All the pieces matter

“We’re building something here, detective. We’re building it from scratch. All the pieces matter.” – Lester Freamon.

So the Mets announced yesterday that they received Chris Carter and Eddie Lora from the Red Sox, completing the Billy Wagner trade and surprising absolutely no one.

Many will denigrate the trade as yet another mark against Minaya, as Wagner, assuming he is tendered arbitration and rejects it, will provide the Sox draft picks.

But don’t forget that Wagner was still a question mark when the Mets dealt him, so the team risked hanging onto him, having him fall victim to injury or ineffectiveness, and getting nothing for him.

Carter is nothing spectacular, but he can easily be something the Mets pretty desperately need: an inexpensive role player.

I’ve made no secret of my disdain for Minaya’s habit of filling out the roster with overpaid players below replacement-level. With Carter, he has the opportunity to add a solid left-handed bat for the bench and allocate precious resources elsewhere.

So Carter hasn’t done much in his handful of Major League at-bats? So what? He has a career Minor League OPS of .890 and a history of mashing right-handed pitching. He could easily spell Jeff Francoeur against right-handers and serve as the team’s primary pinch-hitter.

Provided he doesn’t completely embarrass himself in camp, Carter should be on the Major League roster come April.

And just for fun, a list of the Mets’ primary pinch-hitters, by pinch-hit at-bats, in each season of Minaya’s tenure (with their season BA/OBP/SLG line).

  • 2005: Marlon Anderson (.264/.316/.391)
  • 2006: Julio Franco (.273/.330/.370)
  • 2007: Ruben Gotay (.295/.351/.421) (!)
  • 2008: Marlon Anderson (.210/.255/.275) (!!!!)
  • 2009: Jeremy Reed (.242/.301/.304)

14 thoughts on “All the pieces matter

  1. Let’s remember that Boston put Carter on waivers near the end of the year to create a spot on their 40 man roster and no team claimed him!! (The Yankees were the only team to claim him at the time of the Wagner deal and clearly that was just to block a Red Sox trade)

    I have no doubt he will be a respectable hitter at the major league level, but you can’t win without defense and Carter is defensively challenged in the outfield. Lefties off the bench should not be a weakness for the Mets; Sullivan, Pagan, and Reed are all servicable hitters and much better fielders.

    And with Murphy and Ike Davis in the wings, another lefty hitting first basemen wasn’t really needed.

    Wagner wants the 400 saves and then the lefty save record, he is not going to accept arbitration to be a set up man. Just another smart move by the Boston front office and a ridiculous move by the Mets.

    • Dan — Pagan appears to be a nice hitter, but neither Sullivan nor Reed is really a serviceable hitter, especially in late-game pinch-hitting situations when a team requires power. Davis obviously has far more upside as a hitter and baseball player than Carter, but they’re not going to keep Davis on the team to ride the bench, naturally. And I’m not sure if you’ve seen Carter play — I haven’t — but my understanding is he’s just about an average defender. Where did you hear that he was “defensively challenged?”

      Also, as you point out, Wagner is likely not to accept arbitration. My point was merely that the Mets had no way to really know it would shake out like it did when they traded him. The upside to keeping him would have been exactly what happened — that Wagner stayed healthy, pitched well, and appeared bound for a closer role elsewhere. By trading Wagner when he did, Minaya opted for less risk with less potential reward. Given the way things have gone for the Mets recently, I don’t think it’s fair to blame him for that.

  2. Pingback: I’m Reading: about Prospects and Chris Carter

  3. Ted,

    Thank you for responding and I apologize if my frustration with the Met season was reflected in the tone of my comment. You do such a great job and I really do appreciate all your great work.

    I have not seen Carter play, all I am going by is what I have read in Baseball America over the years, Baseball Prospectus, other scouting sources on-line, and Red Sox blogs (but I have no idea how credible they are). There seemed to be some consensus his best defensive position is DH, but he is more of a first basemen than an outfielder.

    I think I am higher on Sullivan than most people, he is just one of those players that does a lot of the little things. But it is true Carter would provide more pop off the bench. And by all accounts he is a smart player and well liked.

    I agree with you, there is some degree of risk associated with offering arbitration, especially with all the guidelines/restrictions imbedded in the process. As a life long Met fan it just seems that the opportunity to get some high ceiling arms is something we can not afford to pass up given the state of our farm system. Look at the Boston prospect list, a high percentage of their top prospects were taken with free agent compensation picks.

    I know I am over simplifying it, but it still seems like the Mets sold the potential of 2 first round picks (perhaps a 50% chance Wagner did well based on his appearances while with the Mets) for $3 million and a player they could have claimed on waivers.

    I am not taking a shot at Omar (I remember Omar when he was catching for Newtown High School and playing in the Kiwanis league in Queens, he had one of the best arms I had seen on a high school catcher), I think his hands were somewhat tied. I have a hard time believing that the Madoff situation has not impacted the Mets decisions.

  4. Wow, I didn’t realize how good Gotay was as a pinch-hitter. For comparison, Matt Franco, whom we all remember as Bobby V’s PH of choice, had a career slash line of .238/.336/.340 as a PH, including just .208/.316/.208 in the World Series year, though he was an excellent .306/.348/.500 in 1997.

    Hold on, the above is misleading though – Gotay’s slash line *as a pinch-hitter* was .288/.327/.365, still pretty decent but not as good as the above would lead you to believe.

    This got me thinking – Gotay is only 26 and OPSed .879 in AAA this year. (As a switch-hitting middle infielder, in case anyone forgot.) Worth a look for next season (for organizational depth, if not as a candidate for a bench slot)?

  5. The Mets should try to sign an all-star power-hitting first baseman who is likely to knock in 100 runs and hit 30 dingers out of the 4-hole. Oh yeah, they already had that guy, Carlos Delgado. Now they’re just letting him walk, even though they say they want to win. Anyone else the Mets can put at first base probably won’t have half of the production
    Delgado is likely to have, and certainly won’t have the lineup presence of Delgado. And inexplicably, it seems most Mets fans are happy to run Delgado out of town. That just makes Mets fans look like Red Sox fans.

    Forget the pretenders. The Mets should make all reasonable efforts to re-sign Delgado.

  6. Ted – I’m with you on Carter. However I don’t agree with your assessment of Reed, nor the opinion that a team necessarily needs “power” from a pinch hitter.

    First of all, Reed hit .278 as a PH — which is pretty good as far as pinch-hitters go.

    Secondly, big power bats who aren’t in the lineup are likely big-time strikeout artists with low OBPs / low AVGs. Homeruns are always nice but generally pinch-hitting situations require a simple base hit. Over the course of 80-100+ PH ABs, a team is more likely to get better performance from a .250-.280 AVG contact hitter than a .180-.220 AVG slugger (unless Cliff Johnson comes out of retirement).

    Matt Stairs is an example of someone who defies that theory but how many others are there like him? (Ross Gload had more RBI than Stairs with less than half as many HRs, btw.) Guys hitting as well as Stairs are likely in the regular lineup.

    Which brings me to my final point: if Carter turns out to be the power hitter everyone hopes, will the Mets have the luxury of keeping such a bat on the bench? Not likely.

  7. this article would benefit from a comparison with Linda Carter, who I believe would also be a good contributor to the team as presently constituted for her power. But I will keep reading anyhow.

  8. At the time Omar traded Wagner, I questioned the deal primarily because we have an abundance of left-handed hitters rising through the ranks, such as F-Mart, Davis, Havens, Nieuewenhuis, etc. Daniel Murphy’s presence on the ML roster merely extends the list.

    After the Yankees blocked Carter, simply out of spite, I rethought the trade and considered the blessings we might receive from the baseball gods.

    In Carter, we have an experienced lefty power hitter who reminds me a little of Randy Miligan, a former Met farmhand who dominated AAA and eventually had a solid career with the Orioles.

    In Wagner, we had an aging closer coming off TJ surgery with a continuing desire to close. Perhaps the most difficult aspect in parting with Wagner is that, if healthy, he could buzz-saw right through the middle of the Phillies order on demand – that’s freakin’ priceless.

    Within the context of rehabilitating the organization, provided there is a continuing commitment to bring in younger, more durable players, then Chris Carter is one of many pieces that will prove useful over the long haul.

    Thus, we must wait and see.

  9. Bambino, I don’t think anyone is “run[ning] Delgado out of town”. However, he’ll be 38 years old next year and coming off a serious hip injury. Even if you were to assume that, when healthy, his production would return to 2008 levels, I don’t see how you can, with any confidence, re-sign him and assume that he will play even 100 games, let alone 150.

    I like Delgado and I don’t want to see him leave, but I also like the Mets and I want to see them make smart decisions with their money. The smart thing to do is to offer Delgado a contract with a large portion of its value in the form of playing time incentives, and I don’t think Delgado will take that kind of deal, because there’ll be some GM out there who will give him a large amount of guaranteed money.

  10. Carter is nothing more than a decent AAA 1bman. Take a look at his splits at minorleaguesplits.com. Even against righties he’ll only put up a 700 OPS. And his minor league OPS of 890 is inflated by his numbers at the lower levels. I’m sure Carter’s a nice guy, but he’s not a major leaguer and never will be. He’s the guy who fills out roster at AAA when you don’t have any prospects who won’t disgrace themselves at that level.

    The Mets need a #2 starter, and an excellent (not 3b) cornerman, or as close as they can come to those 2 things. I have no problem with the Mets signing Delgado, but only to a contract that is almost all incentives. If the Mets sign Jason Bay and John Lackey, they can afford to run Murphy out to 1b. If they also keep Delgado around for 1M+ just in case he can still put up an 825 in 100 games, that moves them another couple of games towards the playoffs, and so much the better. But you only keep Delgado around as a cheap chance at a decent bump–and not as plan A.

  11. The way I see it: Holliday, Bay, Murphy, maybe Carter — all good. But Delgado is a great player. And putting greatness in the middle of your lineup is a lot different than putting someone there who is merely good.

    It’s why Texiera had a terrific second half with A-Rod hitting behind him. And by the same token, it’s why A-Rod knocked in 100 runs — Jeter and Tex hitting in front.

    I know the major risk factor: Delgado is coming off a major injury. I don’t know how much he’ll be able to play or how productive he’ll be. But I know his offensive numbers over the years tell me he’s a great hitter. And being that I want to see the Mets win in 2010, I’d take my chances with Delgado over the rest of the pack.

  12. Pingback: Mike Silva’s New York Baseball Digest » Blog Archive » Still Wish Mets Had Billy Wagner?

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