Sorry about the title (and photo to the left), Mets fans. The Mets did sign “a Rod” over the weekend, but it happened to be Rod Barajas, who should take over as the #1 catcher for the Mets this season. After failing to sign other potential #1 catchers, most notably Bengie Molina, the Mets were able to sign Barajas to a one-year deal for a very reasonable dollar amount ($1 million, plus $1 million in incentives). This will allow Josh Thole to play another season in the minor leagues in the hopes that he can be major league ready in 2011.
So what are the pros and cons of the Rod Barajas signing? Let’s start with the pros.
Since the Texas Rangers signed him as a free agent prior to the 2004 season, Barajas has become a good source for extra-base hits, especially from the catchers’ position. He was the #1 catcher for Texas from 2004-2006 and Toronto from 2008-2009 (he had an injury-plagued season for the Phillies in 2007 and only played 48 games for our hated rivals). In the five seasons Barajas was an everyday player, he hit 77 HR (with a career high of 21 HR in 2005), 112 doubles (consistently hitting between 19 and 26 doubles in each of the five seasons) and collected 279 RBI (with a career high of 71 RBI in 2009). An average season for Barajas over those five years meant 22 doubles, 15 HR and 56 RBI. By comparison, the combination of Brian Schneider and Omir Santos hit 25 doubles, 10 HR and collected 64 RBI for the Mets in 2009. The combined total for those two catchers were nearly identical to the numbers produced by Barajas in an average season.
Defensively, Barajas has been consistently good at throwing out would-be base stealers. Over his career, he has nailed 34% of those who have attempted to swipe a base against him. That same percentage was registered by Barajas over each of the past two seasons. Over those same two seasons, which coincide with Brian Schneider’s two years in New York, Schneider also threw out 34% of opposing base stealers. Omir Santos nabbed 30% of the would-be base stealers against him in his one big league season.
Now what is there not to like about Barajas? How about a career .238 batting average and a frighteningly low .284 career OBP? The numbers were even worse last year (.226 batting average, .258 OBP). He has never walked more than 26 times in a single season and has only collected 100 hits in a season once (104 hits in 2005). He also tends to pick up his share of errors. In the five seasons Barajas has been a #1 catcher, he has commited 38 errors (an average of nearly eight errors per season). In those same five seasons, Brian Schneider commited half that total (19 errors). Also, Omir Santos only committed three errors in his one season with the Mets.
Before I end this, I do need to point out that Barajas has fared well against the three teams that finished ahead of the Mets in the NL East last year (Phillies, Marlins, Braves). In 187 career at-bats against those three teams, Barajas has hit .316, with 18 doubles, 13 HR and 35 RBI. Considering he will be seeing those teams more than teams in the NL Central and NL West, those numbers cannot be ignored.
So now that you have the pros and cons, what do you think of the signing? Is this an upgrade over whatever combination of catchers the Mets would have employed? Do you think Barajas will end up helping the team more with his bat or with his defense? Will Barajas be the #1 catcher for the entire 2010 season? The floor is yours, Mets fans! Talk amongst yourselves!