UPDATE: Mets sign Rod Barajas

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Barajas headshot.jpgUpdate: Omar Minaya’s offseason catching cavalcade has finally come to an end. The Mets have come to terms with Rod Barajas to a one-year, $1 million contract. He can take home an additional $1 million in “easily-attainable” incentives.

3:11 PM:
Heyman says Texas has increased their offer to more than $1.5 million, but Barajas is still leaning towards accepting the Mets’ current offer of $1 million guaranteed.

8:41 AM: According to Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports, the Mets have offered free agent catcher Rod Barajas a guaranteed major league contract. Ken Rosenthal first hinted at this possibility late last night.

The game likely changed on the Mets’ side for two reasons:

1) As Rosenthal reported on Friday, the Rangers were offering Barajas $1.5 million if he makes the team out of spring training while the Mets were only offering $1 million, so this would at least guarantee him a roster spot and at least part of his salary for this season, while Barajas would only be a contingency plan in Texas.

2) Jose Molina agreed to a guaranteed contract with the Blue Jays on Friday, which includes a club option for 2011. He’ll either make $1 million or $2 million with the contract. The Mets lost some leverage there.

Barajas would have been a near-lock to make the Mets anyway, almost certainly as the starter, but this would at least take the suspense out of the situation. I have a hard time seeing him turn the deal down.

*By the way, Andrew made an excellent point in our comment section, wondering out loud if the Jays “overpaid” Molina so that the Mets, or someone else, would have to sign Barajas to a major league contract, insuring the Blue Jays will receive draft pick compensation. The Jays did only have one catcher (John Buck) on their 40-man roster before yesterday, so they certainly needed another backstop, but it’s an interesting thought, anyway. 
 

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

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A not-insignificant amount of the Dodgers’ success in recent years has to do with the emergence of Justin Turner. In his first five seasons with the Orioles and Mets, he was a forgettable infielder who had versatility, but no power. The Mets non-tendered him after the 2013 season, a move they now really regret.

In four regular seasons since, as a Dodger, Turner has hit an aggregate .303/.378/.502. His 162-game averages over those four seasons: 23 home runs, 36 doubles, 83 RBI, 80 runs scored. And he’s also a pretty good third baseman, it turns out. The Dodgers have averaged 95 wins per season over the past four years.

Turner, 32, has gotten better and better with each passing year. This year, he drew more walks (59) than strikeouts (56), a club only five other players (min. 300 PA) belonged to, and he trailed only Joey Votto (1.61) in BB/K ratio (1.05). He zoomed past his previous career-high in OPS, finishing at .945. His .415 on-base percentage was fourth-best in baseball. His batting average was fifth-best and only nine points behind NL batting champion Charlie Blackmon.

It doesn’t seem possible, but Turner has been even better in the postseason. He exemplified that with his walk-off home run to win Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs. Overall, entering Wednesday night’s action, he was batting .363/.474/.613 in 97 postseason plate appearances. In Game 4, he went 2-for-2 with two walks, a single, and a solo home run. That increases his postseason slash line to .378/.495/.659, now across 101 plate appearances. That’s a 1.154 OPS. The career-high regular season OPS for future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols was 1.114 in 2008, when he won his third career MVP Award. Statistically, in the postseason, Turner hits slightly better than Pujols did in the prime of his career. Of course, we should adjust for leagues and parks and all that, but to even be in that neighborhood is incredible.

In the age of stats, the concept of “clutch” has rightfully eroded. We don’t really allow players to ascend to godlike levels anymore like the way we did Derek Jeter, for instance. (Jeter’s career OPS in the playoffs, by the way, was a comparatively pitiful .838.) Turner isn’t clutch; he’s just a damn good hitter whose careful approach at the plate has allowed him to shine in the postseason and the Dodgers can’t imagine life without him.