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Older and Less Athletic

Mike SteffanosSunday, November 19, 2006
By Mike Steffanos

I understand the justification for the Mets signing Moises Alou, which many news sources are reporting as imminent. I actually think it makes sense to sign a solid veteran stopgap player while the Mets wait for their kids to come up, and think Alou will fit in well with this team. I just can't help but think, however, that this team is becoming a very old team very quickly with the probable addition of Alou to complement last week's signing of the 37-year-old Damion Easley along with the re-signings of Orlando Hernandez and Jose Valentin. Unless the Mets plan to deal Shawn Green, they're going to field two starting corner outfielders who aren't going to cover much ground. Carlos Beltran would do well to incorporate as many sprints as possible into his offseason training regimen.

Still, it seems obvious that the Mets have soured on Lastings Milledge and are now waiting for Carlos Gomez and Fernando Martinez to come along. Given that, with respect to those of you who felt differently, I never saw handing out a long, huge contract to the often indifferent Alfonso Soriano or the ever-expanding Carlos Lee as particularly sensible. Although a position player on the wrong side of 40 is always somewhat of a risk, Alou is still a productive major league hitter who will balance this lineup considerably. In Endy Chavez and Ben Johnson, the Mets have two solid backups who will play better defense. If Johnson pans out, the Mets will have a right-handed hitting backup outfielder with a little pop, something they lacked in 2006.

I just can't help but regret that, as a Class-A free agent, Alou will cost the Mets a first-round pick in next year's draft. If the Mets also sign Barry Zito, they will be without a first or second round pick. For a team that hopes to become less dependent on the expensive free agent market by improving their farm system, the continued lack of top picks handicaps them somewhat. They'll have to do a much better job in identifying and nurturing later-round prospects than they have in recent years if they ever hope to accomplish this. Their track record going back the past few drafts is actually quite poor in this area.

Since the Mets don't feature a staff of power pitchers, I think the Alou/Green corner outfield combo will cost them some runs. John Maine is a flyball pitcher who pitches to contact, and Zito has a high flyball rate, too, if he winds up pitching in Shea next season. Still, that offense should score more than enough to make up for that -- if Alou can stay relatively healthy. Indeed, signing Alou would represent somewhat of a coup for Minaya, who would be able to plug a hole with a pretty solid player without breaking the bank for years to come. Still, I can't help but hope for a day where a hole like this is plugged from within the Mets own system.

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Comments (17)

I dont like Alou myself.... He's an injury waiting to happen .... Well I guess when he goes down for a few week is when the other guys will get there time... Did I say I dont like this move....

I hear you, Bean, but it makes more sense than signing Soriano for 8 years/$136 million as the Cubs seem to have done.

PLEASE tell me we are NOT signing a 40 f@^$#@g year old LF!!!!

Luis - Again, look at it in the light of what Soriano is making. That's absolutely insane.

It sure looks like a bigger deal is in the works with Milledge to me, and if its for a top of the rotation pitcher I think it fits and gives Gomez time to get ready.

Earl weaver made a HOF career out of finding useful platoon parts and platooning them-Benny Ayala, John Lowenstein and Garu Roenicke combined for a 47 Hr and 11 RBI year in 79- I know it i only one year, but that was what Earl did.Chavez, Johnson, Milledge platooned, BELTRAN!! in CF and a useful Nady btype(they are everywhere) would be better defensively and more than equal offensively than a FOTY year old man-leaving $$ for pitching and farm system upgrades

Unlike other teams, if any of these guys go down they have a solid young guy ready to fill in and rock and roll so its not a problem. I view these signings as safety nets it order to prevent the Mets STARTING the season with the rookies.

If El Duque goes down, the Mets have Humber, Pelfrey, and even Dave Williams to fill in.
If Alou goes down the Mets have Chavez, Johnson, Milledge.
If Valentin goes down the Mets fill in with A-Hern or Gotay, thats the biggest dropoff in my opinion, but at the same time Valetin was signed as an insurance they cant get someone like Belliard, Lugo, or whoever.

While a draft choice may go to waste, the Mets were not going to draft high and there are plenty of prospects out there. As Luis says, Earl Weaver (and many others including Gil Hodges) made platooning a part of their managerial repertoire. Clearly, Willie likes to give his players playing time and Alou with Chavez and Green with Johnson (did he say "knowledge is power," or was it the other Ben Johnson, whose pop was in his pen), there are perfect platoons that also allow for late inning defense whenever a lead is at hand. As far as Milledge is concerned, unless a deal is already in the works, Omar has probably further devalued him on the market with the Alou signing imminent. It may just be that Omar and Willie want to let Lastings play a full season at Triple A to put up some big numbers. He is younger than Reyes and Wright. My guess is that is what will happen if they can't make a deal for Dontrelle. If you are the Fish, wouldn't you take Milledge, Heilman and Soler or Bannister for "D" Train? Good deal both ways. As for Mike's wailing that the Mets are getting older, he couldn't be more accurate, but look at the farm system. No doubt Michel Abrieu will likely replace Franco in 2008 and either Alou or Green or both could give way to Chavez, Johnson, Milledge, Gomez or Martinez in 08 or 09. Same could be said at 2B where both Anderson Hernandez and Gotay could push or replace Valentin. If the Mets get a couple of quality starters (one being Glavine) this off-season can also be argued that the Mets new Triple A affiliate may start the season with a rotation of Pelfrey, Humber, Williams, Bannister and Soler. Would there be a better Triple A rotation anywhere? And Martinez and Zambrano could appear at any time during the season. We think Omar is sly like a fox. And you notice, he stayed away from Soriano, who commands a ridiculous price and is a clubhouse drain. Chemistry counts!

Read Buster Olney's latest blog in ESPN Insider analyzing the signing of Alou in terms of how it's gonna help our lineup and tell me if you people still think it was a crappy signing. He only will have to play 130 games in our lineup to drive in 100 RBI.

Oh yeah, lest we forget, by bringing him in he will be able to mentor Milledge, Chavez and Johnson. Same goes for bringing back Glavine at 1 year, $11MM-ish and El Duque-- tons of young pitching out there these guys will mentor. Not to mention the students will fill in for the teachers when they need their rest.

I'm still a huge fan of Frank Catalanotto, a guy who will bring .375 OBP and some decent pop to the bottom of the order to set the table for the guys back on top. With the signings of Alou and Valentin it doesn't look like it'll happen, but he'll take probably Valentin's money annually and would be a bargain-basement signing. A shrewd GM like Minaya though probably knows this.

After trading Xavier Nady for a 40 year old pitcher, now we are about to sign 41 year old Moises Alou. The mets will go nowhere in 07. No starting pitching, and very poor signings. Pedro sold Mr minaya the brooklyn bridge. That's why boston wouldn't sign him for 4 years. So much wasted effort and nothing get accomplished.

Agreed with Luis. And I don't think a possible signing of Soriano is the context in which to evaluate a signing of Alou.

But hey, I like Alou. He was a really fine player, back in the day. But the Mets are going to be playing games in the future, not the past; a player whose potential is in the past isn't going to help much. If the Mets have truly given up on Lastings, for some reason that escapes me, you can't tell me that there aren't servicable players out there waiting to be had, players without such clear recollections of the Carter administration.

As Mike alluded, the Mets were winners in large part because of their defense, which was rated the most effecient in the National League. One of Bill James' better observations was "what is often attributed to pitching is really defense," meaning that a good defense can make a mediocre pitching staff look good, and conversely a poor defense can make a decent pitching staff look bad. We saw one side of that coin last season; I hope we can avoid seeing the other side in 2007.

And also: I loved watching the Mets play in 2006, primarily because of the defensive play. Didn't you guys? This IS a spectator sport, from our vantage point at least. Who wants to watch a bunch of old guys labor after baseballs heading into the gap? I can get that sort of thing right here at home, without tuning in the Mets.

I can drag up a few more reasons why Omar shouldn't do this signing if necessary. Are you listening, Omar? Guess not.

Everything is well stated here already.

1. I dont love it. But I agree with it. I'm not sure Alou IS a class A FA, infact I would contend the Giants dont offer him arbitration. He fits into the Chemistry of the team. Plus he fills Cliffs spot all too well. Plus as Si points out Alou hits LHPs very well.

2. I also think Alou will be here not to force Milledge out but take pressure off him. Also Ben Johnson OR Milledge could go but Johnson appears to have been asked for (Vazquez).

3. F-Mart and Gomez are also high on the emerging list but hardly gimmees.

4. I have a feeling that Julio Franco may not be on the team all yr.

5. After this Omar can work on pitching. I too see Zito as the big catch. But the evil empire may attempt to block. The thing I like about Zito is of course the AL-Nl differential. And I think Zito is an NL style pitcher.

Rev - I'm wondering how much value that Milledge still has. He's been getting so much bad press. Maybe the Mets hold onto him for a while going into next season and try to get his value back up some. Just a thought.
Luis - I hear you, but I don't think $8 million for one year is a huge gamble, and if something happens to Alou there is enough other talent to pick up the slack. Think of it as large-market team insurance -- as long as they don't give him a second year.
Benny - I agree with you they are safety nets, especially since the only one who got two years was El Duque. Wish they could have found a way to get insurance without giving up the draft pick, though.
DaMetsman - I agree the Mets aren't going to draft that high, but if they also lose their second rounder they will not pick until late in the third round. But I still understand the Alou signing.
Matt - I agree with your take on the mentoring.
Ed - No offense, but last year you were sure the Mets would finish behind the Marlins. You thought Omar did a terrible job then and the team won 97 games and missed the world series by one game. Relax, please.
dd - Because the Mets wanted a veteran run producer in LF and managed to sign one that didn't require a ridiculously long contract. I do agree OF defense will be a problem.
Ed - I do agree that Zito has become more of an NL than AL style pitcher.

Looks like Alou will only get 1 year. that doesnt hurt me too much even if I dont like the move. With Soriano off the market , Zito has gotta be on the radar. He's not the answer to everything but he will be a solid piece...

Bean - I agree with you on Zito, unless Boras insists on a 6-7 year contract. Then I might try to be creative.

None taken. With the lack of competition in the NL in 06, there should have been no need for a 7th game at all. Mr Nady and his right handed bat could have made the difference. The mets chance for a world series was based on a one time shot with ageing players. The cardinals had injuries to their corner infielders, giving the mets the complete edge. Who predicted the braves and phillies to collapse? Not many. I spent 2 days in Jupiter visiting the marlins last spring. I saw the talent and I figured them for 82 wins. No second baseman, a 41 year old left fielder, a diminishing talent in right, a 35 year old 1st baseman, and no starting pitching will cost the mets dearly in 07.

I disagree, and I think you look too hard for negatives.

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