Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Man-crush Alert: Carl Crawford

It's hard for me to describe how much I want Carl Crawford on the Mets next season. It may have crossed the line from liking him as a player to serious man-crush territory. Crawford is everything the Mets need (except for a power-hitting 1B, #2-5 starter, middle relief, manager, GM, competent public relations staff, etc.). The Rays have a $10 mm club option for him in 2010 with a $1.25 mm buyout. It's not secret that the Rays are attempting to move some salary to upgrade some other positions, and with a plethora of young outfielders ready to make the leap to the majors, Crawford seems like the most logical option. They'll likely explore the trade market before buying out his contract, but the Mets should be in the mix either way. It's actually *gasp* possible for him to be a Met next season.

On to the man-crush. Here's a list of reasons why the Mets need him, because lists look important and professional.

  1. Speed. The man can fly around the basepaths and in the outfield. He has amassed 46 or more steals in every full season in his career except last year, an injury riddled campaign that saw him play only 109 games. Prior to this season, he racked up 9 or more triples for 6 straight seasons. Given a modest Citi Field projection, Crawford could hit about 35-40 triples next season in blue and orange. A 1-2 of Reyes and Crawford, followed by RBI machines Wright and Beltran instantly transforms this into one of the most potent offenses in the league. Throw Angel Pagan into right field and the Mets will have to start buying flame-retardant dirt for the infield.
  2. Fielding. The Mets always wanted a team built around speed and defense, but have yet to actually put the product on the field. Though LF is one of the least important positions according to WAR, Crawford would nonetheless be a huge upgrade over Daniel Murphy, Fernando Tatis, Gary Sheffield, Cory Sullivan, and any other (s)crap the Mets have so uncaringly thrown into left field this season. Crawford also has the ability to play CF if Beltran's knees diminish his range significantly at any point, though his sub-par arm is easier to hide in left.
  3. He's exciting to watch. Perhaps this would go under the speed category, but it's still an important consideration. Crawford hitting triple after triple will put butts in the seat. If Jose Reyes ever blossoms into the superstar he sometimes looks like he can be, the Mets will be flashy and energetic. Heck, maybe they can finally have their own identity too, a far departure from the constant need to be like our stuffy, pinstriped cross-town rivals. Anything separating the Mets from the Yankees is a plus in my book, a book entitled "Things That Are Awesome."
  4. He's not Jeff Francouer. Crawford may not be universally known as gritty or hard-nosed or dirty or whatever else you call players with an annoying grin and minimal talent, but he is something that Frenchy is not: GOOD. Why pay $3-5 million (projections) in arbitration for a guy who offers little more than a cool breeze down the first base line as he whiffs at yet another first pitch breaking ball? Spend the extra money (and perhaps prospects, if he needs to be traded for) to get a potential 5-win player.
  5. He's in his prime. Enough with waiting for Fernando Martinez to turn into a stud overnight. Enough with signing guys like Sheffield and Tatis, wishing upon a star that they can return to some shell of their former selves. Enough with trading for "change of scenery" guys like Jeff Francouer, hoping a new team will suddenly make him a player he has never even shown the potential to be. Crawford's time is NOW. No waiting, no hoping, just results. If that isn't the best reason in the world, I don't know what is. If the front office really think the Mets can contend for a title in 2010, this is the kind of move that HAS to be made.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

How Current Mets Fit Into 2010: Relievers

Last day of this segment: the bullpen.

Francisco Rodriguez - K-Rod hasn't really been the same since Luis Castillo single-handedly blew his save against the Yankees. Even so, he has been far from the dominant, reliable closer for whom Omar paid so much. Even worse, if Frankie can reach 2 very easily attainable incentives over the next 2 seasons, his 2012 option for $17.5 million (!) will vest. That's an ungodly amount of money. That's the kind of check you give to an ace pitcher or stud outfielder, not a reliever with spotty control (his 4.99 BB/9 is 6th worst among NL relievers with 50+ IP) and a history of injuries. It will sadly be in the Mets best interest for him to miss an entire season. Frankie will be the Mets closer next year without a doubt, but count me among the fans disgruntled about his ridiculous contract.

Pedro Feliciano - Pedro continues to be one of the best lefty specialists in the league, with a career .215 BAA versus lefties. He has been hurt by homers this year, but he will almost certainly be a valuable asset in the NL East as long as his exposure to righty hitters is limited. He is also incredibly reliable, pitching 78 games in 2007, 84 in 2008, and currently 74 in 2009. Pedro is arbitration eligible this year but should still command a very reasonable salary. The Mets would be foolish to let him go.

Sean Green - Inconsistent garbage who will be 31 next season. He came in as the replacement for Aaron Heilman, so in that respect he has done an excellent job. I don't know which way the Mets will go with Green, but I can't think of a reason to keep him. Middling relievers with career 4.51 ERAs are a dime a dozen, and this one reminds me too much of Heilman for me to not boo when he enters the game. When I'm watching at home. On my computer. The box score, not the live game.

Brian Stokes - Looked like he could turn the corner after a stellar July, but he's been average or worse in every other month. 2008 looks like an aberration for Stokes, as his 2009 numbers are more in line with his career stats. He possesses a plus fastball and a decent breaking ball, but he doesnt miss enough bats for a guy who walks 4.9 per 9 (see: Carlos Marmol, who walks an astounding 8.07 per 9, but also K's 11.13 per 9 and has given up just 1 homer). Stokes turned 30 a few days ago, and it's unlikely he'll be more than an average reliever. Bring him back, but lower your expectations.

J.J. Putz - There really isn't much to go on to make this decision. His $8.6 million club option for 2010 is entirely too much for a setup man, and he clearly will not be closing in New York. The Mets could pick up the option and attempt to trade him to a team in need of a closer, but that's a very risky move, as most teams are not stupid enough to give relievers that much money. My best guess is that Putz will be allowed to walk, and I can't say I'll shed a tear for him.

Elmer Dessens - Here's a short list of MLB pitchers who could approximate Elmer Dessens' skill set: all of them. Don't waste time and money on a 38 year old mop-up guy.

Lance Broadway - Hopefully he'll be back in AAA next year where he belongs. The Castro trade looks like a bigger ripoff every day.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

How Current Mets Fit Into 2010: Starting Pitchers

Day 3 of this segment will look at the many members of this year's Mets starting rotation.

Johan Santana -
Despite what I perceive to be a gradual decline, Santana is still the Mets' ace and one of the best pitchers in the game. I do not think he will be shopped in the offseason even though a prospect package and salary relief would be tremendously beneficial to them. He may not be untradeable anymore, but with the Mets front office perpetually believing they're one piece away from a championship, he'll most likely be our 2010 opening day starter.

Mike Pelfrey - Next season will assuredly be career-defining for Big Pelf. The tall, powerful sinkerballer has been incredibly inconsistent from start to start, and even from inning to inning. For all his obvious talents on the mound, Pelfrey has obvious mental issues. He fidgets constantly, leading to a ridiculous number of balks. He appears detached at times, and other times he will get into a jawing match with a batter for seemingly no reason. If Pelfrey doesn't put it all together next season, it will likely be his last in New York, or at least his last in the rotation.

John Maine - Maine is expected to pitch the last couple of weeks this season, possibly from the bullpen. From there we should know what to expect next season. The Mets still control him in 2010, but whether he can be counted on to fill a rotation spot with his injury history remains to be seen. I like John Maine as a pitcher. He has an aggressive, bulldog mentality on the mound, which I think would be great in a relief role should it come to that. I expect he'll be in the rotation in 2010, but there's a fair chance he'll be sent to the 'pen.

Oliver Perez - What can I say about Perez that hasnt been said every day for the last 4 months? Ollie is a terrible pitcher who will continue to be sent out every fifth day because of his joke of a contract. He makes $12 million each of the next 2 years. I will gladly eat a plate of crow if he puts together a magical season next year, but don't hold your breath. Thinking about Perez in a Met uniform for 2 more years makes me want to throw large fruit off a tall building so I'll leave it at that.

Bobby Parnell - As Parnell himself has so graciously demonstrated, he does not belong in a major league starting rotation. He'll return to a middle relief role next year unless he discovers a treasure chest this winter containing fastball command and off-speed pitches. He'll be an average or maybe above-average reliever with the heat he throws, but he's not rotation-ready quite yet.

Tim Redding - GAG! That's all I have to say. Next please.

Nelson Figueroa -
Figgy has good stuff and has been a decent fill in for a decimated rotation, but he's 35 years old and has never really had an extended period of success in his career. The Mets will probably let him walk. He seems to like New York though, so he could be willing to accept another minor league contract if he can't find a big league gig somewhere else.

Fernando Nieve -
Nieve pitched extremely well in limited action before (surprise) getting hurt. From what I heard, he was pitching with a lot more confidence than he did in Houston, and was more willing to use his off-speed stuff in fastball counts. I think he'll be a good candidate for a long relief role, and he could even sneak into the rotation with a great spring.

Jonathan Niese - Like Nieve, Niese pitched well in his few starts before getting injured. The true shame of it is that this was his chance to prove what he could do in the bigs. A good performance could have cemented him a starting job next season. Don't kid yourself, a hamstring tear is a serious injury. Even if Niese is ready to pitch come spring training, it might take a while to fully recover from that injury, perhaps even a full season. When it's all said and done, I think he'll end up starting for AAA Buffalo in 2010, but like his similarly-named counterpart Nieve, could grab the 4th or 5th rotation spot with a good showing next spring.