Coste: Costly? Cost-effective?

So the Mets are cornering the market on backup catchers.  Monday the team signed Chris Coste, recently of the Phillies. 

Coste really knows how to make a great first impression in New York.  He told CSN that:

“It was the Mets. It’s the last team I ever saw myself playing for. …. I will always be a Phillie.” 

For what its worth, after hitting relatively well earlier in his career, Coste, who will be 37 on Opening Day 2010, was worth exactly 0 WAR – replacement level – in 2009. 

Also on Monday, Ken Rosenthal at foxsports.com reported that the Mets were talking to, and close to a deal with one of the great backup catchers (oxymoron alert) Henry Blanco.  

Meanwhile, in his blog at the Post, Bart Hubbach pointed out that the Mets catching situation remains very fluid:

The machinations at catcher — not to mention the Mets’ continued interest in front-line catchers Bengie Molina and Rod Barajas — mean Omir Santos is no lock to make the Opening Day roster, despite his stunning selection to the Topps Rookie All-Star Team last week.

Why is signing a back-up catcher the most pressing issue the week before baseball’s winter meetings?  Help me out here gang.  I wish I was in the conference room at Citi Field where, when the Mets front office was discussing off-season planning, signing Chris Coste before new year’s was on the agenda.  What would that conversation have looked like?

There are 17 comments

      1. TimeIsTicking

        Thats what i dont understand by looking at Blanco & Molina. They need one catcher to platoon or start over Santos. Then on top of it they still have holes at 1B, LF and SP, why would they spend money on players they really have no space for. Unless this is just speculation by the media. Then again the last few years they’ve carried or expressed the need to carry 3 catchers. Unless 1 plays 1st base, its a waste.

  1. NateW

    I find this prevailing notion that the Mets need to address their biggest holes first to be very peculiar. Why should their list of needs be taken care of in order like a check list?

    Just because they signed a catcher to a split contract to replace Robinson Cancel first doesn’t mean its a more pressing need than LF, but it is still a need. I would prefer the AAA pitchers have someone to throw the ball to, you know.

    Omar has made it a habit to re-sign or sign bench players early in the winter, so this and the Cora moves should come as no surprise really. I bet they chose between Reed and Sullivan next, non-tendering one of them and that will wrap up the bench for the most part.

    1. Toby Hyde

      Locking up backups/AAA depth is not a surprise, but it’s not a good idea. $2 mil for Cora, $.5 for Coste or whatever … these numbers start to add up and prevent the Mets from really attacking the bargains in the market like Wolf or Abreu this winter. These guys (Cora, Coste) don’t really make the Mets better. They just fill slots, and suck up money.

      1. NateW

        Last your we all killed this team for not having quality depth to help fill holes, and now when they do bring in someone to fill that need you’re going to kill them over that? Really!?

        Keeping the team from being in a position where one key injury ruins the year, as well as throwing Buffalo a few bones to keep them happy is really worth a few million here and there. I really don’t look forward to next winter when they could be looking for a new manager, new GM, new AAA affiliate, with Beltran and Reyes one year away from free agency. Maybe they could shore up a couple of those issues ahead of time, instead of always chasing problems after they come up.

      2. MarcMangot

        NateW – I 100% agree with you. I was kind of shocked at Toby’s comments regarding the signing, but it seems like Toby’s thinking for the past few months has been that he has to include at least one negative comment about the Mets FO in every post. I can’t understand what the complaint is here…especially given all of the whining about lack of multi-tasking last year when Omar said that he had to fix the bullpen before he finds a starter before he does anything else.

        Does anyone else remember all of the Mets fans complaining just a few months ago about lack of quality depth in the organization? This is supposedly one of the things that sank the team. Well, Omar goes and tries to address that and the complaining starts anew. Go figure.

        Looking at this Coste signing, I get:
        1) Veteran catcher that will back-up Thole in AAA and mentor him on important things like calling a game.
        2) Third-string catcher that can be called up to the majors in case of injury, allowing Thole a full year in AAA.
        3) Coste has a lot of experience with NL East batters (and some with NL Central batters), so he could step right in at the ML level without a lot of adjustment time.
        4) Maybe Coste can give the Mets some good scouting reports on the Phillies pitchers that he caught for the past 3 years.
        5) Over the past four years, Coste hasn’t been awful with the bat, so you’re probably not losing much offensively with him.

        Conclusions: Coste provides good depth and probably doesn’t cost a heck of a lot. If you’re really worried about $500k (less what you would have to pay someone else that could provide equivalent catching depth), then you’ve got issues. This isn’t a $2m signing (at least I hope not) for middle infield depth at the ML level. I think that because Cora was signed at the same time and Coste and Cora both start with “Co”, somehow people are getting confused and linking the two.

        Of course, I’m assuming that the Mets will still sign a ML catcher to be the #1 catcher or platoon with Santos, but I don’t think that’s a crazy assumption.

      3. Toby Hyde

        If all the Mets are doing is adding catching depth, that’s fine. Every Mets move this winter should be evaluated with the following thought in mind: does this move the Mets closer to Philadelphia or even past them in the NL East? Does this? I suppose it’s just a tiny insurance policy at C and that’s not a bad thing by itself.

      4. MarcMangot

        Is that really the thought that should be the basis for evaluating every off-season move? I’ll agree to disagree.

        Personally, I think that the Mets FO (or any front office, for that matter) should be evaluated based on whether or not their moves, when taken in total, (1) improve the team to the point that it should be able to compete for a playoff spot in the up-coming year (using reasonable assumptions), and/or (2) help to set the team up to be able to be competitive for a playoff spot in future years. There are obviously a plethora of ways in which each individual move can serve these goals.

        To evaluate the Mets FO, especially from a Minor League point of view (which will, in turn, help the ML team through depth this year and eventually by having low-cost contributors), shouldn’t we be asking if they are doing everything they can to help improve the talent that they have in the farm system? That could be through keeping their prospects to obtaining more prospects to helping their prospects obtain the necessary skills to be successful at the big league level, etc…

        BTW – I personally think that being able to have continuity at the AAA level, with the team being able to keep an affiliate in Buffalo over the long-term, is an important part of the Mets’ minor league development plan. The Mets FO has to know that this an important task for this year…in addition to fielding a competitive ML team.

      5. Toby Hyde

        Marc,

        I basically agree with you that a FO’s moves should be analyzed against
        1. competing for a playoff spot in the present and
        2. competing for a playoff spot in future years.

        However, flags fly forever, and the relative weights assigned to 1. and 2. vary by team and circumstance. GMs must figure out where in the success cycle (or pattern, if in the Pirates case, it hasn’t been cyclical in 20 years) and determine the proper course of action. In the Pirates case specifically, their FO decided last year that the team had no chance of contending immediately and blew the whole thing up to build for the future. The Mets have a win-now core – Wright, Beltran, Santana, Reyes – and should find a way to build a winner around them now. The Phillies reside between the Mets and the playoffs, or at least have for the last three seasons.

        Maximizing talent in the farm system is useful for any team. For the Pirates, it’s the most important thing. For the Mets its entirely subservient to building a championship caliber squad.

      6. MarcMangot

        Toby – Thanks. Well put. I agree with you for the most part. I just don’t think that the two goals are that mutually exclusive, especially given the Mets status as a big-market team. Sure, the Pirates have to choose one goal or the other at any particular time, but teams like the Yankees and Red Sox show that you can have a “win-now core”, while still focusing on building Minor League talent. The Mets can’t realistically say that they have to win now at the expense of competing over the intermediate term. They are a NY team that should be competing for the playoffs every single year. (Please don’t bring up the Knicks as a NY team giving up on two consecutive seasons…because they compete with the Nets for fans, not the Yankees.)

        Let’s face it…with a healthy “win-now core” plus a few smart additions, the Mets will probably be in the thick of the playoff race this year. Will they overcome the Phillies, Braves and Marlins? If a lot of things fall into place, sure. But until there is some payroll flexibility caused by rookies making an impact on the ML squad (or the payroll is allowed to increase to Yankees proportions), it’s going to be tough to expect a playoff spot at the beginning of the season (i.e., on paper).

    1. NateW

      truth

      Not sure why you feel the need to point that out though… Right now Pagan is the starting LF, and Sullivan is probably the plan for bench OF over Reed who would cost more and be the same or worse. Having both Pagan and Sullivan on the bench would be a good thing imo, as both showed solid bats in PH and infrequent use roles. Add in a PH righty bat who can play some 1B and I think the bench is solid, but will need some depth.

  2. Crazy Eddie

    Toby, I don’t understand.

    Thole hits well enough to be in the big leagues, the reason to keep him in the minors is to work on catching. So he should be catching almost everyday to do this in AAA. So why sign Coste and Blanco, where will Thole play?

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