Friday Q&A, pt. 1: Mets stuff

I don’t know, but if it’s anything of value, it’s probably not worth it. Cuddyer’s a nice player, and though he’ll be 34 by Opening Day he seems a pretty safe bet to hit for the next couple of seasons. Plus he bats right-handed, which the Mets need, and can play all four corners. But he has two years and $21 million remaining on his contract, and given the Mets’ widely reported financial constraints, that seems like more than the team should take on for a player of his age and ability even without sacrificing additional resources.

Per the latest reports, the Rockies have “made it clear that they highly value Cuddyer,” so a salary-dump type deal appears unlikely. If that’s the case, it seems the Mets could re-sign Scott Hairston for less money and yield similar production without having to trade away a pitcher to do so. Several teams have been linked to Hairston this offseason, but no reports I’ve seen have suggested he’ll earn anything like what Cuddyer’s set to make for the next two seasons. So if the Mets did somehow have the financial flexibility to bring on Cuddyer, they could pay whatever it takes to bring back Hairston and allocate the rest to bringing on a backup middle infielder or a bullpen arm.

Good question, and I fear I’ve been guilty of that some too. But to clarify: Right now, Baxter looks like the Mets’ best all-around outfielder on the roster. That’s damning with faint praise, I know, and all of Baxter’s Major League success has come across a tiny 260 plate-appearance sample. But it’s not out of line with what Baxter did in the Minors, and at the very least Whitestone Mike’s strong 2012 campaign should put to rest the nagging assertion from before last season that he had no place on a Major League roster.

From here, Baxter looks like a viable platoon and bench option at the very least, and given that he’s solid on defense in the corners, I wouldn’t mind seeing the team give him a few more opportunities against left-handers to see what he could do with them. Baxter, by his own account, lost playing time to more heralded prospects throughout his Minor League career. He seems like exactly the type of solid big-leaguer that can fly under the radar and emerge when given a proper chance.

Also: Awesome dude, shares a name with Ron Burgundy’s dog, grew up a Mets fan, saved the no-hitter. I’m not here to tell you what to do, but if you’re a Mets fan and you’re still complaining about Mike Baxter’s role on the team, you probably need some time away.

I’d say Roy Hobbs but he’s old and notoriously streaky, plus the last thing the Mets need is more lefties. So I’ll stick with the same fictional world and go with The Whammer, who was purportedly the greatest hitter in the world, hit right-handed (at least in the movie, despite his obvious parallels to Babe Ruth), and was smart enough to strike out against a farmboy in front of a mysterious woman dedicated to shooting the best there ever was and best there ever would be.

I’d take the World Series, without question. I live well outside of the Rockville Centre Gino’s delivery range now, and a big part of Taco Bell’s appeal is its inexpensiveness. How much am I legitimately going to spend on Gino’s and Taco Bell over the course of the rest of my life? Hard to imagine it’s more than $6000 or so, unless inflation runs wild. I’d gladly shell out $6000 in monthly installments over the next 50 years to secure a World Series win for the Mets now.

Doesn’t seem like he will be, but I sure hope he is — if only because I want Mike Piazza honored in every which way possible. Don’t try to come at me with rational arguments against this because I won’t hear them. LALALALALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU MIKE PIAZZA IS THE BEST.

I don’t know if it’s a longstanding thing or a recent trend, but I think it’s silly when writers leave guys off their first ballots because they don’t believe they should be “first-ballot Hall of Famers.” If you decide a guy’s a deserving Hall of Famer, vote for him. Let the first-ballot stuff happen organically.

Scott Hairston or bust?

Since we last met, both Cody Ross and Nick Swisher came off the market, leaving precious few viable free-agent outfield options remaining for the Flushing Nine. Here’s the full list of unsigned outfielders who bat right-handed or switch, from MLB Trade Rumors:

Here's what Scott Hairston looks like. – Jeff Baker
– Mark DeRosa
– Ben Francisco
– Scott Hairston
– Austin Kearns
– Darnell McDonald
– Ryan Raburn
– Juan Rivera
– Delmon Young

Slim pickings. Not all of those guys could realistically be called outfielders, and some of them are no safe bet to be upgrades over Justin Turner in an outfield corner. No joke.

Baker has played more infield than outfield across his career and suffered a woeful season at the plate in 2012, but he can boast a lifetime .296/.344/.498 split against lefties, even if it’s bolstered by stints in Colorado and Chicago. DeRosa will be 38 by Opening Day and hasn’t done any hitting to speak of since 2009. Francisco’s a poor fielder with no demonstrable platoon split, so he’s no upgrade over the Mets’ cadre of lefty-hitting guys, even against lefties.

Hairston you know about. Kearns you probably know about too, though he’s somehow still only 32. He doesn’t have much of a platoon split either, but since he gets on base and is a decent defender, he wouldn’t be the worst option for the Mets.

McDonald also wouldn’t be terrible on a flyer. A Minor League veteran who became a fan favorite with the Red Sox in 2010, he seemed to suffer at the hands of the BABIP demons in 2012 and has a Fenway-aided and small-sample career .274/.342/.436 line against lefties. Raburn had a terrible, horrible, worse-than-Jason-Bay 2012, but hit lefties very well in 2009 and 2010 and pretty well in 2011. Supposedly six teams are interested in his services, so he might cost more than he’s worth, but on a cheap contract Raburn’s a decent bet to bounce back, with the added bonus of some positional flexibility.

Rivera’s offensive output has been on a steady decline since 2009 and at 34, he’s pretty limited in the outfield, but he can still hit lefties a bit. Delmon Young looks a lot like Reginald VelJohnson but lacks Lieutenant Winslow’s plate discipline.

Not included on MLBTR’s list is my guy Andrew Brown, a better option than about half the above listed players. If I had to rank them in terms of how they’d fit the Mets’ needs, I’d probably go something like this:

1) Hairston
(Gap)
2) Kearns
3) Rivera
(Gap)
4) Raburn
5) Brown
6) Baker
7) McDonald
(Gap)
8) Francisco
9) Young
10) DeRosa

With the bottom three there not really preferable to making the best of what’s already available in house.

So, yeah: Scott Hairston makes sense for the Mets, and, since Hairston reportedly seeks playing time above all else, the Mets make sense for Hairston. Depends on the deal, of course, and since Hairston’s hardly Nick Johnson in his ability to get on-base he’s not the ideal fit for the Mets’ lineup. But he’s the best of what’s available, and his awesome laser shots made for some of the team’s greatest moments of 2011 and 2012.

Chuck D is a Mets fan

I knew this, but it’s always nice to be reminded of it. It makes sense, since Chuck D was born in Queens, went to high school and college on Long Island, and is inexplicably awesome.

Also, in between Public Enemy’s heyday and his reality-TV revival, Flavor Flav was a regular at Freeport High School football games, big clock and everything.

Friday Q&A, pt. 1: Baseball stuff

Via email, Steve writes:

Hi Ted. On the Mostly Mets Podcast, the assertion was made that RA Dickey is one in a lifetime. I am of the mind that RA has provided a blueprint for a bunch of unsuccessful, hard throwing prospects and teams controlling them that there is a way to squeeze some success out of a proverbial lemon. RA is undoubtedly showing teams that the pitch can be thrown hard and for strikes, so it might be worth nurturing.

That’s a good point, and I suspect Dickey’s success will open up teams’ minds about grooming knuckleballers. But there are a bunch of things to remember here: For one, Dickey had a knuckleball when the Rangers decided to make him a full-time knuckleballer. Tim Wakefield had one when the Pirates converted him from infield. I suspect most baseball players mess around with knuckleballs at some point or another, but it’s an incredibly difficult pitch to throw and far, far from a guarantee a full-time knuckleballer will win with it. Dickey and Wakefield are great success stories. Recent knuckleballers like Jared Fernandez, Dennis Springer, Charlie Zink and Charlie Haeger are not. (Steve Sparks had some success too, but hardly on the level of Dickey and Wakefield.)

Moreover, from the Knuckleball! documentary it seemed Wakefield, Dickey and their predecessors Phil Niekro and Charlie Hough brought more intellectual or more reasonable approaches to the game than many of their teammates. As I said upon seeing the movie (and asked Wakefield about later): Tim Wakefield willingly, repeatedly threw 65 mph pitches over the plate in the heart of one of baseball’s best offensive eras, in one of its best hitting environments, in front of one of its most hostile fanbases. That takes a special type of resolve, and a certain philosophical leap that I’m not sure every pitcher could make.

Lastly, and this is utterly speculative (and something I’ve wondered about before): I wonder if there’d be a law of diminishing returns on knuckleballers across the league. If there were a knuckleballer on every team, would so many hitters still have so much trouble hitting the knuckleball? Would managers get a better sense of the guys who tend to get good swings off knuckleballers and figure out the best way to fill out their lineup cards when facing one?

I actually looked this up around the time of the trade when I was vaguely planning a trip to Toronto. It seems like the Toronto area’s local sandwich delicacy is something called peameal bacon, a type of Canadian bacon rolled in cornmeal. Sounds pretty delicious to me.

That’s not particularly close to Cornwall, though. Am I missing an obvious joke here? The Cornwaller? Also, like half of the Wikipedia’s list of notable current and former residents of Cornwall are hockey players.

Chipotle. There’s a Chipotle in Port St. Lucie, and Minor Leaguers — it has long been proven — f–ing love Chipotle, much like most people. Minor League free agents everywhere would want to be part of the Mets’ organization so they could train and play in Chipotle Park, or as we call it around here, the Burrito Bowl.

Seems like we’ll have a pretty clear idea sometime next offseason, right? After 2013, basically everyone’s off the books. It’d be hard to play that card with a $50 million payroll or whatever.

I agree it’s weird, for sure. But if you listened to the Internet, you’d know it was because Jeff Wilpon himself obviously oversees the production of the Mets’ holiday e-card, working long and late at MLB Advanced Media’s offices in Chelsea to carefully position the blue and orange scarf on the image of Mr. Met so that it hangs naturally but does not cover the Mets logo on his jersey. Really, it’s amazing he found the time among all the other things the Internet seems certain he does, from setting ticket prices to devising the Citi Field menus to meddling in contract negotiations to controlling the content of every one of my Tweets. Busy dude, I guess.

Look: I don’t know who produced the video or how it all went down, but I can practically guarantee it’s no top-down conspiracy. Somewhere, a video producer and editor were charged with creating a minute-long holiday e-card of Mets highlights under the headline “Season’s Greetings from the Mets.” R.A. Dickey, as sad as this is to say, is not on the Mets. It’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation, right? If the Season’s Greetings from the Mets card did include footage of R.A. Dickey, that would seem weird, too. That would also prompt LOLMets, without a doubt.

And I’d say it’s entirely possible the original version of the video included footage of R.A. Dickey, since Dickey was traded just a couple of days before the card was sent to fans. If anything — and again, I don’t know that this is actually how it happened, I’m just guessing — I’d figure someone who put together that video was really irritated that the trade talks were dragging out that long because he or she needed to know how to handle the Dickey thing in the video, and the deal happened so close to the producer’s deadline that he or she just said, “screw it, let’s just cut out the Dickey footage and go with Wright, Davis and Santana.”

There are a lot of things the Mets do that we can and do complain about. But a baseball team is a huge operation, and it’s downright silly to assume everything coming from a baseball team is the direct, ordered output of its upper management.

If I can’t choose both, then it has to be Swisher. I only suspect Uggla likes to bro it down, whereas there’s ample evidence that Swisher loves to bro it down. I’d like to hang out with him for one night just to see how long I could keep up, honestly.

I don’t think so. His fate is tied to the Mets. If d’Arnaud stinks and the Mets start winning anyway, people will remember the trade but forgive him for it. If d’Arnaud’s awesome and the Mets don’t win with him, people will argue that the deal was not enough and say Alderson should have done more.

Is it time to bro it down with Nick Swisher?

Trick question, suckers: It is always time to bro it down with Nick Swisher. Nick Swisher exists in a state of perpetual bro-down, draped in Ed Hardy and marked, undoubtedly, by ever-flowing Jaegermeister, virulent chest-bumping, thumping technopop and an array of macho gestures unintelligible to anyone but the broiest of bros.

Here's what Nick Swisher looks like. But as it pertains to the Mets, the possibility of Nick Swisher broing it down in Flushing is discussed here only because it came up through a Twitter hoax yesterday and because the Mets still desperately need outfielders.

Though occasionally infuriating, Swisher is a good player. As a switch hitter who has been slightly better from the right side across his career, he could fill the Mets’ need for a right-handed bat in the outfield without requiring a platoon hedge. Outside of a down season in 2009 that was at least partly induced by a low batting average on balls in play, he has been a remarkably consistent (and very good) performer, posting a park- and league-adjusted OPS+ in the 120s in 2006 and 2007 and in every season from 2010 to 2012. By defensive metrics, he is about an average defender in right field. Swisher turned 32 in November, but he has not played in fewer than 148 games in any season since 2005. As an added bonus, he can fill in at first base if necessary.

So yes, if the Mets had plenty of money to spend or the Mets were the only team bidding on Swisher’s services this offseason, he’d seem a damn near perfect fit for a club without a single outfielder under contract who has ever played 148 games in a year or managed a 120 OPS+ for a full season — the things, again, Swisher does reliably.

But all that matters are the things we don’t know: Namely, how much money the Mets have to spend this offseason and how much it will cost to acquire Swisher. The Indians have a widely reported offer on Swisher’s table — presumably right next to the pile of empty Red Bull cans, under last month’s Maxim — believed to be for about four years and $52 million.

That doesn’t sound like something the Mets could afford or even something they should be willing to part with for a 32-year-old outfielder who will cost them their 11th overall draft pick, and who’s good but not good enough to make them certain contenders in 2013. So if everything is as it currently appears: No, the Mets should not bro it down with Nick Swisher this offseason.

There are a couple of wild cards, though, however unlikely. Swisher is married to actress Joanna Garcia and, per that Jon Heyman report linked above, “loved New York” and has unrequited interest in the Dodgers. It seems to me that $13 million a year should be enough money to charter flights from anywhere in the country to New York or L.A. when Ms. Garcia needs to audition or work, so I’m not sure how much stock I’d put in Swisher’s preference for the coasts. But if the convenience of living in New York appeals to the Swishers enough to afford the Mets some sort of discount, the outlook becomes murkier.

Also, we keep hearing that the Mets will spend in free agency after the 2013 season, when more money comes off the books, and the team has a better understanding of its particular needs and is closer to contention. But though a lot could change between now and next offseason, the list of free agents for 2014 does not appear overwhelming. If the Mets could find room in their 2013 budget to pay Swisher, would Swisher on a three-year deal starting in 2014 be more appealing than the alternative free-agent options that offseason? The team’s need for outfielders probably isn’t going away, and there are a few but not a ton to choose from slated for next offseason’s market.

Meh, I still probably say no, if only because one year’s worth of information on next season’s free agents plus the draft pick might be worth more than the prospect of having Swisher at a then-somewhat-reasonable rate, since Swisher, for all his consistency to date, is still a human subject to all the same awful whims as the rest of us. Plus, the Mets’ signing Swisher now would interfere with my own personal pipedream: The team landing a different switch-hitting corner outfielder next year to lead them to postseason glory.

David Wright at 30

David Wright was born on this day in Norfolk, Va. in 1982. He has spent the bulk of the thirty years since punishing baseballs. Here is what he looks like:

Here's what David Wright looks like.

Using baseball-reference’s version of WAR, here’s how Wright stacks up with baseball’s top 20 active players aged 30 or younger:

[sny-table rowheader=true columnheader=true]
Player; Age; bb-ref WAR
Miguel Cabrera; 29; 44.4
David Wright; 30; 39.1
Joe Mauer; 29; 37.0
Robinson Cano; 30; 34.8
Justin Verlander; 29; 33.6
Ryan Braun; 29; 32.0
Felix Hernandez; 26; 31.8
Dustin Pedroia; 29; 30.7
Zack Greinke; 29; 30.0
Jose Reyes; 29; 29.8
Matt Cain; 28; 29.7
Ian Kinsler; 30; 28.7
Ryan Zimmerman; 28; 28.7
Evan Longoria; 27; 28.5
Cole Hamels; 28; 28.2
Adrian Gonzalez; 30; 28.1
Jered Weaver; 30; 27.8
Grady Sizemore; 30; 26.5
Joey Votto; 29; 26.2
Hanley Ramirez; 28; 26.2
[/sny-table]

If you don’t get it by now, I don’t imagine you ever will. David Wright is so, so good.