The New York Mets: Who Should Play First Base In 2010?

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The New York Mets: Who Should Play First Base In 2010?
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Carlos Delgado’s recent setback has raised a lot of questions about his future as a New York Met.

Can a National League team justify a contract for a 38-year-old first baseman coming off of a season where he barely played due to injury?  If the Mets wanted him back, will they be willing to spend the money Delgado is looking for?  Or will Carlos likely wind up signing a contract with an American League squad where he could DH until he decides to hang up his cleats?

I’m going to assume that Delgado has played his last game as a Met.

That brings us to Daniel Murphy.

I believe that Murphy has tremendous upside at the plate, even though we haven’t seen it yet. I also think he has a lot of potential defensively as a first baseman. Sure, he’s had his moments this season.

Just a few days ago, he was nowhere to be found as a double-play opportunity sailed passed first base into the opposing dugout.

Remember, Murphy had never played first base before. He had shown great quickness and some decent instincts, but he can be overly aggressive, going after balls that aren’t his. It’s my opinion that with time, and the hard work I’m sure Murphy is willing to put in, he can become a great first baseman.

The problem with Murphy is his lack of power. First base is a power position. Even in a stadium like Citi Field, where home runs may not be the answer, some power is necessary. The lack of the long ball has a lot to do with why the Mets have not been able to overcome leads.

Needing to manufacture runs by stringing together two or three hits to get a run is not an easy way to come back. A bloop and a bomb is still the fastest way to make up a deficit, and the Mets have been unable to do it all year.

Looking at the free-agent pool for next season, there are a few options that I think the Mets should look at.

The first is Russell Branyan.

The 34-year-old left-handed batter is having a decent year at the plate so far. He’s only batting .257, but he has hit 27 HRs and driven in 68 RBI so far.

He also has an OBP of .355 and has done a great job in the field so far, with a .989 fielding percentage, only committing 10 errors in 101 games.

The only thing that worries me about Branyan is the Seattle Mariners are his ninth team in 11 seasons so far. This is the first time he’s been a full-time first baseman since 2001 though, and seems to be doing well with his opportunity.

Nick Johnson’s name was being thrown around at the trade deadline as a possible target for the Mets. Since he’ll be a free agent at the end of the season, I’m going to assume that the Mets are going to at least take a look at him.

Johnson’s career has been one filled with injury shortened seasons, so unless the Mets are planning on hiring a new training staff (god willing), Nick might not be the way to go. He has performed very when he’s not injured though.

In 2006 with the Washington Nationals, Johnson hit 23 HRs and drove in 77 RBI while batting .290 with a .428 OBP. He also drew 110 walks, the most in his career.

Since '06, Johnson has only played more than 100 games once, which is this season. His power numbers have suspiciously dropped off, but he’s still batting .296 with an OBP of .418.

If he can stay healthy for an entire season, I think Johnson is a great option. He has a career fielding percentage of .992, and has always been considered a top tier defensive player.

Adam Laroche is another option, as long as he could put the little squabble between himself and Carlos Beltran behind him.

Laroche is a solid player, and has shown some power in his career, hitting 32 home runs with the Braves in 2006. He's a career .271 hitter and averages 26 HRs and 89 RBI per 162 games. Laroche is also a solid fielder, with a .995 fielding percentage through six seasons.

The Mets looking at any of these three guys would be what I would consider “moving in the right direction.”

The only problem is that signing an every-day first baseman leaves Daniel Murphy out in the cold.

We all know how miserably his left field experiment failed, and I don’t think the organization would be willing to give that another try. He’s an infielder by trade, and barring a trade, the rest of the Mets infield is in place until 2011. He may turn into a fill-in guy and a permanent pinch hitter.

I guess having an overabundance of talent is something I could get used to considering this season.

 

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