In Newsday, David Lennon posted an interesting article about the possibility of Godzilla coming ashore in Flushing next season. I hope Omar Minaya doesn’t read that article. We don’t need him to get inspired by it.
The Mets need a power hitter who can play left field or first base. Hideki Matsui hit 28 HR for the Yankees in only 456 at-bats, but almost every one of his at-bats came as a designated hitter, as his balky knees prevented him from playing his customary left field position. The guy’s knees are so fragile that he can hurt them just by swinging too hard, as the picture to the left suggests.
Matsui has had both of his knees repaired surgically and he is 35 years old. Citi Field has far more room to cover in left field and higher walls to contend with. There is no way Matsui could handle it at this stage of his career without looking foolish or getting hurt.
First base is another story. His knees might be able to handle it, but will his glove? He has no experience playing first base, but then again, Daniel Murphy wasn’t a first baseman either and he filled in quite nicely at the position from a defensive standpoint. However, Murphy’s club-leading 12 HR were far less than the team would like at a position where power hitters normally play.
Matsui is coming off a 4-year, $52 million contract. Although he will surely have to settle for far less money and years, he will still probably get a contract with an average annual value of $8 million or so. Adam LaRoche is younger, does not have the injury history Matsui has and won’t be that much more expensive than Matsui (LaRoche made slightly over $7 million in 2009 and will probably be looking for a contract that averages about $10 million annually).
If the Mets don’t mind signing an older player with an injury history, they might as well re-sign Carlos Delgado for a year. If they want a hitter with good power but don’t want to make a trade (such as for Prince Fielder), then Adam LaRoche is the way to go. However, what about the incumbent first baseman, Daniel Murphy?
He started swinging a more powerful bat after the calendar flipped to September. Over the team’s last 30 games, Murphy hit .293 with 5 HR and 17 RBI. He also added 10 doubles and two triples over the same time period. His .586 slugging percentage and .897 OPS over the last month of the season were comparable to the stats expected from a power-hitting first baseman. It would be foolish to project a full season for Murphy based on 30 games worth of data, but it also isn’t unreasonable to suggest that he can turn into a 20 HR, 80-90 RBI player next season, especially if he has Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran getting on base in front of him for the entire season.
The best part about Murphy is that he’ll only be 25 by Opening Day and his salary is well under $1 million. I say keep Murphy at first base to see if the power develops and if it doesn’t develop in 2010, then the Mets should consider acquiring a power-hitting first baseman for the 2011 season. That year’s free agent class is far more attractive and includes more legitimate power hitters such as Lance Berkman, Derrek Lee and Carlos Peña, to name a few. Of course, it’s also possible Ike Davis might be ready for the majors in 2011, assuming he’s not traded by then.
If Murphy stays at first base next season, then the Mets can use the money they saved by not signing a free-agent first baseman and use it on a power hitter to fill the left field position. As much as I like Angel Pagan, I do understand the need for an extra home run threat in the lineup. Angel Pagan cannot fill that role. If the National League had a DH rule, Hideki Matsui would be fine. However, since he’d have to play the field, he should have a big red “X” over his name. I don’t really have a clear-cut favorite for the position, but I definitely have a “do not sign” card over one of the options.
To the front office, I beg you. Please do not even consider signing Hideki Matsui unless if you’re secretly trying to reenact the movie “Major League” by signing players who you think will make this team worse. The Mets still have fans who care about the product you’re putting on the field and would like you to use some common sense every once in a while. Thank you.