A Look at First Base, Pros and Cons
Let me start this off by saying, I don't see anyone who is available that is an absolute perfect fit for the this team at first base who is just what they need in terms of age, production, etc. Each player has their positives with their negatives. The rumor mill and common sense basically leaves seven candidates that could conceivably win the starting first base job in 2005. It basically boils down to Richie Sexson, Carlos Delgado, Doug Mientkiewicz, John Olerud, Tino Martinez, Kevin Millar, and Craig Brazell (you can stick a Phillips/Valent or Phillips/Brazell platoon here too). I only place Craig Brazell in this list because we all need some comic relief and he is an in house option if a complete disaster were to take place this off season for Omar. I really feel that Minaya will walk away with one person from the first six on the list and I think everyone else feels that way too.
I was not going to post this until next week, but since MetsBlog.com did their piece on first base yesterday coupled with the fact some candidates could fall off the list pretty soon, it seemed like as good as time as any to really take a look at each candidate. Before today the only guy really examined here was Richie Sexson. So skip him if you want.
Estimated 2005 Salary: $10 million
Pros: Since 1999, Richie has averaged 558 at bats, 88 runs, 27 doubles, 36 homers, 112 RBIs, a .270 average, .350 OBP, and a .523 SLG. The guy will drive in his runs and hit his homeruns. Also, like Richard Hidalgo, when he hits homeruns, he punishes the ball. He makes the ball with it was never stitched so I don't anticipate his power numbers suffering at Shea. He is a guy who can still hit 40 out in Flushing and would provide the Mets with a perfect cleanup hitter. Prior to getting injured, he only missed seven games in three years from 2001 to 2003 so his health history is pretty good. He has a better glove than most give credit for and he is a nice big target for the infield to hit at 6'8". He basically gets to balls others could not just by being a giant. Richie has raised his OBP in each of the last three years and went from 59 to 60 to 70 to 98 walks in consecutive years and seems to be learning how to take a walk. Surprisingly enough, he is also the youngest option out of anyone not named Craig Brazell on this list.
Since 1998, he has also averaged 148 K's per season and does not hit as many doubles as one would like and averaged only 27 over his last five full seasons. Richie is also a lifetime .271 hitter and one would expect his average to fall into the .260 range. Sexson will also be offered arbitration and will cost a draft pick. Perhaps the biggest problem with Richie is the fact he is coming of a major shoulder injury that limited him to 23 games in 2004. He hurt his shoulder checking a swing and his shoulder is certainly of concern despite the fact he has had no major injury history.
Estimated 2005 Salary: $10 million
Carlos is arguably the most potent offensive weapon on the free agent market out of anyone. He's a left handed bat and he's a masher who can hit for average, power, and get on base well over a .400 clip. Since 2000, he has averaged 535 at bats, 102 runs, 37 doubles, 37 homeruns, 118 RBIs, 109 walks, a .296 average, a .424 OBP, and a .578 SLG. He is the only free agent that comes close to a 1.000 OPS since 2000 with a .997 OPS. The guy is a monster and a big time hitter who the Mets could plug into the #3 spot in the order and receive some big time production. Despite playing in the American League with the DH, he has not played under 140 games at first since 1998 with the exception of last year with his injury. From 2000 through 2003 he averaged only 9.5 games either spent on the bench or at DH. Finally, though he's rumored to have an iron glove, he has not posted below a .990 fielding % since 1997. He is better than he gets credit for and would not be a liability there.
He is 32 years old and would be looking for a medium length contract most likely 3 or 4 years. By the time he finishes out his contract at Shea, he'll be 36 or 37. Although he said he'd stand during God Bless America if asked, he has made his protest of the war known by not saluting Old Glory. It's his right to protest, but I would suggest protesting at a time that may not tick off your teammates and do anything to jeopardize the cohesiveness on the team. Unlike many other players, Carlos declined getting traded to a contender when approached by JP Richardi around the trade deadline prompting questions about his desire to win. Lastly, like Sexson, he is coming off an year where he missed significant amount to time. The good news on his injury is that it was a strained rib cage and not something chronic which Sexson's could be. He absolutely pounded the ball in September and looks to be fully recovered for 2005.
2005 Salary $3.75M with a $ 0.45M buyout or a $3.75M option for 2006
Doug's best asset is obviously his glove. He is a perennial gold glove candidate and has not committed more than five errors in any year he has played. I'm not going to call Doug a bargain since he is a defensive specialist for the most part, but is priced fairly. Doug has a .279 average and a .371 OBP since he has become a full time starter in 2001 while not striking out much. Doug is also a lefty which people seem to think is important.
While I think there is some merit to finding a left handed bat at first base, it is by no means taking precedent over numbers. For instance, Richie Sexson has a higher batting average (however slightly) against left handers and right handers than Dougie. If a lefty does not kill righties and is marginal overall, give me the righty with better numbers and an over stacked right handed lineup. Doug posted a career low OPS with .676 in 2004 and his OPS since he's been a starter is .789 while he has only knocked over 70 RBIs and scored 70 runs once in his career. He has averaged 63 runs, 33 doubles, 11 homeruns, 60 RBIs, and 66 BBs since becoming full time player. I just think the Mets need a bigger spark at first than him. He is also rather streaky. In 2001 and 2003 he went .306/.387/.464 and /.300/.393/.450 while going .261/.365/.392 and .238/.326/.350 in 2002 and 2004. The 2001/2003 Doug would be a better fit than the 2002/2004 Doug. Does anyone want to bet their house that he'll bounce back to form Shea? While he wields a great glove, an Eric Valent/Jason Phillips may be able to put up better numbers than Doug if he moved to Shea. To be honest, I'm not sure why so many people are so enamored with Doug and it will take players via a trade to get him. He's got the glove, but plenty of other people on this list can bring an average to an above average glove and help more on the offensive end which is a glaring need at this point.
Estimated 2005 Salary: $3.5 million
Like Doug, he has a tremendous glove. He has only topped 10 errors once in his career and only topped six errors five times since 1989. He has averaged 74 runs, 32 doubles, 15 homeruns, 86 RBIs, 88 BBs, 64K's, a .284 AVG, .387 OBP, .433 SLG, and .820 OPS since 2000. He's basically an older version of what Doug M. It must be noted that Olerud was putting those numbers up in one of toughest hitters parks in the league. Olerud is also a well respected professional and an ex-Met who had some of his best years in a baseball uniform in Flushing. Olerud also bats lefty and will cost nothing to get him since he is a free agent.
He's 36 and his best days are behind him. His average has fallen from .300 to .269 to .259 in the past three years while his homers and RBIs have been drastically down. The Mets would certainly not be expecting much from him in terms of offense and would most likely be a last resort for them although I think him and Doug may actually put up similar numbers in Shea in 2005 for about the same price, but John won't cost anything in terms of trade bait.
Estimated 2005 Salary: $5 million
Another left handed batting first baseman with a solid glove. Tino has only reached 10 errors once in his career and topped five errors only four times since 1990. Tino was only .010 points off his career AVG in 2004 and does not seem to be in a steep decline at 36 years old. It is not unreasonable to get two more good years with about 20 homers and 70 to 80 RBIs in the right situation. Since 2000, he has averaged 70 runs, 26 doubles, 22 homers, 85 RBIs, 54 walks, 75 K's, a .267 average, .341 OBP, and a .451 SLG. He would not be an offensive liability as he will get his fair share of homeruns while giving good at bats and not striking out much. In fact Tino has not struck out over 100 times in his entire career. Tino also knows the pressures of playing in New York. Also, he will not cost a draft pick being a guy who will not be offered arbitration and may be the most offensively productive one year solution the Mets could get their hands on along with Kevin Millar.
Like Olerud, his best days are behind him. Unlike Olerud he is not in steep decline as his 2004 numbers are strikingly similar as his 2002 numbers. Tino really does not have many negatives other than his age since the Mets would only look at him as a stop gap solution for 2005. But the biggest negative may be his allegiance to the Yankees and if they come calling, he'll come running for sure.
2005 Salary: $3.5 million
Millar is underrated offensively as well as defensively. He may be the most bang for the buck out of anyone on this list. His .866 OPS ranks behind only Richie Sexson and Carlos Delgado since 2000 out off all the guys on this list. Since 2000 he as averaged 63 runs, 32 doubles, 18 homeruns 71 RBIs, 46 BBs, 78 K's, a .293 average, a .367 OBP, and a .499 SLG. I also do not want to hear people pointing to Fenway Park as the reason behind his recently solid numbers, he posted a higher BAA and SLG in the two years before coming to the Red Sox play in Pro Player Stadium than his last two years on the Red Sox. Over the past three years he's hit lefties at a .300 clip and righties at a .289 clip. He provides a solid glove at first with the ability to play 3b and each corner outfield spot which is certainly a value add. It is not unreasonable to expect Millar to approach .280 with close to 20 homers while getting on base at about a .360 OBP while slugging close to .500. Are those numbers great? No, but they will certainly be better than Doug M's or John Oleruds numbers at Shea. Finally, the guy is positive influence around the clubhouse. His ritual of doing Jack Daniels shots before the playoff games this past post season does not bother me. Was it smart to mention to the media? No. Did they blow it out of proportion? Yes. I seriously doubt they were inebriated when they took the field and a shot or two does calm the nerves. As any singer will tell you, if have a drink or two before you sing, it loosens your vocal chords. Whether or not you like Cowboy Up and whatever it was this year, the guy gets pumped and gets his teammates pumped. The Mets could certainly someone like him.
He will cost a player or two since he needs to be acquired from the Red Sox via trade. In 2004 he hit over .100 points higher at home with twice as many homeruns at home than on the road. Though he hit more homers on the road in 2003 and the average was only .025 higher at home, those splits cannot be ignored. The fact that he just turned 33 also tells me there is not much a chance he will be getting any better than he already is.
2005 Salary: $0.3 million
He does not make a lot of money and bats from the left side of the plate. (if you are waiting for more pros, you can stop)
He owns a .274 batting average since 2000 in the minor leagues. He has averaged 93 K's per year to a tiny 18 BBs. He owns a .305 OBP since 2000 and that number would look to get a lot lower were he to spend a full season at Shea any time soon. The best thing for Brazell to do is go back to Norfolk and work on playing left field as well and try and come back and be a power hitting lefty off the bench who can play a COF spot and 1B. If he's at first base for the Mets in 2005, it means it will be a long summer.
Optimisitcally, I think we can put a few names on this list that we all would like to have here like Aubrey Huff, Adrian Gonzalez, or Nick Johnson, but a trade bringing us one of those types of guys certainly seems far fetched. At this point it really looks like a player from the above list will be manning first base in 2005.
How do I rank the above guys on my wishlist?
1) Richie Sexson
2) Carlos Delgado
3) Kevin Millar
4) Tino Martinez
5) Doug Mientkiewicz
6) John Olerud
7) Craig Brazell
I just feel getting a run producer and a guy who has the ability to poke 20+ homers is a really important thing. While some guys are much better than others with the mitt, no one on that list is bad fielder and would be a liability to the team. With the Mets guaranteeing an upgrade with the mitt with any guy on that list, they need to go for offense first. They can affored anyone there and the best option for the team should be picked regardless of salary.
I know people will disagree with my pecking order, but I am just not as high on Mientkiewicz as everyone else and think his stick would be very quit at Shea. They Mets need more than light hitting infielder.
Baseball didn't ban steroids until Sept. 30, 2002, and testing for steroids with penalties started only this year. Each player is tested once during the season, and a first positive test results in counseling. A player who tests positive a second time could be suspended for 15 days, and discipline rises to a one-year suspension for a fifth positive test.
Baseball wonders why they have this dilemma. Is it really a mystery why players were taking steroids? They were basically allowed. The only way it was wrong in baseball's eyes was morally.