Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Roster Move: Mets Add Reliever

I know I've been a little behind in posting, but late August is a terribly busy time for me. It's worth going back and speaking a little bit about the Luis Ayala acquisition, which Omar Minaya has been trying to pull off for much of the summer.

Ayala, you may remember, is the pitcher who ruined his elbow at the World Baseball Classic and ended up missing the entire 2006 season. At the time he was making a name for himself as an inning-eating middle reliever who was routinely racking up 20 holds a year for the Montreal/Washington franchise. (Yes, I know holds are a stupid statistic, but it's hard to find good ones for middle relievers and it gives you a description of how Ayala was being used.)

He returned to the mound last June and pitched reasonably well, but the wheels have fallen off in 2008. Earlier in his career Ayala could not get lefties out, but as he has evolved as a pitcher he has become equally effetive (or ineffective) regardless of what side of the plate the batter stands on.

The Mets are betting that a change of scenery will do the trick. It's good that he is not a specialist, because the Mets' bullpen has too many of those, but it's unrealistic to expect him to step in and be an effective set-up man or closer down the stretch. It's a good low-risk move, especially since Minaya can non-tender Ayala after the season if he proves to be a bust.

The deal was meant to be Ayala for a "player to be named later," but for some reason the Nationals decided to name him sooner. Anderson Hernandez is a name that should be vaguely familiar to Mets fans; he has made brief appearances with the big club in each of the three previous seasons. This year has been atrocious at Triple-A New Orleans and has been passed on the mythical depth chart by any number of players, including Dan Murphy and Argenis Reyes. There's little reason to believe Hernandez will become anything more than a slick fielding, no-hit middle infield backup.

Eddie Kunz was demoted to make room on the major league roster for Ayala. No shame in that - he's young and although he's not ready to pitch in the majors yet, he should be down in the minor leagues working on an out pitch to lefties. With any luck he can turn in a Joe Smith-like performance in 2009.

(Oh, and Billy Wagner is on the DL, Carlos Muniz was sent to the minors when John Maine returned from the DL last week and Brian Stokes made a spot start and then moved into the long man role in the bullpen. That should get us all caught up.)

Let's take a look at the active roster now:

Johan Santana
Oliver Perez
Mike Pelfrey
Pedro Martinez
John Maine

Aaron Heilman
Duaner Sanchez
Pedro Feliciano
Scott Schoeneweis
Joe Smith
Brian Stokes
Luis Ayala
Billy Wagner (closer) - DL

Brian Schneider
Ramon Castro
Robinson Cancel

Carlos Delgado
Damion Easley
David Wright
Jose Reyes
Argenis Reyes
Luis Castillo-DL

Daniel Murphy
Nick Evans
Carlos Beltran
Fernando Tatis
Endy Chavez
Marlon Anderson - DL
Ryan Church - DL

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