Seeing as it is now the middle of March, most teams will begin to sort out their rosters in preparation for the season. Despite having a lot of positions locked up, there are a few battles in Mets camp which will require the organizational brass to make some decisions. However, despite what some may think, talent, ability and performance aren’t the only factors in deciding who will crack the Opening Day roster.
Baseball has some complicated rules regarding players and the roster, and a couple of them will directly impact the Mets. The first has to do with player options. Admittedly, I was a little confused as to what this meant exactly, but BizofBaseball.com cleared it up for me by stating that “An option (optional assignment) allows a club to move a player on its 40-man roster to and from the minor-leagues without exposing him to the other 29 teams.” When a player is placed on the 40 man roster, he has three option seasons, meaning that he may be moved freely from the club’s minor league team to the major league team without being exposed to waivers. Once all three options have been used, the player must be exposed to waivers before being sent to the minors. Recently, MLB Trade Rumors published a list of MLB players who are out of options. For the Mets, this list features Nick Evans, Chin-lung Hu, Manny Acosta, Luis Hernandez, Pat Misch and Taylor Buchholz.
Of those players, Buchholz and Hu don’t have anything to worry about, with Buchholz slated to make the team as a middle reliever and Hu as a backup middle infielder (on the flip side, since Justin Turner has options remaining, he will likely begin the year at Triple A). Acosta actually had an OK season last year (39.2 IP, 2.95 ERA [3.66 xFIP], 9.5 K/9 and 2.33 K/BB], but his sample size was small and he’s never appeared in more than 46 games in a season. He will turn 30 in May, and I’d be OK exposing him to waivers or having him at Buffalo if he clears. The same goes for Misch, although I think he’s more likely to make the team since the Mets need/want a long man in the pen. He won’t overpower, but he could provide innings and has a minor league K/BB of 3.23, in addition only walking four batters in 37.2 innings last season. Hernandez is suddenly is a factor in the second base competition, despite having a career minor league OPS of .633, but probably wouldn’t be claimed by a team if waived.
Options will really come into play when discussing Nick Evans future. As I previously mentioned, Evans faces many challenges. Both Willie Harris and Scott Hairston appear likely to make the team as backup outfielders, and Daniel Murphy figures to get time as a utility player. His best shot of making the Opening Day roster would be if Carlos Beltran began the year on the disabled list, but even then that would only be temporary, and that isn’t a given either seeing as how the team is high on Lucas Duda. If exposed to waivers, Evans would almost surely be claimed by another team given the pop in his bat and relative youth (he just turned 25). I’d love to keep Evans around as a bench player where he could spell Ike Davis against the occasional lefty and pinch hit, but with Hairston hitting well this spring, that doesn’t seem likely.
The other influence on the major league roster is the Rule 5 Draft. When a player is selected in the Rule 5 Draft, he must remain on that team’s major league roster throughout the season, or else be offered back to his original team. The Mets have two Rule 5 picks in camp: second baseman Brad Emaus and reliever Pedro Beato. Things would have worked out perfectly for the Amazins if Emaus had a great (or at least average) spring, but so far he is just four for twenty with two walks and four strikeouts. Luis Castillo, whom the Terry Collins would love to cut, is seven for twenty two and is still the better defensive option. Emaus doesn’t really play anywhere else on the diamond, so he could only make the team as a second baseman, just like Castillo. In essence, it becomes a question of whether the team wants to eat the six million dollars Castillo is owed by cutting him, or offer Emaus back to the Blue Jays. Odds are the former will happen since Emaus was originally drafted by J.P. Ricciardi, but his less than stellar spring makes it a little harder to justify keeping him, outside of his Rule 5 status.
Beato is in an even more difficult position. The Mets seem likely to go with a seven man bullpen, and there are essentially two spots remaining (K-Rod, Bobby Parnell, D.J. Carrasco, Tim Byrdak and Buchholz all seem to be guaranteed spots). Misch seems likely to claim the long man role, leaving one place left for either Acosta, Beato or Jason Isringhausen (Oliver Perez has virtually no shot). There is more upside for the 24 year old Beato, who has allowed eight hits and two earned runs in six innings this spring while walking two and striking out two, but Izzy has pitched well (five innings, two hits, one earned run, two walks and one strikeout) and is a sentimental favorite. It would be silly to offer Beato back to the Orioles in favor of Isringhausen if both perform similarly, but the name of the game is winning and if Izzy gives the team a better chance to do so, I’d go with him.
So not surprisingly, logic does not always prevail in baseball (although with the new front office, I have more faith in logic than with prior regimes). Hopefully, Sandy Alderson and company will make decisions that won’t cost the Mets a lot in terms of exposing players to waivers and/or back to their original club. Either way, as the roster gets trimmed and we approach the regular season, it doesn’t matter why a player is on the team as long as he helps the Mets win.