A Scrutiny Of The Weekend's Roster Moves

Alex Cora is gone, a dozen or so games shy of locking in a vesting $2 million option for 2011. It was a smart and long-overdue move that will cost the Mets the remainder of Cora's salary this season -- $650k or so -- in order to not have to pay him to be lousy next year. A smarter move would have been to either not sign Cora at all (his signing became especially painful after Orlando Hudson signed for $5 million and Felipe Lopez signed for just $1 million) or, alternatively, to release him before he racked up substantial sub-replacement value (-0.4 fWAR -- or Fangraphs WAR -- and -1.2 rWAR -- or Rally WAR, available at Baseball-Reference.com). Cora might have been smote a bit by the short end of random variation's whimsical stick, but even in a good year he's barely replacement level so there's no sense in paying him good money to be, well, replaceable. Given his performance this season the Mets would have been better off cutting him a $2 million check in April and then stuffing him in a box for six months with a water bottle and a few Lunchables to get him through the summer.

Cora was replaced on the roster by Ruben Tejada, who, in his earlier stint with the Mets this season, was about as bad an offensive player as any you could imagine. He drew just six unintentional walks in 126 plate appearances and just four of his 18 hits went for extra bases, all of them doubles. His .037 ISO (Isolated Power, or slugging percentage less batting average) was lower than those of Jon Niese (.054), Cora (.071), Johan Santana (.100), Raul Valdes (.125), and Justin Turner (.125), among others. He did manage to get struck by six pitches, which is one every 21 plate appearances and would be around 30 HBPs over a full season. I doubt he'll sustain that; in his minor league career he has been struck by one pitch every 53 plate appearances, less than half as frequently as in his limited big league experience.

Given all of that, it's no surprise that Tejada is in there primarily for his defense, which faded noticeably at the end of his first go-round but has looked splendid in two games since his return. The plan seems to be for Tejada to get the bulk of the playing time at second, leaving ubergimp Luis Castillo on the bench most of the time. It's not really clear that doing so will benefit the Mets in the short- or the long-term, but it's hard not to recognize that Tejada looks a lot better out there, and maybe that alone is in the best interests of a team that almost certainly won't be in the playoffs this season.

The other move the Mets made this weekend was to demote Jesus Feliciano and call up Fernando Martinez, aka Fartinez, aka the Fernanchise, aka Alex Escobar Plus. Martinez won't be 22 until October, but it probably feels like he's older than that because he has been in the system forever. His professional career to this point can be summed up like so: hurt a lot of the time and unspectacular much of the rest. His approach at the plate has deteriorated a bit; he has 60 strikeouts and just 17 walks (plus eight HBP) in 277 plate appearances. The good news is that his power has been impressive, with 29 of his 67 hits of the extra-base variety (17 doubles and 12 home runs).

Feliciano isn't anything special with the bat or in the field, and while he's probably better than Jeff Francoeur overall and perhaps all-around, the Mets are still holding out hope that they'll get some value out of Frenchy down the stretch, particularly if he's in a semi-strict platoon with Martinez. Jerry Manuel has said that Francoeur will get some starts against righties when the matchup is favorable, though I can't really imagine a situation where that might be the case. Oddly, in the aforelinked article, Adam Rubin relays Manuel's concerns about the Mets' right fielder, whose name I have removed.

Manuel doesn't seem sold on [outfielder] just yet ... The manager said [outfielder] needs to have better pitch-recognition skills than last season, when he swung at pitches out of the strike zone.

The comment is about Martinez, but could just as easily be about Francoeur, who might have worse pitch recognition than Martinez without the latter's youth, power, or upside. Martinez probably isn't ready for the big leagues -- you could argue that he isn't even ready for Triple-A -- but he's here, and if the Mets won't be playing Meaningful Games™ this summer I'd sooner he get some on-the-job training than continue to watch Francoeur's effortless alchemy of at-bats into outs.

Whatever you make of Tejada replacing Castillo and Francoeur platooning with Martinez, on aggregate the moves from this past weekend guarantee a more palatable 2011 club, one that seems certain to lack the valueless grission of Alex Cora.

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