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.