Look: Rod Barajas isn’t all that good. I don’t mean to cut the guy down the day after he got a $1 million contract from the Mets, but he posted a .258 on-base percentage last year in 460 plate appearances. That’s abysmal.
Even allowing that he could have been a bit unlucky — his batting average on balls in play was .024 below his career average — his career .284 OBP is bad enough that it’s inappropriate to expect much from him at the plate, even if he’ll hit a few homers.
He’s a very good defensive catcher by almost all accounts though — something Omir Santos cannot quite boast — and, as bad as his offensive performance was in 2009 (look past the 19 home runs, folks: a .258 OBP is miserable), it was likely his floor. Barajas has been around long enough that we can be pretty certain he won’t be much worse a hitter this season than he was last season, even if he’s 34 and on the decline.
With Santos — whose paltry offensive numbers last season were actually better than his career Minor League lines would project — there’s some non-zero chance he totally collapses and hits like Tony Pena Jr., leaving the Mets to either rush Josh Thole or go with some combination of Henry Blanco, Chris Coste and Shawn Riggans.
So Barajas represents a defensive upgrade over Santos with a little more certainty — even if he’s certainly not good — on the offensive side. For $1 million with another $1 million in easily obtainable incentives, that’s probably worth it to the Mets, if only to buy Thole some more time for seasoning in Buffalo.
Barajas is not a great player, but it’s not a bad deal.
My only quibble with the move is, of course, that Felipe Lopez is still flopping around on the free-agent market. I’m convinced that the difference between Lopez and Luis Castillo is greater than the difference between Barajas and Santos, so the Mets — if forced to make only one move — would get a bigger upgrade over what they’ve already got by signing Lopez than by signing Barajas.
Still, it’s not something I’d cast in stone, because Lopez has been inconsistent across his career and because catching defense is so hard to quantify.
And signing Barajas should not preclude signing Lopez, and since the latter recently parted ways with Scott Boras, I’ll hold out hope that the Mets can swoop in and scoop him up on the cheap. I’m almost certain it won’t happen, since the Mets already have $8 million committed to lesser second basemen, but until he signs elsewhere, I can cross my fingers.
Finally, one last note on Barajas: Earlier this offseason, Sagiv Edelman — Twitter’s @FireJerryManuel — suggested referring to him as “Bod Rarajas.” I’m on board. Switching the first letters of the first and last names of defense-first backup catchers for comic effect has long been a hobby of mine.
So credit Sagiv for the idea, or, perhaps whoever wrote this SNL sketch, way back when. Long live Bod Rarajas.