10/21/17

Reese Kaplan -- Aoki A-OK But Sayonara Anyway

14 comments

When Sandy Alderson went to the scrap heap to pick up Norichiki Aoki last summer, it barely raised a blip on anyone’s radar.  The Mets were reeling with injuries to Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto, so another warm body was needed in the outfield and paying major league minimum for a veteran talent seemed like a decent enough idea. 

Where things kind of fell apart was the guy with the lineup pencil writing his name into every game after his arrival.  Instead of finding out what, if anything, guys in the minors could do with an extended look, we got a steady diet of the 35 year old.  It would have behooved them to look more at Travis Taijeron, Victor Cruzado or even Phil Evans in the outfield.  Unfortunately the delusional one was “trying to win games” and not thinking about the future.


Now don’t get me wrong. Aoki was everything he’s always been.  He’s a pesky little hitter with good baserunning ability who in his Mets career hit .284, just a point off his .285 career mark, and delivered a .371 OBP.  In most circumstances those kinds of numbers would be drawing a lot of attention. 

However, just as the Mets were in the right place and the right time to grab him last September, arbitration rules suggest his days with the Mets are over almost before they’ve begun.  Already earning $6.3 million this year, most people have him pegged at $8 million via arbitration.  That’s a lot of coin for a guy who becomes the 4th or 5th outfielder once Michael Conforto returns.  As such I see him as a clear non-tender candidate with an invitation to come back for more modest money.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that he will, so if he demurs what do the Mets do?  Since they didn’t get a look at anyone else on the roster for more than 52 ABs, they pretty much have to go outside the organization (despite their disinclination to do so in the past).  So who’s out there?

Let’s talk about the three headed elephant in the room – Jay Bruce, J.D. Martinez and Lorenzo Cain.  All three are coming off strong seasons (Martinez even more so than the not too shabby Bruce who managed 36/101/.254).  Martinez was a monster with 42/104/.303.  Bruce is coming off a $13 million contract and Martinez off a $11.75 million deal.  Martinez is a year younger and bats right handed.  My guess is that the defensively challenged Martinez will be sought after by American League teams who have the luxury of deploying him at DH.  The Indians may indeed be in the mix for Bruce as their current DH, Carlos Santana, is due to take his evil ways to another team via free agency.  Cain is a different type of player who is paid for defense, batting average, speed and moderate power.  He’s a bit older (turning 32 during the upcoming season) but would likely also demand an increase from his $11 million contract.  The first two would require 4 or more years at more than $16 million per year.  Since a large part of Cain's game is his legs, I'm guessing he could be had for 3 years at a tick less – say $45 million overall.  Nothing to see here, folks…


One player who might be of interest to the, ahem, frugal Mets is Logan Morrison.  The former Marlin had played himself into a platoon player role for the mid part of his career before having his career season coinciding with his free agency.   Arguably the best veteran dollars spent last year, the Rays got 38 HRs, 85 RBIs and a .246 AVG for a paltry $2.5 million.  That’s going to increase substantially, but being an outlier will likely suppress the overall numbers of his new deal as his previous high was 6 years prior when he hit 23 HRs and 72 RBIs with a .247 AVG as a Marlin.    Prior to this year he average 20 HRs and 68 RBIs per 162 games, so he’s not exactly All Star material, but might be decent fill-in material for say $6.5 million which is still $1.5 million less than what Aoki would likely cost.  He played 1B for the Rays but has over 250 games in the outfield in his career as well.


In the past I’ve advocated Ben Revere as a possibility.  Batting average and baserunning speed are the best parts of his game.  After some very good years in Philadelphia and Toronto, he’s bounced around recovering from injury in Washington and Anaheim.  Set to hit free agency, he was earning just $4 million last year and averages .284 with 40 SBs per year.  I could see him as a cheaper alternative to Aoki who could be stashed on the bench when Conforto returns. 



Alderson seems to love “payroll flexibility” which is GM-speak for no long term deals.  On that front the much traveled Rajai Davis could probably be had on a single year deal.  He’s a .264 career hitter and even at his age of 37 still stole 29 bases.  He’s probably be looking at a downgrade from his most recent salary of $6 million.


The oft-injured Cameron Maybin is a poor man’s Lorenzo Cain.  He has some power, some speed and can play centerfield.  For his career he averages 10 HRs, 55 RBIs, 29 SBs and Gold Glove type defense while hitting a modest .255.  My concern here is not his offensive output but the fact he’s only 3 times in a 10 year career managed to get 500 ABs.  He’s currently earning $9 million but given his injury history I would be wary about offering him lots of money on a short deal or security on a long one.


One name that somewhat caught me by surprise is Jon Jay who I always thought of as a glove-only guy.   I was floored to learn he has a .288 career average, though he does not provide speed or power with that commendable output.  He’s earning $8 million right now for the playoff contending Cubs, so that national stage is going to help keep his price on the higher end of the scale.  If it’s only defense they want, they could just play Juan Lagares.  I don’t see a fit here.

Personally, I would rather see them invest in another starting pitcher or two, and a killer bullpen arm rather than put lots of money into the outfield.  You could always tread water with Lagares and Brandon Nimmo playing every day until then.  May the better man get the starting CF gig when Conforto is back in the lineup.  Towards that end I would be fine with a guy like Revere or Morrison if and only if the money saved is put into pitching.  

14 comments:

Thomas Brennan said...

It is not in their DNA, but the crosstown rivals are in their ascendancy. I would spend big on the outfield, pen and starters, and COMPETE! Cain or Bruce.

Playing Aoki so much was a dunderhead move indeed. I would have gotten Taijeron on 40 more ABs, understanding it likely would have been a failed experiment.

Mack Ade said...

Morning guys -

I think you know where I am going here.

Aoki would have no future on my team and I would use 2018 to build for 2019.

I would sign Martinez for 3 years... but that is just me...

Thomas Brennan said...

Mack, if the Mets signed Martinez to 3 years, I'd not complain!

Adam Smith said...

They should start by drafting better.

That said, I agree with Reese. I wouldn’t be spending limited resources on an OF. Let Lagares and Nimmo fight it out or share time. If you have a healthy Conforto and Cespedes, that’s a perfectly good OF, and perhaps great if Lagares gives you GG defense and picks up his offense just a little, and/or Nimmo gives you a .390 OBP. If you don’t have a healthy Cespedes and Conforto, then whatever small chance you may have had to be competitive is gone anyway, so why give AB’s to a high priced vet for a marginal (and uncertain) increase in production? I also agree with Mack that ‘18 is really a staging ground for ‘19. If there’s no one out there who merits a long term deal as a foundational piece, i’d Give the kids the playing time, and see how the minor leaguers progress, and hold off on any big FA signings until after next season.

Ed Marcus said...

The problem as j see it is that unless DW retires this offseasonSandy will bring in average players to fill platoon roles .. that’s why I can see him picking up Cabrera’s option .. do I want to see either MoustAkas or Bruce back here yup - but I think we will see a lot of low dollar spare parts imported this offseason

Ed Marcus said...

Oh & im not saying that fielding a team of platoon heavy players (see ‘69) but I think that strategy doesn’t play well these days

Robb said...

I cant see the mets going after any of those guys but bruce. And even then I dont think they are doing that. No one is paying Aoki 8mm next year, but for 3 mm he's a nice little player. Its more important that he isnt in your lineup most days if you want to be a winning team. a random guy I was thinking about who is probably in the 3-5mm range is Mike Napoli. Now he wouldnt be much of a 5th outfielder (you'd have to play lagares if he was out there), but he would be a good pinch hitter, reserve 1b.

Thomas Brennan said...

Ed, it is hard to field a platoon team now: in 1969, 10 pitchers, 15 hitters...now just 13 hitters. The rosters should expand by at least 1 to 26.

Ed Marcus said...

Thomas you are correct but how many times this past season did we see multiple platoon situations whether it was 3b 1b ss or 2b ? Hell even CF was at one point a platoon before Conforto proved he was deserving

Reese Kaplan said...

Platoons can work if you have a manager intelligent enough to know how and when to deploy them.

Thomas Brennan said...

Ed and Reese, good points. I think we may see SMITH and FLORES platoon at 1B this year. Of course, Flores would play plenty elsewhere, too.

I also think Alonso will be our 1B in 2019 unless they can find neither SMITH or Alonzo another position.

Reese Kaplan said...

Alonso should work into the slow footed corner outfield mold like Jay Bruce since Smith is a plus defender. If Smith falters, then Alonso could always return to first.

Reese Kaplan said...

@Robb -- Napoli could bounce back but he's only had 11 games in the OF in his entire career. At his age and as a former catcher he may not have the athleticism to adapt.

Eddie Corona said...

I have never been a spend for spend sake... Guys like JD are great but I would never sign them as the Big ticket item... I would prefer to spend more on better players... I rather have a Harper, Machado, or donaldon ... I know my mets are the food stamps wilpon but IN NY WE SHOULD ONLY SHOP AT TIFFANY's

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