The U Files # 58: Careening Karim

The Mets had made it a habit in recent years to value "name" players, and only those available right away. Earlier in this offseason the Mets signed Mike Cameron and Kazuo Matsui to reasonable deals, but the Mets have been skittish about expanding the payroll too much farther. The Mets have recently completed the signing of outfielder Karim Garcia to a premium deal. (Free Preview of Premium Content)

The Mets entered 2003 with one of their name acquisitions in right field: Jeromy Burnitz. Burnitz lived up to his name spectacularly in the early months of the 2003 season, but with the Mets out of the race and realizing their previous direction for the error it was, Burnitz was sent in a deal to the Los Angeles Dodgers, in which the Mets received smartly hitting prospect Victor Diaz. The Mets went the rest of the year with a jury rigged contraption manning right field pieced together from players who would be best fit to more limited roles. The Mets overall production out of right field fell somewhat below the league average for the postion adjusted to Shea stadium.

Karim Garcia was once a highly touted prospect, but thus far hasn't made a home in the Major Leagues. He slugged .479 in class A ball, brushed past the class AA level and has hit .293/.350/.538 BA/OBP/SLG at class AAA in over 2000 AB. He reached the Big club for the first time in 1995 at the age of 19 for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but did not get significant playing time until 1998, for the new Arizona Diamondbacks, having been selected in the expansion draft.

For the Diamondbacks, he hit .222/.260/.381 in 333 AB, casting doubt on whether he could handle the highest level of competition. It is then natural that he enter his tenth season of Major League baseball with only 1205 career AB.

The lefty hitter has hit left-handed pitchers about as well as northpaws for his career, but has struggled to hit lefties in a smaller sample in more recent AB. Garcia has not been so outstanding a hitter against either breed of chucker to make the ideal platoon partner, and he is a better option as a full time starter than the incumbents on the Mets bench. Hitting .243 for his career, Garcia has gone out of the park in his career at a rate that prorates to about 25 homers in a 550 AB season.

A likely range of possible performance for Garcia is .295-.315 for OBP and .440-.460 for SLG. This leaves Garcia in the role of a power threat in the 7th or 8th spot in the batting order. This projection pegs Garcia to produce SLG numbers about 10 points better than the Mets did in right field in 2003, but significantly less OBP.

The Mets numbers in right field for 2003 were greatly inflated by the hitting of Burnitz. The Mets RF with Burnitz subtracted hit for 8 less points of OBP and 83 fewer points of SLG, or .343/.359. Garcia does represent a significant upgrade over this level of production.

According to the defensive statistics of Baseball Prospectus, Garcia for his career in right field costs a team 3 runs per 100 games. The Mets right fielders in 2003 totaled 10 runs below average in 2003. Let's suppose Garcia is an upgrade of 3 runs defensively.

On the whole this puts Garcia as an upgrade of 8-10 runs over the Mets in 2003 with Burnitz departed, or almost one win. For this the Mets are paying Garcia $800,000.

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