By Kevin Goldstein
January 26, 2005
After finishing second in the Carlos Delgado sweepstakes, the Mets acted quickly to find a replacement. They traded their possible first baseman of the future, Ian Bladergroen, to the Red Sox on Wednesday for a new first baseman of the present, Doug Mientkiewicz.
Mientkiewicz, 30, is coming off his worst season since his 1999 rookie campaign, batting just .238/.326/.350 with six homers and 35 RBIs in 127 games while dealing with a nagging wrist injury. He went from the Twins to the Red Sox in the Nomar Garciaparra deal becuase Minnesota wanted to make room for Justin Morneau. He similarly found himself on the outside of Boston’s crowded lineup, getting just 107 at-bats in the final two months but serving as a valuable defensive replacement. He’s been in the news of late for wanting to maintain possession of the ball from the final out of the World Series, a ball the Red Sox would like to have. Mientkiewicz is a career .272/.363/.404 hitter with 44 homers and 276 RBIs in 692 games, including a pair of .300-plus seasons under his belt. He has limited power, but posts good on-base percentages and is an excellent contact hitter. One of the better defensive first basemen around, he won a Gold Glove in 2001. Mientkiewicz will assume starting duties for the Mets while making $3.75 million in the final season of a two-year, $7 million contract. Boston agreed to pay for the deal’s $450,000 buyout if New York doesn’t pick up his $4 million option for 2006.
The Mets took Bladergroen in the 44th round out of Lamar (Colo.) CC in 2002 as a draft-and-follow. After he led national juco players with 32 homers the following spring, they signed him away from a commitment to the University of Nebraska. Bladergroen, 21, got off to a blistering start in his first full season, hitting .342/.397/.595 with 13 home runs and 74 RBIs in 72 games at low Class A Capital City. But he tore a ligament in his left wrist, ending his 2004 season on July 1. Bladergroen’s best tool is his power, but he also has shown the ability to hit for average and looked surprisingly nimble at first base. His bat speed isn’t exceptional, which may be an issue at higher levels, and he could use a little more patience at the plate. He’s a career .316/.376/.505 hitter with 19 homers and 110 RBIs in 146 pro games. Bladergroen is still recovering from wrist surgery but should be good to go for the season, which he’ll begin at high Class A Wilmington.