16 December 2002

Musical Mets Infielders...

A lot has happened in the last day or so. Two Mets infielders are now former Mets infielders, as Rey Ordonez was traded to Tampa Bay, and Edgardo Alfonzo has signed a four-year, $26 million contract with the SF Giants to play second or third base or maybe both, meaning that another former Mets infielder, Jeff Kent, probably won't be playing either position for the Giants again any time soon.

Among the many, sadly hilarious quotes coming from the front office of the woefully inept Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Devil Rays general manager Chuck LaMar said, "He is one of the finest defensive shortstops I've ever seen play." Apparently LaMar doesn't get out much, because despite popular belief, it turns out that Saint Rey isn't a particularly fine defensive shortstop at all, as is shown by his defensive stats available from Baseball Prospectus. Flashy? Absolutely. Good? No, not really. Or at least not great. According to Prospectus, Ordonez, in his best season (1997) saved about eleven runs more than an average major league shortstop would have saved, after adjustijng for league, park, pitching staff, the air-speed velocity of an un-laden swallow, and shoe size. Eleven. Not bad, but not great. For comparison's sake, widely acknowledged defensive shortstop extraordinaire Ozzie Smith only had two seasons in his career in which he saved fewer than eleven runs above the average (out of sixteen years in which he played at least 100 games). Not that he has to be Ozzie Smith, but heck, if you're gonna "hit" (and I use the term loosely) like that, you've gotta be contributing somnething pretty spectacular on the defensive side of things to justify making $6 million per year. The AP story also said,

Ordonez batted just .254 with one homer and 42 RBI last season and was one of the fans' biggest targets as the Mets finished in last place.

Listen, the Mets stank on ice last year, but blaming Rey Ordonez for not hitting enough is like suing McDonald's for making your kids fat. You knew better, you were just too lazy to do anything about it.

Also, as I mentioned earlier, Alfonzo's signing with the Giants means that Kent's days of protecting Barry Bonds are likely over, unless he's hired as Barry's personal bodyguard. Kent is rumoured to be going to several places, including Los Angeles and the Cubs. What's surprising is how little apparent interest ther is in a secondbaseman who has averaged .290/25/110 RBI with 90+ Runs and solid defense, plate discipline, over 550 plate appearances and just about everything else you'd want since 1997. Granted, he'll be 35 on opening day next year, but you'd think that there would be more teams vying for his services.

Alfonzo has had some trouble staying healthy the last few years, but when he's right, he's one of the better hititng thirdbasemen in the majors, and he'll be an even better hitting 2B, relatively speakng. He's just gotta stay helathy, which is like saying that we've just gotta find those weapons of mass destruction, and everything will be OK.

And yet another former Mets infielder, Todd "Good Housekeeping" Zeile, may be close to signing a on-year, $1.5 million deal with the Yankees. This is one of those moves that rings of the meddlesome King George. Zeile is old (37), not a good defensive player, has never scored 90 runs or hit .300 in a season, has only once hit more than 25 homers or driven in 100 runs, and will cost them $1.5 million. He hasn't even had what you'd call a decent year with the bat since 1999, when he hit .293/.354/.488 with Texas. Last year, whenever he wasn't in Coors Field, he hit a pathetic .233/.291/.353. Yuk. Those are bad numbers for Rey Ordonez, much less a designated hitter or firstbaseman. Besides, the Yankees already have the best hitting 1B in the AL, now that Jim Thome's a Phillie, in Jason Giambi, and one of the more patient, promising young hitters in baseball backing him up, in Nick Johnson. And Steinbrenner has the nerve to cancel people's dental plans while complaining about the new CBA.

A couple of non-Met firstbasemen changed teams on Sunday as well. Actually, they're DH's forced into 1B/LF roles on National League teams, now given the chance to fullfill their callings as designated hitters. Erubiel Durazo, the erstwhile Arizona Diamondback was traded to the Oakland Athletics despite (get this) hitting 36 homers, driving in 119, and scoring 115 runs in 593 at-bats last year! ...and the year before...and the year before that. Combined. Durazo can hit, no question about that, but can he stay in the lineup? Perhaps being on a team where he can play DH will allow him to stay healthier. This is just the kind of guy that Oakland GM Billy Beane loves: In his prime (28), cheap, gets on base, hits for power, worries about catching the ball after he watches his Soaps. It just surprises me that the Diamondbaks waited so long to trade him, especially after signing Mark Grace to play 1B before the 2001 season. It looks like Arizona got the worst of this deal, giving up a productive, cheap hitter, in his prime, and getting only some money (about $1 million, total) and a 30-year old pitcher with a 4.29 career ERA, a losing record, and enough seasons to justify a big pay raise soon. Toronto gives up Felipe Lopez, a SS prospect about whom some people are pretty excited, to Cincinatti, but they get two pretty good prospects from Oakland in return: OF John Ford Griffin and RHP Jason Arnold, both of whom came to Oakland in the Ted Lilly trade from the Yankees. Lopez is expected to eventually succeed Barry Larkin as the Reds' everyday shortstop, but then, so was Pokey Reese. And Gookie Dawkins. And Adam Everett. So I'll believe it when I see it.

The other masher to change teams on Sunday was Jeremy Giambi, who was traded to the BoSawx for minor-league RHP Josh Hancock. I won't sing Giambi's praises anymore, as I have already done so here (when I complained about the Jim Thome signing). I'm just glad he'll have an opportunity to play everyday with Boston. But if he hits like I think he will, Josh Hancock is going to be the second coming of Jim Bunning to make the Phillies look like anything short of complete fools for spending $87 million on, essentially, the same production they could have had for one-tenth of that.

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