Alou signs one-year deal with Mets
Club declines Glavine's option, but hopes to re-sign him
NEW YORK -- The offensive shortfall against left-handed pitching that afflicted the Mets in late summer has been addressed, so too the situation involving Tom Glavine.
The Mets announced Monday two moves that had been widely anticipated -- the signing of left fielder Moises Alou and their decision not to exercise their option in Glavine's contract.
Call them moves for the ages; in one day the Mets added a 40-year-old outfielder to their roster and, in effect, removed a 40-year-old pitcher. Alou came as a free agent, signing a contract worth $8.5 million that covers next season and includes a club option for 2008. And because the club didn't exercise the option on Glavine's contract, the veteran pitcher no longer is a provisional free agent. He is a free agent, period.
The Mets were put off by the age of neither player and still hope to re-sign Glavine. They expect him to decide on his immediate baseball future -- whether to pitch for them or the Braves next season -- before the beginning of the Dec. 4-7 Winter Meetings. Whatever his decision, the club still will need to address its starting pitching.
Signing Alou, a right-handed hitter with a history of abusing left-handed pitching, certainly addressed the team's second-greatest need. The Mets developed a conspicuous flaw in their offense after the trade of Xavier Nady on July 31. They were regularly undone by left-handed pitchers.
The signing has other implications: It costs the Mets a first-round selection on the 2007 First-Year Player Draft -- for the second straight year -- because Alou was a Type A free agent with the surcharge of the compensation. Bringing him to Shea Stadium also eliminates the chance Cliff Floyd, also a free agent, will re-sign with them and reduces the chance of Lastings Milledge playing regularly with the Mets.
But general manager Omar Minaya figured importing the player he characterized as "one of the best run producers in baseball" was worth the cost. Alou's production, as a member of the Giants in 2005 and last season, was such that the calculations that made him a Type A player -- they are based almost exclusively on offense -- also made him the third-highest ranked outfielder the National League behind Jason Bay of the Pirates and Matt Holliday of the Rockies over the past two seasons.
The club's plan to have Alou play left field regularly or close to regularly pushes Milledge aside at the position the Mets think suits him best, given their other personnel. The 21-year-old, right-handed-hitting 2006 rookie conceivably could be used to spell Shawn Green in right field, but any sort of time-share arrangement probably would afford Milledge so little playing time that his development would be retarded.
Minaya made two acknowledgements involving Milledge on Monday -- one, that the club felt Milledge wasn't equipped to be the "right-handed run producer we need" and two, whether Milledge's development would be best served by regular duty in the big leagues or not.
So, with Alou, Green, Endy Chavez, Jose Valentin, and possibly newcomer Ben Johnson available to play the corner outfield positions, chances are Milledge will begin next season in the Minor Leagues or he could be moved to a different team in a trade that would upgrade the starting pitching.
How Moises Alou compares to David Wright
AB / HR
PA / RBI
How much Alou will play is open to speculation. He started 90 games in left field and appeared in two others in 2006, playing 725 2/3 innings. In contrast, Phillies left fielder Pat Burrell, who fell into disfavor and had his time limited in the late season, played 987 2/3 frames. Alou missed time in '06 as well 2005 because of injuries, most of them involving his right ankle, hamstring and back.
Alou, who turns 41 on July 3, acknowledged his physical problems last summer and said, "I felt great after July. I feel strong, I feel good. I love playing the game. Hopefully I stay healthy for the 2007 season."
When he did play in '06, he was quite productive, batting .301 with 74 RBIs and 22 home runs in merely 345 at-bats. His on-base and slugging percentages were .353 and .571, making his rates of production comparable to or better than those of David Wright.
Moreover, Alou batted .349 with a .407 on-base percentage and .687 slugging percentage in 91 plate appearances against left-handed pitching. Wright, the Mets' primary right-handed-hitting run producer, became troubled by left-handed pitching in the second half of the season, particularly in August. He was the leading hitter in the National League against left-handed pitching as late as June 22, with a .436 average. It had dropped to .367 by July 30, the day before Nady was traded.
Wright batted .160 with three RBI and one home run in his subsequent 50 at-bats against left-handed pitchers, while the Mets, in general, struggled against them.
Presumably, Alou, a career .330 batter against left-handed pitching, would be deployed in a modified platoon, playing against all or most left-handed starters and against some right-handers. With the roster as it is now, Chavez, a left-handed hitter, probably would replace Alou in left late in games and start the games Alou doesn't; that or switch-hitter Valentin -- more productive as a left-handed hitter -- could spell Alou in left, either as a starter or after shifting from second base late in games.
Johnson, the right-handed-hitting fourth outfielder type, might share right field with Green in a similar scenario.
Alou's production makes his acquisition a popular move among Mets players. Minaya said he contacted a number of incumbent Mets and his news met with their approval, which is particularly understandable because Alou batted .583 with seven RBIs in merely 12 at-bats against the Mets last season.
Minaya said Valentin gave his blessing, though Alou's arrival means the club would ask him to forfeit his uniform number, 18, for Alou.
Minaya too was delighted by the move. He had tried to sign Alou following the 2004 season, but the lure of playing for the Giants and his father, manager Felipe Alou, was too great. The Giants also were the team with which the Alou brothers -- Felipe, Matty and Jesus -- made their big-league debuts in the '50s and '60s. In fact, the day Jesus made his Major League debut, Sept. 10, 1963, the three brothers played in the same game, batting in succession against the Mets in the eighth inning in the Polo Grounds.
Moises Alou mentioned none of that as part of his decision. For that matter, he said "The length of the contract doesn't matter to me at this point in my career," when he pointed out that he could have signed two-year contracts with other clubs. He chose the Mets because they "have a better chance to win the World Series.
"I want to win this year ," he said. "And if things work out the way I think they will, I will play two years in New York."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.