Free Agents: Work with Supply

After analyzing the potential free-agents, it appears that the market is not a favorable option for fulfilling the Mets’ needs. As a result, there are three considerations:

1. Actively pursue a trade or trades;
2. Look within the organization; or,
3. Work with what the market offers.

Actually, there is a third option: all of the above. Which is what the Mets will likely do — and this isn’t exactly a newsflash or original thought.

However, there are some issues with the first two considerations, which we’ll get to. First, let’s re-evaluate the major issues in re-tooling the Mets.


Middle Relief
Second Base
Starting Pitching
Corner Outfielder (?)

Note: the above IS in a particular order. As of November, the Mets will not have a catcher on their roster — all four of their 2007 backstops will be free-agents. That said, I’d hope that finding a catcher is the highest on the list of Omar’s priorities. As Casey Stengel said after making Hobie Landrith the first Mets’ expansion pick in 1962: “You gotta have a catcher or you’re gonna have a lot of passed balls.” Because the Mets’ bullpen was particularly awful, and their game plan is directly dependent on the bullpen, finding quality relievers is a high priority. Second base is an issue if Luis Castillo is not re-signed, though Ruben Gotay is an in-house option. With Pedro and El Duque somewhat questionable due to health concerns, picking up a starter has importance. A corner outfielder could be needed if the Mets are looking to move Lastings Milledge for an arm, and/or Moises Alou doesn’t return, and/or they’re not convinced Milledge is ready to be a full-time starter.

After evaluating the free-agent position players, relief pitchers, and starting pitchers, we’ve seen that there is a dearth of catching, second basemen, and relief pitchers — all Mets needs. So it may be wise to re-sign LoDuca and Castillo. Sure, there’s always the trade route, but how many chips do the Mets have to offer? And who is out there who might be a) available, and b) attainable with those chips? I doubt that the Rangers would trade Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Gerald Laird in return for Guillermo Mota, for example — and probably not even for a package of Mike Pelfrey and Lastings Milledge. Other than Milledge, Pelfrey, Philip Humber, and maybe Kevin Mulvey, who do the Mets have to offer in a trade that has any kind of value? Realistically, I mean — it’s not like anyone’s interested in Carlos Delgado’s declining skills and $20M cost commitment, and it’s safe to say the “nucleus” — Beltran, Reyes, Wright, Maine, Perez, Pedro — are staying put. And I’m not sure you want to trade Aaron Heilman, Pedro Feliciano, or Billy Wagner, considering that the bullpen is already a disaster.

That said, maybe it makes sense to work with what the market offers, rather than looking to fill needs — and then adjusting as necessary.

For example, the one place where we see plenty of names is in the supply of free-agent starting pitchers. As we’ve discussed, most are question marks for one reason or another, so there is a bit of a risk involved. However, consider the risk of bringing in, say, Jon Lieber or Bartolo Colon to be a back-end starter, compared to signing Jorge Julio or Antonio Alfonseca to handle seventh inning duties. Or, gambling on Jason Jennings to be a #3 starter compared to hoping 39-year-old Russ Springer can have another career year?

There is depth in the starting pitching availability. From this vantage point, it makes sense to sign one or two “non-questions” such as Carlos Silva and/or Livan Hernandez, as well as considering the aforementioned Lieber and Colon, and looking to them to eat innings as starters. All of the four have been 7-inning pitchers in the past, and if you can’t find quality relievers to pitch the sixth and seventh, why not try to fill those innings from the front end — from the starters?

Of course, part of this plan would require Willie Randolph to change his thinking about the 100-pitch count. Livan and Lieber have pushed past 115-125 consistently in the past, so there’s reason to believe they can continue that workload. Signing two or three starters could create a surplus, in which case you move one (or more) of the current starters to the bullpen. Candidate number one is Mike Pelfrey, who is essentially a two-pitch pitcher whose sinker is ideal for a relief role. Philip Humber could be another Adam Wainwright, and help the Mets out of the ‘pen for a year before moving full-time into a starting role (isn’t that what was supposed to happen with Aaron Heilman?). Maybe El Duque becomes a spot starter and occasional middle man.

After deciding on a catcher, the Mets’ biggest concern — by far — is what to do with the bullpen. Free agency doesn’t appear to offer much “relief” (pun intended), unless the Mets are willing to overpay for a closer (Francisco Cordero) and that pitcher is willing to be a setup man. Similarly, with everyone in MLB looking for bullpen help, it’s doubtful a team would trade away a reliable reliever — and if they did, the package would likely be steep. So the best idea may be to work with the strength of the market, rather than fight against its weakness. Grab some healthy starters, gamble on a few not-so-healthy starters, and be willing to shift some roles.

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 October 9, 2007 at 6:17 am
    Ouch, Joe. Rather gamble on Jennings than pick up Springer. That one hurt me, man. OK, I can see I’m not going to sway your opinion, so I guess we’ll see who had the right plan come midseason next year, even if neither one is on the Mets.

    I agree the free agent pool this year is thin, and that trades are going to have to be considered. With that said, I have a few proposals for y’all to ponder. Keep in mind, just because I’m proposing them doesn’t mean I’m in favor of them all. I just want to see whether you guys think they’re 1) realistic, or 2) beneficial for our ballclub.

    1. Billy Wagner & Orlando Hernandez for Robinson Cano & Chein Ming Wang

    2. El Duque for Kyle Farnsworth

    3. Billy Wagner for Jeremy Bonderman

    4. Philip Humber & Dylan Owen for Javier Vazquez

  2. joe October 9, 2007 at 8:51 am
    Jennings vs. Springer: indeed we’ll see. We should keep a list of everyone’s predictions somewhere. Oh, that’s my job as webmaster, ain’t it? 🙂

    1, 2, & 3: not realistic. I’d be surprised if the Yanks and Mets made any kind of significant deal. Also doubt very highly the Yankees would trade two of their central figures (#1) of the next 5-10 years in return for two pitchers in their mid-30s. I think the Yankees would take a bag of baseballs in return for Farnsworth, but don’t see the Mets trading their top starter of 2007 for an overpriced enigma.

    Wagner for Bonderman – don’t see the Tigers making this deal. Would it be beneficial for the Mets? Sure, if they knew they could then sign Mariano Rivera.

    Humber & Owen for Vazquez: realistic? Maybe, but not sure that Ken Williams and his scouts know who Dylan Owen is, and might be a little uneasy about a 5’10” pitcher who dominated a rookie league filled with high schoolers. I imagine they’d hold out for Humber and Mulvey — in which case it would be a good deal for the Mets in the short term, but perhaps not over a 3-5-year period. As much as I like Humber and would not want to see him go, you may be on to something — he’s one of the few chips the Mets have to deal and let’s face it, there’s realistically little chance of him contributing in ’08 (unless he’s moved to the bullpen). The Mets may be willing to give up the long-term (which is a crapshoot) in return for someone almost guaranteed to provide 2008 dividends.

    You keep proposing that Wags should be traded, but the Mets built their entire pitching staff and pitching plan around handing him the ball in the ninth inning. You may not think so highly of him but Omar & etc. do, so seeing him leave doesn’t appear realistic.

    Now … if the Mets decide to enter the bidding for Mariano Rivera, that could all change and suddenly your ideas hold a lot of weight.

  3. isuzudude October 9, 2007 at 12:01 pm
    Thanks for the indepth reply, Joe. The reason I came up with those Yankee trades was because of last night’s game, in which Wang got shelled (again). Maybe the Yankees, in their hasty ways, are down enough on Wang to give him up for anyone with “proven” postseason experience, i.e. El Duque. But you’re right – for them to trade Cano is totally out of the question…especially considering the 2B available this offseason. And also, with Farnsworth, he needs a change of scenery out of NY, not just across town. He’d likely be as unreliable with the Mets as with the Yankees (although would it be worth the gamble if instead of Hernandez, it’s, say, Mota or Schoeneweis along with a prospect like Muniz or Smith?)

    My Wagner trade proposals are also based on the same premise as the El Duque trade proposals, and that is he only gets dealt if another pitcher with closing capabilities is brought on board. But again, as I whole heartedly admit, the possibility of a Wagner trade is probably less than 5% considering his hefty contract and no trade clause.

  4. joe October 9, 2007 at 12:13 pm
    There was a GAME last night? Where?

    Didn’t the season end on September 30th????


  5. Micalpalyn October 9, 2007 at 4:59 pm
    I know we have gone around the woodshed 3 times on this, but I can see Wags goingg to the Yanks or Boston who care little for $$$. In both cases they may need a closer, Papelbon has long been sized for a rotation slot. This yr Pinero bombed early and Papelbon was re-inserted.

    Adding wags would make a big splash for Gene Michael. Then the Mets adding Mo makes its own statement.
    I also like the idea of Codero & frank Rodriguez.

    Couple of notes: The Mets poor scouting (duqutte) pursued Heilman the starter. But most NL scouts pegged Heilman as a reliever. when Humber debuted over a year ago as a reliever I thought that might open eyes for him to be watched for a yr as a set up man. But that did not happen. I think having had a yr under his belt at AAA with success, it would behoove Omar to capitalize on his low salary, guaranteed spot on the 40man roster and make him a set up/6th inning candidate.

    Pelfrey I’d move now (to Jays) while his value is still somewhat high…(ML experience counts) note even Fausto had his growing pains.

    Strange deals are made in Baseball and I think the young Jays with hallady is a good fit for Pelfrey.
    CWS also might suit Pelfrey.

  6. joe October 9, 2007 at 9:34 pm
    Mic, that woodshed is devoid of electricity and it’s midnight. Wagner is not going anywhere, and he remains one of the top 3 or 5 closers in MLB, despite everyone’s sudden sourness.

    Also, I think you are confused about the Corderos and Franciscos. Frankie Rodriguez has been out of baseball for a couple years, unless you are speaking of Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez who is not available (to my knowledge). There is Chad Cordero, who most certainly will be shopped in a trade by the Nats, and Francisco Cordero, the Brewers closer who is a free agent.

    Personally, I’m not all that excited about Chad Cordero, who seemed to take a step back this past year, nor Cisco Rodriguez, who other than this past year and a strong 2004, has been a Jose Valverde type — highly skilled, remarkably inconsistent. And he’ll be 33 next year. My guess is he’ll command a three-year, $40M contract, and that’s too much for a guy who’s not closing and might not be the same pitcher he was in 2007.

    To this day I am firm with my opinion that Heilman is not suited for relief, mostly because of physical issues. But there’s little chance of him leaving the bullpen while with the Mets.

    I don’t know about Humber in a relief role. From my POV, his issue has been inconsistency with command. Maybe pitching every day (as a reliever) and eliminating one or two pitches from his repertoire could be a positive for him. If I were Omar I’d certainly consider him in a middle relief role for ’08 and use the deep free-agent market to grab a fifth starter or two.

    If the Jays will take Pelfrey in a deal that includes Burnett, I’d do it in a heartbeat. We still don’t know what we’ll get from Pelfrey but I sincerely doubt he’ll be the Bonderman / Verlander we had hoped.

  7. isuzudude October 10, 2007 at 6:03 am
    Joe, you said the magic word. “If.” Pelfrey and Humber are pretty much our two biggest trading chips, but in other team’s eyes those two probably don’t look as attractive as the prospects they’re being offered from other teams. It seems like everyone but the Mets has an ace in development in their minor league system, while we’re talking about Pelfrey and Humber best suited for relief roles. And if we can figure out that Pelfrey and Humber aren’t going to be sure bets in the future, certainly major league scouts can too, which means the Mets will have to either eat a lot of contract or replace quality with quantity in any deal involving a solid pitching commodity.

    I disagree with your synopsis of Heilman, though…and I’ll use your own arguement against you. If Pelfrey, in your eyes, isn’t cut out for a starters job b/c he only has two pitches, shouldn’t the same apply to Heilman? Aaron’s only got a fastball and changeup to my knowledge. And since he doesn’t have enough in his repitoire to keep hitters off balance over 7 innings, that makes him a relief guy. You’re right, though. Even if he were to develop a third pitch, he’s pretty much stuck in the bullpen unless traded to another team.

    I also think the only way Humber finds his way into the bullpen in ’08 is due to injuries to current bullpen pitchers, sort of like Wainwright in ’07 when Izzy got hurt for St Louis. Mets management wants to believe so hard they had a gem that they’ll force him into the starters role even if it doesn’t suite him properly.

  8. Micalpalyn October 10, 2007 at 9:31 am
    Cordero et al: Yes too many Rodriguez’s. My last chime on this is:

    a: Wags was NOT Omar’s first choice. Toronto had to outbid Omar for BJ Ryan.

    b. I think the bullpen should be bombed and start over. francisco cordero becomes my 8th inning guy, leave Sosa and Sho in the 6th/7th (cant get rid of everyone), humber factors in there. Mo Rivera in the 9th. Trade Wags.

    c. Burnett (power pitcher): I think we can assemble a trade for. We too often downgrade our chips. Haven’t we voiced our displeasure about losing Royce, Heath, and Bannister? All have had productive years with new teams. I view a move from NY as a good thing for Pelfrey who, if he has another 3-7 yr will NOT be worth consideration. But (ala Edwin Jackson) and many others..has too much talent not to eventually put it together for someone. Just not necessarily the Mets.

    Humber: 3 reasons why he relieves this yr: Health, money, 40-man roster slots. We have seen Humber in limited duty now. his curve really makes his FB effective. With a change up or other off speed pitch he will ascend. In the BP he can work of the the two primary pitches and develop the 3rd. In his start he pitched 4 great innings before, as he said, he lost his legs (stamina?). I think he can make the change Aaron did and relieve. If he can that’s a 3yr/10-12M dollar price tag saved…so its worth a try.

    My trade package: Joe Smith/Heilman, Pelfrey, and (Carp?) for Burnett. But I think the Jays will actually (happily ) take Pelfrey straight up having already a testy relationship with Burnett.

  9. joe October 10, 2007 at 10:09 am
    On Heilman (in response to isuzudude):

    1. Heilman has FOUR pitches. He uses two in relief (fastball / change) because that’s all he needs in one-inning stints. He also throws a breaking ball and a split-finger/forkball — but rarely takes them out of his pocket. When you only need to get three outs at a time, it makes more sense to focus on your two best pitches all the time and make them outstanding.

    2. Pelfrey really doesn’t have two pitches, even though that’s how I described him — I was being kind. He has a four-seam fastball that is MLB ready. He has a sinker that is inconsistent. He has a slider that is very inconsistent. Even if he had a consistent sinker and slider, it’s still not enough to be a solid MLB starter, because all his pitches are going at relatively the same speed. Until he adds a changeup and/or curve to his repertoire, he has middle relief written all over him.

    3. I agree with your assessment on the way the Mets view Humber (and Pelfrey, for that matter), and that they’re shoehorning both guys into starting roles that don’t currently suit them. The only logic behind it that I can figure is they think Humber and Pelfrey will be more lucrative trading chips if presented as starters. Whether other teams believe the hype is another story.

  10. joe October 10, 2007 at 10:19 am

    a. I don’t remember the Mets being on the bidding for BJ Ryan. It could have been a ploy (for bargaining vs. Wags), or they could have seen Ryan as a setup guy. And it wouldn’t have made sense to put all eggs in one basket. My memory could be wrong … but I remember Wags being the #1 target of that offseason.

    b. Good luck with that. But don’t hold your breath.

    c. I’m all for Burnett. However if the Mets make a deal for him, it’s likely the only major deal they make in the offseason. So they’ll have to fill catcher, 2B, OF, and other pitching spots via free agency.

    Humber: I’m on board with moving him to the ‘pen. If we’re lucky, it will occur to Omar and Co. that it’s a good idea as well.

    Pelf for Burnett: The Jays’ biggest needs are around the keystone and in the bullpen, so I’d imagine they’d insist on at least Heilman and Pelfrey (and probably Milledge as well). But they might have a better trade partner who can give them a hotshot infielder — perhaps after the A-Rod sweepstakes is over (ex. Angels trade O. Cabrera; Bosox trade Julio Lugo). Again I’d like to see Burnett come to Shea, but not sure the Mets and Jays match up well.

  11. Micalpalyn October 10, 2007 at 10:38 am
    At the time BJ was signed it was a shock the bidding went that high. The toronto GM was not happy about the price and alluded that he had to outbid someone. …that someone was rumored to be Omar. as we have seen Omar can be beaten, but he will get one of his top 3 targets.
  12. joe October 10, 2007 at 10:58 am
    I believe what you are saying. What I doubt is that the Mets were looking at Ryan as their primary target for the bullpen that winter. As I said I thought he was considered as a setup guy. The minute Wags became a free agent, it was a foregone conclusion that the Mets would go after him hard.

    As it turned out, thank goodness, don’t you think? Or would we have been better off with Ryan on the DL this past year and scrambling for a closer?

    Omar doesn’t get beaten so often as much as he stops the bidding at a sensible point. He didn’t want to overpay for Ryan, who was a one-year flash with elbow issues. Similar to when the Giants “beat” him on Zito — he didn’t see the sense in giving a lefty soft-tosser a $100M contract.

  13. Micalpalyn October 10, 2007 at 12:15 pm
    I believe Omar has a budget. But at the same time he will overspend in one area and then underspend (Low ball contracts and prospects) to fill another.

    Now that Wright and Reyes ARE millionaires he probably balances that by inserting Milledge/Gomez/Fmart into his equation, also Pelfrey, Joe Smith, humber factor based on talent and cost. Zito was bid on at 5yrs/75M. Why go higher for a poor man’s Ollie Perez? Essentially a 7yr/125M contract could net Santana (Wishfull, but hopefully adjusting for injury).