Thursday, February 17, 2011

Phillies Find Value in Met Castoffs

Wilson Valdez, Brian Schneider and Nelson Figueroa all contributed to the Phillies' fourth straight division title in 2010. The Phillies were reportedly interested in John Maine before he signed with the Rockies Thursday. Do the Phillies have a specific interest in players dropped by the Mets?

Nobody cared much at the time when the Mets cut ties with Valdez, Schneider and Figueroa after the 2009 season. Who knew if these players would even make an MLB roster in 2010. Yet all three ended up contributing to the Phillies' fourth straight division title.

Valdez, filling in for the injured Jimmy Rollins, started 50 games at shortstop. Schneider took over the backup catcher role, starting 38 games behind Carlos Ruiz. Both Valdez and Schneider did well enough that the Phillies are bringing them back this season.

After putting up a 4.09 ERA and 1.48 WHIP in 70 innings in 2009 for the Mets, Figueroa improved to a 3.46 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 26 innings with the Phillies before they released him and he was picked up by the Astros.

It's not as if any of these fringe players have had a turnaround along the lines of an R.A. Dickey. (Though Figueroa, who had a 3.22 ERA in ten starts after joining Houston, would likely be in the competition for a back-of-the-rotation spot were he back with the Mets.) And it's not as if these players put the Phillies over the top in the division race.

But even though the rivalry between the Mets and Phillies has been very one-sided recently, some Phillies players and fans continue to obsess over the Mets. It wouldn't surprise me if the Philies get extra pleasure in showing the Mets that players like Valdez and Schneider can be valuable parts of a playoff team.

After the 2009 season, the Mets signed a Phillies castoff, Chris Coste. One would think that this fringe player would be happy for someone to give him a chance. But Coste was so caught up in the Mets-Phillies rivalry that he may have jeopardized his chances to make the Mets the following spring. Here are excerpts from an interview with Comacast SportsNet Philly after he signed with the Mets:

"It was the Mets," Coste told CSN. "It's the last team I ever saw myself playing for. I knew I was going to accept it, but had to think about it for a few days."

"I will always be a Phillie," Coste told CSN this evening.

If Albert Pujols somehow ended up on the Mets, he could wear a Cardinals cap for all I'd care. But if this is how Coste feels, it's just as well he didn't make it out of spring training with the Mets.

Coste, now 38, has not played in the majors since the Mets cut him. (He was then picked up by the Nationals' organization and released last June.)

As long as the Mets can't compete with the Phillies when it comes to the frontline players, it won't matter where the backups want to play. But as of now, it's just another place where the Phillies are sticking it to the Mets.

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