A week into the season, Ryan Church was raking doubles and Daniel Murphy was the new hotness. Five weeks later, Mets fans are looking at a much different scenario. Church has seemingly fallen out of favor with Jerry Manuel and Murphy has been unacceptably bad in left field.
Many thought that Manuel would use Murphy to spell Delgado at first base and potentially groom him for a future at the position. However, that hasn’t happened. To this point, Daniel Murphy has played 8 innings at first base (with another start coming tonight) and Carlos Delgado is on the DL for at least two months. Manuel has gone to Jeremy Reed in Delgado’s place, who had played all of one inning at first base before this season. Luckily, Sheff is filling in admirably in the field. While that is a positive for the Mets, it also means that the 500 Home Run Club Member will have less in the tank come September and October. What does all of this mean? It means that Omar Minaya needs to make a move sooner rather than later.
Unfortunately for the Mets, it’s not very easy to stumble upon a stud outfielder or first baseman. That being said, it makes the most sense to get a role player at this point. They don’t need to shake up the clubhouse by adding an ego and I also don’t think it’s worth ravaging the farm system for a quick fix. The Mets would be best served acquiring a wait-and-see player that will fill in adequately or that has decent upside. Shooting for the stars will only make the gamble more risky.
THE FRANCESA BUNCH
These are the players that have been mentioned on Francesa’s radio show. I think Nick Johnson is the only guy that he’s latched onto as a candidate. The players listed here are too expensive for the most part. Even so, none of these guys are really a lock for success.
Mark De Rosa - Chicago Cubs
BLS writer John has already covered De Rosa and I agree with the assessment. He’s a utility player … a very average utility player. The Mets can do better than to pay to get this guy.
Brad Hawpe – Colorado Rockies
I really like Hawpe, but I don’t see how he fixes anything for the Mets. It’s also doubtful that the Rockies would give up their best hitter for any reasonable price.
Garrett Atkins – Colorado Rockies
Atkins is solid but unspectacular. He’s even less spectacular outside of Coors with a career .256 average on the road. There’s really no reason for the Mets to target Atkins unless he’s simply filler. Atkins is 29 and he may have already peaked.
Matt Holliday – Oakland Athletics
Holliday has one year with the A’s to try to max out the value of his next contract. However, he’s yet to prove that he can hit for power outside of Coors. Oakland isn’t a great hitters park, so we’ll give him a pass on the power numbers — for now. In his career year (2007), Holliday slugged a massive .607 with a 1.012 OPS and last year he had a .538 slugging % with a .947 OPS. This year he’s slugging a mere .428 with only 5 doubles (one less than Church, one more than Murphy). So it’s not just the homers that are missing. Holliday might be the worst choice out of all of these players with the highest price and lowest upside.
Adam Dunn – Washington Nationals
He might actually fit well in the lineup with his big bat and high OBP. He’s an excellent player but a less-than-great target for the Mets. The Nats will want blue chip prospects if they’re going to trade away the only reason for people in DC to come to the park.
Nick Johnson – Washington Nationals
Nick the Stick is no stranger to New York and he’s probably the best fit that I’ve heard mentioned on Francesa. He’s finally healthy after a lost season and is off to one of the best starts in his career. I like Nick Johnson a lot as a target for the Mets since he’s consisent and is relatively low cost in terms of trade value and contract. But don’t look now, the Red Sox (Mike Francesa’s favorite team) have been scouting Johnson. Apparently, they like him as an insurance plan for Kevin Youkilis who has been dealing with the must-have-injury-of-2009: an oblique injury.
We like these guys because they’re economical. Who knows… the Mets could even end up with a solid major leaguer out of this group. The common themes here are “cheap” and “versatile”. If Met fans are disappointed with Murphy, I’m even more about backlash if they acquire a player with high expectations.
Chad Tracy – Arizona Diamondbacks
Tracy has been pretty close to awful this year, but he has been a very productive player in the past. “Opposite Field Tracy” was hobbled the last couple seasons by injuries to both knees. He’s battled his way back but, at 29, finds himself out of a starting gig. Tracy has started 22 games at 1B this year and started 65 games there last year.
Dallas McPherson - San Francisco Giants
McPherson, a former super prospect, hit 42 bombs in the minors last year after missing 2007 due to back surgery. He’s a third baseman but also has played first in the past. The Mets also could’ve had him for free as he was waived by the Marlins earlier this year. He was subsequently signed by the Giants and will join the Fresno Grizzlies after completing extended spring training. He’s already almost 29, but he’s also a career .296 hitter in the minors with 150 bombs in 2273 ABs. His longest stint in the majors was 61 games in 2004. As long as there aren’t unrealistic expectations, this guy could be a decent substitute for Delgado.
Ryan Shealy – Kansas City Royals
Much Like McPherson, Shealy is a guy that has always killed in the minors but never really made it to the show. He’s been up and down the past few years and is now essentially been blocked by Billy Butler. Shealy’s scattered stints in the majors pretty much add up to a full season and his numbers are solid. In 164 career games, he’s hit 19 homers with 94 RBI with a .271 average and has only committed 5 errors. Shealy turns 30 in August.
Billy Butler – Kansas City Royals
It would probably be tough to get Butler from the Royals since they’re kinda sorta in the hunt (for now). He’s also one of the few productive offensive players on KC and is only 23. It’s unlikely that he’s available or his price tag is probably too high, but he could be a good fit for the Mets.
Chris Duncan – St. Louis Cardinals
Duncan’s back problems seem to be behind him and he’s a guy with pretty good power. He’s never been a full-time first basemen but does play the position. He also plays outfield and that flexibility will come in handy if/when Delgado returns from the DL. The Cards have been rotating 4 outfielders (Rasmus, Ludwick, Ankiel, Duncan) so he could be a bargain.
I’m hopeful that Minaya will pursue one of the low-risk, high-reward options. The way I see it, the Mets need a player for the next two months that will be decent but not great. I actually don’t see Delgado coming back to play full time even when he returns from the DL. So the best fit would be a player who could learn from Delgado while splitting time with him in the last couple months of the season (and potentially into 2010).
The price tag and the potential for (perceived) failure is too high with a star-level player. For that reason, the Mets must seek a bargain. I think the ideal scenario for the Mets would be to acquire a player like Russell Branyan for practically nothing. Shealy and McPherson are a lot like him. Branyan languished as a strike-out prone power hitter that got his shot with a near full-time gig in 2001. The Indians decided that his 294 Ks in 807 plate appearances were too much to stomach and was dealt to Cincinnati for Ben Broussard. Six teams and seven years later, the 34 year old Branyan is hitting .310 with 10 homers for Seattle. Similarly, Carlos Pena also didn’t break out until he was 29. Obviously, these are best case scenarios and it’s unlikely that the Mets’ situation will pan out this way. There are also options like Duncan and Tracy who are flexible and have been good hitters in the past. Acquiring a player like that gives the Mets more flexibility down the line with the potential for a pleasant surprise.