Seattle Mariners Score Promising Prospect in J.J. Putz Deal

Joseph DelGrippoAnalyst IJune 19, 2009

PEORIA, AZ - FEBRUARY 20: Mike Carp of the Seattle Mariners poses during photo day at the Mariners spring training complex on February 20, 2009 in Peoria, Arizona.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

On June 17th, the Seattle Mariners called up 23-year-old first baseman Mike Carp from Triple-A Tacoma. He is taking the roster spot of LHP Erik Bedard, who was placed on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation.

Carp is likely only up for his first cup of coffee until Mariners first baseman Russell Branyan comes back from home in Georgia, where he is attending his grandfather’s funeral.  

In his two games thus far, Carp has his first big-league hit (a first-inning single off San Diego Padres starter Josh Geer), his first run scored, and has gotten on base in four of his six major-league plate appearances.

I mention Carp because of the problems the New York Mets are having this season at first base. Since Carlos Delgado went down with a de riguer hip injury, the Mets first basemen have hit .240, contributed a .331 on-base percentage, slugged for .342, hit six doubles, three home runs, and 19 RBIs in 38 games.

In only 26 games, Delgado had seven doubles, four home runs, and 23 RBIs.

If only the Mets had had a young slugging first baseman in the minors with the talent to replace Delgado.

Actually, they did have that guy in Mike Carp, who hit .299/.403/.471 last season in 566 Double-A plate appearances. Yes, that is an over-.400 on-base percentage!

At Binghamton, Carp smacked 16 doubles, 17 home runs, and drove in 72 runs. He also tacked on 79 walks.

The Mets thought so much of Carp that they worked him into left field for quite a few games last season and had him playing that position in winter ball.

Instead of tapping Carp as the first option in the wake of Delgado’s injury, the Mets included him in the J.J. Putz trade last offseason. Needless to say, they are paying dearly for it now.

As things stand today, the Mets (and their fans) get a Daniel Murphy and Fernando Tatis mini-platoon—two players I like but who do not represent the future at first base.

Before his call up to Seattle, Carp was hitting .299/.412/.517/.928 OPS at Triple-A Tacoma, with 16 doubles, 10 home runs, and 32 RBIs. These numbers are consistent or better than what he put up last year or in his 2007 breakout year at High-A Port St. Lucie.

According to Seattle’s manager Don Wakamatsu, Mariners hitting coaches are excited about Carp because “he has a good swing. It’s short and compact.”

While the Mariners organization is loaded with first basemen—Branyan, Mike Sweeney, Chris Shelton, Bryan LaHair—none offer the future potential of Carp.

After the Francisco Rodriguez free-agent signing, the Putz trade was widely admired because the Mets finally had their “lock-down” bullpen for the eighth and ninth innings.

But Putz is on the disabled list with elbow problems, and if you look at his career, Putz really only had two good seasons. 

Who knew that the important eighth inning would sometimes be handled by Sean Green (also acquired by the Mets in that trade)?

Green had a bad April and May, but has been virtually unhittable and unscored upon in June. Who knows what he will be like next year... or even next month.

Relief pitchers are interchangeable, and except for the elite—Mariano Rivera, Jonathan Papelbon, etc.—a team never knows what they are getting from year to year. 

Good, young hitters with short swings and a patient approach at the plate, on the other hand, do not grow on trees.

It is doubtful that any one hitter can tremednously improve the weak Mets lineup. This is not to say that Carp would provide the necessary firepower the Mets desperately need, but with the Mets in a massive injury flux right now, I would rather have a young, promising hitter get his share of major league plate appearances.

Considering the present turmoil at first base for the Mets, I bet they would love to have one of their chips back in Mike Carp.


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