For the Love of Rod…

With all the hooplah surrounding the Mets, one player who usually gets put under the radar is Rod Barajas. This off-season, Omar Minaya avoided the temptation of signing Bengie Molina, a wise move that level-headed fans applauded. He instead signed two veteran catchers, Rod Barajas and Henry Blanco, to decent contracts, all the while keeping a plethora of backup options (Josh Thole, Chris Coste, Omir Santos, etc) ready. Thus far, the combination of Barajas and Blanco behind the plate has been solid, racking up 1.6 WAR on the season.

However, in typical Mets fan fashion, many have gotten caught up in Barajas’ homeruns and RBI totals instead of his humble 0.8 WAR. David Lennon at Newsday wrote an article entitled, “Mets would be wise to re-sign Barajas,” and although I can’t see much of it thanks to Newsday‘s silly paywall, I can guess the whole thing talks at length about leadership, handling New York, RBI/homers, and managing the pitching staff (i.e. very intangible things). Many Mets fans are in unison with Lennon on the issue, which is all the more upsetting.

There are currently fourteen other catchers in the National League alone with a WAR of at least equal to Barajas’ 0.8. Barajas has certainly exceeded my level of expectations, but those were low to begin with. Rod had an OBP of .258 (!) last season in 125 games, and his mark of .281 this year isn’t much better. However, his .500+ SLG gives him a solid .330 wOBA on the year. Unfortunately, ZiPS only projects him to slug .421 the rest of the way, good for just a .306 wOBA. Even with his career-high power streak this year, Barajas’ wRC+ sits at just 104, meaning that once his fly balls stop leaving the yard at his current rate, he’s doomed for below mediocrity.

So what can the Mets do rather than sign Barajas to an extension after he’s performed decently for three months? They can see see how the rest of the season goes and evaluate things in November. They can let him go and give a chance to Josh Thole, who had the following wOBA projections preseason:

CHONE: .321
ZiPS: .343
Marcel: .315

Although Thole has struggled somewhat in Triple-A, he did perform well in a brief major league appearance in 2009. His defense isn’t great, but neither is Barajas’. Most importantly, he’s cheap and controlled by the team.

However, Thole doesn’t have to be the only option either. The Mets could attempt to buy low on Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta, a very good catcher who’s been displaced by the surging Miguel Olivo. Iannetta put up 5.7 WAR from 2008-09, and ZiPS has him projected for a .344 wOBA for the rest of 2010.

The Mets can sell high on Barajas at the trade deadline and put Thole and Blanco in a true platoon behind the plate. Due to the clubhouse issues and media attention, this one seems very unlikely.

Finally, the Mets can do what they did last season: cut ties with their major league catchers and just wait for something to fall in the off-season, a strategy that usually works especially well with catchers.

Last year, the Mets unnecessarily traded Ramon Castro to the White Sox because they were excited about the play of Omir Santos. You want to know what was said of Santos? He was energetic, handled the pitching staff well, a fan-favorite, could deal with the pressure of New York, and was hitting pretty well (pop, but no walks). Where is Omir Santos today? Hitting .105 for Double-A Binghamton. I’m not saying that Rod Barajas = Omir Santos (Barajas is clearly, clearly better); however, the Mets should just be extremely wary to overreact to a few months of average play from their catcher just because some buzz words have been thrown around. Hopefully Omar is listening.




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Pat Andriola is an Analyst at Bloomberg Sports who formerly worked in Major League Baseball's Labor Relations Department. You can contact him at Patrick.Andriola@tufts.edu or follow him on Twitter @tuftspat

16 Responses to “For the Love of Rod…”

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  1. Temo says:

    Not that I mind much, but the Mets should probably be extremely wary, not weary.

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  2. J.P. says:

    I know it is tempting to use Metsblog as a pulse for all Mets fans, but really, a lot of us are embarassed by it. Amazin Avenue, for one, has been down on extending him, and Blanco has been just as good in less playing time. Though I doubt he would keep it up in longer stretches in then lineup, he is better defensively.

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    • Pat Andriola says:

      J.P., I agree. I just think, as a Mets fan, that the majority of Mets fans (which usually correlates to the front office mindset) think more similarly to MetsBlog than AA.

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  3. Craig Glaser says:

    Just to lay it out there I thought this article should be titled “Rod no!”

    Also I agree with Temo. The Mets should be wary. Mets fans should be weary.

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  4. RyanC says:

    Great article on BP identifying Rod as one of the few players in history with a sub .300 OBP and over .500 SLG.

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=11162

    When he isn’t hitting for extra bases, Rod contributes absolutely nothing to a baseball team. I know catcher is a tough position to fill, but the Mets should be able to do better. As a Blue Jays fan, the 30 home runs he popped over his two seasons there did not make up for the brutal .275ish OBP.

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  5. Dan Lewis says:

    He’s probably a really good catcher, though. His quotes suggest he really understands pitchers and would make for a great coach, which (as a catcher) may actually translate on the field.

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  6. Paul says:

    S-Rod has pop (although some of it has been PCL-induced) and he’s a darn good defender who can play multiple positions, but I can’t buy that showing less patience at the plate — especially for a guy with a 42/5 K/BB — helps his cause.

    Most hitters fare much worse when down two strikes. For S-Rod, whose contact percentage is already an abomination, it’s a given that he’d be atrocious down 0-2. I’m just not sure how being less patient will erase his contact woes or help him avoid two-strike counts more often. Don’t you want him TAKING the first pitch more often?

    His .288 average right now is being driven by a .400 BABIP. His bunts for base hits have helped that rate tremendously thus far (nearly 17% of his hits have been of the BUH variety), but he’s unlikely to turn into a bunt-for-base-hit machine just because he’s caught defenses off guard a few times. He does have above-average speed, but he’s no burner a la Chone Figgins or Michael Bourn. Put simply, if he keeps doing the same thing, defenses will adjust.

    All that said, I do think the Rays need to find a way to keep him in the lineup when Jason Bartlett returns on Wednesday. I just don’t think going up there hacking at the first pitch, even if it’s a strike, makes him a better ballplayer.

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    • Painfully Bad Nickname Police says:

      S-Rod? No! Bad nickname! BAD!! *smacks across the bridge of the nose with rolled-up newspaper*

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  7. Paul says:

    Sorry, I replied to the wrong post!

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  8. Evan_S says:

    “However, in typical Mets fan fashion”

    Come on dude, more like “typical baseball fan fashion.” The majority of every team’s fans look at homers and RsBI before wOBA and projections.

    As a Mets fan, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with Barajas. I was more for the Zaun/Blanco platoon, but he has worked out. I just really hope Omar doesn’t give him a 2 year $12 million contract cause of a few dingers. I wouldn’t mind him back for one more season for cheap since there are few free agent options and Thole may not be ready. He appears to call a good game and definitely knows a lot about the pitchers. Ideally, he’d be GM over Omar from based on his after game quotes.

    I absolutely love the idea of buying low on Ianetta though. Him and Thole could platoon next year and would make a pretty good catching duo, at least offensively.

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  9. Matt K says:

    While I agree that they shouldn’t jump the gun on resigning Rod, I wouldn’t mind seeing him next year again. the mets could certainly do worse than him….although I do believe that Molina will be a free agent again and he’s already studied our pitchers =P. it’ll be interesting to see that dance again this offseason.

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  10. Franco says:

    I wouldn’t mind seeing him come back another year, the problem is that I don’t trust Minaya to value him correctly. The Mets can afford to cut him if he’s making 1 mil and starts to stink next year. Knowing Omar though, he’ll give Rod a 2 yr 8mil contract.

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  11. Blastings! Thrilledge says:

    Yea, smart Mets fans are ashamed of MetsBlog, and facepalm whenever it is used as a gauge of Mets fan thinking. Unfortunately, it is a good gauge of Mets fan thinking. And more unfaortunately, Omar is likely to re-sign him to a 2-year, 10 million dollar contract, which is why Omar is a bad GM. Trading Barajas at high .500+ SLG value right now and platooning Thole/Blanco would be a great idea, but unfortunately the Mets organization doesn’t think this way.

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    • SF_Matt says:

      Blastings, 2 questions:

      1) After watching Minaya stick to his guns and avoid signing Molina last off-season, why is he “likely to re-sign (Barajas) to a 2-year, 10 million dollar contract”?

      2) What value would you expect them to get if they traded Barajas? I don’t see how it would possibly be worthwhile since they’re so close to first place. It’s not like Thole is tearing the cover off the ball, and I think he was recently hurt.

      The best thing they can do is ride out the season with Barajas, and re-evaluate this off-season.

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