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Recent collection additions & the week ahead

I’m not quite sure when this became a “once a week” blog, but that’s kind of where we are now.

I expect to get to a couple of baseball games this week. I’m going to one of the games between the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees at the House of Evil – I’d agreed to go back before Jose Reyes got hurt and when I hoped that R.A. Dickey might pitch. Unfortunately, Dickey’s not in line to start the game I’m going to see.

I also expect to make my first trip to Trenton next weekend to see the Thunder and the Portland Sea Dogs.  Hopefully I’ll manage to blog about one or both of the games, but I should at least manage to post a few pictures to my Flickr account.

I’d also like to see Matt Harvey face the Dodgers on Wednesday, but I don’t know that time and money will allow it.

I added one new card to my Mets autograph collection last week, a signed Tim Byrdak 2012 Topps Update card, his first that shows him as a Met. It came back postmarked from Florida, where Byrdak is continuing to rehab from shoulder surgery. Hopefully he will be able to return to the Mets bullpen this year.

Signed Tim Byrdak 2012 Topps Update card from my collection

Signed Tim Byrdak 2012 Topps Update card from my collection

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Evan Longoria, David Wright, Brandon Hicks and Tim Byrdak

The Tampa Bay Rays, a team that at least one prominent baseball writer believes has no long-term future in Florida, nevertheless found the money and will to sign their best player to a contract extension that will pay him an average annual salary of $16.7 million until he’s 36.

Will David Wright be the next star third baseman to sign a contract extension? (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)

The New York Mets, who play in the largest media market in the United States, have yet to announce a similar contract extension for their best player. Without being privy to the negotiating process, who can really say whether the fault lies with David Wright and his representation, the finances of the Wilpon family or Sandy Alderson‘s willingness to spend money on baseball players?

(I think $63 limited view nosebleed seats for Opening Day just might be an indicator, though.)

Alderson is continuing to fill the Las Vegas 51s’ roster (or the Mets’ bench), though. On Monday, the Mets announced that they had purchased the contract of former Atlanta Braves prospect Brandon Hicks from the Oakland Athletics.

As MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo reports:

Hicks, 27, hit .172 with three home runs in 22 games for the A’s last season, appearing primarily as a shortstop…. Spending most of last season at Triple-A Sacramento, he batted .244 with 18 home runs in 328 at-bats there.

Ronny Cedeno, your services may no longer be required…

The Mets also re-signed one of their own free agents, although the move makes little sense to me. Thirty-nine year-old lefty specialist Tim Byrdak has agreed to a minor league deal with New York. He had surgery to repair a torn interior capsule in his left shoulder in September, and is likely to miss at least the first half of the 2013 season.

This is the same injury that Johan Santana and Chris Young were trying to come back from this season, with mixed results. I’m not aware of any relief pitchers who have returned from similar injuries, and I question whether Byrdak’s shoulder will be able to hold up to the strain of throwing nearly every day.

7 Mets became free agents Saturday

From the New York Post’s Mike Puma yesterday:

Scott Hairston, Jon Rauch, Ramon Ramirez, Ronny Cedeno, Kelly Shoppach, Tim Byrdak and Chris Young are the Mets who became free agents at midnight. In all likelihood each has played his last game for the team.

I wish them well, but I won’t miss any of them very much.

Scott Hairston takes batting practice before a game at Citi Field in 2011 (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)

Scott Hairston had a nice year, and by the end of the season he was one of very few Mets who could be counted on to produce runs with any regularity. But he’s 32 and coming off a career season – Omar Minaya would have handed him a big raise and a multi-year deal. Sandy Alderson is probably smarter, even though he couldn’t put aside thoughts of an extra win or two in 2012 to trade Hairston for whatever kind of borderline prospect he could get.

Ronny Cedeno was a competent backup infielder for the 2012 Mets, and I wouldn’t mind if he’s still here in 2013. But there are probably cheaper options available for a cost-conscious team.

Kelly Shoppach was another in a long line of mediocre catchers who played for the Mets. I’d rather see him return than watch Miguel Olivo, who has been linked to the Mets in published rumors. But I’d really like to see the Mets develop a decent catcher – think about this for a moment: Todd Hundley is probably the best catcher who ever came up through the Mets’ farm system.

Tim Byrdak seems like a great guy, and was effective in his role as a lefty specialist for the Mets. But he’s 39 and coming off surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule. Let’s see what Josh Edgin and Robert Carson can do, and look at the minor league free agent pool for added depth.

Jon Rauch and Ramon Ramirez occasionally showed why Alderson acquired them for the Mets bullpen last season, but they were too inconsistent for anyone to feel comfortable when they were called on. Rauch is 34 and earned $3.5 million in 2012, Ramirez is 31 and made $2.65 million. Let some other team take a chance that they will rebound next year.

And I really hope that Alderson is ready to turn the page on Chris Young. Although Young is usually brilliant twice through the order, opposing hitters almost always have him solved by at-bat number three. Five-inning starters lead to over-worked and over-exposed bullpens, and the Mets’ desire to get him extra rest helped to sabotage the entire starting rotation late in the year. And unless he’s willing to sign a minor league contract (preferably without an opt-out date), he can’t be viewed as rotation depth – with the Mets’ financial situation, any free agent signed to a major league contract is going to make the Opening Day roster.