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 …