Looking to 2007

A number of Mets fans are upset with Omar Minaya’s inability to acquire Barry Zito or Jason Schmidt at the trade deadline. Those fans’ feelings are understandable; after all, they’re used to seeing the crosstown Yankees make bonehead, short-sighted deals to bring in big names and otherwise mortgage their future. Those fans also have very short memories; remember it was just a year ago that the Mets were desperately trying to climb out of the basement and stay at .500.

Yes, it’s true that we may not see many more great years out of Pedro and Tommy Glavine, but that doesn’t mean we need to give up our future for this year. Consider this possible rotation in 2007:

Pedro Martinez
Free Agent: Barry Zito / Jason Schmidt?
Mike Pelfrey
John Maine
Brian Bannister

Or things could develop so that it looks like this:

Pedro Martinez
Aaron Heilman
Oliver Perez
Mike Pelfrey
John Maine / Brian Bannister / Philip Humber ?

In either case, the rotation doesn’t look so awful, and it looks poised to dominate over the next five years — especially if you’re an optimist. Pelfrey and Humber have electric arms, and both might be ready to contribute in 2007; certainly by 2008. If the Mets ever come to their senses and put Heilman back into the rotation, they’ll have a solid #3 starter; maybe even a #2. If Rick Peterson can work his magic and help Oliver Perez return to something close to what he was in 2004, the Mets will have another Dontrelle Willis. If John Maine and Brian Bannister continue to develop, they’ll be at least solid #5s, possibly legit #4s.

Sure, we’re making a number of optimistic assumptions, but I like assumptions based on young talent a lot more than the “ifs” we had going into spring training 2006; consider:

– if Bret Boone can recapture his form and play 2B
– if Jose Lima can recapture HIS form and be a #5 starter
– if Kaz Matsui can rebound and earn his keep in year three
– if Diaz/Nady can replace Mike Cameron
– if Sanchez / Julio / Bradford can replace Roberto Hernandez / Juan Padilla
– if Rick Peterson can do anything with Victor Zambrano
– if Steve Trachsel can come back from back surgery
– if Paul LoDuca can replace Mike Piazza

Looking back, we had a lot of “ifs” before the season. Even as spring training broke, there were “ifs” concerning Brian Bannister, Aaron Heilman, Anderson Hernandez, and others. And then guys like Endy Chavez and Jose Valentin came out of nowhere to become integral cogs in the winning machine (John Maine might be another one before it’s all said and done). So, as “iffy” as things may sometimes look, the more “ifs” you have, the more will tend to pan out. Add those with the random variables such as Jose Valentin, and you can have yourself a nice team.

So while this may very well be the last year we see Glavine, Trachsel, El Duque, and Cliff Floyd in a Mets uniform, those players will no doubt be replaced with a mixture of youngsters (Pelfrey, Humber, Lastings Milledge), trades (Oswalt? Pat Burrell?) and free-agent signings (Zito? Schmidt? Carlos Lee?). Add the newcomers to the up-and-coming youth and solid nucleus of Wright, Reyes, Beltran, Delgado, Wagner, Heilman, Martinez, and LoDuca, and the Mets are in great position for 2007. And lest we forget that Duaner Sanchez — who looks to be a young Mo Rivera — should be returning in 2007, along with Juan Padilla, so the bullpen should again be a strength. And then there’s always the Valentin or Chavez that appears from thin air. In 2007 it might be Ruben Gotay, Evan MacLane, Mitch Wylie, Henry Owens, or Chase Lambin. Who knows, maybe Victor Diaz will get his head out of his butt and reclaim himself as a power-hitting prospect. Maybe Heath Bell and Royce Ring will get off of Willie’s bad list and be next year’s Bradford / Feliciano. Maybe Victor Zambrano returns to health and finally spends those ten minutes with The Jacket (OK, that’s more of a stretch than Bret Boone playing 2B). Maybe Edgardo Alfonzo takes whatever Jose Valentin is taking, and then takes the Stache’s job.

At best, the Mets will have another dominating team in 2007 — regardless of Pedro’s health and Glavine’s return. At worst, they’ll have a solid contender with a lot of young trade bait to deal in return for the veterans they need. Either way, it looks like 2006 is the beginning of something, much like the 1995 New York Yankees. No doubt there were fans screaming for Brian Cashman to deal young no-names such as Posada, Williams, Rivera, Jeter and Pettite for veterans to support the final years of Don Mattingly and Wade Boggs. Knowing that Mattingly was in his last year, Boggs very close to retirement, John Wetteland having a career year, and Jack McDowell leaving via free agency at the end of the season, Cashman could very well have sent away a youngster such as Posada or Rivera to bring in the power arm the Yankees needed to get past the Mariners in the playoffs. However, instead of looking at Mattingly’s retirement as the end of something, he looked at the youth of Williams, Pettitte, and Jeter and saw the beginning of something — much to the chagrin of desperate Yankee fans, who hadn’t seen a winner since Bob Watson wore pinstripes.

Just imagine, if Cashman caved, and sent away Mariano Rivera — who at that point was a starter with a 5.50 ERA? What would the last ten years in the AL East have looked like?

Two or three years from now, we may very well look back and say, “thank goodness the Heath Bell and Oliver Perez for Scott Linebrink trade fell through”. Or, “I’m so glad we never dealt Milledge, Heilman, and Maine for Barry Zito”.

Often the best deals are the ones never made.

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.