The Mets could've had Zduriencik

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Zduriencik.jpgThe New York Post’s Joel Sherman writes this morning about how the Mets screwed up by passing over Seattle Mariners’ GM Jack Zduriencik back when he worked for the club. Let’s go back to the fall of 1997:

Because he was good with computers and had ties to Sandy Koufax — a real bonus in the Dodger-centric world of Koufax pal Fred Wilpon — Gary LaRocque was named the director of amateur scouting. That was the job Jack Zduriencik deserved. Instead — despite being employed significantly longer with the Mets than even Phillips — he was shuffled from farm director to special assistant to the general manager.

So at that moment Phillips, Minaya, Duquette and Zduriencik all had relatively new roles. Three would ultimately hold the title of Mets GM. One would not. That guy looks like, by far, the best of the group.

I’ll grant that, based on everything we’ve seen, having Zduriencik as your GM would be better than having Steve Phillips, Omar Minaya and Jim Duquette there, but there are limits to this sort of “we could have had that guy” complaint.

Unlike players, who you can mostly figure would do as well with one team as they would have with another, I don’t think you can simply assume that an executive’s apparent genius with one club would have manifested itself on another. Mentoring matters when it comes to the development of decision makers, as does the relative level of autonomy they’re given, their experiences and the people with whom they’re surrounded. Warren Buffett worked at a grocery store when he was a kid. You can’t say that it would be competing with Safeway now if they had only held on to him because, you know, things happened to the guy in between then and now.

While Zduriencik’s path from New York to Seattle was a lot shorter and more direct than Buffet’s, it’s certain that the things he learned as the Director of International Operations for the Dodgers and during his nine years in various roles for the Brewers made him a different man today than he would have been if he had stayed with the Mets. Maybe they would have made him the GM five years ago and maybe he wouldn’t have been ready.  Maybe — hell, probably — the most important things that led to him becoming a successful general manager happened to him while he was working in Milwaukee and never would have happened to him had he stayed in Queens.

So while I greatly appreciate this brand of rabble rousing — indeed, there’s nothing much more fun to me than helping Mets fans come to grips with their misery — I think the we-could’ve-had-Zduriencik beef is more an exercise in hindsight than it is a legitimate criticism of the team.

Report: Barry Bonds under consideration to be the Marlins hitting coach

Barry Bonds

This shouldn’t cause any controversy, lead to a lot of people saying dumb things or provide fodder for jokes at all. Nope, none whatsoever:

In what promises to be a bombshell move, if executed, all-time great slugger Barry Bonds is under consideration to become Marlins hitting coach.

Team higherups have quietly been discussing this possibility for weeks.

That’s Jon Heyman, who reminds us that Bonds has worked with the Giants in the spring in recent years. And who, no matter what else you can say about him, was one of the greatest hitters the game has ever seen. Also worth remembering that despite his controversial past, that greatness came not just from physical gifts, naturally or artificially bestowed. It came from his approach, preparation and strategy at the plate. No one can teach a hitter to hit like Barry Bonds, but you’d think that hitters could be taught to try to approach an at bat the way Barry Bonds would. And who better to do it than Barry Bonds?

That is, if Bonds is willing to drop his seemingly ideal retired life in San Francisco, move to Miami and work for Jeff Loria for nine months a year. Which, eh, who knows? But the possibility of it is pretty fascinating to think about.

Yadier Molina’s new backup: Cardinals sign Brayan Pena to two-year deal

Brayan Pena Reds
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Veteran catcher Brayan Pena has agreed to a two-year, $5 million contract with the Cardinals, who’re investing much more than usual in their backup for Yadier Molina.

After bouncing around for a decade without getting even 250 plate appearances in a season Pena signed with the Reds and topped 350 plate appearances in both 2014 and 2015. His production didn’t improve any, as Pena hit .263 with five homers and a .652 OPS in 223 games as a regular.

Pena’s best skill is rarely striking out, which enables him to hit for a decent batting average, but he has very little power and swings at everything. He struggled to control the running game this season at age 33, but has a decent throw-out rate for his career.

Making a multi-year commitment to Pena suggests the Cardinals are no longer counting on Molina being the same type of workhorse behind the plate, which certainly makes sense given his age and injury history. Pena will replace Tony Cruz, who’s been Molina’s understudy since 2011 while hitting just .220 with five homers and a .572 OPS in 259 games.

While we wait for free agent signings: Andrew McCutchen stars in a one-act play

Andrew McCutchen
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It’s a pretty slow offseason so far. We’ve had a couple of minor signings. I guess Jordan Zimmermann is sort of a big deal. But it’s a lot more quiet so far this year than it was this time last year. I suppose there’s no real rhyme nor reason for it. Baseball offseason is long, there is no salary cap and thus there’s no rush to do things too quickly.

So, while we wait, here’s Andrew McCutchen doing his best to kill time until spring training starts:

Red Sox sign outfielder Chris Young

Chris Young Getty

Veteran outfielder Chris Young thrived in a platoon role for the Yankees this past season and now he’s headed to the rival Red Sox to fill a similar role, signing a multi-year deal with Boston according to Ken Rosenthal of

Young was once an everyday center fielder for the Diamondbacks, making the All-Star team in 2010 at age 26, but for the past 3-4 years he’s gotten 300-350 plate appearances in a part-time role facing mostly left-handed pitching. He hit .252 with 14 homers and a .773 OPS for the Yankees, but prior to that failed to top a .700 OPS in 2013 or 2014.

Given the Red Sox’s outfield depth–Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Brock Holt even with Hanley Ramirez back in the infield–Young is unlikely to work his way into everyday playing time at age 32, but he should get another 300 or so plate appearances while also providing a veteran fallback option. And it’s possible his arrival clears the way for a trade.