Reese Kaplan -- It's a Great Big World Out There

Every now and then I get into a familiar argument with friends regarding the international free agent marketplace and the Mets’ reluctance to enter it.  They seem to have no issue delving deep into Central and South America when it comes to low-priced prospects, but when the opportunity arrives to grab hold of people who could help the club now, then they all of the sudden turn tail and run the other way.

Now the conventional “wisdom” has always been that whether you’re talking about Cuba, Japan or Korea, there’s no clear metric that can be used to gauge the level of play and how well the statistics will translate to Major League Baseball.  True…for every Yoenis Cespedes out there, there is a Jorge Toca waiting to happen. 

However, if you go through the annals of international free agents, there has been plenty of success.  Consider Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Matsui, Masahiro Tanaka, Yasiel Puig, Jose Abreu, Yoenis Cespedes, Jung Ho Kang, Shin-Soo Choo and others. 

Now Mets fans are quick to point out that Kazuo Matsui not only displaced former fan favorite Jose Reyes onto second base, but his career was deemed a failure.  


In his rookie season for the Mets he hit .272 with 7 HRs and 44 RBIs.  He also stole 14 bases in 17 attempts.  He averaged 8 HRs, 58 RBIs and a .267 AVG for his MLB career.  You want to know who hasn’t done that?  Ruben Tejada has averaged 3 HRs, 41 RBIs and a .255 AVG for his career, having stolen a grand total of 16 bases while being caught 11 times, yet Matsui is the one deemed a failure?

I’m not here to praise Matsui nor to bury Tejada.  However, I do want to disabuse the notion that Matsui was a failure and thus should not be used as xenophobic justification for avoiding the international market for free agents.  Last year, for example, the Mets could have gone after any number of international options but instead chose the proven “talents” of Michael Cuddyer who cost them not only $22 million over two years, but also their first round draft pick.  International free agents do not cost the draft pick and thus for an organization looking to stockpile them to build for the future, avoiding the international market is puzzling, to say the least.

On the subject of getting proven major league talent, for purposes of brevity let’s only look at some of the Mets’ checkered history with free agents and long term contracts.  Oliver Perez.  Luis Castillo.  Jason Bay.  Frank Francisco.  Michael Cuddyer.  Chris Young.  John Mayberry, Jr.  David Wright.  Johan Santana.    I could go on.

You know what’s a much shorter list?  Free agents who have succeeded – Carlos Beltran...umm…anyone…Bueller?  (Curtis Granderson is a push thus far with one bad season and one acceptable season).

The point here is that the team needs to consider all available players who could help them win.  Sticking to the “proven” crop hasn’t worked out too well.  Being fearful of the unknown means man never would have ventured to the moon, yet in 1969 both that and the Mets proved to the world that the seemingly impossible could happen with courage and perseverance. 

It was refreshing to hear that the Mets made a bid on Korean slugger Byung Ho Park, but we don’t know how serious they were about it.  Still, it was encouraging to see them step out of their comfort zone and at least consider that the world extends beyond Alaska, Hawaii and Florida. Baby steps... 


Thomas Brennan said...

Aggressively consider all superior talent and aggressively sign the best.

Zozo said...

I would consider making an offer on the Japanese stud pitcher if he gets posted. That way we can trade Harvey and gets us a young shortstop.

Hobie said...

There's that fable of that dog with a bone seeing what appears to be a bigger one in the reflecting pool.

Just sayin'

Reese Kaplan said...

Personally I think offense is the priority, but then again losing Murphy, Cespedes and being saddled with Cuddyer, a frail shell of David Wright, an unrealized potential of Lucas Duda and a fragile Travis d'Arnaud means it could be a long 2016 season if pitching is all the team has to offer. Oh yeah, when the team is starved for offense, put it in the books that Tejada will be the starting shortstop, too.

Thomas Brennan said...

Reese, Tejada may bat clean up :)

Kiidding aside, let's hope they do not nickel and dime us.

Stubby said...

Let's agree to disagree.

First, Curtis Granderson was not a "push". Without Grandy, we don't make the post-season in 2015. And if you're going to point to Kaz as a non-failure (did you watch him play with the Mets? He made Wilmer Flores look like a perennial Gold Glover), then Grandy's 2014 wasn't a failure either. Mayberry and Chris Young were cheap. They were lottery tickets that didn't pan out (although Young did for the Yankees what we'd hoped he'd do for us). Nothing ventured, nothing gained. And last off-season, EVERYBODY said the Mets should sign Cuddyer. Most of our biggest FA failures came from Omar (Jason Bay anyone?). And, I'll tell you what; as a lefty who could throw high nineties heat, I'd have taken a shot on Oliver Perez, myself. I might not have paid as much--Omar was a pretty free spender. But I don't blame anyone for that move given the upside potential. Much like the amateur draft, not everything is going to work out with free agents. The key to being successful is not to get so caught up in a certain player that you overpay (Jason Bay, Bobby Bonilla, etc.). I think Alderson has shown restraint in that regard, probably more than most Mets fans want to see.

On the international market, the Mets track record is putrid. We're OK with the DR, but the bidding wars there are far less intense. We were never going to go all-out for Cespedes or Jose Abreau when they left Cuba--the asking price was simply out of the range of a club recovering from Bernie Maddoff disease. Now that Cespedes has proven his worth, I'd pay market or better to keep him, but the Mets probably won't. I don't think too much of Yasmany Tomas, but he's still young and wasn't as expensive. Rusney Castillo is crap and way overpaid.

Whether its their scouting or their timidity in the market--and it doesn't matter which to me if the results are the same--we end up getting the Kaz Matsuis instead of the Hideki Matsuis and the Alay Solers instead of the Yoenis Cespedes.

With our track record, whatever the reasons, I'd just as soon the Mets not play in that sandbox. We've long since proven incapable of getting that right and I doubt we're going to lay out 10 million per year to a solid but unproven international free agent just because that's what all the other kids are doing.

Pitching wins championships. Or I should say pitching and defense wins championships. With better fielding (and maybe a bit more experience), I think we beat the Royals. We've got the best rotation in baseball. Building through the draft is still the way to go. Would you rather lay all your chips on a Rusney Castillo or draft a Michael Conforto (leaving plenty of chips available for help elsewhere)? I'll take the Conforto option, myself.

bob gregory said...



Everbody most definitely did not support signing Cuddyer.
There were quite a few outspoken commenters here at Macks Mets, radio sports personalities, Television Sport personalities, newspaper reporters, and blog writers that were very much against the Cuddyer signing.

Reasons focused upon age, injury history, and fear his performance was inflated due to Coors Field.

just setting the record straight.

Mack's Mets © 2012