The NY Times reports that the Mets now consider third base their top priority. Well, that's nice. It's about time. GM Steve Phillips is still selling the "we can go with Ty Wigginton (and his orchestra) at third" party line. I don't know if anyone is buying except for maybe Phillips himself:
"I think we're in a pretty good position with a young player that can play offense and defense," Phillips said yesterday by telephone. "If we had a situation, we would've acted differently in the free-agent market."
He can now say this because they tried and failed to sign free agents Tyler Houston and Jose Hernandez (who signed for more than I reported at the time though still incredibly low, $1 M plus $300K in incentives). Cognitive dissonance is a funny thing. It was just a month ago when the Mets had all but signed Japanese free agent Norihiro Nakamura. For whatever reason, Nakamura demurred and re-signed instead in Japan. Phillips has compounded that mistake, with this ludicrous stance backing Wigginton, who played 14 games poorly at third last year (though he did play there this winter) and who even though he redeemed himself at the plate has only 116 major-league at-bats under his belt. Besides he clearly was going in another direction a month ago.
They could have afforded Hernandez. They have $1.5 M available for a third baseman (although Nakamura was reportedly offered $7 M over two years plus a $6 M option for a third). The explanation for passing on the bargain-basement Hernandez?
Phillips would only say that Hernandez was not a fit. With Mo Vaughn and Jeromy Burnitz under contract, the Mets probably did not want to add another strikeout-prone hitter like Hernandez.
Leave it to the Mets to look at the best shortstop in the NL in 2002 and see K's. They suffered through years of Rey Ordonez at short. Now, there was a player with a hole in his offensive. Actually, the hole was his offense.
The Mets are now focusing on Boston's Shea Hillenbrand and Baltimore's Tony Batista. Somehow they got Baltimore interested in Jeromy Burnitz and his $11.5 M salary. But in addition to Batista's $6 M salary, the Os want the Mets to take the comatose Scotty Erickson and his $6.6 M salary off their hands. Somehow Phillips knows enough not to bite at that one.
Apparently the Mets are unwilling to acquire players who strike out but don't mind collecting ones like Hillenbrand and Batista that can't take a walk to save their lives.
Remember last year when everyone was picking this team to knock off the Braves and met the Yankees in the Series again. Their best option right now may be to sign Yankee bench player and castoff Ron Coomer as a stopgap at the hot corner. This is a team that has had Edgardo Alfonzo, Jeff Kent, and Robin Ventura playing third since the '94-'95 players' strike. By the way, the Yankees have third base patrolled by former Mets Robin Ventura and Todd Zeile. Zeile had to play first for the Mets because they had too many third sackers: Zeile, Alfonzo, and Vetura all played and started for the Mets in the halcyon days of 2000 and 2001. Compare that to Ty Wigginton and a stiff to be named later.