Archive: November 1st, 2007

Hot Stove Preview

SI.com has published a “Hot Stove Preview” for the NL East, authored by Nate Silver of Baseball Prospectus.

While the info on the Mets is not groundbreaking for us diehards, the coverage of the other teams in the East is worth making the visit and glossing over.

Some key quotes …

On the Mets:

It’s not like Omar Minaya needs many excuses to be aggressive, and he’ll have several after the Mets’ flop in September. Mets fans will have to hope that youngsters such as Milledge and Fernando Martinez aren’t collateral damage.

On the Phillies:

They have four superstar-caliber talents in Utley, Rollins, Cole Hamels, and Ryan Howard . . . a team with four superstars should be in a position to reach the World Series if they can be league-average everywhere else, and that’s what the Phillies should aim for.

On the Braves:

With a lineup of Johnson/Rowand/Chipper/Teixeira/McCann/Francoeur/Diaz/Escobar and a rotation of Smoltz/Hudson/Glavine/Jurrjens/James, the Braves would quite probably be the best team in the division, and very possibly the best in the National League . . . with the farm system in a relative lull and a host of players like Teixiera and Smoltz all questionable beyond 2008, now is the time to deliver.

On the Nationals:

. . . they need to do a little bit to stock the pantry, while giving fans at Nationals Park more reasons to turn out than the cherry trees in left field. Therefore I’d suggest a revised version of the Tiger Plan, where you’re looking to sign a couple of free agents not so much for 2008 but to set yourself up for 2009 . . . It wouldn’t surprise me if Bowden has a mandate to start behaving like he’s got a big-market team, which is really what the Nationals ought to be in their new ballpark.

On the Marlins:

This is a team that desperately needs to buy back some credibility from its fan base, as well as the politicians of South Florida. Merely making the effort would restore hope and good faith . . . (but) . . . There are no indications that the Marlins are ready to increase payroll. On the other hand, they only have so many assets that they could plausibly sell off. I would guess that . . . somebody would be willing to overpay for Dontrelle Willis . . . My guess is that Willis departs, but that the Marlins aren’t quite ready to move Cabrera, who is set to become a free agent after 2009.

I’d have to agree on most of what Silver has to say. That said, it looks like another three-team race among the Mets, Phillies, and Braves next year — and the offseason moves could have much to do with which team is the perceived favorite.

READ MORE +

Dunn Off the Market

The question of whether Adam Dunn would be a free-agent this winter has been answered: no. The Cincinnati Reds picked up the options on Dunn, catcher Javier Valentin, and first baseman Scott Hatteberg.

However, the Reds declined the option on lefthanded pitcher Eddie Guardado. I’d have to think the Mets would at least mull over the possibility of going after “Everyday Eddie”.

Erstad, Myers Available

Meanwhile, the Chicago White Sox, as expected, declined options on outfielder Darin Erstad and LHP Mike Myers. Scary that they would cut loose Myers on Halloween, don’t you think?

A few years back — before the Carlos Delgado and Beltran days — Erstad was rumored to be coming to the Mets to play either centerfield or first base. I’ve always like him — he’s one of those overachieving, hard-nosed guys — but he’s on the downside of his career, has spent all of it in the AL, and makes Moises Alou seem dependable. All that said, I wouldn’t mind him on the Mets’ bench next year — though I’d rather see Shawn Green return. I doubt either are a possibility.

Myers, however, should definitely be a target. As mentioned a few weeks ago, I like the idea of a submariner — my theory is that they can pitch every day without a loss in effectiveness. It helps that Myers hasn’t been in the NL for five years, so he has the added element of mystery — at least for a while. If the Mets can get him for a cheap one-year deal, or a minor-league contract, I say do it.

More Free Agents

In addition, the following players have become free agents, either by refusing minor league assignment or by declined options: Kris Benson, Mike Lieberthal, Geoff Jenkins, LaTroy Hawkins, Shawn Camp, Ramon Martinez, and Jorge Velandia.

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that the Mets have no interest in reviving the Anna Benson chronicles. However, I imagine the Yankees could be in the mix. Anna does love NYC.

Lieberthal could be a decent backup catcher, though I’d rather have Ramon Castro back. Jenkins could be a lefthanded bat to come off the bench and platoon with Lastings Milledge in right field. However, he strikes out too much and is notoriously streaky. Hawkins is worth thinking about for the bullpen, though his best days are behind him. Camp has never had best days, and likely won’t have best days, but may be worth a minor league flyer. Martinez and Velandia are backup infielders who have no value to the Mets.

Mantei To Return

In another development, former lights-out closer Matt Mantei says he’s healthy and wants to make a comeback. However, he’s hell-bent on pitching for his hometown Detroit Tigers so the Mets can forget about him now. If he is indeed healthy, he could find a job in Tigers’ pen, considering that they just lost flamethrower Joel Zumaya to injury.

Has Anyone Noticed?

Oh, by the way, has anyone noticed that the Pittsburgh Pirates’ manager job has been open for about a month? Take your time, guys, you have all winter to think about it.

READ MORE +

Considering A-Rod

Alex Rodriguez with the New York YankeesI really didn’t want to bring up A-Rod in a conversation that included the Mets. But, it appears that the Mets are at least considering going after the $30M-dollar man — if Omar Minaya’s meeting with David Wright is any indication.

According to Minaya: “I reached out to David and spoke to his representative a little bit,” Minaya said. “With Alex out there, the questions are going to be ‘are the Mets going to be involved?’ I’ve let the representatives know what’s going on and what the thinking is. With a free agent like that, there’s going to be speculation.”

The money shouldn’t be an issue for the Mets. After all, Citi Field promises to bring a windfall of cash, and SNY should grow into a billion-dollar venture before long. And if Buster Olney has the correct facts, MLB.com profits have generated $30M for each team — right there is enough to cover A-Rod’s salary.

Where Rodriguez would play really isn’t an issue, either. You make room for a player of his caliber. Presumably, A-Rod would remain a third baseman and David Wright would change positions — possibly to second base or the outfield. There’s talk he’d move to first base. Not sure why they wouldn’t leave D-Wright where he is, put Rodriguez back to shortstop and move Reyes over to second — Reyes has played there before and did admirably. If the Mets were willing to move Jose for Kaz Matsu, I don’t see why they wouldn’t move him for arguably the best shortstop of all-time. And yes, A-Rod would be at least as good defensively as Reyes at short, if not better.

The issue, rather, is, do we want to see Alex Rodriguez in a Mets uniform?

The last time he was on the market, I had hoped the Mets would at least make a decent offer — though in hindsight I’m glad they signed 17-year-old shortstop Jose Reyes that year instead. This time around, I’m hoping the Mets do not enter the bidding whatsoever, except for the express purpose of driving up the price for someone else.

Can the Mets use a guy in the lineup who is almost certain to hit 45 HRs and drive in 130 runs — in an “off” season? Of course. And though you can say all you want about his greediness, you can’t question his preparation and the way he plays the game. He does everything well, plays as hard as anyone, and produces at a level no one else can match. But in the end, he’s a mercenary.

A-Rod says that he wants to win a World Championship above all else, and he probably believes that’s the truth. The reason he’s leaving the Yankees could be because he doesn’t see them returning to the postseason anytime soon — not with all those young pitchers, the bullpen in a disarray, and the possibility of Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, and Andy Pettitte leaving. At the same time, it’s hard to find another big league team willing to spend $225M+ to almost guarantee that they make the playoffs. Who else has a hands-down better chance to get to the playoffs next year, other than the Yankees? Maybe the Red Sox? By hook or crook, with or without Rodriguez, the “Evil Empire” will do everything in their power to push their team into yet another postseason appearance. So is a World Series ring really his desire, or is it more Kobe Bryant-like? In other words, does A-Rod really want to win a ring on a team where HE is “the man”? After all, on the Yankees, he’d always be second to Derek Jeter in the hearts of the fans and the ink of the media.

Right now, the Mets’ “face” is David Wright. If A-Rod wears orange and blue, that would have to change, immediately. There are already indications that D-Wright would be the one to move to make room. Rodriguez would take not only Wright’s position on the field, but also his position as the face of the franchise. He’ll be on the cover of the media guide, in the Mets commercials, on the SNY opening highlights. It will be A-Rod’s team.

That doesn’t sit well with me as a Mets fan. Not because I want to see David Wright as the face but rather because I don’t want A-Rod as the face. In many ways, Wright is only one of the “faces” — he shares the spotlight with Reyes, and to a lesser degree with the Carloses Beltran and Delgado. There’s room others on Wright’s stage, and in fact there’s no hard indication that it even IS Wright’s stage. Yes he grabs more and more public attention every year but at the same time you still see David’s grin along with a Mets hat, or a Mets jersey, or the NY logo — the team is not lost. If Rodriguez comes on board, the Mets turn into a typical NBA team — it’s all about the superstar first, and the rest of the team comes in second. Someone referred to A-Rod as a “24 and 1” guy, and the tag is apt.

Personally, I hope A-Rod is a non-issue. I don’t care how good he is, I’d rather the Mets take their chances without him. To me, adding A-Rod would completely change the personality of the Mets, and therefore change my view of the team as well. His addition would not excite me in the least — in fact, it would be akin to the day Steve Phillips acquired Roberto Alomar, which was an uneasy feeling of nausea. In fact, I’d likely reconsider my allegiance to the orange and blue.

READ MORE +

Posada Top Target?

Jorge Posada next catcher for the Mets?Bill Madden at the Daily News claims that Jorge Posada is high on the Mets’ wishlist:

“Mets sources say GM Omar Minaya has identified Posada at the top of the team’s list of free agent targets. Like he did with Pedro Martinez before the 2005 season, Minaya might be willing to go above and beyond to secure the rights of a possible Hall of Famer.

If the Mets offer Posada four years – or possibly five – it would leave the Yankees in a difficult spot, as they would be committing more years than they wish to a catcher who will turn 37 next summer.”

Five years? C’mon Bill, what are you smoking? The Mets are not going to offer a five-year deal to ANY catcher over age 30 — unless Johnny Bench comes out of retirement with bionic knees and an undetectable “Bonds” cocktail of HGH+steroids.

Also from Madden’s piece:

“Industry sources are becoming increasingly baffled at the sluggish pace the Yankees have taken with the five-time All-Star catcher. Even though Posada has filed for free agency, the Bombers are in an exclusive 15-day negotiating rights period with the catcher but apparently have not presented an offer since the end of the season.”

Hmm … I imagine those “industry sources” have been living under a rock for the past two weeks. The rest of us have noticed that Yankee management has been a bit, um, busy. While Posada no doubt is high on their list of priorities, I would imagine that 1. firing Joe Torre; 2. hiring his replacement; and 3. the A-Rod situation all were just a wee bit higher on the list. And before they get to Posada, they have to decide whether to exercise the option on Bobby Abreu (I think today is the deadline) and figure out what to do with Mariano Rivera. Yes, I’m sure that Brian Cashman is pretty good at “multitasking”, but I also think his focus has been 100% on the Torre – Girardi – A-Rod issues — there are only 24 hours in a day.

However, if the Yanks do continue to drag their feet, it could help the Mets land Posada. Again, I don’t see any 5-year deals being offered; in fact, I’d be stunned if a 4-year contract was mentioned. My guess is that the Yankees will offer Jorge a very fair two-year contract before November 13th, and he will take it — unless he thinks he can get, and desires, a three-year deal. In that case, he’ll go to the open market, the Mets will make a nice 3-year, $40M offer — maybe throw in a club option for a fourth — and the Yankees will have no choice but to match it. And they will match it — the Yankees will not be outbid by anyone, particularly not by the Mets and especially not for a beloved, longtime Yankee (see: Williams, Bernie, 1998). Then it will be up to Jorge: either retire a Yankee, or be offended by them for not treating him respectfully.

Believe me, I’d love to see Jorge Posada cross over to Flushing. He’ll never hit .340 again, but he can probably be counted on for at least .270-.280 with 20 HR, .450 SLG, and a .370 OBP. That would be plenty of production in the #6 or #7 hole. However, it’s too early to tell if it has a chance of happening. Let’s first see if the Yanks let him get to the open market in two weeks.

READ MORE +

Alou and Easley in 2008

In case you haven’t heard, the Mets have picked up the option on Moises Alou and have re-signed Damion Easley for 2008.

Not really huge news, as picking up Alou’s option was expected — but I for one am happy it’s been done as I can’t imagine going into the winter with holes in both outfield corners. If Alou can give the Mets 100+ games, he’s worth the $7.5M option. If he only appears in 85-90 (he was in 87 last year), then it’s kind of expensive. But hey, the Mets are not going to find a better hitter at that price, with only a one-year commitment, in this market. So I’m fully on board with bringing him back and having Endy Chavez, Carlos Gomez, and/or Lastings Milledge filling out the rest of the innings in left field.

The Easley signing is only mildly surprising. As we’ve reviewed here on MetsToday, there aren’t too many solid righthanded-hitting bench guys available this winter — and few, if any, have Easley’s versatility. Now if the Mets can get Marlon Anderson signed, he and Easley (and Endy) make for a promising bench in 2008.

One must figure that bringing back Easley will affect Jose Valentin, who is a free agent. Valentin still isn’t healthy, and won’t be until just before spring training begins. He wants to continue playing, but there wouldn’t appear to be room on Mets — especially if as expected they sign Luis Castillo and bring back Marlon. Valentin may try to hook on with a team that could give him a shot at semi-regular playing time — maybe the Giants or Reds? Who knows, maybe he can platoon at 3B with Wilson Betemit for the Yankees. Personally, I’ll miss “Stache”, and a part of me hopes there’s a spot for him on the Mets’ bench next season.

With Alou signed on, the main question in the outfield focuses on Lastings Milledge. Has he convinced Mets management that he’s ready to be a full-time rightfielder? Has he convinced other teams that he’ll be an All-Star some day? If the Mets make a significant trade this offseason — and all signs point to that happening — I don’t see how Milledge won’t be included. Even if he’s not traded, I’d have to think that the Mets are considering bringing in a big bat — likely a lefthanded one — as insurance or for a platoon with LMillz. Time will tell.

READ MORE +