The New York Mets finally made an overdue roster move late Monday night, when utility man Frank Catalanotto was designated for assignment to make room for Chris Carter.
Carter came over from the Boston Red Sox in the Billy Wagner trade, and introduced himself to Mets fans during spring training when he had arguably the strongest spring of any offensive player.
Despite the injury to Daniel Murphy, Carter did not make the Opening Day roster, as the Mets chose to take the vastly inferior Mike Jacobs north instead. Eventually, the Mets realized the error of their ways, and sent Jacobs packing when Ike Davis was called up.
Carter, who can play first base and the corner outfield spots, played 29 games for AAA Buffalo, and leaves the Bisons after posting a triple-slash line of .336/.390/.611, good for a 1.001 OPS in 123 plate appearances.
In addition, the lefthanded Carter also has a very impressive .448 OBP against lefties for the Bisons.
It's fair to be skeptical about a 27-year-old who only has 26 plate appearances in the big leagues, but I'll cut Carter some slack. As a Red Sox minor leaguer, he was effectively blocked on the major league roster by Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, and J.D. Drew. Conversely, he's not known as a very strong defensive player, so his value is in his bat.
Carter's career minor league numbers reflect that.
His overall numbers are .307/.380/.514 in parts of seven minor league seasons, including a pretty solid .305/.373/.499 line in 540 games at the AAA level.
As a Met, Carter's primary job is going to be the big lefty power bat off the bench, something they've sorely lacked all season. He also figures to get some spot starts in the corner outfield spots if Jerry Manuel so chooses.
Making the moves to call up Davis and Carter took a little bit longer than fans would've liked, but it's a breath of fresh air when the transactions do finally happen.
However, there are a few more moves that I believe need to happen that will improve the Mets in a few different ways. The most important move, in my opinion, is the demotion of Jenrry Mejia back to AA Binghamton.
Mejia, the Mets' top pitching prospect, made the roster out of spring training as a reliever mostly based on the uncertainty of the bullpen. Aside from All-Star closer Francisco Rodriguez, and set-up man Pedro Feliciano, the Mets pen was full of unknowns.
Mejia, a 20-year-old rookie who had never pitched in relief prior to this season, possesses an electric high-90's fastball, and is developing a breaking ball to keep hitters honest.
But if the Mets brought Mejia up from AA to shore up the bullpen, wouldn't it make sense to send him back down if he's not needed? Through 32 games, the Mets relievers are third in the majors with a 2.70 ERA, and are second in the majors with a .215 batting average against.
It's not like they're doing it on the cheap, either. Mets relievers have combined to record the second-most innings pitched in MLB with 116.2 heading into Tuesday's games.
So, with the bullpen being a major strength, and key reliever Ryota Igarashi set to return soon from the disabled list, the Mets would be wise to send their prized prospect Mejia back down to the minors to continue his development as a starting pitcher.
I can't speak for an entire fanbase, but personally, I'd rather have my team's best prospect develop into a starting pitcher rather than being wasted as a mop-up reliever on the big league squad. (In the first 32 games of the season, Mejia has pitched a total of 13.2 innings.)
Unlike the bullpen, the Mets bench has been dismal all season. Carter's presence helps that a little bit, as his bat should make a major difference over the course of the season. Henry Blanco, currently on the bereavement list tending to an illness in the family, has been fantastic as the back-up catcher.
Fernando Tatis's defensive versatility will likely keep him on the roster for the foreseeable future. Alex Cora, the back-up middle infielder, has some pretty brutal offensive numbers (.163/.265/.256), but has played solid defense, and more importantly, does not have an immediate replacement breathing down his neck in the minors. (I think that the Mets would likely to prefer to have a veteran on the bench rather than waste a prospect, such as 20-year-old Ruben Tejada, in that spot).
That leaves Gary Matthews Jr., the Opening Day centerfielder with the final bench spot. Matthews is off to a horrible start at .140/.229/.186, and that's despite having two hits in the opener. Matthews, a switch-hitter, is hitting under .160 from both sides of the plate, and has struck out an astounding 17 times in 43 at bats.
Clearly, his ability to play centerfield is the only reason he's still on the roster. Isn't there anyone with a pulse who can provide anything better? Well, to answer that rhetorical question, yes, there is. Jason Pridie has been playing CF down in AAA Buffalo, and although he's no Chris Carter, he's hitting .292, which is pretty respectable. I don't know much about his defense, but chances are if he's playing centerfield, he's not Adam Dunn out there.
With Angel Pagan the unquestioned starter in center at the moment, Matthews's role on the Mets is unclear. I can't imagine that Jason Pridie would be any worse for the last bench spot than Matthews, and either way, that bench spot will likely disappear when Carlos Beltran is able to return.
Jacobs and Catalanotto had no business suiting up for the 2010 Mets, and thankfully they are both gone now with over 125 games left to go.
Still, it frustrates me when I see Matthews striking out to kill a rally, and it infuriates me to see Mejia being so horribly mishandled.
My biggest fear is the fact that the Mets have both a manager and a general manager who may be looking for work after the season. Both men control Mejia's destiny, and may be ruining his future out of desperation for their own jobs. It's a very helpless feeling as a fan to see this playing out.
There is zero benefit to stunting the development of Mejia, and I hope with every fiber of my being that the Mets smarten up and realize this before it's too late.
(For more Mets, Jets and Nets analysis, visit my personal blog, MetsJetsNetsBlog)