Browsing Archive November, 2007

Ripple Effect on Relief

In the past few days, both Scott Linebrink and Francisco Cordero left Milwaukee to sign massive four-year contracts. Those two signings have significantly affected an already thin market for middle relief, in several ways.

The most obvious, of course, is that those two pitchers are now off the market. Additionally, the Brewers now must find two arms to replace them — certainly they’re not looking at Guillermo Mota as an option to fill either of their roles. At minimum, the Brewers need to find a closer, as it’s doubtful they’ll send Derrick Turnbow to the end of games again. But, there aren’t many closers available — which means they’ll be looking at setup men, quasi-closers, and failed firemen such as Brian Fuentes, Octavio Dotel, and Troy Percival. The demand for those types has a trickle-down effect, and suddenly drives up the value for fringe guys such as Salomon Torres. Whereas two weeks ago a team might have been able to pick up, say, a Dan Wheeler in an under-the-radar deal, now it will likely take a decent prospect to pry him away from the Rays. Not to mention what the Nationals will be asking for Chad Cordero.

Which way will the Mets go? Will they send two top prospects to Washington for the “other” Cordero? Would they give up a Kevin Mulvey for a Fuentes or Wheeler? Will they give the questionable Dotel or Percival an overvalued two-year, $16M deal? Or will Omar’s scouting staff continue to scrape the waiver wire and the winter leagues in search of the next Chad Bradford and Pedro Feliciano? Or will they do something that should have been done six months ago, and tell both Philip Humber and Mike Pelfrey to get used to pitching from the stretch?

Should be interesting to see this develop over the next few weeks.

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Weighing In on Freddy Garcia

So the big “buzz” this weekend is that Omar Minaya is after Freddy Garcia … and most fans look at Garcia as a turkey.

According to the Daily News, Garcia will be shopped at the winter meetings by his agent Peter Greenberg, but may also consider waiting until mid-season to sign with someone.

“If something is right at the winter meetings, maybe he’ll sign or maybe he’ll wait and maybe make more money,” Greenberg said. “He’d be a guy for the second half. Contenders are looking for pitching around that time and you wouldn’t have to trade for it then. If we did a showcase and we reached a deal (next summer), we’d let a team do a physical and do a Roger Clemens, a prorated deal for that season plus any extra years.”

First of all, if there is any interest at all in Garcia in the first week of December, Greenberg would be out of his gourd to wait until June before signing. What that quote is called is “framing” — it is actually the backup (read: desperation) plan in case Garcia gets no offers or is seriously lowballed.

Secondly, I think Omar is being quite smart in calling on Garcia — so long as you take the correct perspective. Let’s call a spade a spade here: Freddy Garcia is a high-risk gamble at this point. He’s coming off surgery for a torn labrum and rotator cuff, and most pitchers do not come back favorably from that type of surgery. Do not be influenced by Pedro’s remarkable recovery and standout performance this past September — he is the exception rather than the rule.

In almost all other cases of pitchers suffering rotator cuff and/or labrum tears, it takes a minimum of 14-18 months to return to the mound, and nearly no one has made a significant career for himself after returning. The most successful so far, in fact, has been our own Orlando Hernandez — and he missed one full season, had a great half season immediately following the surgery, then two and a half seasons of discouraging performance before an outstanding 2007. To get an eye-opening dose of reality when it comes to pitchers coming back from shoulder surgery, check out this chart at Viva El Birdos.

After seeing that chart, and also watching the recoveries (some still in progress) of Brian Lawrence, Aaron Sele, Mark Mulder, Tanyon Sturtze, and Chris Carpenter, for example, and it’s easy to understand why it’s vital for Garcia to take the money in December — he very well may not be throwing off a mound by June. His surgery was performed during the last week of August 2007; to believe that he’ll be able to showcase his talents next June is unbelievably optimistic, and probably unrealistic. Pedro’s rehab was faster than the average bear’s, and he had surgery in October 2006. It took Pedro until June of ’07 to throw off a mound, and was still another month and a half before he was ready for minor league competition. And to reiterate: Pedro was the exception, and shouldn’t be used as the measuring stick. Better to use Mulder or Sturtze as comparisons — Sturtze didn’t throw an MLB pitch all year, and Mulder looked awful in three September starts (addtionally, Mulder had to have another surgery).

At the same time, however, if Minaya can get Garcia on the cheap — and on a two-year (second year being a club option), rather than one-year deal — it turns into a low-risk, high-reward proposition. I say two years because it’s almost a sure thing that the guy won’t be back before August ’08, but will likely be recovered by ’09. In other words, I’d hate to see the Mets pay a guy to rehab, only to see another team reap the benefits. This happened to the Yankees with Octavio Dotel and Jon Lieber, and could happen to the Braves with Sturtze (I know, it couldn’t happen to two better teams, but you can understand my point). And if by chance Garcia does come back by July ’08 and pitches well, you don’t want to have to bid for him for another season.

Personally, I like Garcia as someone to have on the backburner and possibly contribute. It will cost the Mets only money, and cash is their most expendable commodity. Garcia likely won’t make it all the way back soon enough to help, but he might. And he almost certainly won’t return as the near-ace he once was, but he’s always been a tough competitor as well as a guy who knows how to pitch — and those are two things that can’t be taught. Yes, the Mets still need to find a top-of-the-rotation “ace” type of guy, but that’s not what signing Garcia is all about. Look at him as the “Brian Lawrence option” for late 2008 — someone who might be able to step in late in the season and make some spot starts. Now, who would you rather have on the mound in mid-September in the thick of a tight pennant race — a guy like Lawrence, who was NEVER more than mediocre, or a guy like Garcia, who several times was the leading horse on playoff and World Series teams?

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Francisco Cordero Off the Market

Wow … it’s “Black Friday” yet signings seemingly coming out of the blue.

First there was Torii Hunter signing with the Angels in the wee hours of Thanksgiving morning. That was a complete surprise to just about everyone. Hours before Hunter’s contract fell out of the sky, Scott Linebrink signed a 4-year deal with the White Sox. The fact Linebrink signed with the ChiSox wasn’t nearly as shocking as the Hunter deal, but the four years was not predicted.

Now, we hear that closer Francisco Cordero has signed a 4-year, $46M contract with the Cincinnati Reds. Where the heck did that come from? Yes we all knew the Reds have needed a closer — seemingly since John Franco was shipped to Queens — but they also have more glaring holes around the diamond (and on the mound).

All three deals look to me to be way over market value. Torii Hunter received an Ichiro-type of contract, which doesn’t seem to compute — although, Ichiro never went on the open market. Still, $18M for Hunter is Beltran money, Jeter money … is Hunter worth that much?

Similarly, four years and almost twenty million for a setup man coming off a down season — and moving from the NL to the AL — seems irresponsible.

And although we all knew that Cordero was the best reliever on the market (after Mo, whose signing with the Yanks was a foregone conclusion), the fact he’s getting close to Billy Wagner money is insanity. If the Cisco Kid was still in his twenties, then OK. But Cordero is going to be 33 years old a month into the 2008 season, and only three of his nine MLB seasons could be considered dominant. But this is what happens when supply cannot meet demand — borderline talent gets top-tier dollars.

Even though we shouldn’t care about the Wilpons’ money, I’m kind of glad the Mets didn’t outbid the White Sox and the Reds for these relievers — it would have been too much money for too many years for two guys who in my mind are on the way down. They may have been helpful in ’08, but could have quickly turned into a pair of albatrosses — look at how quickly Guillermo Mota and Scott Schoeneweis went from coveted to untradeable.

On a sadder note, the market lost another reliever — but because of death. Lefty Joe Kennedy passed away, early Friday morning, reportedly from either a heart attack or a brain aneurysm. Let’s not comment on this until the facts come out, other than to say rest in peace. A startling, terrible shame to see a 28-year-old athlete die so suddenly, and seemingly without any warning.

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Ultimate Mets Gifts

New York Mets Optical MouseHopefully you have the sense to stay away from the shopping malls today, aka “Black Friday”. It’s a lot easier to sit home, eat cold turkey and stuffing sandwiches, and do your shopping online — dontcha think?

For the Mets fan in your life (or yourself), there are plenty of gifts available right here through the MetsToday Store. I personally hand-picked every one of the items in the store, and will continue to add the most bizarre, interesting, and must-have items for Mets fans big and small.

Today there are two new categories: Mets DVDs and Electronics. Yeah, who knew there were “Mets electronics”, but there are. If you don’t already have a Mets mousepad, well I’m not sure what you’re waiting for. And while you’re at it, get a Mets mouse — pretty cool IMHO. And if you are like me and constantly trying to figure out what channel the Mets game is on — is it SNY, WB, FOX, or somewhere else? — then you might like the Mets schedule watch, which tells you both the Mets schedule and which channel to watch to see the game (yes, it tells time, too).

Browse around the Mets Store for holiday gifts — it’s a lot more fun than fighting for a parking space at the local mall.

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Happy Bird Day !

Mets Tom TurkeyIf I don’t post anything on Thanksgiving, do you promise to stay away from the computer and spend the day with your family feasting?

Unfortunately, I’m not sure I can hold up my end of the bargain …

Seriously though, since we are to give thanks on Thanksgiving, I’m going to do just that:

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for visiting MetsToday and providing your comments throughout the year. Without you (yes, YOU) this whole blog thing is pretty boring, so I thank you greatly for making my fandom more complete.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. Please have a fun, safe, enjoyable holiday!

BTW, if you are over the age of 21 and need to buy a bottle of wine for the holiday, you can check out my wine blog for ideas and last-minute suggestions.

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Hold Up with Hernandez

Many reporters, bloggers, pundits — including myself — keep saying that Omar’s top catching target is Ramon Hernandez, and that the Orioles are only too happy to be shopping him to anyone who will take him off their hands.

However, one of our loyal MetsToday readers has pointed out a significant issue: why would the Orioles do that when they have no one behind him?

Looking at their present 40-man roster, the O’s have one catcher — Ramon Hernandez. The others who played the position in 2007 were J.R. House, Paul Bako, and Alberto Castillo — all of whom are now free agents. House and Castillo played most of the season for AAA Norfolk, with a few games played by non-prospect Ryan Hubele. There was a catcher on their Baseball American “Top Ten Prospects” list — Brandon Snyder at #7 — but he projects as a corner infielder or outfielder and is only 20 years old (in fact, he played 118 games at 1B in A ball in 2007).

So if in fact the Orioles deal Ramon Hernandez, who will catch for them in 2008?

In other words, they’d be in the same situation the Mets were two days ago, except worse — since the Mets did re-sign their fine backup Ramon Castro. Baltimore doesn’t even have a legitimate second stringer at this point, so they’d need to acquire both a starter and a secondary option. As we’ve already seen, there aren’t many good catchers available on the trade market — Gerald Laird and Kelly Shoppach are the best among the “buzz” — and the free agent route looks dim as well. Assuming Jason Kendall signs with the Brewers, the pick of the litter is between Paul LoDuca, Michael Barrett, and Yorvit Torrealba. Barrett requires a compensatory #1 pick — something the perennially rebuilding Orioles likely are not looking to give up. Unless they do something very strange, or land a Laird / Shoppach type youngster, it would appear they have no option but to hold on to Hernandez for now.

Or am I missing something?

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Winter League Update: Gomez Blistering

From the various newsboards reporting on Winter League baseball …

Dominican Winter League

Carlos Gomez, playing for Leones del Escogido, hit a blistering .440 (11-for-25) with a homer, two RBIs and three stolen bases this week.

In the same league, outfielder Miguel Negron went 7-for-18 (.389) with two RBIs this week for the Estrellas de Oriente.

However, LHP Ryan Cullen has surrendered five runs while recording just three outs over his last four appearances.

Venezuelan League

La Guaira reliever Willie Collazo suffered his first loss after surrendering seven runs on eight hits and a walk in 2 2/3 innings of a 16-3 loss to Caracas.

Former Mets Richard Hidalgo and Edgardo Alfonzo combined to hit .462 (18-for-39) with five homers, 15 RBIs and 11 runs scored for Navegantes del Magallanes last week. Hidalgo (.353) is fourth in the league in hitting. The leader, by the way, is Jody Gerut, who leads the league with a .393 batting average, 46 hits, 33 runs scored, a .489 on-base percentage, a .607 slugging percentage and is fifth with 20 RBIs. He may earn himself an ST invite somewhere if he keeps up that hot hitting.

As I find more info on the Mets players in the winter leagues, I’ll pass it on.

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Victor Diaz DFA’d

Victor Diaz hitting for the MetsThe Texas Rangers have designated Victor Diaz for assignment.

Yeah, yeah, I know — he’s old baggage and there likely isn’t any room for him with the Mets. But for some reason he always had a special place in my heart; I think I really wanted him to be the next Kevin Mitchell. Diaz made me look ridiculously foolish when I suggested that he’d beat out Xavier Nady for the rightfield job back in March 2006. (That was a bad spring for me … I lambasted Willie for sticking with Jose Valentin, for giving a roster spot to Endy Chavez, for putting Aaron Heilman in the ‘pen, for letting Brian Bannister take a starting rotation spot … the list goes on and on …)

Interesting that the Rangers would give up so easily on Diaz, who is still only 25 years old and blasted 9 homeruns in just 104 big-league ABs last year. While in the PCL in ’07, he hit another 14 dingers and batted .321 in 271 at-bats. There’s little question the kid can flat-out hit, though he does do a lot of swinging and missing.

If it does turn out that Lastings Milledge or Carlos Gomez gets sent away in a deal for pitching, I wouldn’t mind seeing Diaz picked up on a minor league deal and offered an ST invite. But, it would seem that the Mets are more like “been there, done that, it’s all over” with him.

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