Three Guys to Get Right Now

While we sit idly by in watching the Johan Santana sweepstakes / soap opera, it would be nice if the Mets could acquire someone who 1.) is readily available; 2.) will come relatively cheap; and 3.) can actually help the 2008 cause.

Yeah, I’m still not sold on the acquisitions of Stephen Register, Brian Stokes, and Angel Pagan. The Schroeder / Church deal was okay, though sending away Lastings Milledge makes little sense now that the idea of losing both Carlos Gomez and F-Mart is a possibility.

Anyway, back to the subject. Here are three players the Mets should make a move on, sooner rather than later:

1. Jon Lieber
With or without Johan Santana, Lieber is welcome as veteran depth. At this moment, Lieber makes great sense as someone to fight for the #5 spot. If by chance the Mets acquire Santana, chances are good they’ll also see the exit of Phil Humber, Kevin Mulvey, and/or Mike Pelfrey. All three of those youngsters are not only potential fifth starters, but also are the insurance behind El Duque and the rest of the starting staff. Losing two of those means the Mets will still need to sign someone cheap as insurance.

2. Octavio Dotel
What’s the holdup? Yes I am in favor of picking up various so-so, cheap arms for a shuttle system. But Dotel is the one guy I’ll make room for on the 25-man roster, specifically because he has the ability to step in and be a lights-out setup man. If that means Jorge Sosa gets the heave-ho, or Matt Wise has to fight for a job in spring training, so be it. I’m not convinced that Duaner Sanchez will come back 100%, nor that there is sufficient depth to partner with Aaron Heilman in the late innings. Sign him. Now.

3. Jason Botts or Nelson Cruz

These unknowns were brought up a few weeks back, but I’ll introduce them again. Both are fighting for the fourth outfielder spot for the Rangers, but unfortunately neither has much of a chance to win it with the plethora of flycatchers brought to Texas this winter. Each of them is a 27-year-old, righthanded-hitting outfielder with impressive power and nothing left to prove at the AAA level. Cruz has been tearing up the Dominican Winter League, and Botts doing similarly in Mexico — he’s hitting .326 with 15 doubles, 9 homers, and 54 RBI in 242 at-bats. His minor league OPS routinely nears 1.000 and his OBP ranges from .375-.400. Cruz has similar numbers below MLB level, though he doesn’t get on base as much. The knock on Botts is he resembles Adam Dunn in the outfield — but he also plays first base. For those paying attention, Carlos Delgado is in the last year of his contract, so having a big bopper waiting in the wings isn’t such a bad idea. Because the Rangers’ outfield is already filled with Josh Hamilton, Marlon Byrd, Milton Bradley, Frank Catalanotto, and David Murphy, either of these sluggers can be had for a song. Acquiring Botts or Cruz for a AA pitcher is completely possible, and exactly the type of low-risk, high-reward, under-the-radar deal that Omar Minaya supposedly loves.

As we’re all aware, there isn’t much room on the Mets’ projected 25-man roster (though anything can happen in the event of an injury, trade, etc.). But these are three inexpensive, low-risk acquisitions that could significantly fortify the club. I’d be happy to see at least one of them become reality, if not all three. If nothing else, it would be a lot more interesting to hear one of these deals done, rather than read about Hank Steinbrenner’s latest stance on whether the Yankers are pursuing Johan Santana.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. whatdatmean January 16, 2008 at 7:54 am
    Hit the nail right on the head. All 3 is exactly what the Mets need. Adding depth in the right places., while planning ahead. This ios around the time we see omar do stuff like this, so i hope we see some action soon.
    great article!
  2. isuzudude January 16, 2008 at 10:00 am
    As if Brian Schneider wasn’t insignificant enough, now he’s being called “Schroeder.” What’s next, he has to buy a ticket to every Mets home game just so he can take the field? I’m kidding, Joe. Funny typo, though.

    1. I agree with signing Lieber. But I don’t know if it’s fair to point blame at Omar for not having signed him by now. For all we know, Lieber may be holding out for a multi-year deal, which would be wise for the Mets not to give him. After all, he is coming off a 3 year, $21-mil the Phillies gave him before the 2005 season, so for him to take a minor league deal now would be a pretty far fall from grace. He’s proven to be valuable when healthy, so he may be justified to get a multi-year deal. Now, his agent has already come out and said Lieber would be open to the possibility of pitching for the Mets ( So perhaps we just have to wait another week or two for this Johan Santana thing to play out, and then that will help the Mets decide how desperate they should be for Lieber’s services. If Johan, or any other big-time pitcher, is not acquired, then maybe the Mets have to give Lieber what he wants. But if another arm is brought in, then why budge past a minor league offer?

    2. I disagree with signing Dotel. I believe the bullpen additions are done. You’re right to believe Sanchez should not be counted on for any type of contribution in 2008 (as well as Burgos and Padilla), but Dotel should be in the same boat. He hasn’t pitched more than 30 innings in any season since 2004, and since then has a 5.14 ERA over that stretch with a WHIP approaching 2.00. He’s all but a guarantee to spend at least 2 months on the DL. And this is who we want to give a guaranteed ML contract to? I’d much rather let Smith, Muniz, Collazo, Cullen, Camacho, McNab, Rustich, Kunz, and what ever minor leaguer has a somewhat decent arm have a chance at claiming that last bullpen spot aside Wagner, Heilman, Wise, Feliciano, Schoeneweis, and Sosa, than sign the fragile and inconsistent Dotel. That’s my take.

    3. I understand we need depth in AAA, especially someone right-handed who can play the OF, so I’d be all for acquiring Botts or Cruz cheaply (i.e. a AA pitching non-prospect). But I don’t think it’s imperative to acquire either one. Looking at their numbers, both look like exactly what Victor Diaz brought to the table…except they’re both a year older. It would be nice to get them in the right deal, but I don’t think the Mets’ future success hinges upon them.

    An interesting footnote: Cruz actually signed with the Mets as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 1998, and was traded to the A’s for Jorge Velandia in the summer of 2000. Somehow, though, in two years in the Mets system, he never played at all. Don’t know why.

  3. skibolton January 16, 2008 at 10:26 am
    I don’t think that we’ll see brian stokes on the team after spring training, but the move can’t hurt. I actually really like the pagan and register moves. If the team is healthy in september, he could be a nice addition to a postseason roster. The guy is fast, and could be used as a pinch runner/defensive replacement late in games. I definately would feel ok with pagan, beltran, and endy patrolling the outfield. Register has decent stuff, and I don’t think that the rockies would necessarily take him back if the mets left him off the 25. The rockies had a ton of prospects they had to protect this year, and they would probably end up paying the mets 25,000 just to DFA him. At that point, he could just leave. I think the mets can safely send him to NO, and not risk the rockies taking him back. Even if they do, what’s the big loss? I’m sure the 50 grand the team payed the rockies didn’t exactly break the bank. I think all of these 3 moves help to provide additional ml-ready depth (even if they aren’t great ml talent) if the team does make a deal to clean out the farm. Personally, I’m not a fan of either cruz or botts, I might take a flier on them if they got dfa’d, but I wouldn’t want to give up anything for them. Chris Shelton is the same type of player, and he is available without giving up anything. If the rangers would take basically nothing for them, great, but I wouldn’t want to give up much.
  4. joe January 16, 2008 at 11:07 am
    The bullpen probably is done, but I’m still hot for Dotel (obviously). His fragility doesn’t bother me, mainly because it looks like the Mets will have depth — particularly if Sanchez and Padilla return. What I like is that, when healthy, he’s as good if not better than Sanchez was in 2006. As long as he costs only money, why not add him to the mix? I don’t see him becoming another Mota and clogging up the roster, but I do agree he may spend time on the DL — fine, then go to Padilla, Muniz, Register, Smith, Rustich, etc.

    Agree that it’s not imperative to get a RH-hitting OF. What I see in the Cruz / Botts situation is a slight chance that one could be Travis Hafner — another guy the Rangers gave up on too early. OK, Hafner is probably a stretch, but how about another Nady? The way I see it is the Mets have absolutely no legit power hitters at the AAA level (Fernando Tatis doesn’t count). In particular I like Botts for both his power and ability to draw walks, and really do think he could be another Dunn (with the Ks, unfortunately). So if he can be had for cheap, why not take the chance?

    FYI, Cruz was signed as an 18-year-old and played in the Dominican Summer League while property of the Mets. In 2000 he led the league in batting and home runs and posted a 1035 OPS, and an Oakland scout recommended him to be the guy the A’s acquire for Velandia. If I remember correctly, that deal happened after Ordonez went down, Bordick was acquired for Melvin Mora, and the Mets were trying to squeeze something out of McEwing and Kurt Abbott in the utility spot. The thought was that Velandia would be the supersub that Mora had been, for the September stretch run, but it didn’t quite work out that way.

  5. whatdatmean January 16, 2008 at 11:28 am
    top 10 reasons the Mets will be better, not named Sanata:
    [doesnt fit here, but what the hell]

    10.addition by subtraction: mota, lo duca, glavine, + sele have left, and taken their bloated era’s, bad defense, and issues with them. no retreads like lawrence around to lose everytime the #5 comes around. now we will atleast have a chance.
    9. “additions” of sanchez and wise to the BP. 2 clutch RP with setup experience can only help us.
    8. a new year for pelfrey + delgado -underwhelming years last year did end with promise. Delgado in his walk year should mean big numbers. Pelf looked solid down the stretch, more seasoned now, look for bigger things.
    7. welcome back Pedro! a strong return at the end of last year, showing he can still be dominant, even without overepowering stuff. If healthy, we will see some big things here.
    6.Addition of Church-RF has been lacking both production and defense. church was 2n in dbls last year, despite not being a fulltime starter. solid bat for the bottom 4, some pop, and some good D!
    5.addition of schneider-calls a great game, plays great D, and stops runners from advancing. Teams took extrabases against the Mets almost 2x as often as most other teams-which leads to runs against. Schneid should be able to control that. Makes a great split with Castro, helping both their #’s, as they are both “splits” type hitters
    4. Reyes is better than how he did down the stretch. That was some funk. Im expecting a return similar to his old form
    3. Health-Delgado, Duq, Endy, castillo, Beltran, & Alou had an offseason to recover. Hopefully these key guys have mended enough to stay healthy longer.
    2. a full year of Castillo being a top #2 hitter and great D. By the time he came here last year, reyes was slumping, and alou, beltran, and delgado were taking turns on the DL. The team never caught any rythem, but castillo proved to be a solid #2 hitter and 2B, despite his balky knees, which he has had fixed since.
    1. another year for OP and Maine-possibly 2 #1 type SP in the rotation, with another year of experience. They got soft down the stretch bc they pitched more than they ever have. This year should see deeper consistancy. If they can, we are a very scary team with Maine, Ollie, and Pedro 1-3, with Duq as the 4th in the playoffs.

  6. skibolton January 16, 2008 at 11:40 am
    It looks like Jon Leiber will be a cubbie next season.
  7. joe January 16, 2008 at 12:55 pm
    Yes, and it appears he is not getting a multiyear deal. I would have been fine with a 1-year, Major League deal at whatever he’s asking. The Mets gave Chan Ho Park an MLB deal this time last year, and was a much bigger risk.

    And I DO blame Omar for not getting this one done. Who’s left? Josh friggin’ Fogg ?

    Oh well …

  8. isuzudude January 16, 2008 at 1:15 pm
    I’m still giving Omar the benefit of the doubt. According to Rosenthal, the Cubs are guaranteeing Lieber a spot in their rotation, something the Mets wouldn’t and couldn’t do. That alone could have been enough for Lieber to chose going to the Cubs rather than the Mets.

    I’m not fond of the turn of events, either, but this very well could have been out of our control. And even if a trade for a stud pitcher comes to fruition, it’s more than likely the Mets will at least still have one of Pelfrey/Humber, as well as Vargas and Bostick. It’s not a lot of trustowrthy depth, but shouldn’t it be enough behind a starting 5 of Pedro, Maine, Perez, Duque, and one other big starter? And if there is no trade, we have at least 5 capable bodies to contribute in the #5 hole, as well as in case of injury. Don’t forget, as well, that even though the free agent market is pretty much vacant of talent, Omar can still make that under-the-radar trade for a starter that no one sees coming that’s he’s become so adept at (with names like Capuano, Marquis, Tavarez, Ervin Santana, and Cliff Lee seemingly available).

  9. joe January 16, 2008 at 1:40 pm
    Isuzu, good point on the rotation guarantee.

    Pelfrey / Humber / Vargas / Bostick is fine, I agree … IF you have a 5-man rotation to start with. The Mets don’t, they have a 4-man rotation and ST looms.

    Marquis, Capuano, and Tavarez do not interest me, though I like Marquis’ bat. Ervin “The Other” Santana would be nice but the Mets don’t match up with the Angels for a deal. Cliff Lee isn’t worth the cost, considering it’s a gamble he’ll return to form — he smells a lot like Bret Saberhagen circa 1992.

    You’re right, though, there are those arms “on the block” as well as a few others … but any will cost at minimum one top prospect — i.e., Gomez, Mulvey, or Humber — and none would be significantly better than several FAs that had been available.

    I think the Mets are going to have to take a long hard look at Livan and see if he’ll bite on a 2-year deal (maybe with a club option). It’s a possibility, since he hasn’t exactly been swarmed with offers.

    BTW – whatdatmean: nice top ten!

  10. skibolton January 16, 2008 at 1:59 pm
    Jennings peaks my interest a little, if healthy he would have been the top free agent out there this winter. He can also hit if need be. I think he’d be the only one of the remaining free agents to actually make me smile if I found out that we signed him. I wouldn’t mind livan or lohse, but I’d prefer to see them elsewhere if they get multiyear deals. Both seem to be playing out much like weaver did last year though, so who knows…maybe they take a one year deal and try to prove something. Nobody seems like they want to meet their demands, and I’m sure they’d like to sign before pitchers and catchers report. One year may be the best they can get. I don’t want garcia to a guaranteed contract at all.
  11. joe January 16, 2008 at 2:07 pm
    I like Jennings quite a bit but it appears he’s about to sign with the Rangers.
  12. isuzudude January 18, 2008 at 11:16 am
    Scratch another one off the list…

    It’s in Spanish but you should be able to grasp the concept.

  13. » Latest On Botts » Mets Today March 19, 2008 at 1:24 am
    […] been drumming up the idea of taking Jason Botts / Nelson Cruz off the Rangers’ hands for a few months […]