With the Mets following Lee Andrew’s advice and re-signing Oliver Perez, the off-season makeover is nearly done.  However, they still need a couple of players at the back of the roster.  Today I look at how Ty Wigginton might fit.

In his blog for the New York Post today, Joel Sherman recommended the Mets sign free agent Ty Wigginton for a super-sub role.  Sherman wrote, “Wigginton would be an ideal player to spot Carlos Delgado at first, Luis Castillo at second and Ryan Church/Daniel Murphy in the corner outfield.”

You probably remember that Wiggington started his career with the Mets.  The club picked him in the 17th round of the 1998 draft out of the University of North Carolina at Asheville.  Now, that’s not the school where Michael Jordan or Moonlight Graham or Chris Iannetta went to school – that’s the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Wigginton is the only player in history to make the majors from UNCA.

Wigginton broke in with the Mets in 2002 and played pretty well in parts of three seasons with the club before he was dealt to the Pirates in the Kris Benson deal in 2004.  Wigginton later went on to play with the Rays and Astros, becoming a solid, consistent performer.

However, last season Wigginton turned in a career year.  He had the highest average, on-base percentage and slugging mark for any season in which he played over 50 games.  Only a collection of thumb, rib and groin injuries kept him from establishing career bests in counting category marks, like home runs in which he fell one shy of his personal best.

Wigginton became a free agent because the Astros cut him loose rather than risk an arbitration case with him, where they felt he might make $7 million or more.  And in this tough economic climate, which may or may not be this year’s code word for collusion, no other teams have showed much interest in him, either.

Now, it may seem crazy that no one is interested in a player with the versatility that Wigginton brings combined with the fact that he had a .285/.350/.526 line last year.  But there are two important things to keep in mind about Wiggington.  One, he’s a terrible defensive player.  Yes, he gets credit for his willingness to play multiple positions.  However, it would be better if he was actually good at any of them.  And two, Wigginton was a product of his home park last year.

Let’s break down how he did at home and on the road in 2008:

H – .343/.390/.691 with 15 HR and 35 RBIs in 181 ABs

R – .234/.316/.380 with 8 HR and 23 RBIs in 205 Abs

So, basically Wigginton hit like Barry Bonds in his games at Minute Maid Park and like 2007-vintage Paul Lo Duca in away parks.  Now, most players hit better in their home parks, but what Wigginton did last year was way, way beyond the norm.  Call me crazy, but I think he’s closer to Paul Lo Duca than Barry Bonds as a hitter.

Defensively, Wigginton has never been a good fielder at third base.  His UZR at the hot corner has been in negative numbers each year in the bigs.  He had a good year at 2B by this metric in 2006 but was again in negative numbers in 2007 and he did not play a game there last year.  And the last time he played 1B, his numbers extrapolated over 150 games came out to -16.5 UZR in 2007.  For comparison, Carlos Delgado, a poor fielder, had a -4.1 UZR/150 that season.

So, it’s really not a surprise that clubs have been lukewarm to Wigginton as a free agent.  I think the Mets could do worse than to sign Wigginton as their primary RH bat off the bench.  Last year versus LHP, he batted .340/.424/.631 and in his career he has a .288/.364/.514 line versus southpaws.

If Wigginton would be satisfied with getting around 150 at-bats, then I think he would be an asset to the team.  But he’s certainly not worth $7 million and I would not be in favor of giving him a deal any bigger than the $1.15 million that Marlon Anderson is getting this year.  Since he’s willing to attempt to play 2B and 3B, he has a little more versatility than Nick Evans and should get more than the minimum salary.  But Evans hit .319/.380/.514 versus southpaws, so it is not like Wigginton’s main asset is a hard one to find.

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