Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
December 5, 2005
BASEBALL: LoDuca To Queens

So, the Mets plug another hole by going back to the same well that produced Mike Piazza, Al Leiter, Dennis Cook and Carlos Delgado, trading in two relatively unknown (to me, at least) pitching prospects at the Marlins' garage sale for Paul LoDuca. LoDuca's a solid, unspectacular player, 34 years old now, a lifetime .283 hitter but with only modest power and patience who is owed $6.25 million per year in 2006 and 2007. Not a great pickup in the abstract, but probably cheaper and more durable than Ramon Hernandez and a better bat than Bengie Molina. LoDuca's no great shakes defensively. One good sign is that LoDuca, like Piazza, comes to the Mets from two NL pitcher's parks, so what you see on paper is likely to be what you get.

The big decision, of course, is whether to try to ride LoDuca hard in the first half or rest him with a lot of Ramon Castro; LoDuca is just about the most notorious first half hitter in the game, with a lifetime split of .308/.453/.362 before the All-Star Break and .257/.375/.312 after. The question is whether that's a persistent fatigue issue or just a seasonal pattern. The pattern was nearly absent in 2005 (.286/.375/.338 vs. .279/.388/.328), as he got more time off, which could suggest fatigue, or it could just be a sign of decline that he had a typical second half without the great first half.

I assume that the LoDuca deal, coming on the heels of acquiring Delgado and Billy Wagner, is the end of the Mets' shopping spree - after this, they may still deal, but not from need and not to acquire new salary obligations to mop up all the payroll room they cleared with the departures of Piazza (who is now definitively not returning at any price), Cameron and Looper.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:13 AM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Solid off-season so far, but they haven't addressed a glaring need: no #2 or #3 starter.

Their #1 is spectacular, but aging and not a 225+ IP guy. They have a gaggle of #4/5 guys: Glavine, Benson, Trachsel, Seo, Zambrano, Heilman (until proven otherwise). But no one in that solid, 200 IP/3.25-3.75 ERA space. They are going to have to address this between now and April, or they're entering the season with one too many question marks, IMHO.

To wit, 34 year-olds at C, 1B, #1 starter and closer. One of these guys is gonna break down, fall apart, or just have one of those shitty years that 34 year-olds have. Plus, Floyd's not young & has a history of injuries/being in poor shape; Glavine's ancient; Trachsel's 34 or 35; their set-up man is at least 42 and may be far older.

The only players in their prime are Beltran & Heilman. And one of them is inching towards 30 and the other is unproven. Even Wright & Reyes, as much as we love them, are young & relatively unproven. Wright, for instance, could post 275/350/450 this year and it would mean nothing more than a hotshot 23 year-old having a slow 2nd year. He'll still be great in the long run, of that I'm confident, but to *count on* a 2nd year player to be one of your money guys on offense is a dicey proposition.

I think the Mets will be a 90+ win team. But they need to get that additional starter. Otherwise they're risking a great season because of lack of depth.

Posted by: Mike at December 5, 2005 8:55 AM

I think the Mets starters are fine for the regular season. They won't make noise in the playoffs unless they improve there, but they don't necessarily have to do that by opening day. Aside from the desirability of keeping him in order to keep him, that is one reason to hold onto Lastings Milledge for now. The one thing that it would probably be worth trading him to get - a legitimate, big-time starter from some team like Houston that currently thinks they can contend, but might not - might be more available later.

Posted by: Jerry at December 5, 2005 9:32 AM

That's a good point. The old July 31 pick-up of a stud starter for the stretch drive. Hmmm.

Posted by: Mike at December 5, 2005 10:03 AM

The Mets are starting to look like the Rangers of a few years ago; all offense, little to no pitching. How much longer can Pedro's arm hold up with his small frame doing little of the work? Glavine, love him, but he's a 12-15 win guy. And on the offensive side, even Delgado isn't what he was with Toronto. I could be wrong but, I'm going to go ahead and pre-order my BRAVES 15th CONSECUTIVE TITLE t-shirt. The only real threat I see is the Phills.

Posted by: JB at December 5, 2005 1:14 PM

"The Mets are starting to look like the Rangers of a few years ago; all offense, little to no pitching."

WOAH!

I've said before that the Mets pitching isn't great, but this is carrying it way, way, WAY too far.

The Mets had the third lowest ERA in the NL last, fercrissakes. Even adjusting for ballpark effects, their pitching was certainly in the top half of the league last year. And, while they are now a year olders, they have done nothing but improve the staff so far in the off season.

Certainly the Mets staff is better than the Braves staff!

Posted by: Al at December 5, 2005 3:13 PM

LoDuca's second half fade was definitely there last season. He had a strong July but check out his August and September numbers.

Posted by: grandcosmo at December 5, 2005 6:05 PM

From the ESPN story: "Minaya envisions the three-time All-Star as a No. 2 hitter."

Um, WHAT?

Posted by: Al at December 5, 2005 8:13 PM

Al,

I've always been a Pedro fan, and as a Braves fan I love Glavine, but I'll take Hudson and Smoltz over them still. Because the Braves have a so so bullpen and no closer, you're right the Mets do have a better all around staff. And the loss of Leo M. makes you wonder if they can develop the good young arms they have into a solid bullpen.

That said; although I'll still take the Braves for the division, they again will not take the necessary steps to be a world champion. Teddy (I'll name the ballpark after myself) Turner can give a billion dollars to the U.N. but he can't put a decent closer on the hill, or go get another big bat. Once again, around September I'll convince myself that this team is different, and once again they'll lose before reaching the World Series.

What the Mets are trying just could work for a year or two. If they win the series it will have been worth it. If not, they will have spent a lot of money on older players with great track records, but no gas left in the tank. I'm betting on the latter.

JB

Posted by: JB at December 6, 2005 12:44 PM

The Mets are upgrading while everyone else in the division has taken a step back. Pending any blockbusters from the Braves or Phillies (the Nationals don't have enough and the Marlins have apparently decided to quit on the next few years), the Mets should be the favorites to win the division.

Crank:

Have you (or any other blogger you know of) analyzed the drop off of certain players in power numbers from 2003 to present? It would be an interesting list to discuss potential steroid abusers and a great topic to debate. Your thoughts?

Posted by: Phanatic at December 6, 2005 3:59 PM
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