Needs and Luxuries

One of my favorite baseball sites — MLBTradeRumors — recently covered the Mets in their “Needs and Luxuries” series (hat tip to Micalpalyn and Isuzudude for inspiring this rebuttal).

Take a look at that post and then come back here. I’ll wait …

OK, so nothing earth shattering regarding the “current” Mets lineup — although it’s about 99.9% that Moises Alou will be back and you can plug him into the leftfield spot where Carlos Gomez is currently listed.

Beyond that, here are my opinions:

2B (Ruben Gotay)

I would be incredibly surprised (though equally thrilled) if Gotay is the starting second baseman come spring training. If the second baseman is not Luis Castillo, then I assume that Omar Minaya will look at Mark Loretta, David Eckstein, and Tad Iguchi as possibilities. I also strongly believe that A-Rod’s winter decisions could affect what the Mets do — not saying the Mets will sign A-Rod, but that his decision may create an opportunity to obtain someone else (i.e. Julio Lugo). I don’t think Freddy Sanchez is an option, simply because the Pirates seem to be high on him, and he’s fairly cheap. Though a new GM could have different ideas. Mark Ellis is an interesting possibility, but I think he’d only come East if he were part of a blockbuster that includes Danny Haren or Joe Blanton.

Catcher

If LoDuca doesn’t come back, then I’m betting the house that either Jorge Posada, Ramon Hernandez, or Miguel Olivo come to the Mets. I doubt Barrett is a consideration, and don’t see the Indians trading Shoppach when they want to transition Victor Martinez to 1B. Gerald Laird would be a nice pickup but I’d be surprised if Minaya went after a “no name” for such an important position on the diamond. That said, Bengie Molina is not out of the question.

Starting Pitching

We’ve been beating this to death. The Mets absolutely must sign a horse. If there’s a trade, I hope it’s Blanton and not Garland. D-Train is intriguing, but likely will cost too much. Nate Robertson is also interesting, if he can be pried away for a reasonable package. We’ve already discussed Schilling.

Relief Pitching

‘Cisco Cordero likely won’t be signed, especially if Milwaukee’s alligator arms reach into their pockets for some dough as has been suspected. We’ve covered Mo. Percival is a guy I was telling Omar to sign back in January, but he wasn’t reading my blog. He could be part of a rebuilding project, but they’d need to get a few more additional arms.

Luxuries

Have to strongly agree that the Mets’ greatest luxury is money, and strongly disagree that the Mets’s second luxury is prospects. The way I see it, Omar could put the future of this organization into a tailspin if he uses up too many of the minor league chips. My guess is there will be ONE major deal over the winter that involves names such as Pelfrey, Humber, Gomez, Milledge, Carp, FMart, Mulvey, etc., and that no more than three major prospects get sent away — they simply don’t have the depth to trade any more.

Final Comments

I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that Milledge is the rightfielder in 2008. Methinks he could be on the West Coast as part of a deal to get a big arm, and the Mets will sign or deal for another short-term corner outfielder. Just a hunch.

Also, although in the past bullpens have been “built on the cheap”, every team in MLB is desperate for relief arms, and that theory no longer applies. The Mets will have to be either incredibly lucky — like they were in the offseason prior to 2006 — or spend a combination of dollars and trading chips to get a few decent arms in the bullpen.

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 17, 2007 at 5:50 pm
    Thanks for the post, Joe. I’ve been salivating all day to get my two cents in on this article.

    Firstly, the author’s name of the article is mysteriously absent, which is justifible because it sounds a lot like another no name chiming in with his opinion when he knows very little about the Mets. Examples? As Joe stated, the Mets are not working from a position of strength as far as prospects are concerned. What have we seen recently from guys like Humber, Pelfrey, Gomez, Milledge, and Carp to make other teams believe they are top-teir prospects worth obtaining in a major deal? And past those 5 guys, there’s not one player in the Mets system who is a can’t miss type of prospect who is also going to be ML ready by 2009. That doesn’t give too many other teams much of an incentive to give up an established ML talent, especially during the offseason.

    The article focuses a good deal early on regarding catching; rightly so as the Mets do not have one guy in their organization ready to step into Lo Duca’s starter’s shoes. I disagree with the author’s statement that Lo Duca has “stopped hitting.” True, his average, OBP, and SLG took hits from his 2006 campaign, but he also had more HR, RBI, and the same amount of walks in nearly 70 less plate appearances. We’ve also talked about his intangibles, like leadership qualities and passion, and how, if he is brought back, he’s likely only going to be our #8 hitter anyway. Isn’t .270/9 HR/50 RBI with less than 40 K’s good production from the 8-hole? Among potential replacements mentioned (Posada, Barrett, Hernandez) Lo Duca would be much cheaper, allowing the Mets the financial room to fill their other holes. Bengie Molina also intrigues me in a trade, but I’m not thinking San Fran wants to dump a 20-HR catcher making *just* $12-mil over the next two seasons for salary reasons. I’d be shocked if Miguel Olivo is signed b/c of his run-in with Reyes in the 2nd to last game of the season. Plus the guy walks less often than Lo Duca. Funny how Kendall and Torrealba aren’t even mentioned, despite being potentially good fits with the Mets.

    I’d agree with bringing Castillo back, although my 2nd option would be Eckstein – not trading for Hudson, Ellis, or Sanchez, as mentioned. Castillo is perfect in the 2-hole and has already said he wants to stay a Met. Make it happen.

    Agree also to re-sign Alou and have him start with Beltran and Milledge in the OF, although that all can change if Milledge is included in a deal that lands us a big pitcher. Then maybe look into bringing in a Shannon Stewart or Luis Gonzalez to at least split time with Gomez in RF. Agree, as well, not to move Beltran out of CF for one of the big CFs on the market this winter.

    Adam Dunn? Puh-lease. We already have one .250/150 strikeout left handed hitter in Delgado. Let’s keep it at one.

    Another Johan Santana mention. You know, maybe it’s not that far fetched. Would a package centering around Maine/Gomez or Milledge get the job done? I doubt it, but if I’m the Mets I’d at least put that theory to the test. However, I’m not too confident if Johan is acquired that an extension takes place – at least, not right away. I think a deal landing him would look similar to the Mike Hampton trade prior to the 2000 season, where the Mets sent Roger Cedeno and Dotel to the Astros for Hampton and Derek Bell. The trade didn’t kill the Mets farm system, and Hampton’s pitching helped get us to the World Series, albeit he left the next year. However, Hampton wasn’t viewed as much of a NY guy, whereas Johan could be, and even though an extension with the Mets might not happen this season, if he pitches well and enjoys his time with the Mets, maybe he’ll at least consider re-upping with us and be our ace and opening day starter at Citi Field 2009. I’d have to say everyone but Wright, Reyes, and Beltran can be had in a Johan deal. Thoughts?

    I agree with Joe that the Mets do need to throw dollars at the bullpen this offseason and not just cross their fingers that a bunch of scrubs brought in with spring training invites and minor league contracts will turn around what was, by far, the Mets biggest weakness of 2007. Not counting on Sanchez to pitch as he did in the 1st half of 2006 would be wise, and so the Mets should prepare to play the season as if he’s just another Guillermo Mota. With that said, I think they need to pick up one nice lefty to compliment Feliciano, thus sending Schoeneweis to mop-up/LOOGY duty, and also one really nice righty to go along with Heilman, Mota (if he’s not released), and Sosa (if he’s not non-tendered).

    Thanks again, Joe. I eagerly anticipate further reactions and discussion.

  2. Micalpalyn October 17, 2007 at 5:58 pm
    Joe: Mike C beat you to it. Now there are 2 responses out there (Metsblog) that present more views.
  3. Micalpalyn October 17, 2007 at 8:34 pm
    First I’ll preface by saying a side of me would rather wait for a few more shoes to fall. The possibilities are endless and none of us REALLY know what the Wilpons, Bernazards and Omars are thinking.

    But I do think the Shea conference room will have a board similar to this post (and mlbrumors).

    So:

    Starting Pitching. (B) Pedro, Maine, Ollie
    #5 starter; (Mulvey/humber/Pelfrey…FA)
    #2(Glavine, or FA/trade):

    C: ?

    2B: Castillo, Gotay, trade/FA

    LF: Alou, FA

    RF: Millz

    BP: Infinite possibilities.

    2B: Castillo is the logical choice. But if Castillo goes on the open market and signs elsewhere (St Lou), then I’d go Eck.

    LF: Alou with Gomez/endy

    RF: Save the $$$ for starting pitching. So Millz & Gomez/FA

    BP: As MLB rumors says I’d import F-rod. But (contraversially) i might also sign Mo and deal Wags(angels?/yanks). Yes he is a top 3 closer, but making changes often means tough choices…(randy Myers for franco)..Also dont rule out Wheeler or Weathers or another middle innings guy.

    SP: F-Mart could be in AA or AAA next yr. Ditto caleb Stewart. As such OF might be a (luxury). Just as Dustin Martin went I think an OF goes in any meaningfull trade. Also pelfrey is going into a 3rd yr. i think he will blossum, but if he is a Met there is an even more overwheming burden on him to get results. as such I think he and Gomez (ala Cedeno/Dotel) net a starter. like Isu, I think the first call is for santana, but I dont think Burnett is too low on that list. also Vazquez and garland get consideration. I was hot after Buerle at one point and i still think he could be dealt.

    Catcher: My FIRST choice is Shoppach (trade). It remains to be seen if Vic Martinez moves to first. after that I dont know. Ramon Hernandez trade? There are press whispers of the O’s trading hernandez and picking up Barrett (on the cheap).

  4. joe October 17, 2007 at 10:56 pm
    Sorry for taking so long with this today, guys … had a hectic day.

    I agree with just about everything isuzudude stated.

    LoDuca has not “stopped hitting”, but I think that the way baseball is evolving, the Mets will have to have more punch at the bottom of the lineup. We can talk about how pitching wins all we want, but the fact remains that there ain’t enough attainable pitchers — given the Mets’ resources — to make a significant improvement over 2007. I think the Mets will have to make at least two major deals (free agent and/or trade) and at least two minor deals to put together a pitching staff that performs at the same level as this past season. Improvement will take another major deal, or a blockbuster deal, or incredible luck. That said, more and more I’m seeing them go after Ramon Hernandez in a salary dump deal eerily similar to the way they acquired Paulie a few years ago.

    I like Shoppach, but not seeing it — partially because I don’t see him as available and partially because I don’t see him as on Omar’s radar.

    If there is any value for Pelfrey and/or Milledge to bring back a Blanton or better, the Mets HAVE TO pull the trigger. Both are question marks, and even if LMillz is destined to be a star, it’s not happening within the next 3 years. Better to trade him while his stock is still high and get back an arm, then go after a Stewart / Gonzo / Shawn Green etc. to fill the gap with known quantities. A veteran free-agent platoon will provide the same or better overall performance as a 23-year-old Milledge.

    I’m hemming and hawing on the Johan hype. Is he really obtainable, without destroying the future? I think someone brought up the Frank Viola deal as an example — the Mets might have to give up Pelfrey, Humber, Milledge, AND Gomez to get him. And even then who knows if it’s enough? I think the Mets are just too poor when it comes to trading chips to get Santana … yet the pundits keep pounding the idea like it’s a distinct possibility. Maybe I’m wrong.

    Mic brings up the biggest point at this moment: we need to wait for a few more shoes to fall. Izzy has already been eliminated, and the Brewers are making inroads to bring back Linebrink and ‘Cisco kid. For all we know, they’ll both be off the market before the end of the WS. The “Tampa Talks” could certainly cause a domino effect. There are other FA’s to be that could be locked up before the filing date — and that significantly handcuffs the Mets’ offseason moves, because as we’ve reviewed, there isn’t much value to trade away (barring a nutso blockbuster involving Beltran).

    Speaking of a nutty idea — and since the MetsToday group appears to be Anti-Wagner — how about sending Billy back to Houston for Brad Lidge, Chad Qualls, and a minor leaguer? Maybe he’d waive the no-trade clause to go back.

  5. isuzudude October 18, 2007 at 9:04 am
    Good stuff. I agree that we have to let a few more “shoes fall” (I’ve never heard it stated like that, but oh well)…but Joe, like you say, what’s the point of having a blog if you can’t speculate and dream a little? None of our rhetoric is likely to mirror reality, but tossing ideas around ain’t hurting anyone, is it?

    Mic: I agree with your statement that the Mets are OF rich in the minors, but again I have to question whether other teams are interested in what we have. Think back to some of our other OF prosepcts that made it to the majors in recent years (Payton, Agbayani, Duncan, Tyner, Escobar) and tell me what they netted the Mets in trades and what they’ve panned out to on the ML level. Not much on both accounts, and I think other teams are aware that the Mets may be becoming infamous for “over-hyping” their own prospects, particularly in the OF.

    Also, you keep confusing Francisco Cordero as “F-Rod.” F-Rod, aka Francisco Rodriguez, is with the Angels and is not available. Cordero closed for Milwaukee this season and is a free agent.

    Joe: I agree that “the more the merrier” when it comes to offensive production, but exchanging Lo Duca for Hernandez isn’t the answer. Particularly looking at their 2007 numbers, the two catchers appear to be very similar. And whereas I think Hernandez would provide more pop, Lo Duca is the better bet to hit for higher average (and I base that on Lo Duca’s career .288 average, opposed to Hernandez’ .263). Lo Duca is also well versed with the Mets pitching staff and the pressures of NY, whereas Hernandez is not. Plus, Hernandez has appeared in 111 or less games in 3 of the last 4 seasons, whereas Lo Duca hasn’t appeared in less than that since 2000. Safe to say Hernandez is injury prone? On top of all that, Paulie can likely be secured with a $6-6.5-mil per year contract, whereas Hernandez is due $15.5-mil for the next 2 years, with an $8.5-mil option for 2010. With all that said, I don’t think it’s impossible the Mets explore a Hernandez trade, but my advice would be either to get the Orioles to pay a portion of his contract, or to throw in someone else in a deal (Brian Burres, Jamie Walker) to sweeten the pot. Obviously, I’d love to strip them of Brian Roberts, Erik Bedard, or Jeremy Guthrie, but I doubt they’d be taken cheaply. That does bring up another can of worms though: what if Hernandez is the throw in to a Roberts deal? But then we’re back at the “what do the Mets have to offer that the Orioles would be interested in?” question. All I can say is that the Mets have to at least explore their options. The worst that can happen is that Baltimore says no.

    If Santana is to come cheaper than Viola did in 1989 (David West, Kevin Tapani, Rick Aguilera, Jack Savage, and Tim Drummond) it would be because Santana is entering his walk-year, while Viola was obtained with 2 1/2 years left on his contract. And if Hampton could be had for Cedeno and Dotel, it may just be possible that Maine and Milledge could net Santana. Again, give the Twins a call and see what they have to say. The worst they say is no thanks.

    I wouldn’t mind the Wagner-to-Houston trade for Lidge & Qualls, but I doubt the ‘Stros would go for it. Wagner’s due too much and they’d be giving up too much for an aging and pricey closer. Especially considering they’re entering a season where they’re not expected to give Wagner too many opportunities to earn a save. I would say the teams that may be most interested in trading for Billy would be Detroit, the Yankees, Milwaukee, and the Cubs. But again, which of those clubs would Billy be willing to waive his NTC for?

  6. joe October 18, 2007 at 9:48 am
    re: Ramon Hernandez.

    Is he “injury prone” ? I don’t think so, compared to most MLB catchers. It’s not like he’s Moises Alou. And I think a 32-year-old Hernandez has a better shot of playing in 120+ games than a 36-year-old LoDuca. Plus, if LoDuca DOES play in 120-130+ games, we all know he’s going to wear down and hit less effectively. So the # of games thing is a wash in my humble opinion.

    Further, you have to look beyond the 2007 numbers when comparing LoDuca and Hernandez offensively. Hernandez had an oblique issue for most of the season, and that tends to seriously affect a player’s swing and power. IF healthy, Hernandez should be a significant upgrade over Paulie offensively, and not much different defensively.

    Paulie MIGHT have a better chance to hit for a higher average … but unless he bats over .320, who cares because he’s only going to take about 30 walks? In other words, LoDuca’s OBP is traditionally abysmal. Hernandez is not much better in the OBP dept., but at least he has the potential to knock 18-20 over the fence.

    LoDuca also has historically hit into more DPs than Hernandez, and the way he looked this past season, I imagine is not going to improve. So you have a slow singles hitter grounding into DPs and not taking walks.

    I’m not necessarily on board with letting Paulie leave — I like him, I enjoy watching him, and I love “Volare”. But if the Mets decide not to bring him back, I think Hernandez may be the best option available when you consider the cost.

  7. isuzudude October 18, 2007 at 11:15 am
    OK, maybe injury prone is the wrong term. But Hernandez does have a history of getting hurt and missing games, which makes you wonder if he could last past 110 games for the Mets if acquired.

    Lo Duca played in 119 games this season, yet still managed a .291 average with 4 HR and 21 RBI in September. Playing in 124 games in 2006, Lo Duca hit .316 with a dinger and 7 RBI in September. Wouldn’t those stats suggest to the contrary that Paulie wears down over the course of the season? He’ll have some bumps and bruises, but his durability and effectiveness is proven by his track record.

    Alas, I agree that IF (emphasize IF) Hernandez is healthy and plays in as many games as Lo Duca is capable of, his offensive numbers will likely be better than Paulie’s. That being said, and if we agree that the best course of action to fill our catching need is to not re-sign Lo Duca, then I think acquiring Bengie Molina should take precedence over Hernandez. Molina is cheaper, better defensively, and more physically reliable, while his offensive stats are very similar to Hernandez’. Molina’s trade value is likely higher, as well, and with Bonds not coming back to SF, you know they’re going to ask for Milledge or Gomez. And because that asking price is too high, and Hernandez comes with so many question marks, re-signing Lo Duca still looks like the best option this offseason.

  8. joe October 18, 2007 at 12:50 pm
    I’m having a hard time buying into the idea that LoDuca is durable at this stage of his life — or at any point in his career.

    If you look at his splits year by year, he traditionally had a good first half and then saw his numbers drop considerably in the second half. In fact, when the Mets made the deal to get him, there was a lot of mention of this by the beat writers and the pundits, and most agreed that Willie would need to make sure Paulie was given plenty of breaks.

    This past year, Paulie’s numbers were not good at ANY point other than May (.391) and September — and that was immediately after a two-week stint on the DL (needed rest?).

    As I mentioned in my previous comment, Hernandez is my favorite option if LoDuca does not return — not necessarily my choice instead of Paulie.

    As for Molina vs. Hernandez, I don’t care a bit about the cost. The Mets have money up the wazoo — what they don’t have are tradeable parts. And since I agree with you that Molina would cost more in a trade, I think it is in the Mets’ best interests to go after Hernandez first.

    My thinking is that the O’s will make Hernandez a salary dump. Is he too expensive at $25M over the next three years? Probably not, but the one thing the Mets have is cash — so use it! Getting Hernandez off of Baltimore’s books means the O’s should be willing to take a couple of non-prospects and A-ball fillers. We’ll need Milledge and Gomez et al to get an arm, not a catcher in his mid-30s.

    By the way, what are the question marks with Hernandez? Besides your theory that he’s fragile? He is what he is: an adequate defensive catcher who should give you about 15-20 HRs, .275 AVG., .450-470 slugging pct., .330 OBP. Not Johnny Bench, but looking at the marketplace, he’s a pretty good option if you don’t give up a prospect. It doesn’t hurt that he has some history with Rick Peterson.

    I think Omar would prefer Bengie, but as you said we might have to overpay.

  9. isuzudude October 18, 2007 at 1:20 pm
    My main hang-ups with Hernandez are his fragility and his contract. But you’re right. As long as we get approx 110 games from him, and provide him with a solid back-up, the catching situation should improve from the Lo Duca era. And the money he’s owed isn’t really that big of a deal. To me, there’s a large difference between $6 and $8 million, but to the Mets it’s probably chump change. Even so, the extra money spent would provide the Mets with a backstop through at least 2009, and would likely not cost any prospects of any particular value. Perhaps Dan Murphy? As the lineup stands now (counting Alou and Castillo get re-signed), Hernandez would be plugged into the 7-hole behind Delgado and in front of Milledge.

    I guess the more I think of it, with Hernandez possessing edges in age and power, the more I’m starting to think he’d be the best choice to catch in 2008 instead of re-signing Lo Duca. Other than his drive to succeed and familiarity with the pitching staff, what other reasons does Lo Duca offer to pick him over Hernandez? Maybe you guys talked me into changing my mind.

  10. joe October 18, 2007 at 1:45 pm
    This is going to sound like wavering, but …

    If it were me, LoDuca comes back at a cheap contract, unless I can get Posada for less than $27M over two years (probably can’t).

    At the same time, the buzz has been that the Mets are ready and willing to part ways with Paulie, which is why I’ve spent so much time researching other options. So since it isn’t me making the decision, but Minaya and co., I’m trying to think along their line of thought and considering their past moves.

    For example, I simply don’t see Omar going after Gerald Laird, which might be the best plan of action.

    Though I suppose we could start thinking “outside the Omar box” and come up with all kinds of ideas (i.e., Shoppach, Laird, etc.).

  11. isuzudude October 18, 2007 at 2:12 pm
    Why is Laird the best plan of action? I see he was a .224 hitter with 103 K’s in 407 ABs with just 9 HRs in ’07. Perhaps he’s a guy who hasn’t reached his potential yet, but I think a better plan of action would be to obtain a more proven commodity who we don’t have to sit around and wait for them to reach their expectations.

    I expect retortions, but he’s the top-5 catchers I’d realistically ike to see behind home plate for the Mets in ’08:
    1. Hernandez
    2. Molina
    3. Lo Duca
    4. Posada
    5. Ronnie Paulino

  12. joe October 18, 2007 at 3:44 pm
    Laird reminds me of where Michael Barrett was back in 2003 — a guy who lots of people were high on, but had a bad year at the plate, and his stock plummeted to next to nothing.

    Except that Laird is an outstanding defensive catcher with a very strong arm, whereas Barrett was only adequate defensively. Laird is 27 years old, and as you say coming off a poor year in an offensive park. In other words, he’ll come cheap — esp. with Saltalamacchia now ahead of him on the depth chart.

    Laird had a helluva first half in 2006, batting .323, then tapered off and of course had an awful 2007. My guess is he hadn’t learned how to readjust after the AL adjusted to him, or he has a minor mechanical issue. Point is, he has had success in the past with the bat at both the MLB level and in the minors — so the raw skills appear to be there. Todd Hundley had offensive issues for his first few years in the bigs as well, and he turned out to be a potent bat.

    Again, if you can get Laird as cheaply as I think, then it would be worth exploring as at minimum a #2 catcher. His defense would be the best Shea has seen since the Grote days.