I told you this morning we would talk about this more. Like I said earlier, Michael Baron of MetsBlog would like see a more proven player competing in Port St. Lucie next spring for the utility infield job, and I wholeheartedly agree with him. While Brian Bixler and Brandon Hicks could provide some sort of upside to the extreme optimist, it would be nice to have a proven commodity in camp. Even if they didn’t win the job, it would help the other players perform at a higher level with some extra competition. The two free agent utility infielders that catch my eye are Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot.
In all reality, if the Mets are able to find a player like Ronny Cedeno(one with significant experience in the MLB) and could pay him around the $1.2 million they dished out for this role last season, that would be hitting the jackpot. Both Theriot and Fontenot are similar; not only in their style of play and age, but they were both teammates on the Chicago Cubs from 2005-10. First, let’s take a look at Theriot.
“The riot” was selected in the 3rd round of the 2001 amateur draft by the Chicago Cubs, the team he would spend his entire career with until he was dealt to the Dodgers in 2010. During the early stages of his career he was seen as a table setter, stealing more than 20 bases four years in a row and hitting 19+ doubles three times from 2007-10. During that time span, Theriot never played less than 149 games for Chicago. A career .281/.341/.350 hitter, he was never know for his home run power, but once he left the Cubs, he saw his playing time slowly decrease. Throughout his time in the Majors, he’s played both corner outfield positions, as well as third base, shortstop, and second base. He’s a right-handed hitter with a little speed, while also bringing some valuable post-season experience in winning the World Series with the Giants last season, and commanding a salary much like Cedeno’s 2012 number.
Mike Fontenot was also picked in the 2001 amateur draft, but he went to the Orioles in the first round, who owned the 19th overall pick. He also has a World Series ring with the Giants, but his came in 2010 after heading to the Bay area mid-season from the Cubs. Another right-handed hitting middle infielder who has played second base, shorstop, and third base within the last two seasons, the 32-year-old is a career .265/.332/.401 hitter, coming off a 2012 campaign in which he hit .289/.343/.340 for the Philadelphia Phillies, and would likely come at a similar price to Theriot on the open market.
These two players can offer the same opportunity for the Mets, and I think they should pursue signing one of these players. I’d prefer to see Fontenot in the Orange and Blue because he seems to be a more complete hitter than Theriot, and has some more pop (albeit slightly). Fontenot’s BABIP in ’12 was considerably higher than his counterpart (.370 vs. .306), as well as getting an edge in line drive department (29.7% vs. 25.1%).
I know it’s still early in the winter and there are plenty of deals to be made for the Mets and the rest of the teams in Major League Baseball, but I want to see some legit moves be made by Sandy Alderson at least by the time the Winter Meetings are through. I’m starting to get restless! We know he won’t be looking to make a big free agent splash this off-season, but he can acquire a solid utility player like Fontenot or Theriot real cheap and likely for one year. Bringing on a player of this caliber gives the minor league utility men and fringe players competiting for a spot on the roster some quality competition in camp, while doing the same for the incumbent Major Leaguer.
Sandy will hopefully do most of his work to build the 2013 Mets via trade, but it will be minor free agent deals that make up the rest of this roster, so he’ll have to use his limited dollars wisely. If something is brewing in the trade market for New York, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Amazins make the deals they need to make to first see how much payroll they’ll have left, then deciding on which low-level free agents to pursue. If all else fails and they take on too much payroll, they’ll at least have some motivated players to bring into camp that are hungry for a spot in the Bigs. Hopefully, that worst-case scenario doesn’t become a reality.