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Demolition Man, Part III - The Infield

NostraDennisThursday, October 23, 2008
By NostraDennis

I'm old enough to remember plenty of Mets off-seasons when the talk was not about which few parts to replace, but which few to keep. A stretch of grueling mediocre seasons in the late '70's and another round in the early '90's come to mind. Those older and wiser than me could point out plenty more examples, but let's agree that while we're blowing up the old ballpark, there's no need to blow up the infield.

Remember folk singer Dick McCormick's anthem to Shea's hot corner, "79 Men on Third for the Mets"? Well, the Ultimate Mets Database says we're up to 138 now (thanks, Fernando Tatis), but that position's pretty much locked down for the immediate future. For all the flack David Wright gets about his A-Rod like performance in pressure situations, he's also been turning in nearly A-Rod like season-long performances for the last three years. Sure, we'd all like better clutch hitting out of him, but as he matures, we'll get that, sooner than you might think.

Don't expect much of an issue out of shortstop any time soon, either. Compared to the third base parade, UMDB tells us that a paltry 102 Mets have played shortstop. Barring injury and the occasional day off, Jose Reyes has it covered there. Yes, he's still maturing. Yes, his potential hasn't been reached yet. That should be viewed as a positive, not a negative. And would someone please tear up the press credentials of the next "sports journalist" who floats the asinine "Mets should trade Reyes or Wright" idea?

Second base is a different animal altogether. Unless the Mets can package Luis Castillo and the three seasons left on his contract together with prospects in a deal for something of value, it'll be Juan Samuel all over again. The only difference is that the '89 Mets had to suffer through Samuel's underachievement for less than a full season. Let's just imagine for a moment that the Mets can pull off a deal like that. Who would they bring in?

The free-agent selections at second base this winter are slim pickings, with an average age of 35 and only a few names that would mildly raise an eyebrow. The Cards' Felipe Lopez is the youngest in the bunch at 29, but his offensive production has been abysmal - fewer than 100 RBI's in nearly 1200 plate appearances in '07 and '08 combined. Mark Loretta of the Astros is an intriguing idea. He's played all four infield positions, and has never hit below .280 in a full season in his career. His age (36) is a minus, though, especially for a Mets team that's way too old as it is. David Eckstein, most recently of the D-Backs, is two years younger than Loretta, and has won World Series with teams in both leagues. But while his career .284 batting average is all right, his RBI production is worse than Lopez', and his long-ball power is virtually non-existent. The Mets will most likely end up passing on a free-agent second baseman, start the season with Castillo until his inevitable prolonged slump, then give a kid like Argenis Reyes another chance to impress.

Many Mets fans are cheering the decision to exercise Carlos Delgado's 2009 option after his amazing tear in July and August. I think it's a mistake - I would have taken a shot at the Teixeira sweepstakes - but what's done is done. As long as a serviceable backup is available for twenty or thirty games, be it Carp, Evans, or Pascucci, it looks like this Carlos will help inaugurate Citi Field in April. Right now, all but one or two teams would trade their starting infield for ours in a heartbeat. Especially if we throw in Castillo's imaginary friend.

About Dennis McCarthy: I was born in the Bronx in 1960, but moved to Long Island four years later. I became a Mets fan in '69, thanks to my Aunt Ellen, who still lived in the Bronx.   Read More -->

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Comments (23)

UMMMMMM have you ever heard of ORLANDO HUDSON?????? I heard he is a preety damm good second basemen who IS a free agent. Not sure how you missed this one but the Mets NEED to sign Hudson. Great clubhouse guy to go along with defense/speed/good bat. By the way David Eckstein was most recently on the Blue Jays, not the Diamondbacks????? Anyways good try on this article, little research would have been nice though.

i'm a big fan of reyes and wright but i guess u have not been watching the playoffs and the performances of longoria and upton for the rays..these guys have half the experience of wright and reyes and they have been getting clutch hit after clutch hit..wright and reyes are going into their 5th year in the bigs..i don't want to trade either one this year, but saying they haven't matured yet is ridiculous.they just have not come up with big hits in big games in september..if they both fail again this september, i'm sorry to say it met fans, but if i'm the gm i have to think about trading one of them.

He, not sold on Hudson, I think Castillo has an equal chance to contribute as much there. He had an injury plagued season and never got into things, it could be different next year. Still gotta look for options and alternatives though.

Argenis better show something in AAA before even getting another September call up. He's horrible.

I waiver on Delgado, but I think he has a lot to add to this team in a veteran hitter type role. Let him be able to impart knowledge to Murphy, Evans, and hopefully Fernando Martinez for one more year. Not to mention to Wright and Reyes. You _do_ have to have a backup there though too. Carp/Evans are too unknown for it though, I think you need a really solid utility/backup infielder. Not Easley, he's old and so-so. Not Anderson either obviously. The bench needs work all around, it hurt our depth last year.

Patrick - Hudson's hit for a better average each of the past three years. However, for the second season in a row, he's spent the end of the campaign watching from the bench due to injuries. If we'd had Hudson this year, we still would have been starting Argenis Reyes in September when it counted.

By the way, Hudson's wrist injury this year was the very reason the D-Backs picked Eckstein up from Toronto. Good try on the comment, though. A little research would have been nice.
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gary s - I have been watching the playoffs, and gritting my teeth at the thought that the Mets aren't in them. I live an hour from Tampa, and adopted the Rays as my second-favorite team, so I know how good Longoria and Upton are, not to mention Crawford, Pena, and the rest of the gang. But Upton's an outfielder now. My point was that Reyes and Wright are a very good left side of the infield, both offensively and defensively.

It's dead-on accurate to say the Rays are the team the Mets would have loved to be this year, especially their middle relief. They lost their closer just like we did, but they toughed it out, and are still playing in late October.
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Ceetar - The fact that the Mets need a backup on the left side was one of the reasons I mentioned Loretta rather than Hudson. I'm not sold on Hudson, but I'm even less sold on Castillo. Unfortunately, he's already bought and paid for.

I'd ride pine on Murphy for 2nd Base next year, and do a salary dump for Castillo. I'm confident that Omar can pull that off. Hell, he did that with Mota, and that was a near miracle. I'm ok with Delgado coming back- the Mets have other issues than 1st Base to worry about, and if we get the same kind of production from Delgado in 2009 that we got this year, I'm more than happy. Plus, he likes NY, and keeping him for another year or two to let Murphy, Evans, and Carp grow will be fine with me.

I do agree that they need to work on their bench- Easley is great but he's aging and getting injured in September 2 years in a row is not fun. Keep Tatis for platooning in the OF and also spelling Wright at 3rd every so often. Murphy should be at 2nd, and Evans/Carp should backstop Delgado. They'll have to figure out something for 2nd/SS (Valentin?).

If the Mets aren't sold on Murphy at 2nd base, shift him to the OF, and get Hudson. He fits the Mets lineup better as a righthander, has been a sure glove in Arizona, hits for average, has some power, get some SB's, and is a team oriented kind of guy. Yes, he had his wrist injury earlier this year, and that should take some consideration. But given the alternatives, he's the best of the bunch, IMHO.

And as for Wright's bad average with RISP, I attribute that to the fact that the bottom order of the Mets lineup sucks horribly. That has forced the Mets bats from #1-5 in the order to overdo it, with bad results.

NostraDennis.......Ok you got me on Eckstein, sorry I really didnt keep tabs on him much.

Hudson on the other hand is a different story.

For one he is a free agent, which right now is the only way to upgrade the position barring a trade.

Second I wasnt talking about last year, Im talking THIS year. If you look back at Hudson's past injuries they are all pretty much freak injuries so nobody can say he is injury prone.

Third he is exactly the type of personality we NEED in that clubhouse. Along the lines of a Cliff Floyd/Mike Cameron type. He is the ONLY second basemen to really talk about regarding free agents. He is a career 282 hitter whos won 3 gold gloves. Murphy will not play second base for the Mets. I love Murphy but come on people, could you picture him trying to turn a double play with Reyes. Omar loves athletic middle infielders and as much as I love Murph he is not. Put him in left.

Plus I am sick of hearing about keeping Castillo and hoping for a bounce back year. His knees belong on a 90 year old in a nursing home, not a 2b we are going to rely on next year. What happens when he doesnt bounce back and he starts his pouting again because he isnt playing well or not playing at all?

Jason B - Murphy at second sounds okay, though he acquitted himself so well in the outfield this year that I can't picture him there. Hudson at second sounds better, too, though I wonder whether the team will go all-out for a premier closer AND a second baseman of Hudson's caliber.
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Patrick - Yeah to what you said about Murphy. And yeah to what you said about Castillo. But I do LOVE his bat. And I'm sick of hearing "We'll be okay just as soon as _______________ gets off the disabled list".

Nostra- I agree about Murphy being good (although rookie-ish) in the OF, but if you can get him at 2nd, it allows the Mets more flexibility in the OF. I'd feel better with Tatis/Church platooning at RF (leftie/rightie split), and the Mets getting someone to fill the hole in LF. On that one, its all about a righthanded bat. Burrell tops my list, but I'd be fine with Bradley or even Adam Dunn. I want the Mets to stay the hell away from Manny, even if it means he goes to the Phillies.

If you're also asking, as of right now my bench is Evans for OF/1B, Ramon Martinez for SS/2B, Cancel or Casanova as Catcher, Pagan and Endy for OF. It's not ideal, but eh, it's something to work with.

And the Mets have Pedro, Ollie, El Duque, Wise, Easley, and Alou coming off the payroll, which should average out to more than $35 million. Keep in mind also, that after next season, they'll have Delgado and Wagner's $$ off as well- that means an extra $29 Million. They can backload contracts if they want. This doesn't even include the fact that they're likely to trade Schoeneweis, Heilman, Feliciano, and Duaner. Yes, all of them. Thus, I think it's possible that they can sign Fuentes AND Hudson AND Burrell AND Lowe. However, if they move Murphy to 2B, that leaves them only having spots for Fuentes, Lowe, and Burrell. The short term is that they've got $30 mil; the long term is that they have closer to $60 Mil to work with.

And this isn't even inculding the trades they will work on. Peavy should seriously think about CitiField. So should Jose Guillen.

Also, if the Mets have money left over from their free agent binge (let's face it, they will binge), they should also consider signing Ivan Rodriguez to a 1 year deal, if possible. He'd be the kind of #2 hitter the Mets have been missing since Willie Randolph thought Lo Duca could be a power hitter in the #6 hole rather than the contact hitter he is in the #2 hole back in 2007.

Failing that, I'd want a better split between Schneider and another catcher. That catcher should not be Castro. Don't get me wrong, I love "Hippo", who's a guaranteed home run threat every time he's up at bat. But I also hate his penchant for getting injured. And his batting average. As a backup, Cancel and Casanova didn't suck outright last year. But I'm not sold on them- and Vance Wilson is a free agent. Remember him? Why did the Mets ever get rid of him in the first place? Sign him. Please. He'd be a great guy to platoon with Schneider if they're really insistent on having a defense first mentality about the backstop. He's also a veteran, good for the clubhouse, and doesn't get injured. Oh, and he can hit extra base hits, unlike Schneider.

Seriously though, think about Pudge for a one year deal. Think about the Righthanded punch he'd give (and good D, too). Think about the 30 or so doubles he'll hit. And think of it in CitiField.

Just don't think of it if he asks for $10 mil a year. Then think about Wilson and his suck-less-than-Schneider-at-hitting thing he has going for him.

i enjoyed reading all the posts..kudos to all..my bottom line is to get to the dance u need money players.the only player on this team who proved he was money in a big game was santana.every body else gets a failing grade.all these free agents sound great, but the only one who is a money player is ramirez.any of u guys want to deal with manny "being manny" the next 3 years??i don't.we need reyes and wright to deliver in september or u have to decide on keeping or moving them.end of story..

Jason - I-Rod could be a fit for a year, maybe two, as long as the price is not stupid. Vance Wilson won't get you the power Pudge will, but he could be a decent platoon catcher. I'm with you...not impressed by any Mets catcher with the initial "C". Not since Carter, at least.

gary s. - Manny can be Manny all he wants. In some other market. As much as Pat the Bat is hated here in New York, he'd be much more handsome and attractive if he were wearing orange and blue.

Nostra, the Catchers I've liked since Carter are Piazza, Wilson, and the 2006 Lo Duca.

Gary- Reyes didn't collapse in September, and Wright's average went up in September as well. They weren't the problem. It was the 6 to 9 spots in the order that were the problem. Manny is 37 and still a man-child. Ignore him and get Burrell or even Bradley.

Okay, Nostra, since the posts are, shall we say, spaced out a bit at this time of year, here's an oddball idea:

Mike Jabobs is very available. He's one of ours, he is a better player than his Florida numbers show -- he's been hitting in a brutal park on a lefthander -- and anyway his numbers weren't bad at all, if limited to his work against the lefty's.

But, of course, the Mets already have a lefthanded first baseman. What could I have in mind?

This: Jacobs, as an occasional first baseman, occasional lefthanded hitting catcher (!) and designated hitter when required; sounds like 375 AB's to me, or maybe more. Jake might not be a great catcher, but I do not believe he was so bad that it made sense to abandon the idea. He and Castro in tandem would put up Piazza numbers, even giving Castro some of the righty action to maintain the peace.

I doubt Jacobs would be that expensive.

Thoughts? Duck and cover!

Jacobs has been out of catching for a while now, and his bat is best used as a lefthander who can mash against righties. Problem is, is that the Mets are already lefthanded heavy. And Jacobs hits like Adam Dunn, only with ALOT less walks.

Plus, I don't think that the Marlins would want to deal him within the division if they can avoid it. I've been hearing that the Marlins are thinking of trading Jacobs to the Royals. That would be smart for the Royals, who could use Jacob's bat to supplement them (potentially) trading Jose Guillen, or augmenting their lineup to have Aviles, Butler, DeJesus, Guillen, Jacobs, and Gordon cementing it. Makes more sense for the Royals than it does for the Mets.

I'd pass on him.

Well, I said it was an oddball idea, but (a) I expect his numbers to improve, almost wherever he goes, and (b) to my thinking he's not a great fit for the Royals, who have about the worst OBP in baseball at the moment, as well as Billy Butler and that Hawaiian guy to play first base.

Adding Jacobs for the Mets would have to be with the understanding that he would be a part timer; I don't know that he would accept that. But if, then, as they used to say in geometry class.

One player I would love to see the Mets be aggressive with is Kerry Wood. I cant beleive nobody is talking about him for the closer. I understand he could get hurt at anytime but I would love to see him in the Mets bullpen.

As for catcher I wouldn't mind seeing Pudge at catcher for just a year, mabey a 1 year with a option for year 2. From what I saw from him when he joined the Yanks Im not sure he has much left. I think Veritek would be perfect. I know his bat is not there anymore but he is a winner and thats what the Mets need.

jason b, jacobs was converted to first because he had chronic shoulder problems.i didn't say reyes and wright collapsed in september..but neither one produced against the marlins in the last 3 games.the phillies are up 3-1 in the series.it's because the big boys (utley and howard are producing).has nothing to do with "6-9" hitters.imho, thats a fallacy

Duck and cover indeed, dd! It's all good, though. We're all (hopefully) brainstorming towards the same end - a better Mets team. Sometimes I feel like my contribution to this brainstorm is a tiny puddle, but we all do what we can.

My gut tells me the Mets need to steer clear of free agents with a history of injury. That would make me balk at both Jacobs and Wood. I saw Wood pitch here with the AA Orlando Cubs in '97, and he was wicked fast but wild then, with 106 K's in 94 innings, but 79 walks.

Varitek is an intriguing idea. He IS a winner, he handles young pitchers well, and while his hitting has fallen off the last three years, we know he can cope with pressure. As long as he can bat 7th or 8th, he can be an asset. Remember, though, the Red Sox don't have an heir apparent backstop, so they'll go hard to retain him this winter.

Gary, the reason the Mets "collapsed" was because there wasn't much their 1-5 hitters could do, with the other team knowing they had jack and crap after Delgado's turn at bat. Wright, Beltran, and Delgado had to drive in runs because [i]no one else was going to in September[/i]. And pitchers knew that, and threw them junk as a result. Wright HAD to swing at bad pitches in order to make things happen- and when you're swinging through like that, you're not gonna get much to work with.

Your arguement that the Phillies power hitters are doing it doesn't work, because they DO have a good bottom of the order. Their lineup is Rollins/Werth/Utley/Howard/Burrell/Victorino/Feliz/Ruiz. That's a good lineup (helped by the fact that their stadium is a freaking bandbox) that doesn't fall apart after Burrell's turn. Victorino and Feliz aren't showstoppers, but they hit, and produce (and Ruiz is well...Ruiz). That's what the Mets lost when Tatis and Easley went down. Add to this that they space out their lineup more, by putting Werth at the #2 hole, and Burrell at the #5 hole. It's a deep lineup, bar none.

Utley and Howard KNOW (just like the other team does) that they can sit on pitches if they want, and wait for other hitters in their lineup to drive in runs. That forces the other team to try to get them out with their good stuff- usually stuff that requires Howard and Utley to swing at it, and more often than not, make contact with it. The onus is on the OTHER team to get those two out; whereas with the Mets the onus is on THEIR hitters to make things happen.

It's all about creating a cohesive lineup. The Mets didn't have that late in the season. The Phillies (and Rays) do.

Thanks for the note though about Jacobs, I figured that his arm kept him from being a catcher, but you confirmed it.

Nostra, I agree about Varitek, but the Red Sox need to see the market for a Catcher as well. Thus, a 1-2 year deal for Pudge might be the best "pie in the sky" that we can hope for.

Other than begging Piazza out of retirement. He'd probably still be good for .270 23 HR, 70 RBI.

Sorry, dude, but if we went with that Astro guy, every time he came up to bat, I'd think of this

I still haven't made up my mind about which is higher priority for us OF or 2B, but I'm leaning towards 2B. I wouldn't mind a platoon of Tatis, Murphy and/or Evans, with Evans also playing a little first. But is it smart to expect Ryan Church to do the job in RF? I don't know. The idea of giving Church the RF job worries me a bit, but with already 2 weak links in the batting order in the catcher and pitcher's spot, it seems to me that we absolutely cannot afford a third at 2B. Even if we had Manny hitting clean up for us, I don't think our lineup would be potent enough to make up for Castillo's lack of production.

As countless people have already said, our offense depends a lot on Jose. As much as I like Jose, I don't think he's consistent enough. He's super-talented--no question but he'll never be a great hitter until he learns to go the other way. I think we need another guy who can do the things Jose does. We need another spark plug. To me, the ideal choice would be Ichiro. Either Crawford or Iwamura would be nice too, but since none of those guys can probably be had, I think we need to get Hudson.

Has anyone out there actually seen Murphy play 2B? Since the Mets didn't let him play there in 2008, we're all under the assumption that he isn't any good. But exactly how bad is he?

Chris, first, Murphy did play 2B for the Mets in AA, and spent some time there learning it. He also started every game in the Fall League at 2B, as well. One can only surmise that the Mets are serious about putting him at 2nd.

As for Church, he was amazing before his second concussion, and after that, he never got back on track. He admitted he wasn't 100% and put alot of pressure on himself to try to produce like he did beforehands. It didn't help in September that Tatis and Easley got injured, which killed the bottom of the order, and Church completely fell apart then. I'm comfortable with him in RF as long as he makes a full recovery.

And while I like Tatis and the platoon in LF, wouldn't it make more sense to have a bat like Burrell or Guillen out there? They're proven players, while Tatis has half a season of good work under his belt. I like Tatis for the bench more than anything.

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