Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cliff Lee signs with Philly

Well, there's that. At least this deal had somewhat more of the ring of sanity to it, although I think Lee's close to the most overrated free agent pitcher in history. 5 years, $120 million - it's scary when that deal seems relatively sane. Yeah, Lee's had a couple of good years, and his 2008 season was excellent (22-3, 2.58, Cy-Young Award). However, past that his stats don't reveal a top-5 in the country ace.

However, he doesn't necessarily need to be now that he's paired with Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels down in Philly. That rotation is scary, but that'll make it all the more satisfying for the Mets to beat the Phillies. I would hope that any Mets player who goes on record reacts the same way and embraces the challenge.

Monday, December 13, 2010

State of the Team - First Basemen

Next up on the positional analysis is first baseman. At the major league level, the position appears to be Ike Davis' to lose for the time being, after his solid rookie campaign, both at the plate and in the field. While the batting average, at .264, could've been higher, the .351 OBP shows a solid eye at the plate, and the power is definitely there, as he slugged 19 homers and 71 RBI. Davis' glove is a big advantage, as he's probably the most solid first baseman (or, really, only solid first baseman) the Mets have had since John Olerud, or even Keith Hernandez. To Davis' advantage as well is that as a rookie whom the Mets control for a long time and costs little, he's very likely to stay on the roster for the time being. Basically, Davis is a keeper for this. Oh, and this, this and thisAnd for good measure, this too.

Past Davis, though, things aren't so rosy. Daniel Murphy is a strong possibility to make the team as a second baseman, primarily, and would become the primary backup at first, where he played most of 2009. Nick Evans is out of options, so he could very well make the team as a right-handed bat off the bench, who would be able to spell Davis against LHP and can contribute passable defense at first. Evans hit a combined .300/.368/.532 in 145 between AA, AAA and the Majors last year, so he should definitely receive strong consideration in Spring Training. Also, he can play all three outfield positions, which would give the Mets important flexibility.

In the free agent market, it's unlikely that the Mets will pick up a reserve whose primary position is first base. Most of the players available would either not fit what the Mets are looking for in terms of flexibility, or would be someone seeking a starting position and the according salary. The only possibility would be someone like Ryan Garko, who again would provide a right-handed bat off of the bench to spell Davis.

No one in the minor league system really stands out right now as a top prospect. 22-year old Stefan Welch split .256/.325/.395 last fear in St. Lucie, although he hasn't yet shown the power that one would hope to get from a first baseman (only 8 hr in 133 GP). Welch is struggling in his time (which is being spent as a 3B) down playing for the new Australian Baseball League. Alex Sanchez would be just about the only prospect that stimulates any interest. Sanchez played 47 games as a 19-year old in the Gulf Coast League, and split .269/.319/.406. Sanchez is a big kid who's likely to fill out, and if he develops more power, could become a prospect.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mets sign C Paulino

Reports from the Winter Meetings indicate that the Mets have reached a deal with C Ronny Paulino, although the signing has not been officially announced by the team. Reports indicate that it will be for one year at $1.3 million per year.

Paulino appears to fit as a perfect compliment to Josh Thole, albeit less defensively adept as previous backups have been. Paulino appeared in 91 games last year for Florida, hitting .259/.311/.354 in 344 plate appearances. The big draw for Paulino, however, is how well he hits lefties. Paulino split a gaudy .358/.380/.516 in 100 PA last year for Florida, and has a career .338/.390/.491 split against lefties. This signing makes him appear as an clear cut compliment to the lefty-hitting Thole.

However, the real question mark with Paulino stems from the 50-game suspension he was served with last year for use of Performance-Enhancing Drugs. He claims it was an unknown ingredient in a weight-loss supplement he used - I don't know, maybe it was. I'd hope to give him the benefit of the doubt - either way, you've got to wonder both if he'll lose something he had before the suspension, or more likely, if he'll be rusty upon his return. He still has eight games remaining on the suspension that will have to be served at the beginning of the season.

Overall, however, this appears to be a good signing as a backup catcher looking to prove something and parlay his performance into a starting job in 2012. One year, $1.3 million seems to be the best you can hope for to pay for a veteran backup such as Paulino.

Monday, December 6, 2010

State of the Team - Catchers

Update, 6:43 PM - 
The Mets today signed C Dusty Ryan to a Minor League Deal (official press release here) - he'll likely play in Buffalo, or possibly even Binghamton. Not exactly too exciting of a sign, given his .199/.333/.349 line in AAA Portland last year (San Diego), although he does show a good eye for the strike zone with 50 walks in 89 games last year. He appears to be average defensively, as he threw out 26% last year for Portland.

Original Post, 6:41 PM -
So for my first positional analysis, I'll look at catchers. Currently, the Mets have 2 catchers on the 40-man roster - Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas. Nickeas went 2 for 10 in 5 games last year as a September call-up, with 5 strikeouts and 1 error in 4 games behind the plate while not throwing out any of the 3 basestealers who attempted to go on him. This was on top of a season spent mostly in  Binghamton with seven games in Buffalo, where he hit .276/.389/.382 and threw out a third of runners. Look for Nickeas to play in Buffalo this year to provide depth, but hopefully he won't be needed at the Major League level.

Thole, on the other hand, showed a lot more promise. Thole turned 24 in October, and in his second year in the Majors, played in 77 games and posted a line of .277/.357/.366 - not quite at his previous years line of .321/.356/.396, but still pretty good. Note the fact that even with a decline in average, his OBP stayed level - a good sign for a mature hitter that looks to be the Mets' everyday catcher going forward. Also impressive was the improvement in his defense - he threw out 44% of runners, and appeared better at controlling a staff. There's almost no reason that Thole shouldn't start as the everyday catcher.

This, of course, leaves open the question of who is going to be the backup. Names to consider as free agents include the switch-hitting Josh Bard, Russell Martin (who was non-tendered by the Dodgers and reportedly desires a move to the East Coast, Dioner Navarro or Wil Nieves. If they don't get one of those 4, they'll likely have to settle for either an older catcher, such as Henry Blanco, Jason LaRue, Chad Moeller, Matt Treanor or Gregg Zaun. Basically, it boils down to how much of the workload they think Thole can handle. If it's 4 days a week and you need a replacement for the other three, then they could spring for one of the more pricey catchers. If not, look for them to go for more of a mentor-type. Also look for them to bring in a minor-league free agent to provide additional depth, someone along the lines of a Robinzon Diaz, Michael Barrett, Steve Holm or Raul Chavez, as well as players such as Salomon Manriquez, Shawn Riggans, Omir Santos(signed by Detroit) or Luke Montz, all who spent last year in the Mets' system. Whoever they bring in/keep will almost definitely playing in Buffalo, though.

Beyond Thole, Kai Gronauer is likely the next highest prospect. After splitting .291/.359/.379 between Savannah and St. Lucie last year at 23, MetsMinorLeagueBlog.com projects him to break camp as Binghamton's everyday starter. Also a name to consider is 20-year old Alberto Cordero, who split .282/.311/.469 between rookie and Low-A, and could be a sleeper in the SAL next year for Savannah, as well as 20 year old Juan Centeno, who split .320/.368/.424 in 44 games between Brooklyn, St. Lucie and Binghamton. The coolest names among catchers in the system has to be a toss-up between Jean Luc Blaquiere, Jeyckol De Leon, Alex Machillanada or Nelfi Zapata.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

State of the Team - Management/Front Office

So I've started a blog...

I guess the best way to start a blog that looks at the Mets is to take stock of where the team is currently. I'm going to go through position by position and look at who the Mets have, and where they should go. The obvious first place to start is with the team's management and coaching staff.

The front office looks good right now, as Sandy Alderson has come in as GM and gotten off to a good start, at least as far as bringing in other good execs. While Alderson's focus on statistical analysis may be overstated, he still will bring a good analytical eye to players, and hopefully will be able to resist making moves to appease ownership or the fan-base. It should be all about what puts the best team out on the field, what gives the Mets the best chance to win a championship. Names like J.P. Ricciardi and Paul DePodesta that have been successful in other places are always good, and it can't hurt to have a number of smart people in the Mets' front office. In addition, John Ricco seems like he's on a good path to be a top-line exec one day. The real question mark has to be  - how does the Mets minor league system react to no longer having Terry Collins, who received rave reviews in his one year, as Minor League Coordinator? Collins as manager isn't necessarily the sexiest pick, but his fire may help the Mets, who haven't always appeared to be the most motivated team recently, and as his coaching staff is largely unresolved, well, we'll just have to see what happens there. While his departure from Anaheim has been brought up as a negative, what isn't talked about is that in his previous 6 years as a manager, he finished in 2nd place in his division every year except the last, although he did never get to 90 wins.