Barajas signs with Mets

Andrew Perez

Rod Barajas, former All-American catcher for the Cerritos College baseball team, signed a one-year contract that guarantees him at least $500,000 with the New York Mets this upcoming season.

His contract doesn’t end there, his salary could increase up to $900,000 if he makes the 25-man active roster during the regular season, and when including performance bonuses, he can earn up to $1.1 million depending on how many games he starts as catcher for the Mets.

“Whenever I talked to my agent, the Mets name always came up,” Barajas said. “I’m just happy to be here now.”

Barajas played for the Cerritos College baseball team in 1994, where he hit four home runs and 33 runs batted in as he was named 1st Team All-South Coast Conference as designated hitter his freshman year.

His second season with the Falcons in 1995 was even better than his first as he belted out nine home runs and 45 runs batted in with a .387 batting average to earn All-American honors and help lead the Falcons to a South Coast Conference championship.

He also showed off his skills with his glove by splitting time at first base and catcher for the Falcons.

Rod is a local who attended and graduated from Santa Fe High School in 1994 where after being ineligible to play baseball for the Chiefs his junior year, he responded with his senior year by earning 1st Team All-League honors.

“Best catcher that I have ever been around,” said Steve Hendry, former high school coach of Barajas, “he’s just an all around great baseball player and a good teammate.”

Out of the 26 games played in his senior season, Barajas had at least one hit in 25 of them to help lead the Chiefs to a CIF semi-finals appearance.

“Rod could always be counted on to come through in the clutch,” said Eric Mallory, former high school team mate and team captain of Barajas, “you could always count on him to be a hard working player.”

Mallory admires Barajas’ resilience the most for after being overshadowed by high school teammate Mark Kotsay, future college baseball Golden Spikes Award winner and major leaguer, he still kept his work ethic top notch and never gave up.

Barajas, now at the age of 34, has a major league career batting average of .238 and since 2002, has thrown out at least 33 per cent of would be base stealers.

Last year with Toronto Blue Jays, Barajas had one of his best seasons as he launched 19 home runs, hit career high 71 runs batted in and a .226 batting average in 429 at-bats.

His 71 runs batted in is the most any Mets player had all last season, except for all-star third baseman David Wright. Also, his 19 home runs surpassed the Mets home run leader by seven.

Barajas is also durable behind the plate as he played in at least 104 out of 162 games in four of his last six major league seasons.

In the 2008 and 2009 seasons combined, when catching, his pitchers ERAs were a 3.81, the fourth lowest among major league catchers.

But still neither Barajas nor the Mets got their first choice, for Barajas was wishing for a contract that lasted more than a season, and the Mets would have preferred veteran catcher Bengie Molina, but negotiations fell out when he decided to return to the San Francisco Giants.

Barajas also had the option of signing with his former team the Texas Rangers as a back up catcher, but the possibility of being an everyday catcher is what swayed him towards the Mets.

Now, with the signing of Barajas, the Mets now have the dilemma of choosing a starting catcher out of six, all of whom played in the major leagues last season.

With the new 2010 season just around the corner, Barajas will have opportunities such as catching for all-stars Johan Santana and closer Frankie Rodriguez while making a run for the World Series ring.