Dominoes Falling

Teams deciding to whom they offer arbitration was the kindling for this winter’s Hot Stove, and already the dominoes are falling.

Since 24 players were offered arbitration on Monday, teams have been racing to sign free agents and make deals — and the winter meetings are still a week away.

The first free agents to sign are the lesser ones — particularly, the nondescript middle relievers (Doug Brocail), guys on the comeback trail (Mike Hampton), and the non-roster guys with spring training invites (Billy Traber). My guess is the first “big name” free agent to sign will be a shortstop — probably either Edgar Renteria or Rafael Furcal, who startlingly was not offered arbitration by the Dodgers. I understand they’re looking for a new shortstop, but based on all the rumors, it appears that Furcal is banking on a multi-year deal, so it’s surprising that LA would pass on the potential draft pick. Even if Furcal accepted, would it have been so terrible to have Furcal back, possibly as a second baseman (where the Dodgers have another hole)? Guess so.

So how will the dominoes fall for the Mets? We’re hearing that Trevor Hoffman wants to talk to the Mets, and it’s not a bad idea for Omar Minaya to open discussions — for no reason other than to get K-Rod and Brian Fuentes to think again about their outrageous demands. When it’s all said and done, I see the Mets signing K-Rod or trading for Bobby Jenks. To me, J.J. Putz and Brian Fuentes are not fabulous long-term solutions — if the Mets want short-term, then they should sign Hoffman for a year to a.) close in ’09 and b.) teach someone such as Aaron Heilman, Eddie Kunz, Joe Smith, etc., how to close in the future. But I’m not seeing the Mets as getting serious about Hoffman.

My guess is that the first free-agent the Mets sign will be Chad Cordero — as a minor leaguer with an invite to spring training. If they don’t make the announcement this week, one definitely will be made at the winter meetings.

Also, if the Mets are serious about making a major, impact trade, I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that Ryan Church, Fernando Martinez, and one of their pitching prospects (Bobby Parnell, Jon Niese, Eddie Kunz) will be dealt. Church’s stock may not get higher, and I’m hearing rumblings that he’s not a favorite in the clubhouse. Further, as much as I discount Mike Francesa’s inane comments, I think New York is not the best place for Church. But most importantly, Church is currently cheap, a good all-around player, young, and the only legit MLB position player of value that the Mets are willing to part with. After all, the Mets are not trading David Wright, Jose Reyes, or Carlos Beltran, probably not trading Carlos Delgado, and will get little in return for Brian Schneider. Dan Murphy’s greatest value is to the Mets, not another organization, at this point. Same goes for Endy Chavez. Church, however, has value to many teams — particularly those looking to cut payroll — and can be very easily replaced with a free agent, as there is a glut of lefthanded hitting outfielders available. The prospect of trading Church is the only thing — to me — that makes sense in regard to the Mets’ inquiries on people like Raul Ibanez.

A flurry of moves will be made starting today and going through the next two weeks. Expect to see at least a few dominoes falling into the Mets’ lap shortly.

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. Micalpalyn December 3, 2008 at 3:50 pm
    Good work. the dominoes could fall differently this year with the excuse of the economical landscape’. CC got a 140M offer but in reality everyone expected upward of 150M to start. Alot of teams simply WILL not be spending so K-Rod could be had at a bargain 3 yr deal not a 5 yr deal guaranteed.

    As such I WOULD NOT deal F-mart. Potentially I’d deal Niese, Parnell or Holt. Definately the contracts of Heilman, Scho and Feliciano MUST appeal to other teams as does the contracts of Schneider, Church, Treanor, Swisher Zaun for teams looking for cost controlled OF and C help. Ditto that Nate Robertson, Dontrelle and Ed Jackson might be a cheap risk for the Mets if obtained for low level prospects in cost cutting salary dumps. Swisher and Vaz were steals so far with CWS getting questionable returns. Flowers is defensively suspect, and the OF from the Yanks also had question marks.

    Joe: Could you get Murphy’s minor league stats. here btw is DW’s minor league STATS.

  2. murph December 4, 2008 at 1:19 am
    “teach someone such as Aaron Heilman, Eddie Kunz, Joe Smith, etc., how to close in the future”

    Joe, do you really think closing can be taught?

  3. joe December 4, 2008 at 10:56 am
    Mic, Dan Murphy’s minor league stats are here:

    Murphy’s stats were nice, but nothing out of this world, particularly for a college grad.

    Murph: yes, I do believe closing can be taught. It’s taught all the time. Whether it can be learned is another thing. LOL

    Seriously though, closing is simply pitching with a particular mindset. Mental abilities, I believe, can be taught and learned by the right individual. While yes some guys choke from day one through the rest of their careers, I fully believe that people can learn to think correctly in competition, through proper mental training. First, I’ve seen it, second, I’ve done it myself, the third, it’s why smart teams like the Red Sox pay guys like Bob Tewksbury to help their players “think right”.

    At the same time I don’t know that ANYONE or EVERYONE can learn the proper techniques. But it’s the same thing with a curveball — some can learn it, some can’t.

    Now, back to Hoffman. He’s a guy who started his career blowing people away with hard stuff and a nasty change. Eventually, he had to learn how to rely more on the change than the hard stuff. Both ways, he figured out how to save more games than anyone. He didn’t do it with 100% talent — he did it with the right approach, both mentally and physically. He might be able to “teach” a younger guy how to do it — even if it’s only by example. Long shot, I know.

  4. murph December 4, 2008 at 11:43 am
    Good answer, Joe. thanks.

    I think closing takes a combination of brains and guts. I am not sure if the guts part can be taught, but you made a good case for the brains part.

  5. joe December 4, 2008 at 12:00 pm
    I think you’re right about the “guts”, Murph. That’s the part that perhaps can’t be taught. Again, I use the curveball — some guys simply can’t turn their wrist the right way for a good 12-to-6 , no matter what, because of their inherent flexibility and/or a disconnect between their hand and their brain.

    Similarly, some guys don’t have the stomach to close. One has to have, I imagine, a “Type A” personality. We’ll have to see if we can get hold of Tewksbury or someone like that for their take on the subject.

  6. joe December 4, 2008 at 12:03 pm
    Found this from a Tewksbury interview on Baseball Prospectus … not specific to closing, but interesting nonetheless:

    DL: Despite his success, Derek Lowe has had his demeanor on the mound questioned. Others have been accused of having a “deer in the headlights” expression when faced with a pressure situation. What are your thoughts on that?

    BT: I think you are talking about two things here. The first is body language, and the second is the setting the player is in. Body language is a big part of performance at any level. There are many players who have difficulty with this part of the game. They let their emotions, both good and bad, show. In both instances, the interpretation of the player’s body language has an effect on those watching (the other team). If a player is acting timid or afraid, or gets down after something may have affected his game, that is viewed by the other team as: “We got ‘em now.” It can give your opponent confidence. A player with extreme body language, fist-pumping or bat-tossing for example, is also viewed unfavorably by the opponent. They form personal opinions, like “This guy is a real jerk,” and a team unity of sort where they say, “Get that guy!” The second part is playing in “pressure situations.” I believe this is a matter of perspective. What is a challenge for some can be perceived as a threat by others. When faced with a challenge, confident players respond by rising to meet the challenge: physically, emotionally, physiologically, and mentally. They believe they have what it takes to compete in that setting or situation. Conversely, when the same situation is viewed as a threat, the player responds accordingly based on his perception. The player may very well respond to this same situation with increased anxiety, muscle tension, and fear–all of which can lead to a poor performance.

    DL: Luis Tiant’s 163-pitch effort in Game Four of the 1975 World Series is a classic example of a pitcher willing himself to succeed. How much of winning without your best stuff is mental toughness, and how much of that is learned versus innate?

    BT: My, how times have changed. I don’t think you would see anyone throwing 163 pitches in any game today. But having said that, there certainly is a makeup quality that athletes have which separates the good from the great. In postseason play, Luis Tiant was a great pitcher. As I mentioned earlier, his perception of the situation was more of a challenge than a threat, and he responded accordingly because he had the innate ability to compete. He loved it. The great players have both talent and mental toughness. Others have to learn it and combine perhaps less talent along with the mental aspects of performance to be able to compete at a high level. When I think of a mentally tough pitcher, the first one that comes to mind is Greg Maddux. He has incredible talent, but I think his greatness is his ability to compete consistently. I mean, 15 wins each year for 17 years is amazing! He certainly didn’t have his best stuff in all of those games, yet he still found a way to win. Finding a way to win is called mental toughness, and that can be learned. And that is my job. I help players learn aspects of mental skills which will improve mental toughness and hopefully performance.