The U Files case #19: The Angel in the Outfield

It's too bad for the Mets. They're trying to win and going all out in the free agent market. They beat out the Atlanta Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies to sign Tom Glavine, and now have won the Cliff Floyd sweepstakes. On the same day, the Mets found out that Japanese slugger Norihiro Nakamura spurned the Mets offer, resigning with the Kintesu Buffaloes.

The Mets have lost Edgardo Alfonzo to the San Francisco Giants and now will not come close to replacing his productivity at third base with Nakamura gone. The added production of Floyd will largely be offset by the reduced production from third base.

















































*Runs Created as listed at

Cliff Floyd has long been known as a productive, but injury-prone lefty bat. He's put together two consecutive seasons of over 500 AB and in those years posted OPS of .968 and .920. He is a threat to hit 30 home runs, but hits more doubles than homers. He strikes out over 100 times a season, but posts high batting average and walks at a healthy rate. He has always been one to maintain a high OBP.

His career averages are .284 batting, .361 On Base, and .494 Slugging. Over the last three years, his averages are .302 batting, .386 On Base and .549 Slugging. He spent most of the last three years playing for the Marlins, who play in a pitcher's park.

Cliff Floyd wound up in Boston late last year as the result of a trade. The Red Sox offered Floyd salary arbitration, but Floyd declined and became a free agent. The very next day, the Mets announced the outfielder was signed to a 4 year deal worth $26 million. Better than the fact the Mets signed Floyd were the agreeable terms of the deal. An average salary of $6.5 million is a bargain for a hitter of Floyd's caliber.

Nakamura had agreed in principle to a two year contract worth $6 million with an additional million in bonuses. Word came Thursday that this deal would be announced pending the results of a physical. Then, according to Mike Morrisey of the New York Post, Nakamura's manager with Kintesu, Masataka Nashida, got to him. Nakamura was reminded that he was offered more money and years from Japanese teams. Also, Nakamura was said to be upset that news of his deal with the Mets had leaked. After Nakamura passed his physical he changed his mind and announced his intention to resign with Kintesu.

When the Mets received no word on Nakamura late Thursday, they banked hard on Floyd. The Mets had previously wavered on Floyd as they still had too much money tied up in Jeromy Burnitz and Roger Cedeno. Floyd had threatened to accept arbitration with the Red Sox, and in the late hours before he declined the Sox' phones were busy. The Mets offered to trade David Weathers for the rights to negotiate with Weathers. The Braves blew away the Sox with their offer of Kevin Millwood. Red Sox GM Theo Epstein had informed the Mets that he would accept the Braves offer before it was announced that Floyd had declined arbitration.

Now, the Mets are left with three corner outfielders with big contracts. Talks to trade Burnitz to Colorado for pitcher Denny Neagle have stalled over financial concerns. Had Floyd replaced Burnitz in the lineup last year, he'd have added about 53 runs to the offense, and six wins to the team. The Mets may find it harder to get quality back in return for Burnitz or Cedeno, as with Floyd added the Mets would not be dealing from a position of strength. If the Mets cannot move Burnitz or Cedeno, they may move Cedeno to center field. Floyd would play left field and Burnitz right field.

If they can move Burnitz or Cedeno, Jose Cruz Jr. is a free agent and would provide needed offense from center field. Also, a trade for Seattle's Mike Cameron is possible. Free agent Bill Mueller has become the favorite to take over the third base vacancy. Jose Hernandez is available to play either third or shortstop. Desi Relaford, non-tendered by the Mariners, is another option at shortstop.

News also came that the Braves traded RHP Kevin Millwood to Philadelphia for catcher Johnny Estrada. The deal significantly weakens the Braves, but it may have made the Phillies the best team in the NL East. They boast the best lineup in the division for sure, with .900+ OPS hitters Bobby Abreu, Jim Thome, and Pat Burrell.

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