The New York Mets are set to sign Jay Bell to a minor-league contract to compete for the vacant third-base job with Ty Wigginton. The 37-year-old Bell, a shortstop-cum-second baseman, has only played 53 games at third in his career, though 46 of them came in the last two seasons. He only played 32 games in 2002 (and batted .163) after missing the first half of the season. He hasn't had an OPS that was better than average since his career year of 1999.
It seems an act of despration on the Mets part to sign a former shortstop, whose main asset was bunting for the first half of his career, to play third base. The headline at ESPN reads, "Bell takes a pay cut to join the Mets" (i.e., from $8M to $550K), but the truth is he was incredibly overpaid in Arizona and is fortunate to have any job in the majors right now.
ESPN (or rather the AP) further opines that Wigginton still has the inside track to the starting third base job. Steve Phillips has already given the youngster his vote of confidence even as he was attempting to acquire various and sundry third sackers throughout the offseason. Wigginston's numbers were good in 2002, but that was over a short span. Even so, the Mets would do better to go with an untried rookie than a broken-down has-been like Bell. But if Bell is the Mets starting third baseman coming out of spring training, expect a long season for the Mr. Met and the boys. By the way, did they dust off David Cone and install him as the fifth starter on their aging staff yet?