In yet another example of this organization's screwed-up priorities and abiding affinity for proven veterans, the guy who should be the #1 catcher is starting the season on the DL and will return as a backup.
Omar Minaya is under the impresion that Brian Schneider is good enough to be the starting catcher on a major league baseball team. He is mistaken. Schenider can't hit and his ability to control the running game has deteriorated over the past two seasons. He better call a damn good game every time out, otherwise he is one of the more useless players in MLB. Never has the failure of a team to complete a low-level free-agent signing led to such disatrous consequences.
Ramon Castro will still probably end up catching 50 to 60 games this season. He is a much better hitter than Schneider and at least equally adept at cutting down stolen bases, which still doesn't make him even one of the 20 best catchers in the league. Let's not go too crazy over Destro - he's not exactly the next Victor Martinez.
Raul Casanova is the type of guy I always end up with the blind pick at the trading deadline in my Strat-o-Matic. That is to say that Casanova is the type of player who sucks and will never make a positive impact on his team.
No, I didn't forget anyone. The Mets have only five infielders on the roster right now - the consequences of selecting Brady Clark over Fernando Tatis for the final poisition player spot. To say this is a ridiculous state of affairs is an understatement; Damion Easley can't actually field any of the positions he's supposed to be backing up at and isn't much of a hitter to boot. Will anyone be surprised if he puts up a .220/.300/.370 line this season?
Anyway, Carlos Delgado is mercifully entering the final year of his contract - and the Mets are only on the hook for another $20 million! Delgado came to the Mets under the worst of circumstances; one year after spurning the Mets on the free agent market to sign with the Marlins, Florida wisely turned around and dealt him back to Flushing for three prospects. Delgado put up an OPS+ of 161 in his first and only season in Miami and was quite a bargain in the process, making only $4 million in the first season of the back-loaded contract.
Delgado has been underperforming his career numbers ever since being traded to New York and badly faltered last season. Mike Jacobs, one of the three players the Marlins received for, was only slightly worse offensively (103 OPS+ for Delgado, compared to 100 OPS+ for Jacobs) and did so for $14 million less. Simply put, the trade has been a disaster and is not likely to look better in 2008. At this point, the Mets just have to hope Delgado doesn't regress even further; a line of .265/.330/.460 with 25 homers would be acceptable, as long as Carlos can play 150 games.
Luis Castillo is 32 years old, his knees are shot, his speed is disappearing and he has absolutely no extra-base power. At this point, he is little more than a slap-hitting glove man - think Ozzie Smith's best seasons without the stolen base totals and the otherworldly defense. This is a player that most teams would know better than to give a long-term commitment to, especially if they have cheaper second base options in their system (see Gotay, Ruben). The Mets, of course, saw things differently.
This actually isn't a terrible deal. It only takes Castillo through his Age-35 season and he's pretty likely to put up a string of .290/.360/370 seasons through the length of the contract. He's still above average in the field and can probably sneak out 20 stolen bases. They're overpaying, to be sure, but the Mets had no other answers save Gotay and Castillo fits the role of the prototypical #2 hitter very well.
What can I say about David Wright that would provide you a new and unique perspective on him? He's a superstar, period. He's going to put up terrific offensive seasons for the next 10 to 15 years, will hopefully retire as a Met and may be the last person in franchise history to wear #5. High-end projections would include a 30-30 season and a .330/.425/.590 line; even worst-case scenarios would suggest 20 home runs and a .290/.375/.500 line.
Jose Reyes will either become a superstar, or he will become Juan Samuel. The ever-increasing walk rate (27 to 77 in just three seasons) is the most promising indicator that he will avoid the Samuel career path. He's never going to hit like Hanley Ramirez did in 2007, but Reyes' defense is light years ahead of Ramirez and his range is among the best in the game at his position, so a solid argument can be made in favor of Jose over Hanley. I think that he could put up a string of offensive seasons reminiscent of a late-1980s Rickey Henderson.
Damion Easley should not be backing up all four infield positions on a Major League Baseball team. An injury to Delgado, Wright or Reyes would be extremely catastrophic as the Mets lack any semblance of a credible major leaguer to replace them.
Who knows how many games Moises Alou will play this season? He'll smack the cover off the ball whenever he's healthy, though, and if the Mets can keep him standing long enough to play October baseball, they will be extremely tough to beat in a playoff series. For now, Spring Training phenom Angel Pagan will man left field until Alou can return; he'll be ready for release by June 1, because he is a terrible baseball player.
Carlos Beltran has devolved from the five-tool talent we were promised in 2004 to something resembling Andruw Jones. He's a nice cleanup hitter and a terrific center fielder with the glove, but he's not a leader in the clubhouse and he's not worth $18.5 milion for each of the next four years.
As distraught as I am to lose Lastings Milledge, I like Ryan Church. He's a decent outfielder who can play all three positions and is a pretty good hitter to boot. If he can shore up his performance against lefties, Church has the potential to be a very good #6 hitter - I'm thinking Kevin McReynolds with a few more doubles and a few less home runs.
The Mets really should have a right-handed bat on the roster who can serve as a platoon partner for Church. Instead, the Mets have Pagan and Brady Clark. Sigh.
Endy Chavez is an excellent fifth outfielder, because like Church he plays all three outfield positions. Chavez, however, can steal 30 bases and excels in the field - the fact that he can't hit much is exposed whenever he gets extended playing time. Limit him to 250 at-bats and lots of appearances as a pinch runner/defensive replacement, and everyone will be happy.
Summing Up: The first four batters in the lineup (Reyes, Castillo, Wright and Beltran) can stake a claim for being the best quartet in the National League. Castillo is ultimately a below-average hitter, but fits the lineup well because Willie Randolph will only ask him to do the tasks associated with prototypical #2 hitters. (There's that phrase again; I'm going to be addressing it soon enough.)
Alou is still dangerous when healthy, but Delgado's reputation is more dangerous than his bat. Church and Schneider will round out the everyday lineup; Church will hit, Schneider will not. Moises really is the key to the offense, because when he's healthy he makes the Mets a very difficult lineup to contend with. Replace him with Chavez or Pagan and you've got the potential to get five straight outs every time Beltran completes his at-bat.
By the way, the sooner the Mets release Clark and sign a right-handed 3B/1B who can spell Delgado against lefties, the better.