I suppose we shouldn’t have been surprised by reports that the New York Mets are going after Rod Barajas. Though most fans and observers alike acknowledged that the Mets’ greatest needs were in their tattered starting rotation, Omar Minaya has focused the bulk of his attention on his second-string catching corps, signing Henry Blanco, Chris Coste, and Shawn Riggans, and retaining Omir Santos, September callup Josh Thole, and farmhand Robinson Cancel.
Of course, it kind of makes sense that Minaya doesn’t think that any one of those six is a starting catcher. But he spent much of the offseason pursuing Bengie Molina, whom no one would mistake for Gabby Hartnett. Molina was the Mets’ second-highest free agent priority behind only Jason Bay, and after Molina jilted them a month ago, they remained unable to think of any other position on the diamond. Despite the number of backup catchers the organization already possesses — and the paucity of reliable batterymates in the starting rotation — the Mets still seem to be focused on finding 162 games worth of backstops.
Considering the massive holes on the team — a first baseman who can’t play first base, a right fielder with a career OBP of .311, and a starting rotation with one sure thing and four question marks — it’s hard to understand why the team is still fretting about upgrading from Henry Blanco to Rod Barajas, whose career OBP is exactly 8 points lower than Blanco’s.
Many people have already noted that the Mets’ offseason plan this year has seemed rudderless, including Ken Rosenthal. He explains that part of this is due to the Wilpons, the owners, who haven’t given Minaya a budget figure and also retain a great deal of influence over baseball operations. Some of Minaya’s moves make some sense in a vacuum: Jason Bay may be hard to distinguish from Josh Willingham, but he’s a three-win player with a booming bat and a legitimate presence in the lineup. And, certainly, no one would mistake Henry Blanco, Chris Coste, or Omir Santos for a true starting catcher. But no one would look at this team’s lineup and view left field or catcher as the team’s most pressing needs, either.
One of my favorite sportswriters, Allen Barra, tries to put a positive spin on all the madness, writing, “The good news is that the Mets can expect an enormous turnaround in fielding with the return of just two players — Carlos Beltran… and Jose Reyes.” And, of course, that’s the point. If the Mets can’t get healthy comeback years from Beltran, Reyes, and David Wright, then the rest of the offensive overhaul will hardly matter. And if they can’t get healthy comeback years from Mike Pelfrey, John Maine, and Oliver Perez, then little else will matter, either.
Still, if there’s one thing the Mets can count on, it’s the fact that they have a whole lot of people ready for spring training. Today’s the day that pitchers and catchers report to Port St. Lucie — or, in the Mets’ case, pitchers, and catchers, and catchers, and catchers…
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