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Second-best news of the week

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Mets sign Easley. There'll be dancing in the streets of Phoenix tonight, as one more piece of "veteran presence" shambles off to encumber another team. It's a one-year contract - the Mets are not total idiots, it would seem - for $850K. That's actually up from the $700K we paid him, and his 2007 salary will be the most he's earned since making $6.5m in 2003. Yes, Veronica: there was a time when this career 91 OPS+ hitter was considered a "valuable commodity". From 2001-03, the Tigers paid him more than $17.8 million, were rewarded with seasons where his OPS+ was 85 and 82, and ended up releasing him before the 2003 season, but had to pay almost all his salary. Tampa Bay signed Easley, watched him bat .187 in 36 games, and dumped him too: with all respect, when the Devil Rays release you, I'd take that as a sign to find other employment.

He soldiered on regardless, and 2004 was his best year in a long time, posting his highest OPS since 1998 for the Marlins. For Arizona last season, Easley was sublimely mediocre, but he is at least consistently mediocre, posting his third consecutive season of nine homers, one triple, and one caught stealing. That mediocrity is, of course, save one June weekend in Atlanta, where he was apparently possessed by demonic forces of some kind, and went 6-for-9 with four homers and ten RBI. Outside those two games, in 180 other at-bats, he batted .211, and only had five homers and 18 RBI the entire rest of the season. This was, don't forget, playing half his games in one of the most hitter-friendly parks around.

His main role for the Diamondbacks appeared to be as an anti-Andy Green device, preventing the Pacific League 2005 MVP from getting playing time. Really, I don't think this bodes well for the Mets' chances in 2007 and beyond, because if you haven't got ten people better than Easley, immediately available in your farm system, I would fire your entire coaching staff. Still, the folk at MetsBlog seem happy, though they're already anticipating the arrival of Ruben Gotay. The Fox report claims Easley can play just about every position, but he has a grand total of 39 outfield innings since 1996, so would probably need written directions and MapQuest to find center-field at Shea, and I doubt he'll ever use them. First Hernandez v1.0, then Shawn Green, now Easley: it appears that Omar Minaya enjoys D'backs cast-offs. Russ Ortiz is faxing his CV in as we speak. ;-)

Anyway, for Arizona Diamondbacks' purposes, that opens up a backup slot on the infield for 2007. Be interesting to see who fills that, especially if we assume that Counsell goes elsewhere, and Andy Green decides to, er, turn Japanese. Alberto Callaspo would probably be the likeliest candidate to fill the main backup role Easley occupied last season, but Robby Hammock's chances of making it back to the big leagues probably just got a little brighter. Third-baseman Brian Barden (.298 with 16 HR, and 96 RBI) might also work, but I'd hate to see him called up, simply to rot away on the bench like Andy Green did this year.

Matsuzaka may have gone, but we might yet become the Valley of the Rising Sun in 2007, according to this article from the Tribune. In it, Jack Macgruder says the team "have had exploratory talks with the agent for free agent right-hander Tomo Ohka and have more talks planned. They also have had internal discussions about Japanese League free agent left-hander Kei Igawa, and could enter the bidding process when he is put up for auction by the Hanshin Tigers." In our quest for a pitcher, Jeff Moorad is "optimistic about something happening in the next week or so," most likely involving a trade.

A couple of other interesting nuggets in the same piece: our bid for Matsuzaka was in the $10-20m range, so Arizona came up well short of the insane $51.1m winning bid from the Red Sox. [Quick aside. While scoping out reaction to that, at Over the Monster, I was startled to discover that Jonathan Papelbon is moving into the Red Sox rotation next season. It's a move that could end up being a blinding success or a total disaster - doesn't feel to me like there'll be much middle-ground.] Also, the talk of a multi-year deal for Eric Byrnes is, apparently, receding, and it looks like we'll just sign him for 2007. This is, I think, definitely the wisest move: he'll hopefully have his usual brilliant first half, and we can trade him to a contender before the wheels come off his skateboard following the All-Star break.

Almost at the end of the first week of work, and while I'm enjoying it, will be glad when it's over! Formal training stopped after 2 1/2 days, and we newbies were put on the phones to "assist" real customers; this tends, at the moment, to mean putting them on hold while we ask someone who knows better! Fortunately, those there longer than us - which would be everyone - are very willing to answer questions, even our dumb ones, of which there's no shortage. Still, definitely takes it out of you, especially days like yesterday, when I left home at 7:10am and thanks to an request to stay for some overtime, didn't get home until 8:50pm... Yes, the weekend will be very welcome. :-)