The most important number to consider when analyzing the Mets' signing of Gary Sheffield is $400,000. The amount the Mets will pay Sheffield for his services. This is a low-risk, high-reward signing.
Worst case scenario, it doesn’t work out; the Mets cut him and bring Nick Evans back to the big club. Sheffield goes home and collects paychecks from both the Mets and the Tigers while the price of the Italian sausage at CitiField goes up 50 cents.
As much as I love the Italian sausage, I won't be distraught if things with Sheff don’t work out.
Best case scenario, Sheffield finds his way into the starting lineup, ends up playing 100 games and finishes the year with numbers in the neighborhood of a .265 average, .355 OBP and a .475 SLG.
This would make him about 20 runs more valuable than a marginal talent (average AAA player) and worth about three or four extra wins for the Mets this year.
What the Mets will get out of Gary Sheffield lies somewhere in-between the pie in the sky scenario I just drew up and a waste of $400,000.
There will be two givens with Gary Sheffield, the first being shaky defense. The defense doesn’t worry me too much since Carlos Beltran does such a good job covering the gaps. Beltran allows the Mets to get away with penciling marginal corner outfielders into the lineup. Sheffield’s defense shouldn’t be a significant detriment to the Mets this year.
The second given with Sheffield, he will draw a lot of walks. Sheffield has a career OBP of .394 compared to a career average of .292. That 102-point gap between OBP and batting average is about 33 percent larger than the major league average. His walk rate might drop slightly since nobody will be intentionally walking him anymore, but it will still be significant.
The Mets were second in the NL in runs last year in large part because they were second in walks as well. The more ducks on the pond the better, and Sheff will get on base.
So what would be a reasonable expectation for Gary Sheffield in 2009?
Expect Sheffield to make somewhere between 20 to 40 starts. Between his starts and pinch-hitting opportunities, Sheff should finish with somewhere between 150-200 plate appearances. Hitting splits of .250/.340/.455—Avg/OBP/Slg, the triple crown numbers are dead to me—are very attainable for the 40 year old.
I think he’ll be worth about one extra win for the Mets this year. Considering this team paid a little over $1.54 million per win last year, an extra win for $400,000 isn’t that bad of a return on investment.
In what appears to be a tight division, one win could make all the difference. Lets hope Gary Sheffield can deliver.