WAS JOSE ABREU THE GREAT MISSED OPPORTUNITY of the Mets Off-Season?

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Jimmy:

The $68 million dollar question that no one yet can answer definitively:

Can he hit?

Evidence suggests that Mr. Abreu can. That’s based on his own career in Cuba, in the WBC, and by inference on the performances of fellow exiles in the MLB, Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes.

In late October, Jose Abreu signed a six-year contract with the Chicago White for a total of $68 million. In addition to a signing bonus of $10 million — walking around money for the new import — Abreu will earn $7 million per in 2014 and 2015, before gradually escalating up to $12 million in 2019.

These days, that reads like chump change.

If he can hit.

White Sox GM Rick Hahn talked about it this way:

“I was talking about [the risk] with a GM of another club and he pointed out every free-agent deal has a risk and comes with potential for down side. You can choose to sit and do nothing, which is the safest route, or aggressively address need. For players who haven’t played in the states, it’s a calculated risk, but one we had to take. If we are going to get this thing right, and get it done as quickly as we want it done, we are going to have to be bold and be aggressive.”

To me, that sounds exactly right. We thought it at the time, when the Mets situation at 1B looked to be more “morass” than “logjam,” and said so: sign Abreu.

And then sign Granderson.

And then keep going.

Jeff HatOf course, after Abreu came off the table, Jeff Wilpon stepped forward with his excuses, and said of the Mets first base situation:

”That didn’t really seem like the point of need. If he played left or right field, yeah, I think we probably would have offered the guy a contract.”

But imagine the buzz. Imagine the lineup. Imagine the ticket sales, the risk, and the upside. Young, Murphy, Wright, Granderson, Abreu, d’Arnaud, Lagares, SS, Pitcher. That would have been exciting, if, you know, he could hit.

And there would still have been the $10-12 million leftover that’s currently on the table.

Back in August, Mike, you wrote this:

“Signing Abreu would be a signal to the fan base that the ownership is serious about winning and that they are solvent. It has been years since either of those things have been clear. We hear nonsense about how winning a few more games the rest of the way will invigorate that same fan base. You want to invigorate the fans, make a committed move. Considering our market, how low our payroll has dropped, and our need for a player like this, it’s sad how hard this gets looked at. You mention the bad signing of Kaz Matsui. Yes, sure, that did not work out, the money was virtually a waste. But so what? Stuff happens. We signed Kaz to a three-year deal after the 2003 season and that move killed us so bad we had our only Division win this century, in 2006. We took our losses on Kaz and moved on, as a solvent business does when it has an individual problem. Eventually every move can’t be do-or-die, because you die from the inactivity the associated fear creates.”

And I replied:

“Of course, neither of us believe the Mets will do it.”

Mike:

Abreu turned out to be a bargain. Non-tender Davis, don’t sign Chris Young, sign Abreu. Expense is roughly the same for 2013.

Jimmy:

Yes, no draft picks either, and he’ll be cheap five years from now.

Mike:

If he can hit. But everybody is a risk. Everybody.

Jimmy:

Chris Young was a huge risk — and promises were made. Sandy flew out there and looked Chris Young in the eye and guaranteed him ABs. How could that possibly go wrong, I wonder. All to a guy we’ll have for one punt year.

Mike:

But does Abreu walk enough? I’m serious, that could have been their issue.

Jimmy:

I’m sure he doesn’t. After all, he made it off the island.

Atlanta SS Rafael Ramirez, who had three walks in the first 45 games, is credited with the quote: “A walk won’t get you off the island.”

Atlanta SS Rafael Ramirez, who had three walks in the first 45 games, is credited with the quote: “A walk won’t get you off the island.”

 

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20 comments

  1. Alan K. says:

    The irony here is that the Mets will almost certainly be in the market for a first baseman this time next year-after they go through their “glut” of first basemen. They’ll probably wind up paying more for a player who isn’t as good as Abreu.

  2. RAFF says:

    To Paraphrase the words of Ben Franklin “‘In this world nothing is certain, except; 1) Not Spending Money on Risky Free Agents, and 2) 74-88

  3. IB says:

    Tough call on Abreu. Taking a pass was OK with me, and since they’ve actually spent some $ in the off season on quality ballplayers I won’t look back on this one.

    I’m reading now that scouts think Dominic Smith can be an impact ML 1st baseman as early as 2016. Gold Glove D too.

  4. Well, they spent the money — not as much as we’d like, but they did purchase three free agents. The question we are posing today is did we buy the wrong guy?

    Chris Young is the biggest gamble to me, because he does nothing to help the team win in 2015, unless Sandy wishes to flip him in July/August to a contender. At a certain point, I think the hope is that we don’t do that; we become the contender. With Abreu, a bigger risk, comes a much, much, much larger upside. Also, as I’ve written before, I believe we could experience a vibe where Juan Lagares is set up to fail. Doesn’t walk enough, doesn’t hit enough, Young shifts to CF more frequently, and Lagares never gets the full support of the team.

    On the positive side, Chris Young is a good candidate for a comeback season. He should be sufficiently motivated, and we know that he’s talented. So he could really make a positive impact in 2014. If he plays well, however, he’s going to be looking at free agency and a nice contract. Tough for a small market team like the Mets to keep.

  5. IB says:

    Amazing how the positive side can fill a fan’s heart with dread!!

    Lagares on the bench
    is the kind of depth a decent team needs. And, like you’ve said, a couple of things break right this could be a decent team.

  6. RAFF says:

    IB- If Lagares was 29, I would wholeheartedly agree. I just don’t think it’s an overall positive to have him parked on the bench, just in case the Mets need him to “fill-in”, here and there. The best case for Lagares and the Mets’ evaluation and development of him as a player is to get him 400 At Bats.

  7. RAFF says:

    OK – I’ll take a shot at answering the question posed- “Was Jose Abreu the great missed opportunity” – I DON’T KNOW…Nobody does. Given that the Mets are a “Small Market Team” – He wasn’t a possibility for us. Ridiculous, I know- Becasue if they were playing the contract game like a big market team- they would have taken a shot. All that said- Nobody knows if this guy is the next Chris Davis, or the next Willie Mo Pena. As far as that goes- NOBODY knew, last season, whether Chris Davis was the next Willie Mo Pena. These decisions are like the old lottery saying- “You gotta’ be in it to win it” We’ll see what this guy is all about, soon.

    • I don’t think it had anything to do with the money. He went cheap. It will come down to a question of scouting and evaluation. Obviously, few here have seen him or have a clear recollection of him in the WBC. Somebody signed Cespedes. Somebody signed Puig. Outside of the on-field performance, there may be reasons why some clubs were worried about the risk. Is he a guy you want on your team? It may have been wise to stay away. Impossible to say . . . today. We should know more pretty soon.

      • Michael Geus says:

        The money went to Young, and/or Colon. This was not a Cano-like deal, it was affordable.

        Was the unproven Abreu a bigger risk than the 41 year old with a PED past? Or the player coming off a .200 season? The answers come later, that is why they play the games.

        I don’t believe this was about money, I think it fits the pattern of a very methodical front office. Signing Abreu would have meant that both Davis and Duda needed to be aggressively moved. That idea was way beyond their comfort zone, these guys believe in patience on and off the field. Remember Jeff’s comments, a “glut of first baseman”, and, that “if he was an outfielder” we would have been interested.

        A big factor in this is they seem terrified to just cut Ike loose, knowing he could make that look silly. It is amazing how many people believe Ike will prosper if he moves on. I am one of them.

        • Alan K. says:

          I can see Ike prospering elsewhere as well. But it’s not ever going to happen with the Mets as long as Ike is expected to conform with the Hudgens way of hitting, which of course is the Alderson method which will not change as long as Sandy and his crew are in power. Ike is the classic example of a square peg in a round hole. Since they’ve already offered Ike arbiration, the Mets face the prospect of a $3.5 million bench player or giving him away, which I suspect will eventually happen.

  8. IB says:

    Raff – Point taken. I’m not sold on Lagares as an all around every day ballplayer…yet. EY out there and at the top of the order is more enticing to me. But, I
    would love to be wrong and see this kid hit and get his 450 AB’s.

  9. I look at this as an investment, in that you have to consider the payoff. If Lagares succeeds, you have a Gold-Glove caliber CF, years away from arbitration-eligibilty. The guys who believe in defensive stats will tell you that his dWAR alone makes him a positive force on the team, with the potential to be a great overall outfielder. For Chris Young — the guy we paid $7.5 million for one year — the investment amounts to, at best, a terrific season in NY and then a great contract somewhere else in the off-season. One guy might be an answer in 2015; another guy is not. I want to see Lagares get a real shot, but he won’t with this group, because the complaints about not walking enough are already out there, he’s not going to fit into the mold. EY is a known guy, he’s been around, and has nothing close to Lagares’ upside.

    This is not a guarantee that Lagares will give the Mets the .725 OPS they would like from him this year. There are no promises. But I’d very much love to see this guy succeed, and my fear is that he’s being set up to fail.

    • Michael Geus says:

      I’m generally in favor of Lagares getting a lot of time in center, especially considering the alternatives. But I’m not worried about him being ruined in any way if he is blocked by better players. You make room for guys like David Wright and Darryl Strawberry, obvious impact players. Everyone else can earn playing time. If you never do you were not ruined. You weren’t good enough.

      If Lagares were to become a 4th outfielder he will still get plenty of at bats. It’s a long season. If he can hit he will have plenty of chances to prove it.

      We saw the same talk with Valdespin last year, that he wasn’t given enough opportunity. Nonsense, he wasn’t very good. If he was he would have done something with the chances he did get.

      In 1986 we started Ray Knight, not Howard Johnson. Hojo got his at bats and his career indicates he was not ruined.

      Forget 2015, as Sandy has said the focus in 2014 needs to be winning. Whoever gives us the best chance to win in 2014 should play. I happen to think that is Lagares, but if these guys think otherwise I am fine with that, playing Young over Lagares will be a signal that winning is the number one priority.

      Good.

  10. IB says:

    I was in the middle of responding but Michael stated it better than I could have ever done.

    In my view, whatever gives the team the best chance of winning – today – should be out there.

  11. Eric says:

    Valdy may suck….but there is no way to claim that he had a sustained opportunity—I won’t argue whether or not he deserved one—but he never did get one! There was certainly lots and lots of opportunity within a 74 win season to do so. BTW— my recollection was that they “ACCIDENTED” into providing Lagares his chance.

    On another point….Davis and “The Glut of First Basemen”—- well, the owner looks at the work/roster of the GM—and it sure as hell looks like a pretty strong stack of payroll at one slot. I have NO IDEA of their thinking in Tendering Ike—I suspect they signed him and were then “notified” that their projected budget needed to be 15-20 million smaller than originally planned.

    • Another guy to enter this conversation could be Wilmer Flores. He’s currently tearing up whatever winter league he’s in, but again appears to be odd-man out.

      Are we seeing a management group that appears unwilling to give younger players an opportunity — now that the idea is to win, versus whatever it is they were up to in 2011-13.

      Obviously, guys need to produce, but they must also be given an opportunity to fail (for a stretch, anyway).

  12. RAFF says:

    I appreciate Eric Young as a ballplayer- but I think he has proven who he is- A solid versatile player who is about 100 OPS “light” as a contending team’s everyday 2nd baseman and about 200 OPS “light” as a corner outfielder for a contender. He’s a great reserve and situational player to have on a major league roster, and he’s going to have a long career. At certain points, he may serve as a stopgap starter for various teams. due to injury or just due to the fact that they have no other choice. He’s a proven commodity. he does not play a premium defensive position, so we can’t “discount” his offensive numbers as much as a Shortstop or center fielder with the same output. I think a priority has to be finding out if Lagares can tweak a 700+ OPS and flash leather in center field. If he can, the Mets should consider him a long-term solution for center field. If he does emerge as an everyday player- then it cascades down into a number of opportunities to trade and make decisions on free agents moving forward. Citi Field dictates a need to be very strong up the middle on defense. Assuming the Mets have not already internally scouted and evaluated Lagares as NOT being that guy – They really owe it to themselves to find out if he is.

  13. Not really a quibble, just want to clarify that OPS is kind of bullshit stat, mushing two separate skills into one fast-and-easy number. I find it very useful. Analysts will tell you that OBP is more important, in terms of creating runs, than SLG. That a .400 OBP + .400 SLG is worth more than .350 + .450. Computers figure this stuff out, I’m just passing along the accepted wisdom. Point being that if EY could add .050 OBP he’s be a valuable player and a great leadoff man, regardless of position.

  14. RAFF says:

    I’m with you, Jimmie- But EY Jr. is not ELITE on his OBP- 325—Yes- if he could drive it 50 PT’s higher- we’d be talking about a whole different player. If the Mets had most of the other spots in the lineup figured out- I could live with him. As stated- in the future, many teams will live with him… But that’s just the thing- You can “live with” EY Jr. – but do you project him as a permanent everyday answer anywhere ?

    • My comment was not at all directed to whether he was elite or not. Just looking at your OPS figures and focusing more on OBP. Unless he utterly transforms, I do not see him as a regular player, but like him as a super sub.

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