Fresh off the heels of two highly impactful trades pulled off in the NL Central â€“ the acquisition of C.C. Sabathia by the Brewers and Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin by the Cubs â€“ Mets fans no doubt are thinking, “what kind of deal will Omar Minaya pull off?”
Unfortunately, there is almost no way the Mets pull off a trade to get that kind of an impact player. They simply do not have ANY trading chips to offer. Teams that are in “selling mode” generally want young prospects who are not far away (read: one year or less) from being MLB-ready, and/or young players already in the big leagues.
Yes, I read the story where Cleveland Indians GM Mark Shapiro told Minaya the Mets had “enough talent to get it done” in regard to a trade for Sabathia. We don’t know what talent Shapiro was referring to â€“ it most definitely included Fernando Martinez, and could have included people such as John Maine, Ryan Church, or Joe Smith, for example. As we know, F-Mart is “untouchable”, and the Mets are not in a position to give up key personnel from the 25-man roster. Oh, I’m sure Aaron Heilman is being dangled, and possibly Scott Schoeneweis, but even packaged together I doubt those two are going to bring back what the Mets need desperately â€“ which is a power-hitting starting outfielder (no thanks on Marcus Thames). Of course, I could be wrong (usually am, in fact).
So, looking down on the farm, New Orleans is completely devoid of any usable personnel, and at AA Binghamton there are fringe prospects whose strongest value is to the Mets. Yes, we are hanging our hopes on Jonathan Niese, Eddie Kunz, Bobby Parnell, Nick Evans, Mike Carp, and Dan Murphy, but, in reality, those players are not highly sought-after by other clubs. As one scout quipped: “Niese? Carp? we have about ten guys like that in our organization.” And while we Mets fans have similar high hopes for recent draft picks such as Brant Rustich, Nathan Vineyard, and others, these youngsters are still too incomplete and projectable to be valuable enough for anything other than throw-in material. And unfortunately, the likes of Dillon Gee, Brandon Nall, and Caleb Stewart are unlikely to bring back an impact Major Leaguer.
Of course, it’s not impossible. One must only look to last year, when the Mets obtained Luis Castillo for Drew Butera and Dustin Martin â€“ two similarly fringe prospects. But a player like Castillo is the CEILING for what the Mets might be able to acquire. In other words, an aging veteran on the downside of his career, in the last year of an expensive contract, not highly coveted, and on a team that has thrown in the towel. How many players fit that bill right now?
You have to start backward, and find, in this order:
1. A team that has thrown in the towel (i.e., “sellers”)
2. A player not highly coveted
3. who is in the last year of his contract â€“ or in the midst of an overvalued, multiyear deal
4. and whose best years are behind him
Naturally, the player need not meet ALL those requirements â€“ but it’s a fair description of the reality the Mets face.
Starting with #1, you have the Seattle Mariners, Washington Nationals, Cleveland Indians, and the San Diego Padres; probably the San Francisco Giants, Cincinnati Reds, and Houston Astros; maybe the Colorado Rockies, Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals; possibly the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays. Ironically, a few teams on that list have a better or similar record to the Mets, but are stuck in a more competitive division than the NL East.
So let’s go from team to team on that theoretical list of “sellers”, and see who might be available.
Mariners: Richie Sexson, Jose Vidro, Raul Ibanez, Adrian Beltre, Jarrod Washburn
With Carlos Delgado surging toward .240 and hitting homeruns, it doesn’t make much sense to go after Sexson, who is essentially the same player from the right side â€“ only much taller, better in the field, and more miserable in personality. The Mets don’t have enough to bring back Beltre, and Ibanez might be out of range as well. Washburn is not needed assuming Oliver Perez stays on course. Vidro is a realistic possibility, as he can play 1B and 2B and hit from the right side, and could be had for a bag of balls. You can’t discount the fact Vidro played for Minaya going back to their Montreal days. But isn’t he redundant to Damion Easley and Fernando Tatis?
Nationals: Ronny Belliard, Johnny Estrada, Aaron Boone, Paul LoDuca, Dmitri Young
With Luis Castillo on the DL, the Mets might look at Belliard, who is very obtainable. No thanks. Neither LoDuca nor Estrada will be returning to the organization â€“ it’s just not happening. Young is a righthanded hitter who can be placed near 1B or in LF, but I’m not all that excited about having another baseclogger on the team â€“ and the Nats probably overvalue him. Boone is intriguing as a RH bat off the bench, and can play multiple positions. But he’s redundant to Fernando Tatis, so no point in making a deal for him.
Indians: Joe Borowski, Casey Blake, Jamey Carroll, David Dellucci, Travis Hafner, Paul Byrd, Rafael Betancourt
Borowski has already been DFA’d, and likely will be a free agent in a few days (if he isn’t already). Carroll has ties to Minaya, but I’d rather stick with Easley and Argenis Reyes at this point. No thanks on Dellucci. Hafner may be out for the year. I like Betancourt, but at what cost? Also, he’s no spring chicken at 33. No need to overpay for Byrd right now, but that could change if Mr. Hyde starts taking Ollie Perez’s place on the mound. Blake is the only player who might make sense, but, like Betancourt, at what cost? Does it make sense for the Mets to send Heilman, Niese, and, say, Nick Evans for Blake and Betancourt? Probably not.
Padres: Greg Maddux, Tony Clark, Brian Giles, Tad Iguchi
Mad Dog won’t be coming to Shea, no worries (my best guess: St. Louis). Clark is intriguing, for both his power and professionalism. Couldn’t we sign Reggie Sanders for nothing, though? Giles has a no-trade clause, and would be overvalued. Iguchi is on the DL. Note: Chip Ambres is on the Padres’ 25-man … how about we bring him back for late-inning heroics?
Giants: Ray Durham, Rich Aurilia, Randy Winn, Omar Vizquel, Jack Taschner, Tyler Walker
Again, with Castillo on the DL, the Mets could kick the tires on Durham and Aurilia. But would either play any better than Damion Easley â€“ in the field or at bat? I don’t see the Mets trading away A or AA talent to acquire someone who might not be an upgrade. I’d love to see Vizquel come in and show Jose Reyes a few things, but he’s not really a fit. Taschner is a younger version of Scott Schoeneweis; he’d be a good fit if the Mets packaged Scho in a separate deal to a contender. Walker is an older, more expensive version of Aaron Heilman â€“ like Taschner, could be helpful if Heilman is dealt.
Reds: Ken Griffey, Jr., David Weathers, Jeremy Affeldt, Ryan Freel, Adam Dunn
Junior Griffey is one of my favorite all-time players, and I’d love to see him in a Mets uniform â€“ but I don’t see it happening, because it wouldn’t make sense to dump what’s left on the prospect list for him. Weathers could be helpful, but will be overvalued in this market â€“ I’d prefer to take my chances with Heilman. Affeldt: see Taschner. Pundits love to talk about bringing Freel to NY, but I really don’t see how he’d be so helpful to this team â€“ much like I scratch my head when people suggest the Mets sign Kenny Lofton. Why in the world would the Mets need a speedy outfielder with no power when they already have Endy Chavez (who is better, and younger, than both)? Adam Dunn doesn’t look to be a fit, but more to the point, the Mets don’t have the necessary pieces to obtain him.
Astros: Mark Loretta, Darin Erstad, Brian Moehler, Chad Paronto
I like Loretta, but what can he do that Easley doesn’t? I love Erstad, too, but at this point in his career I’m not sure he’d be much help. No thanks on the many useless pitchers the ‘stros have to offer.
Pirates:Jason Bay, Xavier Nady, Damaso Marte, Doug Mientkiewicz
I’m sooooo tired of hearing rumors from Mets pundits that Bay and Nady are available. So what? The Pirates will want a king’s ransom for either, and the Mets are in no position to overpay for overvalued outfielders on the verge of 30. Marte is a nice lefty, but redundant to Schoeneweis and Pedro Feliciano. I think we’re all in agreement that Dave Kingman will suit up again in the orange and blue before Mientkiewicz.
Rockies: Brian Fuentes, Luis Vizcaino, Scott Podsednik, Glendon Rusch, Matt Herges, Todd Helton
Helton’s on the DL, and likely not coming to Shea in any way, shape or form. Same thing with Matt Holliday, despite outrageous, unfounded rumors to the contrary â€“ unless you’re OK with trading away what’s left of the Mets’ minor league system PLUS someone on the big league roster (i.e., Ryan Church). Personally, I don’t think Holliday is THAT good. He is a very good hitter, but Coors Field bloats his stats exponentially. Plus, he’s terrible in the field. Given the choice, I’d rather get Garrett Atkins and move David Wright to left field â€“ but that’s not happening, either.
Fuentes has been rumored to be coming to Flushing in a deal for Heilman for over a year. As you know I like Heilman too much to give up on him, but the Mets are the ones making the decision, not me. No one else on this list makes my heart go pitter-patter.
Royals: Mark Grudzielanek, Jose Guillen, Ron Mahay
I still like Easley as my second baseman right now, so no thanks on Grudzielanek. Guillen is intriguing, but, like Bay and Nady, will be too costly â€“ and Guillen is on the wrong side of 30.
Orioles: Chad Bradford, Melvin Mora, Jay Payton, Ramon Hernandez, Kevin Millar, Aubrey Huff
Here we have some intriguing names who could genuinely help the Mets, but is there a match? Considering what the O’s were asking for (and received) in return for Erik Bedard, it might be easier to deal with the Tampa Bay Rays. Still, they’re close to throwing in the towel, and those are some expensive contracts to dump. I’d take any or all of these in a heartbeat â€“ but I’m not dealing away any of the Mets top youngsters. The O’s likely overvalue Mora and Huff, and maybe ChadBrad as well. Hernandez, though, could come easily since he still has two years and $9M on his contract, and is blocking phenom Mark Wieters. I could see the Mets putting together a package including Ramon Castro for him, which may not seem to make much sense until you consider that Hernandez can play 1B (he plays there every winter).
Blue Jays: A.J. Burnett, Matt Stairs, David Eckstein, Scott Rolen, Lyle Overbay
The Mets will wait for Burnett to hit the free agent market this winter. My guess is if the Cardinals don’t get Maddux, they may make the move for A.J. Matt Stairs is too old. Eckstein is an outside possibility, but once again, I’m happy with Easley. I’d love to see Rolen come in and tick off everyone in the clubhouse, but he’s not a fit and would cost too much in prospects. Overbay’s LH bat at 1B isn’t helpful with Delgado around, and he’d cost too much.
Free Agents: Freddy Garcia, Kenny Lofton, Barry Bonds, Joe Borowski
Garcia was a realistic possibility when Ollie was imploding. I still think he’s worth a look, even with the starters pitching well and El Duque supposedly on the way back, for two reasons. First, Perez can slip right back into his Mr. Hyde routine as quickly as he came out of it. Second, injuries happen, and can’t be predicted. Remember last year, when Jorge Sosa and Perez were both lost for a few starts?
As previously mentioned, Lofton is not useful to this club. The Wilpons will not sign Bonds, ever. Borowski would be a no-risk signing to add depth in AAA.