Archive: November 14th, 2006

Mets Interested in Dave Roberts?

Photo of Dave Roberts circa 1981According to the NY Post:

“Dave Roberts’ agent, John Boggs, said yesterday that the Mets and 12 other clubs had expressed interest in the left fielder. The 34-year-old hit .293 with two homers and 44 RBIs for the Padres this past season.”

When I first read this, I thought for sure they were talking about inviting David Arthur Roberts, the scrub lefthanded pitcher from the 1981 Mets, to Oldtimer’s Day — or maybe a Mets Fantasy Camp. Roberts might round out a rotation of Craig Swan, Kevin Kobel, Pat Zachry and Charlie Puleo for the Fantasy Mets (and you thought our 2007 rotation was questionable!).

Then I realized that Joel Sherman was talking about Dave Roberts, the ugliest outfielder in MLB history and the man who made “The Steal” in 2004.

Hmm … why would the Mets be interested in THAT Dave Roberts, when they already have a cheaper, younger, and more productive version of Roberts in Endy Chavez?

It’s the kind of blurb that easily gets lost in the middle of a column, ignored by most as simply an agent trying to drum up interest in his client.

Instead of passing it off, let’s examine the possibility that it is indeed true.

There is one reason why Omar Minaya would call John Boggs to express interest in Dave Roberts: the Mets are looking to go with a LF platoon of Roberts and another veteran such as Moises Alou, because, the Mets are working on a trade involving Endy Chavez.

Excellent defensive centerfielders with the ability to provide speed and the potential to lead off are currently a hot commodity. To find this type of player for cheap is next to impossible. Ask the Florida Marlins, who are desperate for a speedy centerfielder who is relatively young and is affordable. The only options are Brian Anderson, Willy Taveras, Chris Duffy, and — Endy Chavez.

Ah, the plot thickens.

Anderson is not necessarily a great target — he hit only .225 in his rookie season. And the White Sox seem more interested in trading one of their veteran pitchers — Freddie Garcia, Mark Buehrle, Javy Vazquez — in return for a bat. Likewise, Willy Taveras is not exactly on the Astros’ trading block, considering that they also are looking for bats and seem fairly happy with Taveras thus far. Duffy might be available, but didn’t exactly set the world on fire last year with his .255 average. That puts Chavez into the mix, as he’s not starting in front of Carlos Beltran and therefore somewhat expendable — and he’s paid a cheap $500,000 salary.

Knowing Omar Minaya, I smell a deal. Could he be ready to send Chavez, Aaron Heilman, Brian Bannister, and perhaps Henry Owens to the Fish for Dontrelle Willis? Or maybe it’s a package of Chavez and Mike Pelfrey or Philip Humber?

Perhaps there’s a three-way deal in the works, involving Chavez and Owens (the Fish need a closer), going to the Marlins, the Marlins sending a bat (Josh Willingham?) to Chicago, and the White Sox sending Garcia to the Mets.

Of course, this is all mere conjecture. Most likely, the little blurb in the Post can be rightfully dismissed as an agent overhyping his client to create a demand that doesn’t exist.

But then, it’s the Hot Stove season, and we don’t have much else to do but make up wild trade possibilities. And, you never know …

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Jose Valentin Re-signed Quickly

The Mets slightly stunned some people by signing Jose Valentin so quickly in the free-agent season, and one must wonder which of two issues caused the immediacy — 1. the November 12th opening of the market for free agents or 2. the apparent loss in the Daisuke Matsuzaka sweepstakes. Or a combination of both?

It’s possible the Mets signed Valentin to avoid a bidding war for the 37-year-old infielder; supposedly there were some teams interested in him as a starting shortstop. Off the top of my head, the only team I can think of would be the Cincinnati Reds, who traded their shortstop as well as half their starting lineup for an injured middle reliever during the 2006 season. However the D-Mat auction might have affected the signing as well, for a number of reasons.

First, the Mets knew what they were bidding — reportedly around $38M — and they also must have had a budgeted number for a D-Mat contract. The Mets might have been banking on being the high bidders, then wrapping up D-Mat for a specific total cost, and planning the rest of their 2007-2008 budget around that investment. A bidding team could plan the dollars out pretty well, considering that D-Mat’s only option is to go back to Japan — something he probably doesn’t want to do, regardless of Scott Boras.

However, by losing out on D-Mat, the Mets’ planned budget goes out the window. While the “plan B” being talked about in the papers is going after Barry Zito, the real secondary plan is more complex.

Put it this way — let’s just for example say that the Mets planned on spending a total of $75M for Matsuzaka ($38M in bid, $37M for a 3-year contract). Knowing that money is earmarked, you now start figuring out what you’re going to spend for a second baseman, a left fielder, another pitcher or two, and various role players. If the Mets planned to spend $75M on D-Mat over three years, they may have also planned to spend $10M over three years for a second baseman, and $25M over three for a leftfielder, for a total of $110M. So maybe they banked on getting, say, Adam Kennedy for 2B and either Carlos Lee or a combination of players (via trade or free agency) to fill left field. Again, this is just an example — the numbers are merely thrown out there for illustration.

But by losing out on D-Mat, the budget and the plans go out the window — assuming the Mets are targeting a big-time starting pitcher (as Matt Cerrone noted, the high bid establishes this assumption). Now, instead of spending $110M over three years for three players, they might need to spend the whole kaboodle on one player — most likely Barry Zito. To adjust the plans, you spread the $110M over five-six years and start looking at short-term solutions for second base and leftfield.

So instead of a 3-year deal for a younger guy like Adam Kennedy or Mark DeRosa, you wrap up Jose Valentin for one year and hope to grab somebody like Mark Loretta on another one-year deal to platoon with him. You do the same with left field — maybe sign Uncle Cliffy and Moises Alou to incentive-laden one-year deals. Rather than locking up a younger player at pitcher, 2B, and LF for several years, you get the ace first, then figure out the rest on a year-to-year basis, always maintaining flexibility (i.e., no long-term deals). Plugging in Valentin immediately means you have at least half of a platoon at either LF or 2B, and also establishes what’s left to spend early — always a valuable advantage.

If that’s indeed the way the Mets are working, then we very well might see Zito at Shea in 2007 (and at CitiField in 2009). However, it’s likely at the expense of spending dollars on youth for 2B and LF. This isn’t such a bad plan, considering that Lastings Milledge or Carlos Gomez may be ready to step into the outfield by 2008, and neither Kennedy nor DeRosa would ever be confused with Ryne Sandberg.

The key to the whole “plan”, of course, is to get Zito, which, considering his agent Scott Boras, may not happen until January. Therefore, it would not be surprising to see the Mets make a few more quick signs of veterans like Loretta, Floyd, Alou, or Ryan Klesko, before the winter meetings in December. By then, they’ll want to concentrate on one target — a starting pitcher — and decide whether they’ll have a shot at Zito or will need to make a trade for a similarly skilled ace.

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