Mets After Andruw Jones?

Back on October 21st, we threw out the idea of the Mets trading Luis Castillo to the Dodgers for Andruw Jones. Exactly ten days later, Joel Sherman dreamed up the same deal (hmm …. is it possible he reads MetsToday?). On Monday afternoon, Buster Olney reported that the Mets were indeed talking to the Dodgers about Andruw Jones — however, those talks did NOT necessarily include Luis Castillo. Naturally, there is already at least one source poo-poohing Olney’s scoop. Seems everyone wants to be either the first to report a rumor, or the first to squash it.

So let’s pull back for a moment, and look at this rationally. First, the Dodgers have absolutely no interest in Castillo. A month ago, when the left side of their infield was empty due to free agency, they might have, but in the last few weeks they signed both Casey Blake and Mark Loretta (as well as Rafael Furcal). Blake almost certainly will start at 3B, pushing youngster Blake DeWitt to 2B. Loretta is the ideal backup for all infield positions and insurance if DeWitt suffers a sophomore jinx. In other words, Castillo doesn’t fit. So if Jones comes to the Mets, it’s a near guarantee that Castillo will not be wearing Dodger blue.

But that doesn’t mean Jones to the Mets is dead — the Dodgers are still desperate to shed his contract, and are operating as if he was not on the roster. Otherwise, why would they be kicking the tires on Adam Dunn, Bobby Abreu, and, of course, Manny Ramirez? Clearly they’ve given up on the idea that Jones can succeed in LA, and — come hell or high water — he’ll be gone before spring training. There aren’t too many other teams in MLB who have the money to take a gamble on the $15M left on Jones’ contract … heck, few teams can handle taking on HALF of it. The Mets have the resources to do it, though, and might be willing to do so if it costs them next to nothing in return — and if the Dodgers are willing to throw in a young pitcher such as 24-year-old LOOGY Greg Miller.

But then what about Castillo? Is there some way that he can be jettisoned while Jones jets his way into Flushing? Perhaps, but only if a third team is involved. Is this getting too complicated? Too unbelievable? Maybe, but it’s happened before. One need only look to the immovable contract of Mike Hampton back in the winter of 2002. If you remember, the Rockies were on the hook for around $70M over 6 years at the time, and Hampton was coming off a miserable 7-15 season with a 6.15 ERA. However, they managed to move his hefty contract — eating a nice portion of it — by involving both the Marlins and the Braves, as well as seven players. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Can Omar Minaya pull off a similar heist? Time will tell, but one thing’s for certain — Orlando Hudson is waiting very patiently, quietly, and idly, hoping something breaks with one of the two New York teams. He won’t wait forever, but it’s kinda strange that not a peep has come from his camp this winter. Methinks that Minaya has made a contingency offer to the O-dog, perhaps with an expiration date.

Personally, I like the idea of rolling the dice on Jones. When he’s right, he’s a rare talent, with the ability to put a team on his shoulders and carry it. If he wants to play in MLB beyond 2009, he will have to put up decent numbers, so one would think he’ll be motivated to, at minimum, arrive to spring training in shape, ready to rock and roll. My inside source confirmed that Jones’ major issue at the plate had to do with his leg injuries — it’s hard to hit when you don’t have solid legs beneath you — and that his condition was exasperated by being overweight and out of shape. The same source also told me that, in-season, Jones worked his fanny off — there was only one player who put more time in after hours, and that was Manny Ramirez. I’m betting that no matter where Jones winds up, he’ll have a better year than most corner outfielders.

Whether that year will occur in Queens is anybody’s guess. In the meantime, keep your hands away from the hot stove — the fire is still stoked and going strong.

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. isuzudude January 1, 2009 at 11:26 am
    While on the topic of potential LF upgrades, I wonder if Omar ever inquired about Mark DeRosa, who just got traded to Cleveland by the Cubs. Here’s a guy who’s only on the hook for 1 more season at a paltry $5.5-mil, which would seem to make him the ideal candidate to keep LF warm while FMart readies himself at AAA. DeRosa is also a hometown boy (Passaic, NJ), is extremely versatile (a la Casey Blake, Ty Wigginton, etc), and would be entering a contract year which should serve as extra motivation. Not only could he get the bulk of playing time in LF, making Tatis the top righty off the bench, but he could also serve as a backup/platoon for Church in RF, and a backup plan to Castillo at 2B. I’m no expert on the Indians’ farm system, but it doesn’t appear as though they gave up anything of major worth to get their new starting 3B. I certainly think it was within Omar’s ability to acquire DeRosa, unless the Cubs were intent on shipping him out of the NL. Still, it’s another opportunity gone by where it looks as though the Mets could have improved their ballclub rather easily but were never really mentioned in the discussion. I really hope Omar doesn’t have his blinders on and is zeroing in solely on pitchers and not getting one hoot whatsoever as to making improvements to the rest of the team.
  2. joe January 1, 2009 at 9:51 pm
    ‘dude, have to admit I was shaking my head when I heard about the DeRosa deal — I thought for sure the Cubs had offers for him earlier in the winter, but they were reluctant to deal him because Lou Piniella supposedly loves the guy. It has to be a prelude to a Brian Roberts deal.

    That said, I agree, DeRosa would have been a perfect fit as a LF / 2B / 1B … but the Mets have historically been averse to acquiring hard-nosed, solid line-drive hitters who can play several positions and be effective in a supersub role. They much prefer bottom of the scrap heap guys who are holding on to their careers by a thread … and since Damion Easley, Fernando Tatis, and Jose Valentin worked out fairly well, they’ll likely continue to scrape the bottom of the barrel (I’m waiting for the Alex Cora signing any day now … but don’t see him as much more than another Miguel Cairo).

    Knowing the Mets, they don’t see DeRosa as an upgrade over Tatis — they likely were blinded by Tatis’ July and think he’ll repeat his ’08 performance (I love Tatis, but that’s a fat chance).

    As for what the Indians gave up, don’t be fooled. It’s nearly impossible to make a fair comparison because the Mets have mostly garbage in the minor league system, with next to none of it as close to ready for MLB as most teams, but I’ll try … the Mets probably would have had to given up something along the lines of Eddie Kunz, Bobby Parnell, Brant Rustich, and Dillon Gee. Even then, I’m not sure it would have been the type of package the Cubs were looking for … the Mets seem to be the only people in baseball who think Parnell and/or Kunz are ready to pitch in the bigs, while Jeff Stevens is a good bet to make some kind of contribution at the MLB level in ’09. As we’ve discussed so many times before, the Mets simply do not have the kind of “near-ready” prospects that other teams covet in trades for Major Leaguers. Omar Minaya can talk a big game all he wants re: the Putz trade, but the bottom line is that the Mets had to part with three Major Leaguers, one pitcher with significant MLB experience (Vargas) PLUS three minor league prospects. In essence, they needed to trade seven guys for one (yeah, I know Sean Green and Jeremy Reed were also acquired, but c’mon … they’re more likely to become the next Jon Adkins and Ben Johnson than Turk Wendell and Timo Perez).

    Don’t be too harsh on Omar … despite what he says, even he realizes he has very little to work with in terms of trading chips. Which is why it bothers me that he’s being so darn cool playing the waiting game with Lowe and Ollie … if the Mets lose out on both, they’re really up the creek.

  3. isuzudude January 2, 2009 at 8:07 am
    very true re: up the creek. If Lowe goes to Boston and Ollie bolts to Anaheim, it’s bound to be a very long season in CitiField’s inaugueral year. I wonder if the plan then shifts to blowing Sheets away with a massive one-year offer with options.
  4. joe January 2, 2009 at 12:38 pm
    That would make sense. But, having watched this regime all too closely, my guess is they’d be content with telling us Niese and/or Parnell is ready, re-signing Pedro, and signing either Randy Wolf or someone like Bartolo Colon. A long season indeed.