After watching other teams sign free agent after free agent, the Mets finally made some headlines with a signing of their own. There will be no more Baywatch in Flushing as the Mets have signed Jason Bay to be their leftfielder for the next four years, pending the obligatory physical.
Seven years after then-Expos GM Omar Minaya traded Jason Bay from Montreal to the Mets, he has brought Bay back to the team that foolishly traded him away with Bobby “I wasn’t the one who pitched the one-hitter in the 2000 NLDS against the Giants” Jones and Josh Reynolds to the San Diego Padres for Jason Middlebrook and Steve Reed. Middlebrook pitched all of 23 innings for the Mets, while Reed had a much longer Mets career, logging 26 innings during his tenure at Shea.
Assuming Bay passes his physical, (he should take it on Friday, when it’s officially 2010. We all know that 2009 wasn’t good for Mets players and doctor’s offices.) he will give the Mets a Bay-Beltran-Francoeur outfield, giving the Mets three legitimate 20+ HR threats in the middle of the order. How rare is that in franchise history? The Mets have NEVER had three outfielders hit 20 or more home runs in the same season.
So with Baywatch off the air, what does Omar Minaya focus on now?
Clearly the first option for the Mets now is acquiring a starting pitcher. After Johan Santana, the rotation is very thin. In 2006, the Mets bashed their way to a division title. The offense carried the team throughout the regular season, but the lack of a dependable pitching staff cost them in the playoffs. In 2006, the Mets used 13 different starting pitchers. Only Tom Glavine and Steve Trachsel were able to make more than 23 starts. The Mets went into the postseason with Glavine, Trachsel, John Maine and Oliver Perez. As of now, the top four starters for the 2010 Mets are Johan Santana (a lefty like Glavine), Mike Pelfrey (a righty like Trachsel) and the aforementioned Maine and Perez, both of which now have an injury history that they didn’t have in 2006.
Although it would be nice to have, the Mets don’t need a Cy Young caliber pitcher to join the rotation. They just need a guy who can give them 200 innings and give them more quality starts than Jose Lima-type outings (Lima was the king of the four-inning start in 2006). Joel Piñeiro would fit that description. So would Jon Garland. Neither pitcher will start an All-Star Game, but both will be able to stay on the mound and keep the team in the game more often than not. Pitchers like Ben Sheets and Erik Bedard are also available, but with their health issues, they’re no lock for pitching 200 innings combined.
The Mets have also been looking into acquiring a first baseman. However, with the signing of Bay, the Mets now have a predominantly righty hitting lineup, as Bay, Francoeur and David Wright all swing from the right side. Perhaps the signing of a power hitter like Bay will allow the Mets to keep the lefty-swinging Daniel Murphy at first base. But judging by the way Mets hitters all developed warning track power instead of home run power once they took residence at Citi Field, they may need another powerful bat at first base in addition to Bay’s lumber in left.
Lefty-hitting first basemen include Adam LaRoche, but he’s a Type B free agent and has only hit more than 25 HR once in his career (136 career HR in 2,877 at-bats). He would also probably look for a multi-year deal. A wiser choice at first might be the lefty-hitting Russell Branyan. He can hit balls out of Yellowstone Park, which might be just enough to get one out of Citi Field. He also has 28 more home runs than LaRoche in his career in 446 fewer at-bats. It’s true that LaRoche’s career .274 batting average is significantly better than Branyan’s .234 average, but the Mets finished tied for the league lead in batting average in 2009 and that didn’t get them anywhere. They tried to “single” the opposition to death and it failed miserably. The Phillies only hit .258 as a team, but because they led the league in home runs, they scored far more runs than the Mets, even though the Mets’ team batting average was .275.
I haven’t forgotten about Carlos Delgado. Like Branyan, he could also be signed to a one-year deal in case Ike Davis is ready to take over at first base in 2011. However, there are still questions about his hip and he should only be signed if he can play winter ball productively and painlessly. Too bad he won’t be playing until mid-January at the earliest.
As of this writing, the Mets are reportedly close to signing Bengie Molina to be their catcher, so that position might be filled soon and will not be discussed in this blog.
I’m glad Omar Minaya was able to get Jason Bay to come to New York. However, this took longer than expected, especially considering that Bay didn’t have a dozen suitors clamoring for his services. If Omar dilly-dallies with starting pitchers and first basemen, the Mets might come to spring training with Jason Bay being their only upgrade (although the potential Molina signing would also count as an upgrade). That might get the Mets back to .500, but it won’t get them anywhere near the Phillies or the wild card. Let’s hope that when the calendar changes, the outlook changes and that the front office can continue to put together a team that can compete for a postseason spot in 2010. The fans won’t accept anything less.