Gary Sheffield: A Better Deal for the Mets Than Manny Ramirez?

Greg JansenCorrespondent IApril 4, 2009

KANSAS CITY, MO - MAY 15:  Gary Sheffield #3 of the Detroit Tigers jogs off the field during a game against the Kansas City Royals on May 15, 2008 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by G. Newman Lowrance/Getty Images)

Today it was reported that Gary Sheffield signed with the New York Mets to a one-year contract after being released by the Detroit Tigers earlier this week. 

Since Sheffield was owed $14 million by the Tigers this season, the Mets will only have to pay him $400,000 to play for them this year.

The Mets had a chance for Manny Ramirez in the offseason, but after a few signings that included closer Francisco Rodriguez, GM Omar Minaya said he had his team, and was happy continuing on without Manny.

I think most fans saw that as bull, but had to accept it, as much as they were dying to see Manny in the Mets' lineup.  Today proved that we were right once Minaya offered Sheffield a decent amount of playing time.

Now, everyone believed that Manny (synonymous with his agent Scott Boras) was an idiot for expecting a four- to five-year contract worth $25 million per year.  Even when the offer was down to two years, Minaya still refused to take the bait.

This was when Minaya came out and said he was satisfied with the players they were bringing out onto the field.  In his defense, he had no choice.  But he still had a nagging bug in the back of his mind that would not let him forget the fact that he let a dangerous right-handed hitting outfielder slip through his fingers.

Then, out of nowhere, an out.  A way to get what he did not get earlier in the off-season.  Seizing the chance to make his team better, he jumped on Sheffield to make him a Met.

Sometimes, good things come to those who wait.

Now, I'm not saying that Sheffield is the player that Manny Ramirez is now.  Far from it.  Ramirez, in my opinion, has always been the better player, even if just by the slimmest of margins, and especially now. 

He seems to ward off age, slugging 30 home runs and 100 RBIs in every year since 1995 except for two, the latest being in 2007 when there was obvious drama going on between his ego and the rest of Boston

Last year, after a much-publicized trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers, he went on fire, hitting 17 home runs in just 53 games, not including 4 home runs and a .520 average in 8 playoff games.

It is impossible for Sheffield to tear it up like Manny.  At 40 years old injuries have begun to creep up on him, hitting only 41 home runs in the last three seasons.

But the fact of the matter is that if Sheffield has some pop in his bat.  And if he stays healthy this season, the Mets can expect him to hit about 20 home runs with a .260 average over the course of the season.  He won't nearly be the Sheffield of his prime, but will still produce in a potent Mets lineup.

Sheffield's attitude is also better than Manny's.  I realize that is a bold statement, given some of the drama Sheffield created across town as a member of the Yankees

However, he has worked with manager Jerry Manuel before, and won a World Series with him in 1997.  Sheffield will get any benefit of the doubt if the decision is between him and Ryan Church in right field.

With Sheffield, the Mets don't get the offensive numbers they would get with Manny Ramirez.  But they do get a proven power-hitting outfielder.  While age has not been as kind to Sheffield as it has to Manny, I still believe Sheffield has one good year left in him.

The Mets also get Sheffield for about 2 percent of what they would have to pay Manny.  Any general manager that thought $400,000 was too much to take a risk on Sheffield is absurd.

Omar Minaya didn't think it was absurd.  And somewhere, right now, he's breathing a sigh of relief.