Jose Reyes vs. Frank Francisco

27 Feb

From Joe Sheehan’s E-Mail Newsletter yesterday (which I highly recommend, especially if you enjoyed his old Prospectus Daily column):

“One way to look at the Mets’ offseason is to give them a pass, note that they don’t have much money to spend for reasons baseball and otherwise, and acknowledge that they’re doing the best they can with what they have.

The other way is this:

— 2012 salary, Jose Reyes: $10,000,000

— 2012 salary, Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch, Ronny Cedeno: $10,150,000

Reyes took a backloaded contract with the Marlins. I can’t tell you that he would have accepted that from the Mets. I can tell you that the Mets’ decision to not trade Reyes at the deadline reflected a desire to sign him (and an incredible naivete about what not trading him would do for their chance of doing so), and that if they had any intention at all of bringing him back, they clearly could have put something like that on the table. The Mets, instead, watched Reyes walk away and spent more than what he’ll make on two relievers and a bad replacement shortstop. Yes, it would have required a commitment of $100 million or more across future years, but the Mets will also have tens of millions coming off the books after 2013, and signing Reyes would have had an impact on the revenue side of the equation.”

I should point out that Sheehan was on the Mets all last year to trade Reyes and wrote several times that not trading him would have a negligible effect on their ability to resign him. He certainly appears to have been right in that regard. That said, it is kind of disingenuous to equate the above signings and then just sort of handwave the 100 million Reyes is due from 2013-2018. Rauch may be a bust, Francisco may be a below average closer and Cedeno may just be a caddy for Daniel Murphy at the keystone, but after 2012, the three of them are due only another 6 million. You have to think that the Mets finances impair their ability to go nine figures with anybody right now, no matter how much is coming off the books the next couple seasons.

Sheehan does makes one very good point, which is this:

“The first rule of free agency is that you spend on the stars, not the middle class. One of the primary rules of sabermetrics is that you don’t pay for relievers, you find them.”

It might have been too much to ask Sandy Alderson to predict that the bottom would fall out of the reliever market shortly after his signing binge. Sure, I’d rather have Ryan Madson for 1/8 than Frankie Frank for 2/12, but even after the Phillies’ deal fell through, you’d have to imagine Madson would get at least 2/20 from someone. But, for example, Michael Wuertz is still available. Yes, the arm might be shot, but so might be Rauch’s. Wuertz won’t cost 3 million this year. Hong Chi Kuo signed with the Mariners in February for an incentive laden 1 million dollar deal. Now Kuo might not have wanted to leave the west coast, but it seems like every year there are always relief arms worth compiling on minor league deals with NRIs right before Spring Training.

Frankly, I’d bet the best pen arm the Mets picked up this offseason was Ramon Ramirez, who cost less than Rauch as an Arb3 player and was acquired as part of the Pagan/Torres swap. That’s the way you build a bullpen. That and collecting the Bobby Parnells and Pedro Beatos of the world. Would the Mets have been better off passing on Rauch and using a 40 man slot to pick up, say, Diego Moreno in the Rule V? I think so.

I do think Francisco will be good this year. He’ll probably give the Mets something like 80% of K-Rod for less than half of what they were paying K-Rod. That said, does an 80 win team really need a 6 million dollar closer? Yes, the Mets pen was pretty wretched last year, but even with the 12 million they have spent on their three new bullpen arms, there is no guarentee they will be better this year. The performance of any pitcher over 60 or so innings is awfully hard to predict. And Rauch and Francisco are likely on the downside of their careers at this point. I generally assume some asymmetry of knowledge and Alderson and co. probably have plenty of information on Rauch that I don’t, but it  still seems like a high risk, low reward move regardless.

The Cedeno move is even more puzzling. All offseason we heard about how the Mets needed a back-up shortstop on the roster, but if Tejada plays 150 games next year, you can live with Justin Turner at SS for the other 12. If Tejada gets hurt, well, Ronny Cedeno isn’t exactly a huge long term upgrade over Omar Quintanilla, but only one required a major leage deal. The move also makes Turner kind of redundant, as Cedeno will likely get the bulk of the caddying work at 2b. That leaves Turner as a 1b/3b guy, where his bat is severely stretched. Yes, Turner is a -15 SS probably, but if he is playing there more than once every other week, you have bigger problems.

It also means your bench is Scott Hairston and three guys that don’t hit for power or draw walks. If only the Mets had a four corners right-handed bat with some pop, if only.


3 Responses to “Jose Reyes vs. Frank Francisco”

  1. ceetar February 27, 2012 at 9:53 PM #

    Addional puzzlement to Cedeno is that acquiring his limited skills required trimming the 40man roster and giving up any fleck of chance Fernando Martinez would ever blossom.

    • Jeffrey Paternostro February 27, 2012 at 9:59 PM #

      The Mets really needed to be picky with their 40 man this year as well, since they had to add so many players that won’t contribute in 2012 in order to give them Rule V protection.

      • ceetar February 27, 2012 at 10:09 PM #

        I’ll remember that every time DJ Carrasco pitches.

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