By Dan Lagnado
The New York Mets spent money on a free agent! I repeat, the Mets have spent money! It was reported last week that the Mets signed outfielder Chris Young (no, not the one that pitched for them a few seasons ago, but the other one). Young played last season with the Oakland A’s but spent seven of his eight seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Young is a right-handed hitter who has the ability both to hit for power as well as use his speed on the base paths. However, in the past two years, Young has struggled. He hit .200 and .231 in 2013 and 2012 respectively while combining for 26 homeruns and 81 RBI. In 2010 alone he hit 27 homeruns and 91 RBI with 28 stolen bases. His past two down seasons aside, Young still has career averages of 24 homeruns, 73 RBI and 20 stolen bases. The Mets are hoping that he can return to these kind of numbers and give a boost to an outfield in need.
I don’t think this is a bad deal for the Mets. That said, it is not the only move to make and does not answer every outfield question. Young is a solid defensive outfielder with more assists in his career than errors. It’s unclear where he will be playing but he has experience at all three outfield spots, though most of that in centerfield. Even in his subpar seasons Young has had success against left-handed pitching making him at worst a platoon outfielder. At best, Young will be able to regain his 2010 form and become a significant part in a Mets lineup in need of both power and speed.
One thing that I think was a mistake for the Mets was the price. Young signed for one year, which limits risk and was a technique we saw last year with Marlon Byrd. This allows the Mets not to be tied down to a long-term deal with a player who may not contribute. However, the one-year will cost the Mets $7.25 million, making Young the highest paid player that isn’t named David Wright. This is a large monetary commitment to a player who could end up only being a platoon outfielder.
All in all, this move has a chance to pay-off for New York if Young can return to All-Star form. However I would look for them to still sign another outfielder, possibly a left-handed bat in case a platoon is needed. This lineup is hardly a finished product and much of the roster is still in flux. However, this is a nice fairly low-risk signing in terms of years and it is good to see the Mets getting involved so early in the free agency process when last year they didn’t sign a free agent until almost February. I would look for a few more free agent signings from this team as well as a potential trade or two in the works as the team continues to look to the future, though the a much nearer future than in years past.
Dan Lagnado is studying communications, law economics and government at American University. He’s a fan of both the Mets and Jets and has been writing about sports for four years. You can follow him on twitter at @dlag1995
By Ryan Gillman
According to multiple reports, the Philadelphia Phillies have signed outfielder Marlon Byrd to a two-year deal worth a total of $16 million, with an $8 million vesting option for a third year (the option vests if Byrd has either 600 plate appearances in 2015 or 550 plate appearances in 2015 and a total of 1100 plate appearances in 2014 and 2015). Byrd had the best season of his career last year, posting a .291 average, 24 homeruns, and 88 RBI with the Mets and the Pirates. This was a huge comeback from Byrd’s miserable 2012 season, in which he was mired by injury, overall poor play, and a 50-game PED suspension. The Phillies are desperately in need of some outfield help, as their outfielders collectively posted a -1.6 WAR last season, dead last in the MLB. While the Phillies do need to improve their outfield, the Byrd signing makes no sense whatsoever.
The time for the Phillies to spend is most certainly not now. At nearly $160 million, the Phillies payroll was the third largest in the MLB, behind only the Yankees and the Dodgers. Yet, the Phillies were still terrible; they finished 73-89, the 8th worst record in the MLB. The year prior, they finished at exactly .500, which was a huge disappointment given their lofty payroll and high-profile players. Clearly, the Phillies are moving in the wrong direction. Signing a 36-year-old outfielder who’s good, but not exactly a superstar isn’t going to change any of that. With already over $120 million committed to their payroll next year (and that’s not even including arbitration and renewable contracts), it just doesn’t make any sense for the Phillies to commit $8 million to an aging outfielder with an inconsistent track record.
Beyond the payroll, the Phillies roster is not set to compete any time soon. Their best player, Chase Utley, will be 35 next season and has had some injury problems of late, with his 131 games played in 2013 being the most he’s played since 2009. Jimmy Rollins will also be 35 and, quite frankly, is not that good anymore. Their best pitcher, Cliff Lee, is still spectacular, but at age 35, it is unknown how much longer he will be able to keep it up. They have no real group of young talent, save for Domonic Brown and Cole Hamels, who at 27 and 30, respectively, can’t be considered “young” for much longer.
It is clear that the Phillies need to rebuild, but apparently general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. didn’t get the memo. Instead of decreasing the Phillies’ payroll, Amaro is adding to it in the form of a 36-year-old outfielder who is far from a guarantee to repeat his success from last season.
Ryan Gillman is a native Long Islander. He is a long-suffering Mets, Jets, Islanders, and Knicks fan. You can follow him on twitter at @ryangillman