With Bay signing, Mets put their eggs into one basket, again

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bay red sox swinging.jpgIf there was ever a winter for the Mets to forgo their obsession with stars and improve their depth instead, this was the one. Injuries practically everywhere on the diamond devastated the team in 2009, forcing the team to turn to such non-entities as Angel Berroa, Lance Broadway and Wilson Valdez. It’s certainly true that no team could have survived losing as much of its top players as the Mets did last season, but there was also no reason for a club with a $150 million payroll to have to turn to mediocre Triple-A veterans so early and often.
GM Omar Minaya, though, showed no signs of learning his lesson. Instead of concentrating on the second- and third-tier free agents that were only going to keep getting cheaper as the winter dragged on, he spent $66 million to bring in Jason Bay on Tuesday. The deal could be worth more than $80 million if the option for the fifth year vests.
That is the Mets for you. The club now has five players making at least $12 million per season: Johan Santana, Carlos Beltran, Bay, Francisco Rodriguez and Oliver Perez. David Wright and Jose Reyes aren’t quite yet there, but they’ll combine to make $19 million next year and $25 million in 2011 before Reyes becomes a free agent.
Will it buy anything more than another fourth-place finish? The team. at present, looks like this:
SS – Jose Reyes – $9 million
2B – Luis Castillo – $6.25 million
CF – Carlos Beltran – $20 million
LF – Jason Bay – $16 million (approx.)
3B – David Wright – $10 million
1B – Daniel Murphy – $450,000
RF – Jeff Francoeur – $4.5 million (approx.)
C – Free agent
OF – Angel Pagan – $1.1 million (approx.)
INF – Alex Cora – $2 million
C – Henry Blanco – $750,000
C/INF – Chris Coste – $650,000
INF – Anderson Hernandez – $450,000
Total: $71.15 million
SP – Johan Santana – $21 million
SP – John Maine – $3.3 million (approx.)
SP – Oliver Perez – $12 million
SP – Mike Pelfrey – $500,000
SP – Jon Niese – $400,000
RP – Francisco Rodriguez – $12 million
RP – Pedro Feliciano – $2.1 million (approx.)
RP – Bobby Parnell – $420,000 (approx.)
RP – Kelvim Escobar – $1.25 million
RP – Ryota Igarashi – $1.25 million
RP – Sean Green – $750,000 (approx.)
RP – Brian Stokes – $420,000 (approx.)
Total: $55.39 million
That’s $126.5 million spent on a team that’s still short a starting pitcher and a catcher. Plus, an upgrade at first base would be nice. The defense takes a hit with Bay replacing Pagan in left field, and it doesn’t look like it will get any better at second base, since Minaya has been unable to find a taker for Castillo.
Fourth place seems just about right at the moment. There simply aren’t any sure things in the rotation with Santana coming off elbow surgery, and while the top of the lineup looks awfully strong, there will also be a lot of quick innings turned in by the bottom half.
Some other thoughts on the Bay signing:
– I don’t think this means Bay needs to be avoided in fantasy leagues this year. While Wright’s decline made it appear as though Citi Field was an impossible home run park for right-handed hitters in its initial season, the stats say it actually helped them. Its home run park factor for right-handed hitters was 110 (with 100 being average), putting it behind only Cincinnati, Colorado, Philadelphia and Houston in the NL. With plenty of strong OBPs ahead of him, Bay should be good for 30 homers and 110 RBI in year one as a Met.
– For that reason, Bay won’t have to worry about being viewed as a disappointment right away. Still, I really think the Mets would be better off playing him at first base, even though it would block a quality prospect in Ike Davis. Maybe we’ll see it in 2011 if Davis disappoints in the minors next year.
– Right now, it’s Fernando Martinez who is blocked. He needed some additional Triple-A time anyway, but he’s now at the mercy of Jeff Francoeur. If Francoeur continues to hit like he did in the second half of last season, he won’t be budged at any point during 2010.

The Cubs live for another day, but death will come soon

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The Cubs had a nice night last night. Javier Baez finally broke his hitless streak with not one but two homers. Willson Contreras hit a nearly 500-foot homer. Jake Arrieta, possibly pitching for the last time as a Cub, dug down for a gutsy performance, pitching into the seventh inning, working around some walks to allow only one run while striking out nine.

After the game, Cubs players sounded hopeful notes about believing in themselves, taking them one game at a time, getting the series back to L.A. for a Game 6 and Game 7. They’re professional athletes who know better than any of us that to achieve a thing you have to believe you can achieve that thing, so it’d be dumb to expect anything else from them in this situation. Ballplayers, quite admirably, don’t sound a note of defeat until they are actually defeated.

But let’s be realistic there: they’re still a dead team walking.

  • They’re dead because, as we have been reminded oh so many times, only once in 35 tries has a team come back to win a seven game series in which they’ve found themselves down 0-3. That team did so because Dave Roberts worked some magic. Dave Roberts is working for the other team now.
  • They’re dead because their biggest weakness this postseason — their bullpen — is not going to have its best pitcher, Wade Davis, available today in Game 5 after throwing 48 pitches in Game 4.
  • They’re dead because while the Dodgers used five relievers last night, none of them were worked particularly hard and neither Brandon Morrow nor Kenley Jansen were used at all, allowing them to come in and work hard and heavy tonight if need be.
  • They’re dead because the man on the mound to start tonight’s game is Clayton Edward Kershaw. Yes, he has had some less-than-glory-filled moments in the postseason in recent years, but all of those have come at the tail end of starts, when his managers have left him in perhaps an inning too long. See the above bullet point — and Dave Roberts’ early hook in Game 1 — if you think that’ll be a problem tonight.

The Dodgers lost last night, yes, but it was their first loss in the postseason. All teams have lost at least one postseason game since it went to the three-round format, so it was likely inevitable that L.A. would drop one. Heck, maybe they’ll drop two before the NLCS is over, but they’re not going to drop the next three in a row.

Last night’s Cubs win was nice for them, but it only delayed the inevitable.