Big Changes On the Way

So the buzz is that the times they are a changin’ at Shea. The hiring of Jerry Manuel was only one of many “adjustments” to be made by the Mets in the coming weeks. In fact there are closed-door meetings (will they stay closed, Mr. Bernazard?) happening right now, the results of which will supposedly mean major personnel moves.

What a revelation … too bad these discussions weren’t occurring over the winter, when the Mets’ biggest holes could have been more easily addressed. But what do I know? I’m just another blowhard blogger. I didn’t have access to the “inside information” that led the Mets’ front office to believe that

1) Moises Alou and El Duque would not go MIA;
2) Pedro Martinez would return as a #2 starter;
3) Ollie Perez would build off 2007 in a positive way;
4) Carlos Delgado’s slow bat speed was an illusion;
5) Luis Castillo is not the same man we knew in Florida;
6) Brian Schneider’s glove would overcome his offensive limitations;
7) Duaner Sanchez would return to 2006 form … and if he didn’t, Aaron Heilman was the next-best option.

At the same time, I’m willing to eat crow when I’m proved wrong. And it appears that my insistence that Mike Pelfrey needed to change speeds to succeed was off-base. I’ll also admit that I too was counting on Heilman to be a solid setup man. And, I was suckered into thinking Schneider would be a defensive stalwart — though with the lineup still counting on Delgado to be a force, it did worry me to have Brian’s bat in there every day.

But I digress … the topic here are the big changes upcoming. What can the Mets do, really, to change their current course? They have a roster full of immovable players and bad contracts. There is no one — at all — in the farm system that another team would deem “MLB ready”. We as Mets fans can get excited as we want about Jonathan Niese, Mike Carp, and Nick Evans, but the fact is, none of these players are considered “can’t miss” prospects by other organizations. And I shudder to think how much worse a mess the Mets’ farm would be if any of these three were dealt away.

That said, I wouldn’t count on seeing the likes of Erik Bedard, CC Sabathia, Ken Griffey Jr., Adam Dunn, Ben Sheets, or Roy Oswalt coming to Flushing. In fact, it would be a stretch to believe the Mets have enough to pry away Raul Ibanez, Ryan Freel, or any of the other “second tier” players who may be on the market. Because realistically, who do the Mets have available to trade to a team that is selling? Aaron Heilman? Not getting much back for him at this point — better off holding on and hoping he can get it together.

It’s tough to deal when no one wants your expendable players, and your performing players are too valuable to trade away. Omar Minaya will have to be remarkably creative to bring in new faces that can make a difference. I suggested a Schneider for Ivan Rodriguez as one that could make sense for Detroit. Maybe there’s a desperate team out there nearsighted enough to believe that Delgado has something left. Minaya no doubt is working the phones for scouting reports on DFAs such as Denny Bautista, who resembles Jorge Julio in stuff — high 90s heat, can’t find the plate. Maybe there’s another “under the radar” player who can be acquired for next to nothing and provide a spark. I’m thinking a “AAA” player — similar to when the A’s unearthed Jack Cust. Maybe the Mets’ Cust is Val Pascucci, who is currently stashed in New Orleans. Maybe it’s former Athletic Dan Johnson, or one of those Texas Rangers sluggers we’ve talked about before (Jason Botts, Nelson Cruz). As long as it’s not Gerald Williams, it’s worth a shot.

Looking down on the farm, there isn’t much to choose from. Other than Pascucci, there isn’t a position player worth promoting (Chris Aguila certainly didn’t look as great as hoped). The Zephyrs do however, still have Tony Armas Jr., who has a 2.50 ERA over 16 starts and 100 innings in a hitter’s league. If this isn’t the right time to give Armas a shot — in Ollie’s next turn — then there will never be a right time. Nelson Figueroa has also pitched well since his demotion, and deserves a recall to fill the long man role left behind by the DFA’d Claudio Vargas.

In AA, there are some bright spots, but no one in particular who looks to be ready to make a splash. Mike Carp could have been such a guy early, when he was hitting near .370, but his bat has cooled in recent weeks. Still, can he or Nick Evans be any worse than Delgado right now? Jonathan Niese is pitching fairly well, though I’m not sure I’d bring him up over Armas or Figgy right now. And forget about Fernando Martinez — he’s just come off the DL and is nowhere near ready to play ball at the MLB level. He’d be an overmatched strikeout machine right now.

But, I could see an Evans, Pascucci, or Carp getting a shot. Unfortunately, there doesn’t look to be anyone similar to the Robinson Cano / Chien-Ming Wang spark the Yankees received back in 2005 — but back then, no one was expecting those two to have such an immediate and forceful impact, either. We won’t know for sure until these kids get a chance.

Over the past few weeks, we Mets fans have had to radically adjust our expectations. The postseason is no longer a given, and due to the math, we have to root more for other teams’ failures than our team’s success. The current cast of characters is a tired old bunch that no manager can inspire into a championship. So we have two glimmers of hope: 1. that the Phillies keep losing; and 2. that the Mets can follow through with their promise of changing the face of the ballclub.

Hopefully, these changes come quick, because the clock on this season is ticking.

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. isuzudude June 25, 2008 at 4:05 pm
    This really gets me. By proclaiming that ‘changes are coming,’ it means it has taken the Mets a whole SEVEN GAMES to go from blaming Willie for all their struggles to seeing the light and realizing that, indeed, it’s the players that are stinking up the joint and not the coaching staff. Seven freaking games. Why couldn’t this epiphany have revealed itself to this team BEFORE 3 innocent individuals were unceremoniously dumped out on the west coast? Suddenly the genius manager Jerry Manuel can’t figure out how to get these players to respond to his demands and play hard under his guidance, so obviously NOW management can see that the players are to blame for this mediocrity. What a crock. I’m so sick of this team’s ass-backwards logic and ridiculous attempts to patch a sinking ship with bubble gum.

    To lay it out there, I could care less about 2008 anymore. In my mind this season was over after the San Diego series. No team serious about postseason aspirations puts forth an effort such as that against the Padres. So everything from then until next April needs to be focused on improving this team’s future – specifically 2009, because none of us can take this ‘losing’ thing much longer. My first order of business would be to trade Oliver Perez before his value plummets any further. I would still presume a contending team desperate for pitching would be willing to part with decent prospect or two for his services over the rest of this year AND exclusive negotiating rights for a new contract until free agency begins. I’d also try my damndest to deal Delgado, but let’s face it, I think there’s a better chance of Osama bin Laden being elected US president. I would NOT release him, though, because at least if he is signed by a team in the offseason the Mets might wind up with a supplemental draft pick, which could be worth his bad attitude, poor defense, and mountain of strikeouts for 3 more months. I’d send Robinson Cancel, Fernando Tatis, and potentially Marlon Anderson or Trot Nixon packing and consequently start the youth movement by bringing up Val Pascucci, Mike Carp, and Nick Evans and giving them RF/LF time while Church remains sidelined, and plenty of 1B time because Delgado is a lost cause. Call up Armas or Figgy to take Ollie’s rotation spot, and then let EVERY free agent walk. Alou, Delgado, Perez (if he’s still around), and Pedro. It is imperative that this team rebuild itself around 1) younger players, and 2) players with winning backgrounds. Every new addition should fit one of those two criteria. DO NOT TRADE AWAY ANY MORE PROSPECTS FOR BIG CONTRACT, AGING VETERANS. It would only put us further in the hole.

    My cries will likely fall upon deaf ears and blind eyes, but this is my position. I welcome any antagonists’ theories.

  2. sincekindergarten June 25, 2008 at 4:17 pm
    Joe, I wrote this paragraph in the thread about last night’s game:

    “ID, I’m winding up with the towel, myself. Thing is, Omar knows that if the Mets don’t make the postseason, he’s gone. So, it’s a virtual certainty that he will make a stupid move at the deadline. I would absolutely love to see Jon Niese at CitiField next year, but I doubt that’s going to happen. About the only way it will happen will be if Fred Wilpon tells the whole staff that Niese is untouchable.”

    I was shocked to see Claudio Vargas get DFAed, and I’ll be even more shocked if the Phillthies don’t try him out.

    As for a our erstwhile “VP of player development,” or whatever the Hell Bernazard’s title is, he needs to go. He got Randolph, and it’s a virtual certainty, IMO, that he wants Omar’s job. Just a feeling.

    As long as Niese is with the Mets’ organization on Opening Day of ’09, things will be alright. Brant Rustich, Dillon Gee, and Jon Niese will be a hellacious core of a pitching staff to be with Maine and Santana.

    As I’ve said before, the pendulum always swings back . . . our way, after going away from us for a while.

  3. wohjr June 25, 2008 at 11:24 pm
    In furtherance of your comment about Val Pascucci, the Mets just picked up Yanks castoff Andy Phillips from the Reds. He’s batting a svelte .248 this year. In what dimension is this a better move than giving Val a shot? What the hell is Omar doing?
  4. joe June 26, 2008 at 1:26 am
    Funny you should bring up Andy Phillips … I just finished a post about that same question (what the heck is Omar doing), which will be published in the morning.

    Wohrjr, I’m hearing you, and not understanding it, either.

  5. wohjr June 26, 2008 at 1:52 am
    My concern is as follows:

    If Omar wasn’t on the hot seat before the 3a.m. massacre (arguable) then he most certainly is now. Perceiving this to be so, he starts to make all these moves on the margins out of a desire to perhaps save his job and appear active in his GM role… kind of like a person thrashing their arms about in the water if they can’t swim. Looks like a lot of action but in the end it gets you nowhere. Thus we get these cosmetic moves designed to make Omar look like he is addressing the team’s problems instead of studied and careful analysis as to where the team is headed. Promoting someone from AAA isn’t nearly as sexy as a trade and I fear that Omar is in denial about the real situation of the team and is making this move thinking that the perception will be that he is doing something. I shudder to think what will happen at the trading deadline– torching whats left of the farm, trading beltran for .55 on the dollar, etc., all done for the sake of doing something. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against major trades on this team but PLEASE Omar can it not just be for appearances? This is the only justification I can think of for the Phillips signing… promoting Scooch is the right move and I think we can ALL see that. How is he getting this so wrong?

  6. wohjr June 26, 2008 at 1:59 am
    ps- Joe, while sympathetic to the arguments you made in favor of the Trot Nixon acquisition I would say that it falls in the same bucket as this Phillips move.
  7. joe June 26, 2008 at 10:43 am
    statistically, the Nixon move falls in the same bucket as the Phillips pickup. But what I like about Nixon is that he has played on championship teams as a key starter, plays his heart out, and knows what it takes to win. Phillips knows how to be a spare part on a winning ballclub, and that has its advantages as well.

    While it would be hard for Nixon to emerge as a leader without being a regular player, it still would be nice to have a guy with his qualities in the clubhouse, showing teammates like David Wright how to conduct yourself. For example, Wright has been watching Carlos Delgado jog down the first base line enough times to think it’s OK to do that.

    And how many rings does Delgado have?

  8. julie June 26, 2008 at 2:23 pm
    Omar has to go. And he needs to take Bernazard with him.

    I’m sick of looking at Delgado on first and in the fifth spot in the lineup. I’m tired of these over 30 quick fix guys. Bring up Pacucci and Carp and let’s get on with it.