Browsing Archive November, 2006

How Glavine is Screwing the Mets

Tom Glavine screwing the MetsThis hemming and hawing from Tom Glavine has nothing AT ALL to do with indecision, nor family issues, nor any other “personal matters” being spouted in the press. It is a ploy and manipulation by the Braves and Glavine, who are working in cohoots to deny the Mets draft choice compensation.

Today is November 30th. That may mean nothing to you unless you read the new collective bargaining agreement, which (among other things) moved the last day to offer arbitration to December 1st.

Now you know why the Atlanta Braves have not yet offered Tom Glavine a contract … not “officially” anyway. By doing so, and Glavine signing before December 1st, means that the Braves would have to surrender a first-round draft pick, and would also give the Mets a second sandwich pick — because Glavine is one of the nine “Type A” free agents.

That stated, we now understand completely why there has been “indecision” — the Braves would be crazy to sign Glavine before finding out if the Mets will offer arbitration. For all we know, Glavine and the Braves have already agreed to a contract, and are just keeping it hush-hush until after Dec.1. It IS strange that some sources report that the Braves have made an offer, while others say the Braves have yet to make an offer.

Yes, there is a chance that the Mets will offer arbitration to Glavine, to protect themselves, but how do we know there isn’t another “gentlemen’s agreement” between Glavine and the Wilpons?

Don’t bother waiting to hear news from Glavine today, nor tomorrow. Instead, hope that the Mets offer arbitration before 11:59 PM tomorrow. I have a really funny feeling that Glavine’s feelings about his 2007 team will miraculously crystallize on December 2nd or 3rd.


Mets’ Bullpen – A Bridge Too Far

A Bridge Too Far (Collector\'s Edition)It’s almost official — Chad Bradford has submarined the Mets and bolted for Baltimore. Bradford was a major piece of a very strong bullpen that is receding by the day.

Without ChadBrad around, who will clean up the messes Pedro Feliciano gets into? And for that matter, who will warm up next to Feliciano in the fifth inning of every game?

Bradford is the latest bullpen member to leave, following seldom-used Heath Bell, Royce Ring, and Henry Owens. Though those youngsters did not give the Mets much in 2006, any or all three have the skills to offer some value in a Major League bullpen in 2007.

Add to the departures the omission of late-season phenom Guillermo Mota, who, even if he is re-signed, will be ineligible for the first 50 games of 2007.

The Mets have also made it clear that Roberto Hernandez — at the time the focus of the deal that sent Xavier Nady to Pittsburgh — will not be re-signed. Though his performance down the stretch indicated that Bert was not the same pitcher he was in 2005, you would think he might have enough gas to be considered for Bradford’s 6th inning role as a ROOGY. Perhaps the Mets will let him sign elsewhere, then trade Ben Johnson for him around July 31, 2007.

Further, it appears that Darren Oliver will not be a Met in 2007.

So this is who is left from the 2006 bullpen: Billy Wagner, Aaron Heilman, Pedro Feliciano, and, hopefully, Duaner Sanchez. Now consider that Feliciano is next to useless, even as a LOOGY, Sanchez is coming off a major injury, and there’s a possibility that Heilman will either be dealt or moved to the starting rotation, and it looks like the Mets are exactly where they were at this time last year — Billy Wagner as the closer and a whole lot of question marks as to how to bridge the gap to him.

What makes matters worse is it’s looking more and more like the Mets will also be without Tom Glavine — perhaps the only starter in the rotation who could be counted on to go at least six innings every start, and often get into the seventh. Yes, El Duque often gets into the 8th or 9th, but just as often can’t get past the 4th or 5th.

Speaking of the starting rotation, it currently looks like this:

1. Orlando Hernandez
2. John Maine
3. Oliver Perez
4. and 5. Dave Williams? Mike Pelfrey? Philip Humber? Brian Bannister? Jason Vargas? Alay Soler? Victor Zambrano?

This is a very scary group. Yes, there’s a lot of potential with the younger guys, but whether the potential will be filled remains to be seen. And you can applaud the postseason performances of John Maine and Oliver Perez all you want, it doesn’t change the fact that Perez is a game-to-game crapshoot and Maine has trouble getting past the fifth inning. I love and support Maine as much as anyone, but he averaged 4 1/3 innings per start during his playoff heroics. The point being, the “bridge” from the starters to the relievers is looking less like a footbridge and more like the suspension variety.

There’s every indication that Glavine may not return, and even if he does, can we count on his 42-year-old body to once again be a 6-7-inning machine? Regardless of whether he returns, will the Mets be able to obtain Barry Zito, the only worthwhile free-agent starter available (to the East Coast)? If Glavine does jettison to Atlanta, I’d guess the Mets will overpay for Zito, and/or make a major deal for Freddy Garcia or Javy Vazquez. Garcia would be a good fit, as he regularly logs 215-230 innings a year, making all of his starts and going deep into games. Vazquez was a similar pitcher early in his career, but his innings have been diminishing each passing year — while playing in the AL, where the DH eliminates the need to remove pitchers for pinch-hitters.

Some buzz has the Mets chasing Ted Lilly and/or Gil Meche, but neither could be considered an innings-eater. Same goes for Jeff Suppan, who despite his postseason performances, has not topped 200 innings in any of the last three years. The Mets need some workhorses, and it makes more sense to find a real one, rather than overpay for a mediocre 5-inning starter. I’d much rather see the Mets give a chance to Pelfrey, Humber, or even Heilman, than see them dump a load of cash and a four-year albatross contract for someone like Meche. In fact, I’m hoping that Omar pulls one of his under-the-radar moves to sign Tony Armas, Jr. to a one-year flyer. Armas may be a question mark, but no more than the other non-Zitos, and he’ll cost a heckuva lot less.

In any case, Omar is sure to busy for the next few weeks, and there’s no doubt we’ll be seeing a number of new arms coming the Mets’ way before Christmas.


Igawa Watch

There isn’t a whole lot for Mets fans to do today, as there is a bundle of inaction out of Shea. No word from Tom Glavine yet, the annual Manny rumors reportedly don’t include Omar this year, and Chad Bradford is slipping away. About all we can do is sit on our hands and hope that the Mets were the team that bid $25M for Kei Igawa.

Wait? Did we WANT to win that bid?

Of course we did. Consider the following:

1. Kei Igawa is a 27-year-old lefthanded starting pitcher.
2. Igawa’s skills and stats are comparable to, and in some years were better than, Daisuke Matsuzaka’s.
3. Igawa has no negotiating leverage, as his only recourse to accepting a lowball deal is to return to Japan for three more years before becoming a free agent.
4. Scott Boras is not his agent.

If you believe a bevy of Major League scouts, the synopsis is that Kei Igawa projects to be somewhere between Jarrod Washburn and Mark Buehrle against US Big Leaguers. That’s not so bad, especially considering that there’s an outside chance he could be good enough to be a solid #3, and he’s only 27.

The $25M bid might sound outlandish, but in reality it could be right on target, provided the winning team can use the aforementioned negotiation leverage toward a lowball deal — somewhere in the $5M per year vicinity. Offer Igawa a 3-year, $15M contract, and the total cost is three years, forty million. Compare that to what Ted Lilly or Gil Meche will eventually sign for by the end of the winter, and it’s a sound investment.

And don’t give me the argument that Meche and Lilly are “MLB proven commodities” — far from it. Meche was a wunderkind as a 20- and 21-year-old, but has not made any progress since. He’s destined to become, at best, another Steve Trachsel, or, at worse, another Kyle Lohse. Lilly has been anything but consistent in his eight-year career — unless you consider a .500 record every year as being consistent. He’s another Trachsel — 59-58 career record — and will be 31 next year. Between Meche, Lilly, and Igawa, it’s a crapshoot, with Igawa likely costing the least yet owning the most upside — as Lilly and Meche have already proven to be mediocre #5s and Igawa might just be a #3.

We should find out this evening who won the rights to Igawa, and I for one will not be critical if the Mets are the winners — provided they are smart in contract negotiations.

Meantime, all the inaction regarding the pitching staff is making me nuts. As a staunch adversary of the Make Aaron Heilman a Starter movement, I’m wondering how we dish out $850K for Damion Easley but don’t even make a bid on Scott Williamson, who is reportedly about to sign with the Orioles for $900K. To lose out on both Williamson and Chad Bradford to the lowly O’s, not to mention Danys Baez, makes my blood boil. Any of these three guys were perfect, fairly affordable options to fill Heilman’s sacred role in the ‘pen, and allow him to move back to the rotation. But then, I’ve questioned a lot of the Mets’ moves in the past, and soon found egg on my face — so maybe they know more about these three pitchers than I do.


Quick! Bring in the Funk! Sign Chad Bradford!

There’s no question that the market this offseason is insane … it’s not unlike the mind-numbing moves made early in the 21st century, when people like Richard Hidalgo, Javy Vazquez, and Denny Neagle were receiving long-term, $13M per year deals.

The frightening mix of a weakly talented free agent market and highly profitable teams run by overzealous owners and GMs has created a volatile cocktail that is going to have long-term effects throughout MLB. For the short term, it means you have to overpay for bench players and middle relievers. For example, 31-year-old, career .260 hitter Mark DeRosa just received a 3-year / $12M contract, despite never establishing himself as a starting player.

Similarly, the (lack of) wisdom of Peter Angelos is causing quite a ruckus in the market, as he just signed a journeyman middle reliever (Jamie Walker) and the slumping Danys Baez to multi-year contracts for closer-like money. (OK, not Billy Wagner money, but well overpriced even for good setup men.). The O’s next target is Chad Bradford, as Jim Duquette appears to have found the Mets’ 2006 strategy book (I think he bought it on eBay) and plans to build around a strong bullpen.

Before the market for middle relievers gets any crazier, the Mets need to swoop in and sign ChadBrad. He was an integral part of their 2006 success, and with his submarining style there’s no reason to believe he’ll fall far performance-wise. In fact, he might well pitch at a strong level for the next five years. That assumed, it makes sense for the Mets to lock him up for at least two years — which he seems to be looking for — or even three.

If they don’t sign Chad, the Mets will have the following issues:

1. No chance at all for Aaron Heilman to step into the rotation.
2. Weakness in the 6th inning, and a rotation that rarely gets that far.
3. No one for Willie to call on to “bring the funk”, nor “show another look”.
4. No reason to keep Pedro Feliciano around, as there won’t be anyone to clean up the bases-loaded messes he likes to create.

If they keep Chad Bradford, the Mets will have a guy who is good enough to be in the eighth inning setup role, yet use him in the sixth and seventh (assuming Duaner Sanchez returns and Heilman stays in the ‘pen). He’s also one of the few non-closers who can get out of jams effortlessly, forcing DP grounders and weak popups. Those guys are hard to find — most are flamethrowers whose role is to close out the ninth.

Another reason Chad needs to be signed sooner rather than later, is so that the Heilman in the rotation thing can be possible. Many of the supporters of “Start Heilman” movement are well aware that recovering Sanchez minus Chad divided by suspended Mota equals bullpen for Aaron. However, with Bradford proving to be effective enough to use in the 7th, and as a backup to Dirty, the Mets could consider giving Heilman another shot at the rotation — especially if they pick up one more middle guy in the winter meetings. Yes, those of us part of the Movement are likely hoping against hope, but if Chad comes back we’ll have a shred to cling to as Omar heads to Lake Buena Vista, FL.


Omar Minaya is Crazy – and Always Has Been

It’s another slow news day. Most likely, it will be a slow news weekend. As a result, about the only thing we Mets fans can do is ponder the most recent deals — most of which seem confusing or irrelevant — while munching on cold turkey sandwiches.

We touched on this last week, but it bears repeating. Nearly every pundit and fan is having a hard time getting a handle on:

– who are the Jasons — Standridge and Vargas
– what is Ben Johnson going to contribute
– when will Omar stop acquiring AARP card carriers
– where will Barry Zito end up
– why Damion Easley is better than Chris Woodward, or other utilitymen
– how Moises Alou is a more healthy option than Cliff Floyd

Many are also wondering why we’d give up on Royce Ring, who looked to be ready to be a LOOGY, or how we could give up on Henry Owens, who seemed destined to be a dominant setup man or future closer. And we’re split on whether Lastings Milledge should be a New York Met in 2007.

Well, this insanity in the offseason is nothing new. Rewind about ten months, put yourself back in time — no, really, try to get back there, and remember your feelings of the time — and consider the 2005-2006 head-scratching deals:

Nov. 18 – Mike Cameron to San Diego
Seemingly all of MLB is looking for a centerfielder, and we have maybe the second- or third-best fielding CF in the Majors. You’re telling me all we could get is some guy named Xavier Nady, who couldn’t even crack the Padres’ lineup? What was the rush? Why didn’t we wait until we had some real bidders for Cameron? Omar is crazy!

Dec. 8 – Jose Valentin signed to one-year contract.

This guy is going to be 37 by the end of the season, he’s coming off surgery, his knees are shot, he hasn’t played well in four years, and we’re giving him A MILLION BUCKS? Omar is crazy!

Dec. 9 – Julio Franco signed to a two-year contract.

Unbelievable! This guy is going to be 50 years old at the end of the contract! Omar is crazy!

Dec. 19 – Darren Oliver and Pedro Feliciano signed to one-year contracts.
Geez, I know we need lefthanded pitchers, but these guys just take up space. Oliver has never been good anywhere — he can’t even get lefties out — and Feliciano is so bad he was pitching in Japan last year. Besides, we’ve already had Feliciano here, and he stinks. Omar is crazy!

Dec. 23 – Endy Chavez signed to a one-year contract
So THIS is our early Christmas present? Endy Chavez? What’s he gonna do, platoon with that loser we got from the Padres in the Cameron deal? What a waste of a roster spot. Omar is crazy!

Dec. 28 – Chad Bradford signed to a one-year contract.

Why are we wasting our time with this submariner? Jeez, can’t Willie get “the funk” out of his head? Must we go through another year of hearing how Randolph likes to “show a different look”? Didn’t we learn anything from the Shingo Takatsu experiment? Omar is crazy!

Jan 4 – Jae Seo to the Dodgers for two nondescript relief pitchers
(Duaner Sanchez and Steve Schmoll).
What’s going on? We finally developed Seo into a bonafide #3 starter — how many of those are there at his young age — and now we’re trading him for a couple of run-of-the-mill middle relievers? Omar is crazy!

Jan 21 – Kris Benson to Baltimore for Jorge Julio
What are we thinking? Sure, wife Anna pissed off everyone at the Christmas party, and Fred Wilpon no doubt demanded his exile, but couldn’t we get something more than the ultimate flamethrowing enigma Jorge Julio and some non-prospect (John Maine)? Benson’s no star, but he’s a solid #3 … and we already GAVE AWAY Jae Seo — so who is going to start? Omar is crazy!

See, the nonsensical deals are nothing new …. Omar has been crazy all along.

Thank goodness !


Ten Reasons Tom Glavine is a Turkey

Tom Glavine is a turkeyThanksgiving is tomorrow, and the Mets hope for a Tom — as in Glavine — is dwindling by the day.

In fact, Tom is beginning to turn into a turkey, with his inability to commit to either the Mets or the Braves.

Of course, we don’t want to get too hard on Tom — after all, he does promise to make a decision before the Winter Meetings begin. But, it’s a slow news day, and there’s only so much we can write about Jason Vargas and Damion Easley. And, there are good reasons for a Mets fan to be a little annoyed with Mr. Glavine:

1. The complex player-option / team-option negotiated earlier in the season is moot. After all the hemming, hawing, and ballyhoo, these “flexible” options did absolutely nothing to retain the veteran lefthander — and he’s still going to get $3M out of it.

2. Glavine does not want to make a decision without speaking to the Braves first — this made clear by his asking the Mets not to exercise their option (he couldn’t talk to anyone else until that option was declined). Obviously, Glavine has significant interest in returning to the Braves, and it appears likely he will return even if they offer him a below-market contract.

3. Glavine has left $14M on the table. 99.9% of Mets fans won’t see that kind of money in a lifetime — much less receive such a sum for playing baseball — so it’s hard to comprehend his thought process.

4. The family thing is pure hogwash. Glavine has enough cash to put up his wife and children in a swanky Connecticut community from May to October — which he’s done for the last few seasons. They don’t like all the moving around? Good thing Tom’s not in the military! Part of earning an EIGHT-FIGURE salary is making concessions and sacrifices, such as relocation. Is it really so hard on Tom’s family to be forced to live in an enormous house in one of the most upscale areas of the US for six months?

5. It’s Thanksgiving, and El Duque is our Opening Day starter. Yes, I love Orlando Hernandez as much as anyone, but let’s be realistic: if he’s our #1 starter in 2007, it’s going to be a long, long season. While Glavine is no ace himself anymore, having him in the fold would certainly help us feel a bit more secure about things.

6. Though Omar Minaya claims Glavine’s status does not affect his pursuit of obtaining pitchers, it actually does. Sure, Omar will go after, say, Barry Zito with the same aggressiveness regardless of the Glavine situation. However, it’s doubtful he’ll also go after expensive second-tier hurlers — such as Gil Meche, Ted Lilly, or Javy Vazquez — before knowing what Glavine wants to do. The longer the wait, the more pitchers are removed from the market.

7. Consideration of Vicente Padilla, Javy Vazquez, and Freddy Garcia. While Tom is hemming and hawing, all we as fans can do is comtemplate the alternatives. Some sound OK, but the thought of overpaying (in a free-agent contract or trade) for someone like Padilla or Vazquez makes a Mets fan bristle.

8. Visons of Tom in a Brave uniform, winning his 300th game. The anxiety of not knowing where Glavine will be next year conjures nightmares of him on the mound in an Atlanta uniform, flashbulbs popping, fans cheering, and players mobbed around him right after Edgar Renteria fields a routine grounder and tosses over to first to give Glavine his 300th victory. How many more sleepless nights must Mets fans endure?

9. Visions of Tom in a Brave uniform, pitching the Braves to a pennant. If it’s not one nightmare it’s another. Am I the only Mets fan who woke up in the middle of the night, in a cold sweat, after dreaming about John Smoltz and Tom Glavine combining for over 40 victories in leading the Braves to a 98-win, first-place season?

10. Visions of Tom AND Greg Maddux in a Brave uniform, pitching the Braves to a pennant. Dear lord … couldn’t you just see the rumored reunion coming to fruition? Just the thought of Maddux’s smirk, Smoltz’s condescending look, and Glavine’s long sad face together again makes me want to throw up. Maybe it’s time to take sleeping pills …

Thanksgiving can’t come soon enough … and the anxiety has nothing to do with the cranberry sauce, white sales, nor the Cowboys game. Rather, its passing means we’ll finally be closer to closure regarding the Tom Glavine situation, and have a better handle on what the 2007 starting rotation will — or won’t — look like.


Mets and Marlins Deal Again

Last offseason, the Mets and Marlins made a couple of major deals, which brought vital cogs Paul LoDuca and Carlos Delgado to New York. Once again the two NL East rivals have exchanged players, but don’t expect the same impact coming to New York.

The Mets gave up two flamethrowing righthanders — Henry Owens and Matt Lindstrom — in return for two 23-year-old lefties, Jason Vargas and Adam Bostick. At first glance, it looks like a curious deal, as both righthanders can hit triple digits on the radar gun, and look ready to contribute at the Major League level sometime in 2007. However, the more you look at the deal, the more you realize why it was made — on both sides.

First, if he had stayed with the Mets, Henry Owens was going to become the Heath Bell of 2007 — shuttled between AAA and the bigs, and used solely for mop-up duty when with the Mets. Willie Randolph doesn’t need a mopup guy, as he now has Jason Standridge and a host of other arms trying out. As good as Owens might be, he wasn’t getting an opportunity in New York — no more than the also-departed Bell and Royce Ring, anyway. By coming within one game of the World Series, the Mets have reached a new level — and that level does not allow for giving “tweeners” the chance to blossom in the Majors. To play for the Mets in 2007, you must be a seasoned veteran. The Mets would much rather take their chances with a known — albeit only adequate — quantity such as Standridge, than an unknown such as Owens or Lindstrom.

With that in mind, it’s probably safe to say we won’t be seeing Lastings Milledge in a starting role in 2007. That doesn’t mean he’ll be traded, it just means he’s more likely to be in AAA than at Shea next year. Unless, of course, he is hitting near .400 and lighting up the league.

Back to the trade …

By sending Lindstrom and Owens away, the Mets give up two players that were not going to be used in 2007 in return for two players who help minor league depth and who have two or three more years to develop. Vargas, in particular, is a major talent who probably wasn’t ready for MLB last year. Given a year or so to work on his skills and build his confidence, Jason Vargas may well turn into a middle-of-the-rotation starter or a valuable middle reliever. Bostick also has some skills, and could be a factor in the bullpen in 2009.

Meantime, the Marlins are likely to give both Owens and Lindstrom a shot to pitch for the big club. Owens might even have a chance to be their closer, as it seems unlikely that last year’s fireman Joe Borowski will return. Don’t be too surprised if by mid-July 2007 Henry Owens has 20 saves coming out of the Marlins’ pen — and don’t be upset, either, because if he remained in the Mets organization, he’d be toiling away in triple-A.

In the end, it’s a win-win deal for everyone involved. The Marlins get two potential candidates for their 2007 bullpen, the Mets get two lefties to stock their minors, Lindstrom and Owens get their opportunities to prove themselves, and Jason Vargas gets a chance to bounce back from an accelerated development that could have hampered his career.

Now if only the Mets could pry away one more lefthanded starter from the Fish …


The Forgotten Deals

Last winter, Omar Minaya very quietly signed and traded for a number of players “under the radar”. At the times of the deals, hardly anyone noticed — mostly because all the buzz was around the deals for Carlos Delgado, Paul LoDuca, and the pursuit of Billy Wagner.

Those little, seemingly inconsequential deals included some misses — Bret Boone, Jose Lima, and Tike Redman, for example — as well as some major hits, such as Endy Chavez, Jose Valentin, Chad Bradford, Pedro Feliciano, and Darren Oliver. Three of Omar’s moves were loudly criticized by nearly everyone: the 2-year signing of Julio Franco, the Mike Cameron trade, and the exile of Anna Benson (with husband Kris). A year later, would any Met fan or analyst complain about Franco’s presence in the clubhouse, the first half performance of Xavier Nady, the value of using Nady and Jorge Julio to obtain Oliver Perez and Orlando Hernandez, or the impact of John Maine ?

I’ll admit I was one of the people scratching my head and complaining that Omar was out of his mind. Why sign a 47-year-old to a two-year deal? Why trade Mike Cameron for a nobody, when nearly every MLB team was looking for a centerfielder? Why in the world would we give away Kris Benson, a solid 6-inning starter, for Jorge Julio, a guy who lost his closer’s job and was a hair away from being banished to the Mexican League?

One year later, I’m watching Omar assign a precious roster spot to Jason Standridge, an unknown relief pitcher with a career ERA near 6.00. Then I see him trade away two up-and-coming relievers — Royce Ring and Heath Bell — for a so-so reliever and another outfield prospect who couldn’t crack the weak San Diego lineup. Most recently, Omar handed a one-year, $850,000 contract to Damion Easley, a 37-year-old utilityman who was washed up about seven years ago. And there likely are more head-scratchers on the way, between now and the end of the December winter meetings.

This offseason, though, I’m not saying a word, and I’m not second-guessing any move that Omar makes.