Browsing Archive October, 2008

Hot Stove – First Moves

Wow … didn’t take long for the hot stove to heat up. Let’s quickly rake over the first coals.

Mets Pick Up Option on Carlos Delgado

No surprise here — after his second half, Delgado is a bargain at (gulp) $12M. There’s been speculation that he’d be traded, but I’m not seeing it. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Mets flipped him, and I think it would be the right move, but it’s rare for this organization to sell high. It will be easier to leave him set at first base and spend the winter looking to fix other areas.


Mets Re-Sign Fernando Tatis

Tatis signed with the Mets for a paltry one-year, $1.7M contract. Great move to lock up a fine RH bat with plenty of versatility. While I doubt he’ll ever again hit like he did last July, he nonetheless proved he still has gas in the tank and fire in his belly. He’ll be a top man off the bench — taking the at-bats Damion Easley is likely to leave behind — and provide insurance in the OF corners in the event the Mets don’t find a legitimate slugger this offseason.

Damion Easley Files for Free Agency
Unfortunately, I think there is little chance of my favorite Met returning, particularly with the quick signing of Tatis. Why? Partially due to his age, and partially because I think the Mets are going to bring in a second sacker, one way or the other. That said, his main tool is as a RH bat off the bench, and that will be Tatis’ job. There are enough teams looking for a veteran second baseman this winter for him to find a job, though, so he should land on his feet. He may find himself in Chicago, with the White Sox, the Dodgers, or the Nationals (all of this is pure speculation — I have no inside track).

Oliver Perez Files for Free Agency

No surprise here. Ollie’s going to the highest bidder. If the Mets don’t sign him early, I don’t think they’ll sign him at all. Considering Scott Boras is his agent, an early signing seems unlikely. Bye bye Ollie, it was fun (regards to Mr. Hyde).

Matt Wise Files for Free Agency

Who woke him up and pulled him out of his cave? Wise never stayed healthy for a long enough time to determine his value. Too bad. Watch him move on to the Angels or Diamondbacks and become a decent 7th-inning guy.

Royals Trade Leo Nunez for Mike Jacobs
The semi-annual fire sale is on in Miami! An interesting deal from KC’s point of view, as they flip a middle reliever for a starting first baseman — this deal would suggest that they’ve officially given up on Ryan Shealy. Nunez is only 25, and could step into a setup role for the Fish. Otherwise, it looks like the Royals are selling high, and the Marlins are selling out (yet again).

Chad Cordero is a Free Agent

The Nats cut ties with the reliever, and I can’t believe 24 hours passed without the Mets scheduling a press conference to put a flat-brimmed Mets cap on his head. Is there any other organization where he’ll be as welcome? My bet is on Omar Minaya plunging into the Cordero rehab project, and I like the idea. My guess is he won’t be helpful in 2009, and he may never regain the velocity needed to be a closer, but he has the mentality needed for a reliever and he has age on his side. He may be a valuable middle reliever for the second half.

Ken Macha Hired to be Manager of the Milwaukee Brewers

Ho-hum. The Brew Crew managed to find someone just as boring as Ned Yost. Should be a mildly entertaining puppet show.

65 Players Filed for Free Agency

See the “official” list here. We’ll discuss them here all winter.

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Loewen Pulling an Ankiel

adam_loewen.jpg

No, Adam Loewen is not intentionally straining the ligaments in his ankle. Rather, he is following in the footsteps of Rick Ankiel, and reinventing his pro career as a hitter.

The 6’6″, lefthanded Loewen was a fine hitter in college with a rocket launcher for an arm, but after being drafted by the Orioles, was told to focus on pitching. Why? Well, because Loewen was a 6’6″ lefthander with a rocket launcher for an arm.

He’s still lefthanded, and still 6’6″, but no longer has a rocket launcher attached to the left side of his body. His career path from the mound has been decimated by injuries and inconsistency. He suffered a second stress fracture to his elbow this past season, an injury that would have set him back a minimum of a year. Instead of taking the grueling road back, and in the process seeing his value as a pitcher continue to dwindle, the young Canadian decided to change his job description.

“He has every bit as good a chance of doing what Rick Ankiel did. I wouldn’t bet against him,” said one American League scout who watched both when they were in high school.

“He was very similar to Rick Ankiel in high school, both as a pitcher and as a hitter. Ankiel might have been more advanced pitchability-wise, but Loewen’s weapons were every bit as good. You could probably dream a little more on him.

“As a hitter, Loewen had more raw power, and they were very close in putting the ball in play. They were in the same conversation, the same kind of animal, really.”

At 24 years of age, there’s still time for Loewen to make the transition, though he’ll have to progress quickly. His arm issues all but ended the chance to fulfill the bright promise as a pitcher the Orioles saw when they made him the 4th pick overall in the 2002 draft. In 35 MLB games over parts of three seasons, Loewen posted an 8-8 record with a 5.38 ERA. Even if he were able to come back from the most recent elbow injury, he likely wouldn’t have the velocity that dominated minor league hitters six years ago. So it’s not much of a gamble on his part — more a last-ditch effort to salvage his career as a baseball player.

The gamble, rather, is on the Blue Jays, who swooped in quickly to nab Loewen after the Baltimore birds dropped him from their 40-man nest. And for the Jays, it’s worth the chance. After all, it’s a great story — Canadian boy returns to his home country to chase his dream, against insurmountable odds. Not to mention that he might just be able to pull it off.

“If Adam Loewen was in the amateur draft this year, at 24, would he go in the top five rounds as a hitter? I’d say yes,” said the AL scout. “It’s worth the chance, for sure. I think he could do it.”

Of course, Adam Loewen’s comeback has nothing at all to do with the New York Mets, but it’s the first intriguing story of the Hot Stove Season, and worth watching.

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Bad News, Good News

The bad news is that every media outlet will be spouting about some philthy team down I-95 today. The good news is that the Hot Stove Season has officially begun!

That means we’ll begin discussing:

1. Free agents to bring back, or unleash

2. Free agents to pursue

3. Trades to conjure and debate

4. Rumors to discuss, and dispel

5. Scrap-heap pickups to analyze

6. Prospects to postulate for positions

7. My Bullpen Blueprint, if it’s ever finished

8. and so much more ……

First on the slate, this week’s scrap heap, which includes:

Jose Castillo (FA)
Dave Borkowski (FA)
Chip Ambres (FA)
Jolbert Cabrera (FA)
Tyler Walker (FA)
Francisco Rosario (FA)
Kip Wells (FA)
Kevin Mench (DFA)

And for those who missed it, LHP Adam Loewen was released by the Orioles, only to be picked up by the Blue Jays as an outfielder / first baseman!

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Weathering the Storm

Supposedly there is still baseball being played this month — in Philadelphia no less! Can anyone confirm the rumor? Hard to believe anyone in the Northeast would be attempting to play ball in this cold, wet, windy weather.

david_weathers_met.jpgAnyway … with the typhoon-like conditions and snowfall sweeping through our area, I can’t help but pay attention to the weather. And then think about the weather. And somehow the name David Weathers comes into my mind.

Actually, that’s not entirely true … loyal MetsToday reader and commenter “sincekindergarten” tickled my intellect with this quip:

I saw on MLB Trade Rumors that David Weathers might be available. Yeah, he’s 39, but he might be able to give some counsel to some of the other members of the pen, a la Roberto Hernandez to Aaron Heilman in ’06. A year at, say, $3 mil, with a $3.5 mil option . . . ? Is my brain suffering from some sort of pre-freeze by thinking about getting Weathers again?

Tell you what, either I’m also suffering from pre-freeze, or I agree that Weathers would be a welcome addition to the bullpen. Before the naysayers start screaming “no! he’s old and fat and ugly and he stinks!”, please read on for some reasons this could make sense.

First, we’re not suggesting that Weathers is the end-all, be-all, fixitup solution for the bullpen. It’s a START toward improving the ‘pen. By no means should we believe that bringing in Weathers will be a lights-out setup guy, nor that he is the answer to fill the vacant closer role.

But, now that we’ve mentioned it, there’s one reason to bring him in. Weathers does have closing experience, and was pretty decent in that role. Not great, but decent. Again, not suggesting he should be brought in to close, only suggesting that it can help to have him around as a backup plan. As recently as 2007, he saved 33 games and blew 6.

Further, I like where “sk” is going with the counseling aspect. For the past few years, Billy Wagner was the de facto leader of the bullpen. He won’t be around, and despite what fans may think of his public persona, bottom line is that other relievers went to him for advice and looked to him for leadership. That leadership needs to be replaced, and the tough, cool, no-nonsense, and well-experienced Weathers would be an ideal replacement. In his last tour of duty with the Mets, Weathers had a positive effect in the development of Dan Wheeler. He could be a calming influence and mental guide for youngsters such as Eddie Kunz. His knowledge and preparation would be an asset particularly if the Mets decide to find a closer from within.

In addition, there’s the fact that Weathers can still pitch. As mentioned, he saved 33 games in 2007, and last year he posted a 3.25 ERA, with 19 holds, in 72 games. He has a rubber arm, he and experience pitching in every situation — mopup, setup, closing, you name it. We know he’s not going to panic, and we know he can handle New York. We also know he has some chutzpah, something this club can use a bit more of. He won’t blow anyone away, and he’ll give up hits, but he will throw plenty of strikes — and isn’t that something that was a big issue from Mets relievers last year?

Finally, Weathers should come cheaply. Last year he made $2.75M, and I doubt he’d require a huge raise over that. Perhaps he’ll hold out for a two-year deal, but who will offer that to a 39-year-old righty?

If the Mets can bring him in on a cheap, one-year contract, I say do it — but don’t stop there, make it a first step.

Count me in as a “Weathers man”.

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Hot Stove Preseason Predictions

The World Series is not yet over, but already there are a slew of mixed messages coming from the media in regard to the Mets.

For example, the Mets ARE after Manny, but the Mets are NOT after Manny.The Mets ARE after K-Rod, yet the Mets are NOT after K-Rod. Derek Lowe doesn’t want to play on the East Coast, Derek Lowe’s preference is to sign with Boston. Jake Peavy hates New York, Jake Peavy would agree to go to New York. The Mets will sign a closer, the Mets will trade for a closer, the Mets will fill the closer role from within. Luis Castillo will be traded, Luis Castillo is untradeable.

Welcome to the Hot Stove Preseason!

Here are my vague predictions:

1. The Mets will not get K-Rod, C.C. Sabathia, nor Ben Sheets, but will nonetheless overpay to bring in pitching.

2. The Mets will not have the goods to trade for Matt Holliday, Jake Peavy, Garrett Atkins, nor any other big-name star on the market.

3. The Mets will wind up unloading Luis Castillo for garbage, and eating most of his salary.

4. The Mets will either trade Aaron Heilman for garbage, or announce that he will compete for the closer role.

5. The Mets will fail to protect an MLB-ready position player, and lose him in the Rule 5 draft.

6. If they don’t trade Castillo and sign Orlando Hudson, the Mets will sign Ray Durham to compete with Castillo at 2B.

7. At least one former Expo will be signed as a free agent.

8. The Mets will make a trade with the Dodgers.

9. Brian Fuentes, K-Rod, and Oliver Perez will sign very late — within a few weeks of spring training.

10. If Ollie doesn’t sign with the Mets, he will sign with either the Yankees, Rangers, or a California team.

Please note, I take no responsibility whatsoever if any of these predictions ring true — or false. Most of them are based on pure guesswork. At least one or two have some “inside” substance behind them, but I refuse to say which ones.

More rumors coming soon !

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