While the New York Mets are more famous for bonehead trades and signings, that doesn’t mean they haven’t ever had a savvy transaction. To their credit, throughout Mets history, there have been some moves that have propelled the Mets from mediocrity to playoff and even World Series contention. “Amazin’ Moves” will be an on-going series that will explore these finer moments. Today, I will examine when the Mets signed Jose Valentin prior to the 2006 season.
Although it might seem like the Mets current second base situation is a mess, it was actually pretty bad heading into the 2006 season as well. For the first couple of months of the season, the Amazins tried at a variety of personnel at the position, including Anderson Hernandez (the Opening Day starter), Kaz Matsui and Chris Woodward. Valentin, who had spent most of his major league career as a shortstop but had significant experience at second as well, was seeing time off the bench, mainly in left field. However, with none of the other options working out, Valentin began playing second base and eventually won the job.
Prior to joining New York, Valentin spent much of his career with the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago White Sox and also had a one year stint with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He batted a modest .241/.321/.447 prior to arriving in Queens, but had some pop, averaging 25 home runs per 162 games played ,and had smacked 30 as recently as 2004 in Chicago. His 2005 season with the Dodgers however was marred by injury, and he appeared in only 56 games, hitting just .170/.326/.265. His poor season and questionable health allowed Mets General Manager Omar Minaya to sign him for the paltry sum of $912,500.
After capturing the everyday second base job, Valentin became a vital component to the Mets as they marched to their first National League East title since 1988. The man with the mustache hit .271/.330/.490 for the Amazins that season with 18 homers, two of which came on the day the Mets clinched the division. His wOBA of .344 was his highest since 2001, and he produced a wRC+ of 107. In a year in which the offense was thumping and Jose Reyes, David Wright, Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran were among some of the most feared hitters in the league, Valentin offered opposing pitchers no reprieve towards the bottom of the order.
Valentin also made his mark on defense. He saved 16 runs defensively and demonstrated great range. For UZR lovers, he was worth 11 runs above average. Some also argue that he became somewhat of a mentor to Reyes that season and helped become a better shortstop. For the season, Valentin’s contributions amounted to 3.4 wins above average, pretty good for a player earning less than one million dollars.
When the playoffs rolled around, Valentin got off to a rough start, going hitless in 13 plate appearances in the NLDS against the Dodgers with two walks. He performed better in the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals, collecting six hits in 27 plate appearances while knocking in five runs. In his biggest at bat of the series however, Valentin faltered. After Endy Chavez made his unbelievable catch in the top of the inning to preserve the 1-1 tie, Valentin came to bat with the bases loaded and one out against Jeff Suppan in the bottom of the sixth. Valentin struck out swinging, and the Mets wouldn’t be able to capitalize on the opportunity. Valentin would single in the ninth to become the tying run, but as we all know, the Mets went on to lose the game and the series.
Still, Valentin had quite a year and was tabbed as the Mets starting second baseman for the 2007 season, where he was set to ear $3.8 million. However, Valentin could not duplicate his success and his season came to an abrupt end on July 20th after fouling a ball off his leg and breaking his tibia. At the time of the injury, Jose was hitting just .241/.302/.373 with three homers in 183 PA. He was signed to minor league deals in 2008 and 2009 but failed to make the team both times, and hasn’t played a Major League game since.
Hoping to make the team as a utility player, Valentin was vital to the Mets success in 2006. Moreover, his success provides hope-maybe there will be another surprise at second base this season? In fact, maybe Brad Emaus or Daniel Murphy should grow a mustache similar to Valentin’s in an effort to replicate his ’06 success.
Tags: Anderson Hernandez Bench Brad Emaus Carlos Beltran Chicago White Sox Chris Woodward Daniel Murphy David Wright Defensive Runs Saved Disabled List Endy Chavez Injury Jeff Suppan Jose Reyes Jose Valentin Kaz Matsui Los Angeles Dodgers Matt Kaufman Milwaukee Brewers Mustache New York Mets NLCS Omar Minaya Retire RisingApple Second Base St. Louis Cardinals Tibia Utility Player UZR WAR