Mark Loretta at 2B?
According to agent Bob Garber, the Mets are interested in Mark Loretta.
Though this might sound like the hot stove heating up in Flushing, my guess is that this is more Garber hyping up his client to nudge the Boston Red Sox. We witnessed very similar posturing just a few days ago from Mike Mussina’s agent — and lo and behold, the Yankees are now hammering out a deal to keep Mussina away from the Mets, Phillies, etc. for another two years.
As recently as the end of October, Loretta expressed a desire to return to Boston. The 35-year-old second baseman was a good fit for the Red Sox, and remains one while prospect Dustin Pedroia is eased into regular duty with the big club. By not negotiating with Loretta now — while they have exclusivity — the Red Sox brass is playing the waiting game, supposedly waiting to consider other free agents on the market and in the meantime driving down Loretta’s price. In turn, Garber leaks out the fact that the Mets and other teams are interested to motivate talks with Boston before November 11th.
However, let’s pretend that the Mets have a genuine shot at obtaining Mark Loretta. His righthanded bat and solid if unspectacular defense would be a perfect foil for Jose Valentin in a platoon situation, should Valentin return. If Valentin returns, by the way, someone should tell him to abandon righthanded hitting altogether. In the event that both Loretta and Valentin are producing in 2007, the tandem could coexist as second basemen yet also start at other positions. Valentin has played the outfield, shortstop, and third, and Loretta has played every infield position. It would be nice to have two potent veteran bats coming off the bench, filling in with spot starts around the diamond, and platooning at second base. With their combined flexibility, Willie Randolph could easily get them 100-120 starts each, and have them available for pinch-hitting the remainder of the time. With both veterans in their late 30s, it could prove to be an ideal situation for everyone.
Speaking of free agent second basemen, it may behoove the Mets to enter the Alfonso Soriano sweepstakes for no reason other than to keep him away from the Phillies. The Phillies really scare me. With their pitching and young infielders, they’re maybe one or two players away from significantly shifting the balance of power in the NL East, and have newfound money to spend this offseason as well as Pat Burrell as a trading chip. Thank goodness they don’t appear to be interested in Aramis Ramirez — or else the entire NL All-Star infield might have Phillie uniforms. (No slight on our Metsies, but Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins are as much All-Star caliber as their Shea counterparts.) Adding Soriano and a legit leadoff hitter to their lineup — Juan Pierre is available — would make them a serious threat to the Mets, and possibly a favorite to win the East.
Meantime there has been no official word on any of the Mets’ in-house free agents. As much as I’d like to see the Mets wrap up Chad Bradford as soon as possible, that might be impossible. His outstanding 2006 season — combined with a weak free agent class — will surely make him a target of nearly every deep-pocketed team in need of bullpen help (read: Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, etc.). It looks like there could be a mild bidding war for the submariner, and the Mets may have to overpay to keep him at Shea. I hope they do.