There appear to be two schools of thought about the decision by the Mets to sign middle infielder Ronny Cedeno to a one-year, $1.1 million contract.
Arguing against the signing is Cedeno’s putrid .286 career on-base percentage. And this weakness really can’t be overestimated. Among all major league hitters with 2000 plate appearances since 2005, Cedeno’s OBP ranks fourth-lowest. The three ahead of (behind?) him are Miguel Olivo, Corey Patterson and Adam Everett. Olivo has significantly more power, Patterson outslugs Cedeno and brings a lot more speed, and Everett was one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball-yet his offensive ineptitude knocked him out of the league.
The argument for Cedeno seems to boil down to: sure, he can’t hit. But lots of backup middle infielders can’t hit, and his defense is good enough to make him worth having around. And I can see that, to an extent. After all, this is a team that once paid nearly twice what Cedeno makes annually for the right to have Alex Cora not hit and not field.
But “better than Alex Cora” really shouldn’t be the standard for a signing. And my bigger fear is that Terry Collins will decide to play Cedeno regularly at second base, rather than giving Daniel Murphy a chance to learn the position. Let’s be clear about this: we don’t know whether Murphy can handle the position. Don’t know. That’s very different than knowing that he can’t. And we do know that if he can even minimally handle the position defensively, his bat makes him one of the better second basemen in the league.
That’s a far cry from Cedeno, who is entering his age-29 season, and clearly isn’t ever going to hit enough to allow his fielding to elevate him beyond the point of backup. I’m also simply not convinced that any number of defensively strong Triple-A middle infielders couldn’t have filled this job for less money. But those savings would have been negligible.
In summary, this signing is okay. But how I feel about it will ultimately be judged by how many at-bats Cedeno steals from Daniel Murphy at second base.