If you’re like me, and I know you are, you’ve spent an inordinately large amount of time going to this page over at MLBTradeRumors.com and looking at the various players available to the Mets this winter via free agency. Prince Fielder! C.C. Sabathia! Nick Punto! The imagination can quickly run wild.
I’ve made an attempt to pare this concept down using the specific conditions that exist for the 2011 Mets, however. So I’m going to be writing about free agents by answering the following questions:
1. Can this player help the Mets?
2. What kind of contract can he expect?
3. Can the Mets afford him in 2012?
4. What is the maximum amount the Mets should offer him?
5. What are the chances I think he is a Met in 2012?
This set of questions moves beyond the simple binary questions and answers (Is Prince Fielder very good? Yes!) into how the specific inventory available to Sandy Alderson comports with what he has to spend, what else the Mets already have, and what it will take to add. I plan to apply this criteria to various players- some in the news, some I particularly like, some that are just interesting case studies in what the Mets can/should and can’t/shouldn’t do.
But I’m starting with Rod Barajas because he’s been at the top of MLBTradeRumors.com’s list for a long time, thanks to being the first catcher available alphabetically. He was also once on pace, as a Met, to hit 50 home runs in a season.
1. Can this player help the Mets? Sort of. The Mets have Josh Thole in-house for 2012, and Thole can hit righties pretty well and is young enough to catch the majority of games. So in a vacuum, adding Barajas to hit some lefties and back him up sounds like a good plan. But the beauty of Rod Barajas is that he isn’t a lefty masher or a righty masher. In true democratic fashion, he swings really hard, often misses, and sometimes connects against pitchers of all arms slots and sides. He’s got a .694 OPS career against righties, .710 against lefties.
So if the Mets are looking for a Thole partner- and they should be- there are better options than Barajas. The 36-year-old ranks middle of the pack among free agent catchers hitting lefties over the past three seasons. Guess who is at the top of the list, by the way: Ramon Castro. We’ll be discussing him in a future Free Agent Fit, I am sure.
2. What kind of contract can he expect? He signed for one-year, $3.25 million in 2011. It doesn’t seem implausible that he’ll get a similar deal for 2012, since his 2011 was quite similar to his 2010.
3. Can the Mets afford him in 2012? They can, probably- but with a limited budget to add players, spending that much on a backup catcher who doesn’t fit with Thole doesn’t really work.
4. What is the maximum amount the Mets should offer him? They probably shouldn’t bid here.
5. What are the chances I think he is a Met in 2012? Non-zero, depending on how the Mets do with their other backup catcher targets, and how much they want Barajas for his defensive prowess/communication with pitchers/teaching Josh Thole skills. He’s also a super-nice guy, and bright- two things the Mets have valued under Sandy Alderson.