Why Not Carter and Figgy?By: robertjames
It appears Mets fans will be forced to suffer even more inexplicably bad roster moves. This off-season started with the Mets overpaying for Alex Cora, and “aggressively pursuing” and acquiring Gary Matthews Jr. As a result, it looks like it will end with a sad lack of roster spots for Chris Carter and Nelson Figueroa.
As noted, two parts of the Mets’ bench are devoted to Gary Matthews Jr. and Alex Cora, who both have little to offer on either side of the ball. It hasn’t been set in stone yet, but the New York Post mentioned earlier this week that although Chris Carter is batting .444 this spring, the final bench spots will likely go to Frank Catalanotto and Mike Jacobs.
I understand the love for Catalanotto. He hits righties pretty well, has experience all over the diamond, is a local, and has been known to wear a handlebar mustache – but Jacobs? Here’s what we know about Mike: he’s a power hitting left hander who struggles mightily against lefties. Spring numbers aren’t necessarily telling, but Jacobs is hitting .174. Historically, he strikes out a ton and walks very little (career .34 BB/K ratio).
Chris Carter on the other hand, is a guy who has never really gotten a shot. He couldn’t necessarily be called a AAAA player because he’s never really had the opportunity to prove he stinks at the Major League level. What he has done is show up in training camp and tear the cover off the ball. He has an absurd .444 batting average and a 1.556 OPS. Throughout camp, he has showcased enough intensity to earn the nickname “The Animal,” and by most accounts he is the first guy in and last guy out of the weight room. You would think his efforts, coupled with the fact that the Mets gave up whatever compensation they would have gotten from Billy Wagner’s free agency, would have gotten him the nod. But no. No, the Mets seem smitten with Jacobs, and Carter seems destined for another tour of AAA. In that regard he’s not much different from Nelson Figueroa.
Figueroa has been lights out, going after the 5th starter spot like a man possessed. Last season, when the rest of the team was mailing it in, he closed it out with a complete game shutout. He is a local guy who wears his heart on his sleeve and is easy to root for, and he’s versatile.
You would think that a team like the Mets would be clamoring for some stability and versatility in a rotation so laden with question marks, but Figueroa seems like the odd man out. Fernando Nieve, a hard thrower who averaged fewer than 5 innings a start, will battle with Jon Niese, who hasn’t really seized the opportunity this spring. In the bullpen, the Mets are inclined to give a look to phenom Jenrry Mejia, who throws hard but lacks command. This leaves Figueroa as the odd man out.
This is a mistake on so many levels. First, Mejia only stands to be successful by coming out throwing, and will not be afforded the opportunity to work on secondary offerings that are raw but promising. Second, should he be successful in this regard he’ll be faced with the Joba dilemma – learning the difference between throwing and pitching, the bumps that come with it in the most intense media market in the world, and airwaves ablaze with fans demanding he become “A RELIEVUHHH!” Finally it’s unnecessary. The Mets already have options in the pen. They have Hisanori Takahashi, whose unorthodox style, large repertoire, and control should baffle major league hitters for a while. They have Kiko Calero, coming off a career best season, and they have Bobby Parnell, another young, hard thrower who was decent in relief last year. All could theoretically do as well as Mejia without sacrificing any real upside. Unfortunately the Mets think otherwise, and as a result, it looks like Nelson is headed to Japan.
What’s so sad about these situations isn’t the quality of the players. Carter is probably better than Jacobs, and at the end of the day we’re talking about the last spot on the bench. Figueroa is a fringe long man on a good team. What’s sad is the lack of reward for the effort put forth by two guys on a team that so often shows a malaise consistent with the conversational tone of their manager. Alex Cora’s contract would suggest that the Mets are big on intangibles, but cutting these two guys suggests that maybe that’s just their way of explaining away a bad contract. I hope I’m wrong, and these guys end up on the roster, providing the fire and effort that was lacking last year, but it looks bad right now.