Rod Barajas: Sure

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.

16 thoughts on “Rod Barajas: Sure

  1. If the guy can hit .240 with 15 homers in the eight spot while playing good defense, I’ll be content. The low OBP can be forgiven if he’s batting in front of the pitcher and driving in some runs. I’m more concerned about the low OBP’s of the guys in front of him (Frenchy and Murph). I expect Murph to improve this year, but with Frenchy. I’m not holding my breath.

    • Yeah, as Sherm suggests, I think the concern with giving Blanco too much playing time is that he’s 37 and has the shoulder problems. Of course, that makes you wonder why they would’ve been so quick to sign a 37-year-old backup catcher with shoulder problems, but he is pretty good for a 37-year-old backup catcher with shoulder problems, and $750K isn’t such a bad deal for one, I suppose.

  2. Yeah. Blanco can’t play everyday. He’s nothing more than a solid back-up, who can really throw by the way (assuming shoulder is healthy).

    And Barajas is not costing 2 million more than Blanco. Blanco got 750. Barajas 1M guaranteed, plus 1M in incentives. Bottom line: Barajas better and cheaper than Schneider had been, and he signed with us for less than Schneider did with the Phils. Good job by Omar to wait out the market. Lets hope that Omar will now pounce on Lopez with a 2m offer, and release Castillo if Lopez is desperate enough to accept.

    • It just seems like if you have a catcher like Blanco who’s quality but can’t play everyday it would make more sense to pay 1 million, or 2 million since those incentives look pretty east to reach, for a catcher who compliments his skills so they can split the workload. Both Barajas and Blanco are defense first and struggle against righties, so how exactly do you leverage their playing time?. Bringing in a catcher who hit righties much better would have made perfect sense because then Blanco could have played against lefties, and since that only makes up like >25% of the league, that’s supposed to be less than but I always get those arrows confused, you’re not going to be asking him to play near everyday. Now you have two defense first catchers who can’t hit 75%+ of the hitters they’ll be facing.

      I mean obviously in a vacuum it’s really a non issue since we’re talking about 1-2 million and a position you really don’t need to rely on hitting from, but it seems like this year we’ve seen multiple deals that in a vacuum are non-issue and added together it just seems to be really really bad roster building.

  3. Ted I’m glad you didn’t “cast in stone” your feeling that Lopez would’ve been the better way to go.

    As you note Lopez has been rather inconsistent. Other things to consider are signing Barajas eliminates Santos, a player whose salary is so inconsequential that Cot’s Contracts doesn’t even list it. Signing Lopez eliminates Castillo who is owed $12 million over the next 2 years. That’s a much more difficult contract to just cast aside.

    On the field, Castillo doesn’t fit in a back up role and can’t be sent to the minors. Santos does and can. Castillo’s only impact on the pitching staff is when a ball is hit or thrown to him. Barajas has an impact on every pitch.

    I think the team having a legitimate starting catcher is more important overall than a potential, marginal upgrade at 2B and if I were faced with Sophie’s Choice between Lopez and Barajas I’d choose Barajas all things considered.

    • Good points Heb, but keep in mind that the $12 million owed Castillo is sunk cost now. The Mets have committed to paying that regardless of whether they’ll get that much — or any — value out of Castillo, so it shouldn’t factor into their decision to leave him at second base if they could get a significant upgrade for an insignificant price. Sometimes you have to be willing to eat bad contracts. Look at the Red Sox and Lowell, or the Angels and Gary Matthews Jr.

      Of course, it seems the Mets think Castillo still has more value than those guys, and since he did hit last year, maybe that’s fair. I think the biggest issue is that they signed Cora for the $2 million — almost certainly enough to get Lopez — so early in the offseason when so many infielders were still on the market.

  4. Richie Hebner, you betrayed the true problem with Castillo when you wrote “Castillo’s only impact on the pitching staff is when a ball is hit or thrown to him.”

    Wouldn’t it be nice to have a second basemen who can have an impact on balls hit to his left? Castillo hasn’t fielded one of those since his Florida days. His lack of range had an incredible impact on the staff last year, particularly Pelf. And his lack of range can actually be quantified, unlike a catcher’s alleged ability to handle a staff.

    And that 12M is spent with or without Castillo. If Lopez can be had for 2.5, what would you rather do. Pay 6M for a replacement level player with zero range, zero power, and no upside, or pay 8.5 for a decent (albeit inconsistent) player with good range, and some upside. And releasing Castillo would be a great PR move because the fanbase despises him almost as much has it resents the Mets’ steadfast refusal to admit mistakes and eat bad contracts.

  5. Sorry Ted. Missed your response to Hebner.

    As for Cora, I read somewhere that he and Manuel are interchangeable. Put Manuel at second, and he’s no worse than Cora. Let Cora manage, and he’s no worse than Manuel. I suspect Omar has bought into teh notion of him as a leader and good clubhouse guy, for what that’s allegedly worth.

    • It’s the worst, by a pretty fair margin, he’s been in his entire career. And even at his age it’s unlikely he’d see another steep decline, more than likely he’d just stay the same.

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