In a post for Baseball America, Matt Eddy takes a look at 10 guys signed to minor-league deals that emerged to have positive impacts on their teams, such as A’s IF-OF Brandon Moss, Giants OF Gregor Blanco and Marlins 2B Donovan Solano, who hit .295 in 93 games for Miami.
Matthew Cerrone, Lead Writer
You know, when you look around at these post-season rosters, they almost all contain at least a few of these type of players, as well as guys from their own farm systems who emerged throughout the year to fill key roles on the roster… even if just off the bench or back of the bullpen. It’s not a long-term strategy, by any means, and it’s not more important than having at least two or three heavyweights in your lineup, but it’s clearly an important part of sustaining success over the long haul of a single season and getting in to October.
In the days after he was hired, I think I expected to eventually see more of Sandy Alderson’s handy-work on a list like this. To date, I’d say Mike Baxter is probably his best minor-league deal, unless you also include Tim Byrdak and Chris Young. Scott Hairston has panned out, as well, though he was signed to a guaranteed one-year contract.
Baxter was the definition of the ‘scrap-heap guy,’ yet he has emerged to be an excellent bat-off-the-bench, he’s easily the team’s most selective hitter (which is something the organization is preaching) and he makes a good case to be a platoon-partner to a guy like Scott Hairston. In fact, if you combine their splits – with Baxter playing against righties and Hairston playing against lefties – they collectively hit .286 with 14 HR last season.
The Mets actually have guys who would be decent role players, like Baxter, Hairston, Jordany Valdespin, Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner and others, if they weren’t consistently being called upon to start and play more than they probably should – which, of course, is a result of having only one heavyweight (David Wright). It’s funny, as SNY’s Ted Berg recently put it, it’s the opposite problem this team had during Omar Minaya’s time as GM. Back then they had the heavyweights, but they had no role players. Today, they have the role players, but are missing Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado to hit with Wright. They’re probably hoping Ike Davis and Lucas Duda settle in to those featured positions, but that hasn’t totally happened yet. And, to make that work, the bench has to settle in and it would help to have more ‘scrap-heap guys’ emerge, as well… just as the Oakland A’s, San Francisco Giants and Detroit Tigers.
I might be unrealistic, but – because of their track record and legacy with identifying market inefficiencies, using advanced statistics, etc. from prior to joining the Mets - I assumed Alderson, J.P. Ricciardi and Paul DePodesta would end up signing more of these guys than just Baxter.
The Mets will likely push hard to make trades and move guys around to help increase power and productivity in the outfield. I’m not in favor of committing long-term to high-profile free agents, such as Josh Hamilton, Shane Victorino or even Cody Ross. Instead, I like the goal of trading for a young, under-control outfielder. However, based on how these other successful teams are currently structured, the Mets will also need a few more of these ‘scrap heap,’ minor-league deal guys to pan out, as well.
To look at Alderson’s track record of free-agent signings since joining the Mets, check out this post on the Real Dirty Mets Blog.