Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Downfall of Ryan Church

Two years ago, the Mets acquired Ryan Church and Brian Schneider from the Nationals in exchange for Lastings Milledge. The Mets believed that Church, who had received inconsistent playing time with the Nationals, was the right man to be their everyday right fielder.

And for the first two moths of the 2008 season, Chruch was everything the Mets could have hoped for and then some. Church hit 9 home runs for the Mets through May, was hitting above .300, and was one of the only guys in the lineup, who was actually hitting. Very quickly, folks in New York began to think of Ryan Church as a semi member of the Mets core and it was thought that maybe, just maybe, Church could become the Mets right fielder for the foreseeable future.

But in early June, Church's head hit Yunel Escobar's knee on a slide into second base in Atlanta and from that point on, everything seemed to change for Church. For the rest of the 2008 season, he spent sporadic time on the DL dealing with concussion issues and he never was able to regain the power he showed in the beginning of the season.

As the Mets entered the 2009 season, Church was penciled in to be the Mets right fielder and he was expected to be 100% healthy. Even though Church was healthy for a majority of his time with the Mets in 2009, it was clear that he was not the same player that he was in beginning of 2008. Church only hit 2 home runs with the Mets and by July, the Mets (and Jerry Manuel in particular) were ready to move on. They unloaded Church to the Braves in return for Jeff Francoeur. Just like that, Ryan Church was gone.

During Church's unspectacular 44 games with the Braves, he was virtually non-existent at the plate. He only hit 2 home runs and struggled against left handed pitching and with runners in scoring position. Despite his immense ability, Church was a disappointment for both the Mets and Braves and not surprisingly, the Braves designated Church for assignment today in order to make room for Rafael Soriano. At this stage in his career, the Braves simply could not justify paying Church more than $3 million in 2010 given his struggles over the past year.

However, I think Church is one of the more intriguing gambles out there on the free agent market. If Church somehow regains his power, then he could be a good option for a team looking to platoon him against right handed starters or even as a low cost option to start in right field. But finding the right situation for Church is key.

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