Last offseason's baseball landscape was generously sprinkled with mediocre teams handing out lucrative contracts to less-than-spectacular players. The Barry Zito (Giants), Carlos Lee (Astros) and Alfonso Soriano (Cubs) deals fit this mold to varying degrees. To be fair, Lee and Soriano both turned in very good seasons at the plate, and the Cubs, to their credit, turned out to be just a shade better than mediocre, good enough to finish atop an otherwise mediocre division. With all that money flying around, the Mets spent relative pennies on the dollar to bring Moises Alou to Shea.
Before 2007, Alou's career could have been summed up as a fifteen year stint on the disabled list punctuated by intermittent fits of brilliant hitting. 2007 did nothing to alter that synopsis, as Alou posted a gaudy 138 OPS+ while appearing in just 87 games for the Mets. We had all hoped he would spend a bit more time on the field, but none of us can say that we really expected it.
Offensively, when he played, the Mets couldn't have asked for more out of Moises Alou. You might think twice about shaking hands with the guy, but there's little doubt that he can hit the baseball with the best of them. From 8/23 through 9/26 Alou hit in 30 straight games, shattering the franchise record of 24 and hitting .403/.441/.588 in the process. The day before that streak started Alou went hitless, ending a separate eleven game hitting streak in which he crushed opposing pitchers to the tune of a .375/.388/.708 line.
The Mets may have tanked hard down the stretch, but that certainly wasn't Alou's fault, as the man who was born Moises Rojas (and, incidentally, is cousin to all-time Mets deadbeat Mel Rojas) hit .402/.434/.607 in September.
Alou ranked 8th in the National League in VORP among left-fielders, finishing just shy of Pat Burrell and Eric Byrnes who had almost 240 and 340 more plate appearances, respectively. His 32.6 VORP was fourth on the Mets among position players and his VORPr was second on the team behind Mr. MVP. His .394 VORPr was 11th in the National League, which is better than Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Carlos Beltran, and many others.
Mixed bag here. At times, Alou looked a lot better in the field than any of us could have reasonably expected. He moved reasonably well and somehow tracked down a number of flyballs that I was sure he couldn't outrun. At other times he looked like one of those gummy spiders you throw at the wall, watching it slowly work its way downward, occasionally stuttering and tripping over itself, only to finally reach the ground, dusty and anti-climactic like.
Let's face it: No team signs Alou to anchor their defense. Anything approaching marginal defensive respectability is a bonus.
The terms of Alou's contract called for a $7.5 million salary in 2007 plus a 2008 team option for same with a $1 million buyout. The buyout is a sunk cost, so it would actually only cost the Mets $6.5 million more to play for them than to play for someone else. At 350 at-bats it is still a relative bargain, assuming the Mets do a better job this time of providing a credible contingency plan for when Alou lands inexorably on the disabled sometime before summer.
If everything falls properly and the Mets manage to squeeze 450-500 at-bats out of Alou, his contract will be a downright steal. His health is always going to be a major question mark, but to me, picking up his option is a no-brainer. Maybe find him a left-handed platoon partner who could also use a healthy ration of off-days. Oh, I don't know, this guy comes to mind.