Nick Johnson, Jorge Cantu Cited as Possible Replacements for Mets at First Base

Andrew WhartonCorrespondent IMay 26, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO - MAY 13:  Nick Johnson #24 of the Washington Nationals bats against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on May 13, 2009 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Ken Rosenthal of Foxsports.com Astros-need-to-be-realistic-and-start-to-rebuild">reports that the Mets have expressed interest in Nationals first baseman Nick Johnson, even though Daniel Murphy has proven himself capable of flashing the leather in the absence of Delgado.

In 43 games this season, Nick Johnson is hitting .338/.445/.471 with four home runs and 25 RBI. He is, however, very injury-prone and has played more games this season already than he played in all of 2007 and 2008. Still, he is thriving hitting in front of Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn.

Also mentioned by Rosenthal as a possible replacement is Marlins infielder Jorge Cantu, who is currently hitting .277/.343/.484 with eight home runs and 35 RBI. In just three games so far this season at Citi Field, Cantu has three home runs, seven RBI, and a line of .556/.667/1.556 against the Mets.

I stated a few days ago that I thought Nick Johnson was a perfect fit for the Mets, but I was wrong. Jorge Cantu is a perfect fit. While Johnson boasts a better average and OBP so far this season, Cantu is by far the better power hitter and is much more versatile on the field. 

Cantu has played 105 games at first base, 216 games at second base, 200 games at third base, and even one game at shortstop so far in his major league career.

Okay, I'm not going to lie. I want Jorge Cantu simply because he seems to be the best hitter alive every time he faces the Mets and Phillies, and his clutch numbers are rather impressive for a 27-year-old. To view Cantu's clutch numbers throughout his career, click here.

Here's another thought to chew on; Jorge Cantu batting second between Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran. Right now, Cantu is hitting cleanup for the Marlins, with Wes Helms and Dan Uggla following him while hitting .245 and .200, respectively. Basically, if there is an open base ahead of Cantu, he isn't getting anything to hit.

Turn the tables a bit, put Cantu in the Mets' lineup, and he will rarely be pitched around with Beltran, Sheffield/Delgado, and Wright following in the order. If Reyes is on base (which he frequently is when he is healthy), that just makes the Mets even more dangerous.

I'm telling you, this rumor (and that's all it is right now) has got me so excited that I'm actually smiling at work. Of course, the Mets probably won't make the Marlins an offer. Quite frankly, I'd give the Marlins a decent package for him, involving perhaps Niese, Kunz, and Murphy.

I think it's become pretty obvious that Daniel Murphy no longer fits into the Mets' long-term plans, especially if top prospect Fernando Martinez makes a splash in the big leagues when he is called up. With Cantu, the Mets will have a solid first baseman for years to come after Delgado is gone. Why not sell Murphy while his stock is still somewhat high?

Now, some of you may be asking yourselves "why would the Marlins take a defensively challenged Murphy?" I have two responses for that. First of all, I think Murphy is more than capable of becoming a decent fielding first baseman, even though we have a very small sample size to go off of right now.

Secondly, I don't see the Marlins keeping him. If he were to be traded to Florida, chances are they would turn right around and trade him to an American League team as soon as possible for a pitching prospect or two.

For sake of keeping race out of this debate, I'm not going to discuss the fact that Omar Minaya seems to have a connection with Latin-American players such as Cantu. That's for others to discuss. Frankly, he's just a great player and would fit in with the Mets' lineup very well.

This could be a move that puts the Mets over the hump, especially now that their starting pitching seems to be holding its own and Maine and Pelfrey have really hit their strides.

I can hear Alex Anthony already: "Now batting for the Mets, first baseman, Jorge Cantu!"

It's got a nice ring to it.


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