Newest Met Estrada hopes to bounce back After being traded the past three offseasons, newly acquired Johnny Estrada hopes to make home behind the plate in New York
BY KEN DAVIDOFF email@example.com
10:47 PM EST, November 21, 2007 [/B]Article tools
As of Wednesday afternoon, Johnny Estrada had yet to hear from Mets general manager Omar Minaya, who is making his annual Thanksgiving trip to the Dominican Republic. But the Mets' new catcher doesn't need to hear the Mets' expectations of him for 2008.
"I've got my own expectations," Estrada told Newsday Wednesday in a telephone interview.
And those expectations are quite clear: "Not to -- -- like I did last year," he said.
The Mets have acquired a catcher who has been traded each of the past three offseasons, not exactly a history to place atop one's resume. But they also filled their void with a player who has every incentive to put together a rebound season, and at the cost of a reliever, Guillermo Mota, they were dying to unload anyway.
Perhaps the Mets will trade or non-tender the arbitration-eligible Estrada this offseason, in which case the 31-year-old switch hitter will never spend a day in a Mets uniform. But it's clear that Minaya is focused on acquiring a top-flight starting pitcher, and therefore Minaya won't give up any of his top trading chips for a catcher such as Baltimore's Ramon Hernandez or Texas' Gerald Laird before procuring that pitcher.
Besides, Estrada carries a low risk and high reward. He'll be a one-year commitment, and given that the Brewers took on Mota's $3.2-million salary for 2008, he'll essentially cost the Mets about $2 million. He and Ramon Castro should be a suitable tandem for the Mets.
"I don't feel they got the player on the field they traded for," Estrada said of the Brewers. "I didn't have a terrible season, but I didn't put up a Johnny .Estrada season that I'm capable of doing. I'm anxious to get back where I need to be.
"As far as I'm concerned, if you want to go someplace and have a great year, New York is the place to do it."
In 2007, Estrada played in 120 games and compiled a very low .296 on-base percentage and a respectable .403 slugging percentage. Defensively, he was awful, throwing out just 11 of 84 base-stealers. His Oct. 4 surgery to remove a bone spur from his right elbow, which was diagnosed six years ago, should help significantly.
"I'm not going to make excuses," Estrada said. "I always prided myself on my defense, but the last few years, it got kind of worse and worse and worse.
"As long as I could throw with just a little bit of pain, I was going to try to avoid surgery at all costs. But this past year, it got to where I was throwing balls with parachutes. It seemed like the right time."
Estrada understands that people will wonder why he has gone, in four years, from the Braves to the Diamondbacks to the Brewers to the Mets. To clear up one misperception, when he and Brewers manager Ned Yost shouted at each other during a game against the Mets in August, Estrada was actually defending teammate J.J. Hardy from a Yost tirade; Yost publicly confirmed that series of events just hours after the dispute occurred.
Said Estrada: "Obviously, from the outside looking in, you're going to say, 'This guy's a troublemaker.' That kind of -- -- me off a little bit, personally. A lot of times, you don't have any control over what happens. The way I look at it is, there's a team out there that wanted me more
I remember when Mr. Estrada was supposed to be all that and a bag of chips of few years ago. Hopefully he'll do well with the Mets.