In their first move of the offseason, the Mets announced that they were picking up
A Look Back
Moises Alou: When the Mets signed Alou to a one-year deal worth $7.5 million last year, my initial reaction was negative, mainly due to Alou's age and injury history. While Alou did wind up missing 2 and a half months due to a strained quad and only played in 87 games, I underestimated just how much of an impact he would have when healthy. Alou hit .341/.392/.524, put together a 30-game hitting streak in August/September, and absolutely destroyed left-handed pitching (.360/.451/.605). It is worth noting that while Alou was a significantly better hitter on the road (.377/.451/.566), he still put up respectable numbers (.308/.330/.485) in a home ballpark that isn't hitter-friendly and is particularly rough on right-handed batters.
Another good measure of Alou's offensive value is his VORP (Value Over Replacement Player), a statistic that attempts to measure how many more runs a player contributed to his team's offense than a AAAA player at the same position would have contributed with the same amount of playing time. Despite missing nearly half the season, Alou ranked 10th in VORP among all major-league left-fielders. When you consider Alou's level of production relative to his salary and the length of the commitment the Mets made and compare that to the big free-agent left-field signings of last year, you realize what a fantastic bargain Alou was.
The best way to describe Alou's defense is to parrot one of those inane "scouting reports" that FOX broadcasts have for starting pitchers: If his ability matched his effort, he'd be a Gold Glover. Unfortunately, as aggressively as Alou ran after fly balls and as fearless as he was in making diving catches, he's not a particularly good fielder. Baseball Prospectus's fielding statistics rate him at 8 runs below average on defense in 2007, a number that makes sense to me given his limited range and occasional misjudgments of fly balls. Of course, left field is primarily an offensive position, but given the fly-ball tendencies of the Mets pitching staff, outfield defense is particularly important for the Mets.
Aside from the aspects of Alou's on-field performance that can be quantified, one thing that is also worth noting is that even though he's not particularly fast (he grounded into 13 double plays) he certainly hustles and runs out every ground ball (and was rewarded with 9 infield hits for his efforts). On a team that had its issues with that sort of thing, the example that Alou sets is one that his teammates should learn from. After all, if the 40-something who missed nearly half the year with a bum leg can run everything out, what excuse does everyone else have?
Damion Easley: Easley was signed to a 1-year, $850,000 contract last offseason and performed quite well in the utility/righty bat off bench role for which he was signed. After
Unfortunately, Easley badly sprained his ankle while advancing to 2nd base on a wild pitch in a game at RFK Stadium in August and missed the final month and a half of the season. Given his age and the severity of the injury (I was at that game, and I remember Easley writhing in pain for a pretty long time out there), I wondered if the ankle sprain would end his career, but as we learned today, both he and the Mets expect him to be fully recovered and ready to play by spring training.
A Look Forward
The Mets know what they're getting with Alou: a gifted hitter who is injury-prone and below-average defensively. Of course, the Mets as presently constructed are in the perfect position to get the most out of such a player.
As long as there are no lingering effects from the ankle injury, Easley should be a key bench player with some pop and the ability to play multiple positions, or even the right-handed side of a 2nd-base platoon should the Mets decide not to re-sign