Mets waiting to hear from Barajas' agent
Veteran could be latest to join crowded backstop situation
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- When the Mets planned the big league clubhouse here 25 years ago, they took into consideration all the extra gear catchers require and made provisions for wider lockers for them.
"They need a real big one for Kid's ego," Wally Backman said in 1988, prompting a forced smile from his teammate/target Gary Carter.
In subsequent years, the larger lockers accommodated Mike Piazza's bankroll, Todd Pratt's personality, Robinson Cancel's considerable girth and Ramon Castro's large head. None was big enough to fit Carlos Delgado's aversion to catching. But that's another matter.
This year, the lockers on Catchers' Row have been made narrower, the same width as the others, ostensibly because the Mets appear to be collecting catchers as Jay Leno collects cars, and they need more. They almost have a backlog of backstops, and now they are hoping to add veteran Rod Barajas to their fraternity Kappa Delta Shinguard, and they have urged Mike Jacobs to take his old mask out of mothballs.
Add those names to Omir Santos, Henry Blanco, Chris Coste and Josh Thole. No passed balls down here.
Members of the Mets' hierarchy confirmed the club's pursuit of Barajas, the 34-year-old right-handed hitter who hit 30 home runs in 778 at-bats with the Blue Jays the past two seasons. But their indications were that Barajas hadn't accepted the Mets' offer of a one-year Minor League contract with a provision that covered his likely play in the big leagues. As of 6 p.m. ET on Thursday, the Mets hadn't heard from Barajas' agent.
If he signs, Barajas will be the primary catcher and probably cost Santos his big league status. One of the Mets' decision makers made a point of saying Blanco is the reserve catcher whether or not Barajas signs.
Time had revised the Mets' thinking on him. When Barajas, Bengie Molina and Yorvit Torrealba were available as free agents, Molina was the club's first choice and Barajas was a distant third. Torrealba was in between, closer to Barajas. Now the Mets have pursued all three.
And general manager Omar Minaya has told Jacobs that an ability to catch would enhance his chance to win a position on the 25-man Opening Day roster.
"I told [Fernando] Tatis the same thing," Minaya said. "We could have two emergency catchers so [manager] Jerry [Manuel] wouldn't have his hands tied late in a game."
Jacobs' reaction was comparable to what Delgado's would have been, or maybe less enthusiastic. A catcher exclusively in the Mets' Minor League system from 1999-2004, he began playing first base in '05, the year he made his memorable big league debut -- and hit four home runs in 13 at-bats. Jacobs served as a designated hitter and first baseman with the Royals last season after three seasons playing first base wih the Marlins.
"I want to see you catch again," Jose Reyes said with a needle in his voice.
Reyes had been Jacobs' Double-A teammate. It was one of the rare times Reyes' needle didn't prompt a smile.
"Hey, I'll do it," Jacobs said.
But his words had more resignation than rejoicing in them.
Jacobs had come back to the Mets -- he thought -- to compete for the first-base assignment. Minaya expects Jacobs' presence to push incumbent Daniel Murphy, who hardly lacks motivation.
"Murphy has to perform," the general manager said.
But the Mets have invested so much time and thought in Murphy since the final weeks of the 2008 season that his not playing first base this year appears quite unlikely. If Jacobs, 29, batted right-handed, his chances of winning a roster spot would improve. Or if he were a skilled catcher with the power he has -- 5.19 home runs per 100 at-bats in the big leagues -- he'd be a better fit.
And they'd need another locker.
Jacobs was assigned No. 77 at first, not a positive indication. But he talked his way into something more suitable.
"I'm 30-something," he said.
He'd like to keep that number beyond April 5.
"He could be here," Minaya said.
But that may require another locker in Citi Field.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.