Haren, Harden, or Heilman

After signing Scott Schoeneweis, it was only a matter of time before the Mets-A’s rumors involving Danny Haren, Rich Harden, Aaron Heilman, and Lastings Milledge started up again.

However, these are just rumors, built on speculation and conjecture. Following is my own conjecture, based on logic (something few deals are based on):

During the winter meetings, Omar Minaya and Billy Beane were supposedly trying to get a Milledge-for-Joe Blanton deal done. Beane, however, wanted Aaron Heilman in the deal. Minaya was not moving Heilman as long as Duaner Sanchez was a question mark. And in any case, he wasn’t moving Heilman and Milledge unless he was getting a top-of-the-rotation starter. Beane countered with either Rich Harden or Danny Haren, but insisted on also getting more prospects — presumably a combination of Phil Humber, Mike Pelfrey, and possibly Carlos Gomez. Beane was, and is, in a position to make ridiculous demands for Harden/Haren, based on this winter’s market — one that saw mediocre backend starters (Ted Lilly, Gil Meche, Jason Marquis) getting huge contracts, and Jason Jennings getting traded for a starting CF plus two top pitching prospects. The Jennings deal, in fact, was probably the impetus for Beane’s willingness to talk Harden/Haren. He’s willing to give up one of those guys — but only for a package similar to, or in excess of, the one Houston put together for Jennings.

With that in mind, the Mets will still have to give up at least Milledge, plus Humber AND Pelfrey, or Milledge, plus Heilman and Humber or Pelfrey. Most likely, he’s opening with Haren for all four guys, and won’t leave the table with less than three.

So although the Mets now have another reliever as insurance against Sanchez’s health, which therefore may make Heilman expendable, a deal with the A’s for one of the “H” boys still seems far-fetched. It’s highly doubtful Minaya will part with either Humber or Pelfrey, and he certainly won’t part with both. And Beane has no reason to come down on his demands — his team is in a great position by keeping their starting rotation intact.

Many of Minaya’s moves this offseason have added depth to the bullpen, suggesting that Heilman will be moved. However, if the bullpen is now strong enough to lose Heilman, why not give Heilman a shot to start?

A similar scenario to last year’s spring training could easily unfold: take a look at Heilman as a starter, and if he appears to be among the best options, then he earns a spot. If it doesn’t look like the best idea for the team, shift him back to the bullpen. Only this time, don’t pull a Brian Bannister on him — make it a legit competition. Overvaluing Bannister’s 14 spring training innings was a clear indication that Heilman was never really getting a fair shake in his aspirations. If it weren’t for Bannister, the Mets would have found someone else — maybe even tabbed Darren Oliver for the rotation. But I digress …

I believe Omar Minaya is trying very hard to pry away a top gun such as Danny Haren or Rich Harden — possibly even Jake Peavy — and is now comfortable including Heilman in the package. At the same time, it appears that if that blockbuster deal doesn’t happen, Heilman will finally get a legitimate chance to break into the rotation. If Heilman responds as well as he believes he can, it may not be the worst turn of events.

So there you have it: the Mets’ 2007 rotation may very well be filled by a starter whose last name begins with H … though it could be Haren, Harden, or Heilman.

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.
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