Archive: November 29th, 2007

New Relief Option

While we ponder the previous potentialities of Dotel and Chacon, rest assured the Mets are already on the case — they’ve acquired Brian Stokes from the Rays for cold cash. Yes, THAT Brian Stokes — the one who logged a 2-7 record with a 7.07 ERA in 59 games for Tampa Bay last season, allowing 49 runs and 90 hits in 62 1-3 innings. I know, I know, it’s too exciting to breathe just thinking about it. This deal brings me back to that much-ballyhooed winter evening of December 10, 1985, when Len Berman came on at the end of the channel 9 news to tell us that the Mets had acquired Gary Carter. Despite this remarkable turn of events, I’m fairly sure that Omar Minaya is still pounding the cell phone in search of more relief to tandem with Stokes.

Seriously though, I wouldn’t put too much stock in the Stokes purchase. I’m guessing it was a favor to the Rays, who have a ton of young talent to protect on the 40-man, while the Mets have empty spaces all over the place. Tampa Bay was likely going to release Stokes outright, so instead they get some cash. There’s also the chance that Stokes gets sent back to Tampa Bay at the end of spring training, for “cash considerations” or a player to be named later. And then there is the absolute longshot that the Mets are actually interested in his services. Hey, I never understood their signing of Darren Oliver, Chad Bradford, nor Pedro Feliciano, and all those decisions turned out great (of course, there was also Jose Lima, Jeremi Gonzalez, Mr. Koo …).

Here is the scoop on Stokes from Baseball America, circa January 21, 2007:

“He also missed three months of the 2003 season with a right shoulder strain before having Tommy John surgery in August and sitting out the entire 2004 campaign. Stokes showed a better feel for all of his pitches last year, mixing his 90-mph fastball with a mid-70s curveball and improving changeup. His heavy fastball has natural sink and produces groundballs when he’s at his best. The key to Stokes’ success centers on throwing strikes. He gets in trouble when his fastball rises above the knees because it tends to straighten out, making it much easier to hit. At 27, Stokes is old for a prospect, but his rebuilt arm has relatively low mileage and he’ll be a strong candidate for the back of the Tampa Bay rotation or the bullpen in 2007.”

Well that’s a nice write-up, but the fact of the matter is that Stokes allowed nearly two baserunners per inning in 2007 while filling the back end of the Tampa Bay bullpen. Maybe The Jacket can work his magic and extract something special out of him, who knows. Or maybe the simple move from AL East to the National League will transform him into Jon Adkins. Ah … now we’re getting somewhere. The Mets need some AAA bullpen depth, and Stokes fits the Adkins role — a guy with big league experience who might be almost good enough to eat up some innings, but who will also be happy receiving a check to play baseball, even in the minors. Additionally, Stokes can probably be left off the 40-man roster if necessary … for example, to protect the next Jesus Flores.

Since the Mets gave up nothing but cash, and likely won’t have to worry about him hogging a spot on the roster, I have no qualms about the acquisition. The more the merrier.

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Relief Options

We all know the Mets need pitching, for the beginning, middle, and toward the end of games. And I’m not buying — for a second — Marty Noble’s announcement that “everything is secondary” to upgrading the starting rotation. Maybe that is specifically in regard to the trade market … but even then, I’m not sure; I think there is a possibility that the Mets trade for a better catcher than Johnny Estrada before they trade for an ace starter. While the Mets certainly would be a better club if they could get their hands on a Johan Santana or Danny Haren, I don’t believe that is the end-all and be-all of the winter. Plugging in a decent middle-of-the-rotation guy to fill Tom Glavine’s workload is a priority, yes, but that would NOT be considered an upgrade (more like, a “lateral move”). Additionally, if the Mets go into 2008 with Pedro Martinez as their nominated ace, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world — as long as they fortify the bullpen.

Signing a free-agent reliever is probably the easiest and most effective way to accomplish that task, and the recent buzz is that both Octavio Dotel and Shawn Chacon are interested in the Mets, and that the feeling is mutual. Actually, it’s a little better than “buzz” — it’s a direct quote from agent Dan Horwitz. This is the type of stuff I’m happy to hear.

Go ahead, bash all you want about Dotel’s health and Chacon’s flash-in-the-pan career. But the bottom line is that they are two of maybe three or four attainable relief arms worth pursuing (David Riske and Luis Vizcaino also come to mind) — I’m omitting guys like Troy Percival who prefer and will find a closer job. According to Horwitz, Dotel is interested in setting up, and because of his recent injuries, has no leverage to demand anything beyond a one-year deal. That’s good, because we don’t want another multi-year Mota / Show deal this winter. If healthy, Dotel will be the premier setup man in the NL East. If not, well, that’s a chance you take.

As for Chacon, I think he has more value than meets the eye. Because of his recent string of bloated ERAs, he similarly cannot hold out for some crazy 2- or 3-year deal. He doesn’t appear to have any health issues, and he still throws a good sinker. Ever since saving 35 games in homer-happy Coors Field for the Rockies in 2004, his role has been in constant flux — he’s been closing, setting up, mopping up, playing ROOGY, and starting. Maybe all he needs is a defined role. His issue is that he’s a guy who pitches to contact but also walks too many guys, which suggests one of two issues: either he’s going away from (or has no) plan of attack, or there’s a mechanical problem that precludes him from repeating his delivery. I haven’t seen enough of him to know which is the issue, but I know that Rick Peterson will be all over it and get him pitching more effectively (just give him ten minutes). Chacon is NOT worth slotting into a setup job, but he could be ideal for the “Darren Oliver” role that somehow disappeared when Aaron Sele arrived. He knows how to pitch out of the pen, and he’s been a starter and thus his arm has been through multiple innings. Start him out as the long man and who knows, he might eventually be valuable as an occasional 6th and 7th-inning guy.

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Garza Off the Market

The “buzz” had been suggesting for weeks that the Twins would trade hot pitching prospect Matt Garza to the Tampa Bay Rays for Delmon Young. Well finally, the deal is done, and it looks like a good one for both teams.

The Twins sent Garza, minor leaguer Eduardo Molan, and Jason Bartlett (wasn’t he just part of the Brad Lidge trade? oh no, that was Eric Bruntlett, never mind) to the Rays in exchange for the enigmatic Young, shortstop Brendan Harris, and outfield prospect Jason Pridie. Though Garza is highly rated, he was an excess arm in Minnesota, who was in need of good young bats. In Young they get a potential All-Star, in Harris a starting shortstop with pop, and in Pridie they might have their replacement for Torii Hunter — a centerfielder for the next 5-10 years.

How this effects the Mets? First of all, it puts an end to the Carlos Gomez (or Lastings Milledge) – for – Garza rumors. It also likely eliminates any more talk regarding Johan Santana, because the Twins’ most urgent need were young outfielders ready to step into big league jobs — and that is the one thing the Mets have to offer. Though there is some possibility that the Twins might consider flipping Pridie, I’m not seeing it. So two of the Mets’ most valuable chips in a deal for Santana — Gomez and Milledge — have become moot subjects in trade talks.

At the same time, the exit of Garza might mean the Twins would want to replace him with similarly talented and youthful pitching prospects. Suddenly Philip Humber, Mike Pelfrey, Kevin Mulvey, and Deolis Guerra become more interesting targets — though, a trade for Santana likely would have to include at least three or all of those hurlers. As great as Santana is, do the Mets want to completely empty their cupboard? My guess is no.

I could be wrong, but my guess is that this Garza-Young trade effectively ends any trade talk involving Johan’s transfer to the #7 train.

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