News broke out this afternoon that the New York Mets have signed free agent outfielder Scott Hairston to a minor league deal (confirmed by ESPN.com’s Adam Rubin). It is a good move for the Mets, a team that is running Carlos Beltran and Jason Bay out there following injury-marred 2010 seasons.
Of course, I’m not here to expound upon how good a move this is for the Mets. Readers here know that I’ve had Scott Hairston in my sightlines for quite a few weeks now as a possible fourth outfielder/insurance policy in center field in case the impending disaster known as Chris Coghlan in the outfield fails (and my gut says it will). I had figured that someone like Hairston may cost the Marlins $1M, the typical value of a backup player who is somewhat established in the majors. The Marlins are currently paying Wes Helms that kind of money, and Uncle Wes provides nothing in the way of production (unless you count his often-vaunted “leadership”). Hairston gives you a legitimate bat against lefties (career .278/.331/.498 career hitter versus left-handed pitching, good for a .355 wOBA), solid defense in the corner outfield and the ability to play center field passably. For $1M, the package Hairston brings likely would have been a bargain.
However, the Marlins decided to go with a minor league deal for Dewayne Wise, a good defensive center fielder who is worse than Emilio Bonifacio at the plate, if you can imagine that. Wise is a career .282 wOBA hitter (.222/.260/.382) who has been worth 0.1 fWAR on his career in 775 major league PA. He can be pretty solidly considered a replacement level player, but for a minor league contract, it doesn’t really matter who the Marlins sign. Wise was available, and the team signed him to a no-risk deal, so it was acceptable. If they felt that they needed to save money and avoid making a major-league signing to a guy the caliber of Hairston, that seems reasonable. But Hairston too could have been had for a minor league contract! Given the choice between a career .222/.260/.382 hitter and a career .245/.303/.435 hitter with a known skillset against lefties, who would you choose? Stupidly enough, the Marlins chose the terrible hitter, with the only possible reasoning behind the move being that he was a lefty hitter!
Look, this may not matter in the end. The one-win difference between using the replacement level Wise and the worst version of Hairston isn’t likely to cost us a pennant. But again, it is the trend of these sorts of moves in a puzzling offseason that make trusting the Marlins front office harder and harder as the day goes by. Why settle for a completely replaceable player when the better player with more upside was available for the same price? It is baffling to say the least.