Thursday, October 30, 2008

Roster Move: Tatis Signs One-Year Deal

I already gave my opinion on Fernando Tatis's new one-year deal in the previous post. Throughout the off-season, I'm going to update a projected 40-man roster based on whatever moves the Mets make between now and Spring Training. So far, this will simply be a list of players already under contract for 2009, with free agents who were on the 40-man roster in 2008 listed below. I'm not 100 percent sure who is arbitration eigible and who is simply renewable; let me know if I make a mistake.

Johan Santana
Mike Pelfrey
John Maine (arbitration eligible)
Jon Niese (renewable)

Scott Schoeneweis
Aaron Heilman (arbitration eligible)
Pedro Feliciano (arbitration eligible)
Duaner Sanchez (arbitration eligible)
Brian Stokes (renewable)
Joe Smith (renewable)
Eddie Kunz (renewable)
Carlos Muniz (renewable)
Robert Parnell (renewable)

Brian Schneider
Ramon Castro
Robinson Cancel (renewable)

Luis Castillo
David Wright
Jose Reyes
Daniel Murphy (renewable)
Argenis Reyes (renewable)

Carlos Beltran
Ryan Church (arbitration eligible)
Endy Chavez
Marlon Anderson
Fernando Tatis
Angel Pagan (renewable)
Nick Evans (renewable)

Carlos Delgado
Pedro Martinez
Moises Alou
Orlando Hernandez
Oliver Perez
Luis Ayala
Matt Wise
Tony Armas, Jr.
Damion Easley
Brady Clark
Ramon Martinez
Trot Nixon
Abraham Nunez
Ricardo Rincon
Ambiorix Burgos (arbitration eligible)
Jason Vargas (renewable)
Adam Bostick (minor league free agent)
Nelson Figueroa (minor league free agent)
Brandon Knight (renewable)
Gustavo Molina (minor league free agent)
Billy Wagner (out for 2009 season)

I'll Be The Judge: Fernando Tatis

2008 Season: Anytime you win the Comeback Player of the Year award, you can be sure that you had a good campaign. Tatis was out of baseball for two full seasons before signing with the Baltimore organization in 2006. He spent all of 2007 in New Orleans and only made it to the big league roster because of injuries and ineffectiveness among Met outfielders.

But once he made it to New York, what an impact Tatis had. He quickly gained a reputation for clutch performances, knocking several game-winning hits and cementing his place with the big club once Moises Alou and Angel Pagan were lost for the season. A third baseman in the early part of his career, Tatis deserves credit for remaking himself into a utility player in the minor leagues. He'll never be confused for a Gold Glove fielder, but Tatis saw time at all four corner positions this season and only looked truly awful in a few appearances at first base. He mostly played in the outfield and before a September injury ended his season, swung a respectable bat whenever he was placed in the lineup. n all, Tatis was a very pleasant surprise.

Contract Status: The Mets will be bringing Tatis back next season, signing him to a one-year contract earlier today.

The Verdict: This is a typical Omar Minaya move - lock down another veteran who shows a modicum of competence coming off the bench. I don't think that the general manager understands that just because you can sometimes catch lightning in a bottle, it doesn't mean you can bottle it for future use. That said, I guess I'm happy it was only a one-year deal and not a two-year contract like the ones Minaya once gave Julio Franco and Marlon Anderson. How did those deals work out, Mr. Undeserved Four-Year Extension?

2009 Outlook: Tatis will be a right-handed bat off the bench who can play corner infield or corner outfield positions. I seriously doubt that he will hit at anywhere near his 2008 level of production and he will probably be a candidate for a mid-season release.

I'll Be The Judge: Johan Santana

2008 Season: If the 2008 season ended on August 15, Johan Santana's maiden voyage with the Mets would've been considered a disappointment.

After 25 starts, Santana was 10-7 with a 2.89 ERA and a 1.173 WHIP - a far cry from his full-season numbers over the previous four campaigns with the Minnesota Twins. A 2.89 ERA is generally nothing to sneeze at, unless the pitcher putting up that number had already been doing so regularly in the American League. The WHIP was even more alarming - Santana was allowing more baserunners per inning than at any time in his career since 2002. It speaks volumes of how much Mets fans were expecting from Santana - if any other starter in the New York rotation put up those kinds of numbers the fans would've been trumpeting him as a Cy Young candidate.

A three-hit shutout against the Pirates on August 17 began a nine-game stretch during which Santana was the best pitcher in the league and cemented his bid for pitching's top prize. As Rome burned around him, Santana continued to provide Mets fans hope every time he took the ball. His complete game shutout on the second-to-last day of the season should go down as one of the clutch pitching performances in franchise history. It was a joy to watch.

The final numbers - 16-7 with a 2.53 ERA and a 1.148 WHIP - would've looked even prettier had the bullpen not blown so many games that Santana left tied or in the lead. The ERA was right in line with what you would've expected from a transition into a non-DH league, but the WHIP remained surprisingly high based on Santana's last five seasons. A few more hits and a few more walks will do that to you; the Mets will have to hope that Santana has not peaked a little earlier than expected and that the WHIP will return to the 0.950 to 1.050 range next season.

Contract Status: 5 years and $113 million remaining ($21 million in 2009), with a $25 million option for the 2014 season.

The Verdict: Are you kidding me? Santana is the ace of the staff and proved his mettle at a time where most of his teammates failed to do so. He should capably anchor the rotation for the next five seasons and may be a candidate for a second multi-year deal when this one expires in 2013. He is a legitimate #1 starter and one of the five best pitchers in the National League.

2009 Projection: A similar ERA (2.50 to 2.75) with a slightly lower WHIP (in the 1.100 range). If the bullpen stops blowing leads, Santana could win 20 games and a Cy Young Award.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Off-Season Schedule

It's taken 10 days for me to come back to my blog, but I'm ready to begin writing again.

I will be updating throughout the off-season, with a in-depth look at the current 40-man roster (as of October 1, 2008) and its future with the team, as well as any signs, tradings or roster moves. The basic format for the player analysis pieces will include a recap of their 2008 season, predictions for the future and my opinion about whether or not they should remain in the organization.

You might be surprised to hear that I do not think a lot of personnel change is needed. There are certain obvious player additions and subtractions that would benefit the team in 2009, but I think the more necessary change is a philosophical one. The mindset of how this organization is run is what continues to hamstring it - overpaying in free agency for mid-30s veterans, focusing on multi-year deals for established starters instead of holding open competitions for spots once in a while, building a bench entirely of washed-up has-beens instead of giving chances to a young player or someone who was blocked by another organization. These are the things I'll be focusing on during the off-season, even though I realize that ultimately I will be tilting at windmills.

I also hope to get back to some of the theoretical stuff I was writing about earlier in the 2008 season. One of the things I love about baseball is that there are so many strategies, both tested and untested, that can lead to success. Conventional wisdom, more often than not, is the enemy of innovative strategy. I love dissecting the conventional wisdom on certain topics and thinking about new and better ways to succeed. Expect to see a few long-form pieces on these subjects over the next few months.

I root for the New York Mets, but I do not like them. In fact, I have not truly liked them for several years now. I will always be a fan, but there is a perverse side of me that enjoys watching the organization continue to be punished for its failure to innovate. The last two seasons have been particularly excruciating - not just because of the devastating collapses that denied the team of playoff berths, but also because the people who run the franchise simply do not seem to understand that something is fundamentally wrong here.

There IS something fundamentally wrong with the New York Mets. In fact, there are quite a few fundamental problems with this organization. Let's use the next six months to discuss what these problems are, and together let's start coming up with the solutions.

In the end, I want more than just a baseball team to follow. I want a baseball team that I can root for.