Today, the Mets announced the signing of outfielder Corey Patterson to a minor-league contract. While on its surface this signing does not have a significant impact on the major-league club, Patterson will help add to the Mets thin outfield. Patterson, 33, has seen his productivity diminish in recent years. He has not played in the major leagues since 2011, when he had 51 ABs and hit .157 for the Cardinals. Over 12 seasons in the big leagues, Patterson has hit .252, with 118 HRs and 218 stolen bases. He has struck out 933 times and walked 206 times. Patterson is also a good defensive outfielder.
By signing Patterson, Sandy Alderson is continuing his pattern of adding depth to the organization. In some cases, Alderson has added youthful depth, such as in the acquisitions of Travis d’Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, and Zack Wheeler. In other cases, he has added veterans, such as Marlon Byrd and John Buck. Both types of players are important to an organization’s overall health. The young players can develop and become a part of the future, while the veterans can be ready, either on the major-league bench or in AAA, to fill in as necessary.
Let’s take a look at a case-in-point. Perhaps this season the Mets suffer a rash of injuries to outfielders (if you’ve been a fan for a while, you know this is certainly possible). Instead of reaching down to AAA and calling up a young outfielder, such as Matt Den Dekker who may not be ready, the Mets can call up a veteran like Patterson. In doing this, they will not be impeding Den Dekker’s growth by having him sit on the bench in the big leagues. Den Dekker would be able to continue to play every day and develop in AAA. We saw some of this last year with Jordanny Valdespin. Clearly, he was not ready for the major leagues, and should have been honing his skills in Buffalo. But a lack of depth forced the Mets to call Valdespin up, where he played inconsistently, and it showed by his limited progress and ultimate return to AAA.
Alderson has used a similar strategy to build his 2013 bullpen. He has found players, some young and some old, who may have something untapped or something left in the tank, and collected them for a showcase in Port St. Lucie. This is the Moneyball concept at work. It enables a team to blend youth and experience, while working on a relatively tight budget. The better news is that 2013 may be the last year that such a strategy is required.