher Boone Logan. It has not been confirmed which players Atlanta is sending to the White Sox, but possibilities include shortstop Brent Lillibridge, pitcher Jo-Jo Reyes and catcher Tyler Flowers. If the Braves give up Lillibridge and Reyes for Vazquez I'm going to scream - they will receive a much better deal than the White Sox. I'll hold off commenting on the trade until terms are finalized.

Scratch Vazquez off my list of potential starters for the last 2 spots in the Mets rotation. Available pitchers who I'd like to see fill the spots are:

- Derek Lowe
- Randy Wolf
- Ben Sheets
- Andy Sonnanstine
- Nate Robertson
- Odalis Perez
- Randy Johnson

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Mets Geek: Mets on the 2009 Hall of Fame Ballot

Check out my weekly Mets Geek column, where I make a case for the former Mets on the 2009 Hall of Fame ballot (besides 1st balloter Rickey Henderson). A couple weeks back, I posted about the former Mets who are eligible for the Hall - the actual ballot was released yesterday. Former Mets on the ballot are:

Jay Bell, SS/2B
David Cone, P
Rickey Henderson, OF
Jesse Orosco, P
Mo Vaughn, 1B

In other news, arbitration was not offered to Adam Dunn, Pat Burrell, or Bobby Abreu, meaning if the Mets signed any of these players they would not forfeit draft picks. This should effectively end the Mets' interest in Raul Ibanez.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Bob Howry: A perfect fit for the Mets

The Cubs declined to offer arbitration to Type A free agent reliever Bob Howry. This means any team that signs him would not have to forfeit any draft picks. On the surface, Howry is a 35 year old in the twilight of a solid career who posted a 5.35 ERA in 2008. Digging deeper, he is actually just the kind of low-cost, undervalued, potential bounce-back pitcher the Mets could use in their bullpen.

Let's look at his relevant statistics:

The reason for his poor ERA in 2008 is a combination of too many homeruns allowed and bad luck. The HR/9 is troublesome, but his HR/FB% was 3% higher than his career average. Citi Field projects as a pitcher's park, while Wrigley Field is a hitter's park, so the homers would likely decrease. His BABIP was absurdly high, especially considering his strong 17.9 LD%. I feel confident in saying that Bob Howry was quite unlucky in 2008. The average mph on his fastball dropped a tick, down to 91.2 mph from 92.3 mph in 2007. Additionally, he threw a slider 23.7% of the time, compared to just 9.7% in 2007 - perhaps this was the cause of his problems with the longball?

Not every member of a bullpen can be Francisco Rodriguez or Huston Street. Teams need low-cost guys like Howry who could bounce back to have a solid year. Look at the Phillies in recent years. They gambled on career journeyman J.C. Romero, Scott Eyre and Clay Condrey and it paid off in 2008. The same goes for the Rays with Grant Balfour, Trever Miller and J.P Howell. Check out this column by SNY's Ted Berg which further details how the playoff teams put together their strong bullpens. I'll give you a preview: they didn't do it by signing players to 4 year, $60 million deals. (side note: Berg astutely identifies Howry as an under-the-radar pickup as well, but I wasn't on board until the Cubs declined to offer him arbitration)

If the Mets sign Howry and he stinks in 2009, I'd begrudgingly admit I'm wrong. But it would likely be just a $2 million mistake, and wouldn't cost the Mets any draft picks.