Easley signs with Mets
Veteran adds depth, gets to play for childhood idol Randolph
NEW YORK -- The Mets' bench, quite effective in the two seasons Willie Randolph has managed, will have a different look in 2007. The club has already added a likely fourth outfielder in Ben Johnson, and the signing of veteran Damion Easley, announced on Friday, seemingly ends Chris Woodward's tenure as one of the Mets' primary reserves the last two seasons.
The free-agent signing -- Easley has agreed to a one-year contract worth $850,000 -- affords Randolph as much versatility as Woodward provided and more power. Easley produced 75 extra-base hits, including 27 home runs in 679 at-bats in the last three seasons, compared with Woodward's 45 extra-base hits, including seven home runs, in 608 at-bats.
"Damion is a versatile guy who can play all over the field," Mets general manager Omar Minaya said in a statement on Friday. "He provides power coming off the bench, too. Damion Easley is the type of player who can help your club win games in so many different ways."
Easley, 37, and, like Woodward, a right-handed hitter, played the 2006 season with the Diamondbacks, his fourth team in five years, batting .233 with a .323 on-base percentage, .418 slugging percentage, 28 RBIs, 24 runs and nine home runs in 90 games and 230 plate appearances. He started 24 games at shortstop, 14 at third, five at second base -- his most regular position with the Angels and Tigers from 1992-2002 -- and one in right field.
An inordinate percentage of Easley's 2006 production came in a two-day sequence in June when the Diamondbacks were in Atlanta. He had four hits, including three home runs, and drove in seven runs in five at-bats in the second game of a doubleheader. The following day, he hit another home run and had two hits and three RBIs in four at-bats.
The production in the doubleheader game made him the oldest player in Major League history to have four or more hits, three or more homers and seven or more RBIs in one game. But the two-game production meant Easley batted merely .211 with five home runs and 18 RBIs in his other 180 at-bats.
He didn't fare well as a pinch-hitter, batting .152 in 33 at-bats in that role. His career average in 113 at-bats as a pinch-hitter is .150.
His career began a steep descent after the 1998 season when he hit 27 home runs and drove in 100 runs -- both career bests -- for the Tigers. He was released in Spring Training 2003, when the club owed him $14.3 million. He hasn't played in more than 102 games since 2001. He played with the Devil Rays in 2003 and with the Marlins in 2004-05.
Easley's desire to play in the postseason, something he has never done, and to play for Randolph, his childhood hero, were factors in his decision to sign with the Mets.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.