Are the Mets Truly Saber? Part Two

Yesterday, we established -- or at least posited -- that the Mets have acted the part of a sabermetrically-aware team since Sandy Alderson was installed at the helm. In terms of perception and organizational / structural change, the team has pushed boundaries.

Have they pushed those same boundaries with their list of player acquisitions?

By definition, there's no such thing as a 'saber player.' If you are going to use statistical analysis to identify undervalued players, the league will adjust and a new type of player will be undervalued. The original Moneyball player -- the high-walk slugger -- is fully appreciated by this point. Just look at Adam Dunn's latest contract. The thought was that Oakland and Seattle's new-found focus on defense suggested that the second wave of Moneyball athletes. Call it the Franklin Gutierrez wave.

What's undervalued now? We're in the crucible, bounded by our own time, and we don't work for a team so we don't know what they know. Perhaps we won't be able to tell just by perusing the Mets' moves from the past two years, but perhaps we will get a sense of their tendencies.

Then we can decide if those tendencies seem forward-looking.

Forgive the length of this next table, but included within should be most of the 'important' moves that the Mets have made since Sandy Alderson took over. Peruse (quickly).

Date Move
Dec '10 New York Mets claim RHP Pedro Beato off waivers from Bowie Baysox.
New York Mets claim 2B Brad Emaus off waivers from Las Vegas 51s.
New York Mets signed free agent RHP D.J. Carrasco.
New York Mets signed free agent C Ronny Paulino.
New York Mets signed free agent 2B Russ Adams.
New York Mets signed free agent RHP Boof Bonser.
RHP John Maine elected free agency.
LF Chris Carter elected free agency.
RHP Sean Green elected free agency.
New York Mets signed free agent RHP Yoseibis Solano.
New York Mets signed free agent LHP Michael O'Connor.
Jan '11 New York Mets signed free agent OF Johanny Sierra.
New York Mets signed free agent C Dusty Ryan.
New York Mets signed free agent LHP Tim Byrdak.
New York Mets signed free agent C Raul Chavez.
New York Mets signed free agent RHP Blaine Boyer.
New York Mets signed free agent RHP Chris Young.
New York Mets signed free agent RF Scott Hairston.
New York Mets signed free agent LF Willie Harris.
New York Mets outrighted RHP Ryota Igarashi to Buffalo Bisons.
New York Mets signed free agent LHP Taylor Tankersley.
New York Mets signed free agent RHP Taylor Buchholz.
New York Mets signed free agent LHP Chris Capuano.
New York Mets signed free agent Jesus Feliciano.
New York Mets signed free agent IF Chris Shelton.
Feb '11 New York Mets signed free agent RHP Kent Tsujimoto.
New York Mets signed free agent RHP Jason Isringhausen.
Mar '11 New York Mets released LHP Oliver Perez.
New York Mets released 2B Luis Castillo.
Apr '11 New York Mets designated 2B Brad Emaus for assignment.
New York Mets recalled Justin Turner from Buffalo Bisons.
New York Mets recalled Dillon Gee from Buffalo Bisons.
New York Mets optioned LF Lucas Duda to Buffalo Bisons.
New York Mets called up RHP Jason Isringhausen from Brooklyn Cyclones.
July '11 New York Mets traded RF Carlos Beltran to San Francisco Giants and San Jose Giants traded RHP Zack Wheeler to St. Lucie Mets.
New York Mets claim LF Mike Baxter off waivers from San Diego Padres.
New York Mets signed free agent LHP Gustavo Chacin.
Aug '11 New York Mets called up Miguel Batista from Buffalo Bisons.
New York Mets signed OF Brandon Nimmo.
Oct '11 RHP Jason Isringhausen elected free agency.
LHP Chris Capuano elected free agency.
LF Willie Harris elected free agency.
RHP Chris Young elected free agency.
SS Jose Reyes elected free agency.
RHP Miguel Batista elected free agency.
New York Mets released RHP Ryota Igarashi.
Nov '11 New York Mets signed free agent RF Adam Loewen
Dec '11 New York Mets signed free agent CF Corey Wimberly.
New York Mets signed free agent C Rob Johnson.
New York Mets signed free agent RHP Frank Francisco.
New York Mets signed free agent RHP Jeff Stevens.
New York Mets signed free agent LF Mike Baxter.
New York Mets signed free agent LHP Chuck James.
New York Mets signed free agent RHP Jon Rauch.
New York Mets signed free agent LHP Garrett Olson.
New York Mets signed free agent C Lucas May.
New York Mets claim RHP Jeremy Hefner off waivers from Pittsburgh Pirates.
LF Mike Baxter elected free agency.
San Francisco Giants traded RHP Ramon Ramirez and CF Andres Torres to New York Mets for CF Angel Pagan.
Jan '12 New York Mets signed free agent 2B Matt Tuiasosopo.
New York Mets signed free agent SS Ronny Cedeno.
New York Mets outrighted Daniel Herrera to Buffalo Bisons.
Houston Astros claim Fernando Martinez off waivers from New York Mets.
New York Mets signed free agent RF Scott Hairston.
New York Mets signed free agent RHP Miguel Batista.
New York Mets signed free agent SS Sean Kazmar.
New York Mets signed free agent RHP Fernando Cabrera.
New York Mets signed free agent SS Omar Quintanilla.


You might recognize the names. You might be underwhelmed by the names.

Among the free agents, there's not a star on the list, unless you count outgoing Professor of the keystone. If not signing a marquee free agent was a calculated move, it could be classified as 'saber:' More recent research has suggested earlier and earlier peaks for players. It's probable that players peak before hitting free agency, is what the numbers are even saying these days. For a team that's all about accruing talent for the future, it makes no sense to spend resources on players that are decidedly post-peak.

This is all complicated by the Mets finances, of course. Has the front office acted this way because they had to? Or because they thought it was the correct way to move forward? We'll never know, at least not until the tell-alls are published.

What we can see in the transactions is that the team casts a wide net every offseason. Seemingly, they sign any player that has at least one marketable skill and won't ask for a multi-year or -million-dollar contract. That strategy has produced a lot of useless players, but when it's produced players with utility, those players -- Scott Hairston, Pedro Beato, Ronny Paulino, Chris Capuano, Chris Young -- have come with a cheap price tag. Guaranteeing money to a defensive backup like Ronny Cedeno may seem like Omar Minaya redux -- until you realize the new regime spent less money and guaranteed fewer years to their Alex Cora.

That one of this regime's cheap players came through the Rule 5 draft makes him even more exciting -- suddenly the team has a six-year asset under control, without the cost of drafting and developing the player. Searching for those extra years of control probably also motivated the trade of impending free agent Angel Pagan for the more defensive-minded Andres Torres. Focusing on a long-term plan, instead of assembling the best team for one year, seems like a saber-move. It is, by definition, foward-thinking.

The story of Chris Capuano alone has to count as a story of sabermetrics. A player with his skill set, who survived a hitters park and elbow surgery, was available on a one-year make-good contract for cheap. Reseach has shown that most players come back fine from TJ surgery. Cappy made sense. He came in and pitched well for a few bucks over one year. When he wanted multiple years and multiple millions, he was no longer as interesting of an investment. And so he was allowed to leave.

The draft also produced a momentary glimpse of a strategy that may be dead in the water: over-slot picks were the norm for the Mets in their 2011 draft and Brandon Nimmo was the crown jewel. The Mets had enough money to spend on young, exciting talent, and so they did so. Unfortunately, the new CBA has put the kibosh on this strategy, so we won't get to see if it was part of the Mets philosophy, or merely a case-by-case anomaly in that specific draft.

And it's important not to over-emphasize the Mets' willingness to spend over slot. They have have done so in a couple high profile cases, but they spent the 16th-most overall by a recent tally. And they spent $6.7 million last year and their CBA-allotted pool this year is for $7.1 million. So maybe prospecters can talk to us a little about toolsy players, or the organization's willingness to scout players in lesser high school conferences, but the over-slot thing doesn't seem to be a real thing.

In general, the team has shown some tendencies. Fewer years and fewer dollars for free agents, for one. And a willingness to take on flawed players if they've shown a marketable skill in the past. Perhaps a focus on finding players with multiple years of control is in there too.

All of those things are in line with the most recent research. All of those things seem saber.
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