Archive: October 5th, 2007

Gammons: Mets Need a Gamer

I just read on MetsBlog that Peter Gammons thinks the Mets need a “gamer” (I’d link you straight to the column but that’s a “members only” section of ESPN).

Funny … I thought the same thing … LAST YEAR.

If only Omar had been reading MetsToday last winter, maybe the Mets would currently be part of the postseason.

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Mets Coaching Staff Questions

Earlier this week, Omar Minaya made the announcement that Willie Randolph would return as manager of the New York Mets in 2008. How long his leash will be, remains to be seen.

With Willie in place, the next state of affairs is the coaching staff. Who stays, who goes?

The Mets finished the season with this staff:

  • Rick Peterson – Pitching Coach
  • Howard Johnson – Hitting Coach
  • Guy Conti – Bullpen Coach
  • Sandy Alomar – Third-base Coach
  • Rickey Henderson – First-base Coach
  • Jerry Manuel – Bench Coach
  • Tom Nieto – Catching Instructor

Rick Peterson’s job is safe, despite the pitching staff’s sudden implosion in September. Guy Conti is around because Pedro Martinez wants him around — and from what we understand, happens to be a fine guy in the bullpen as well (Billy Wagner didn’t complain about him, so that must mean something). I’m not sure what Tom Nieto does, other than hang out on that scoreboard girder. There were rumors that he worked with Paul LoDuca on his footwork for a week, but last I checked Paulie had a better chance rolling the ball down to second base.

After all the card-playing reports, the fall from grace of Jose Reyes, and other criticisms, I’d venture to guess that the Rickey Henderson Experiment is over. He’ll likely return as a spring training instructor, but doubtful he’ll be on the full-time staff.

Rather than bring back Sandy Alomar, Sr., it will probably make more economical sense to install a solar-powered windmill in the third-base coaching box. Cheaper yet: drive a stick into the ground and attach an arrow at eye-level with the words “go” and “vas”.

Jerry Manuel is an interesting case. I get the feeling he was more an “Omar guy” than handpicked by Willie, but he and Willie appear to hit it off. I could be wrong on both counts.

Which brings us to HoJo, the man who replaced “Willie’s guy” Rick Down. Johnson seemed to have an effect on the team hitting approach — of course, all he had to do was actually suggest an approach. All I ever hear from those associated with the Yankees was that Rick Down was the hardest-working man in baseball and the “genius” behind the Yankees’ “strategy” of being patient at the plate. He may well have had those ideas with the Mets but did an awful job of getting it into the minds of the players — and isn’t that the point of management? You can have the best theories in the world, but if you can’t figure out a way to communicate them, and/or get your underlings to apply them, then what’s your value?

The main reason Howard Johnson’s status is up in the air is because Ranger batting coach and the hitting “guru” of the 21st century, Rudy Jaramillo, may be available. After 13 years in Texas, Jaramillo’s contract ends as of October 31st and he’s hired an agent to see what the market holds. For those unawares of Mr. Jaramillo, he is regarded within the industry as the best hitting coach in MLB. He is to hitters as Dave Duncan and Leo Mazzone are to pitchers.

When asked if he’d like to see Jaramillo return to the Rangers, All-Star shortstop Michael Young responded,

“Absolutely,” Young said. “It’s a no-brainer. He’s meant everything to us — you look at the success his guys have had, it’s incredible.

“He’s meant the world to me. It’s really difficult to find a coach you really believe in, someone you can consider your friend and trust. I know it’s good to have him here.”

If the Mets do indeed bowl over Jaramillo with an offer, what happens to Howard Johnson? One would think that they’d keep him around as a base coach, since he seemed to have the respect of the players. And as some of you have suggested in your emails, it would be nice to see more former Mets on the staff — particularly the ones from World Championship teams (as opposed to the ones caught playing cards in the clubhouse while the team was blowing an NLDS).

Not sure about Lee Mazzilli’s relationship with Willie Randolph, but they were together under Joe Torre. I’d miss his orange-tinged skin and Soprano-like presence on SNY postgame, but maybe Dave Gallagher can borrow Maz’s suits and be a little less boring. The various pundits are making a big deal out of Willie’s lack of control in the clubhouse, and Omar assigning him coaches rather than allowing him to choose. Maybe Maz could be a “Willie guy” and take over at third base or as bench coach. Again, I have no inside info on the Willie – Maz relationship, so it could be a moot point.

Who else from that ’86 team could join the coaching staff? You’d think Gary Carter would be a no-brainer, but his ego is a bit too big for Omar’s britches. He’ll need to wallow in the Florida State League if he wants to continue wearing orange and blue. Wally Backman was manager for the D’backs — for a day — but has had so many off-the-field issues that the Wilpons wouldn’t touch him with a ten-foot pole. His on-camera antics in the “Playing for Peanuts” documentary / reality series couldn’t have helped his cause.

Tim Teufel had been a minor league manager in the Mets’ organization for a few years, but spent this past year heading the Savannah Sand Gnats in the Giants’ system. Also don’t know that he’d have the immediate respect — based on his resume — that a guy like HoJo commands.

It was neat to have Mookie Wilson around for a few years as first-base coach — maybe he’d be interested in returning. Bobby Ojeda was a minor league instructor for several years, but left the organization after the Mets named Rick Peterson pitching coach; he left on sour terms with the Wilpons. One guy I’d LOVE to see back in the Mets dugout is Ray Knight — talk about someone to fire up this squad of the walking dead — but he’s held a long grudge against the organization. For those too young to remember, Knight scored the winning run when the ball went through Buckner’s legs in Game Six, hit the tiebreaking homerun in Game Seven, won the Series MVP, and was then not offered a contract for 1987 — the first WS MVP ever to not return to his team the following season. If you think time heals all wounds, consider that he was one of the few who declined the invitation to be honored at the Mets’ 20th anniversary celebration of the ’86 Champs.

According to Willie Randolph, he and Omar Minaya will be discussing the coaching staff between this week and next, so we may hear more news soon.

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Free Agent Market: Position Players

The Mets will be looking at the free-agent market, for both position players and pitchers. No doubt there will be a trade or two as well.

We can all agree that this is the way things stand for 2008 (if not, let me know in the comments):

C – ?
1B – Carlos Delgado
2B – ?
SS – Jose Reyes
3B – David Wright
LF – Moises Alou (most likely)
CF – Carlos Beltran
RF – Lastings Milledge ?
Bench – Endy Chavez, Carlos Gomez, Ruben Gotay, the rest question marks

We don’t know if the Mets will bring back Paul LoDuca and Luis Castillo. We also don’t know for sure if they’ll re-sign Ramon Castro, Damion Easley, Marlon Anderson, Jose Valentin, David Newhan, Mike DiFelice, Sandy Alomar, or Shawn Green. Jeff Conine is supposedly retiring; Green and Alomar may do the same. The health issues of Castro, Easley, and Valentin make them question marks. Newhan never found a role. We’ll pray Omar isn’t dumb enough to let SuperMarlon leave again. All of these Mets will be addressed in a future post. For now, let’s take a look at the potential free agents, in regard to the question marks above.

Catcher

We went over this the other day; Paul LoDuca looks to be the best free-agent option — and in my mind, that includes Pudge Rodriguez. Next best after Pudge is probably Jason Kendall. Then Michael Barrett — though I’d rather have Castro back than Barrett. Some people like Yorvit Torrealba, but I don’t see him as a starter for a Championship team.

The Mets might make a deal for Ramon Hernandez of the Orioles, who have J.R. House waiting in the wings. Unfortunately, his forte is offense (his defense is only passable), and he hit only .258 with 9 HRs last year. We’d be better off bringing back Mike Piazza … or giving a flyer to Javy Lopez and hoping he can make a miraculous comeback.

Second Base

Luis Castillo is the best free-agent second baseman available, and Omar Minaya said at the time of the deadline deal that Castillo would be pursued over the winter. We know he can play, we don’t know for how long on those knees. He’s supposedly getting them “cleaned out” this winter.

Others on the market include Mark Loretta, Tadahito Iguchi, Kaz Matsui, and you might throw in there shortstop David Eckstein. Slim pickins’. My guess is that the Mets either re-sign Castillo, or make a blockbuster deal for a big bat. Jeff Kent is likely available, but doubtful he’d return based on his first tour. Omar could get creative, and pull off something crazy depending on what Alex Rodriguez does. But don’t count on it — expect to see Castillo.

And no, I sincerely doubt the Mets will be satisfied going into 2008 with Ruben Gotay at the keystone. I’d be OK with it, but it’s clear that Willie and Omar and the rest of management doesn’t think as highly of Gotay as we do here at MetsToday.

Outfield

Two issues here, in the corners. We’re going to presume that Alou returns, but will Endy and Gomez be enough insurance behind him? It might be nice to get another righthanded bat; having Jeff Conine around to play both the outfield and infield corners and come off the bench to pinch-hit was a nice luxury.

And then there’s Lastings Milledge. Are the Mets ready to hand him the rightfield job? Will they trade him now, while his value is still fairly high, for an arm?

Personally, I’d be very happy to see Shawn Green return — though not at the $10M option of course. The Mets will decline that option, but he might be willing to come back at a reduced salary — say, $3.5M — to be a role player. He’d be good insurance behind LMillz, Alou, and Delgado, and a good bat off the bench. But assuming Marlon Anderson is retained, Green probably will be looking elsewhere for employment.

That said, the Mets should be looking for a good righthanded bat — preferably one to play the corner outfield spots as well as first base. Maybe they’ll consider signing a starting corner outfielder too, with the idea of moving Milledge.

The top candidates:

Brady Clark, Jeff DaVanon, Shannon Stewart, Preston Wilson, Reggie Sanders, Jose Guillen, Sammy Sosa, Craig Wilson.

Yikes! Not much to choose from — and these are the better ones available! Guillen has an option for ’08, so he might be crossed off — assuming anyone cares. Sanders is there because he’s a good luck charm. Sosa … let’s hope not. Wilson was a bust with Atlanta; he might be a PED suspect considering his quick downfall. Some readers here keep mentioning Stewart, and though I’m not impressed with him, he looks to be the best outfielder available who fits the Mets’ needs.

I also like Darin Erstad, but like Green his lefthanded bat wouldn’t be needed with Endy aboard and presumably Marlon Anderson. But if Anderson is not retained, he, Eric Hinske, Travis Lee, Rob Mackowiak, or Ryan Klesko might be a nice fit (there are plenty of lefty hitters available, but strangely, few quality RH bats).

Bench

The best lefty bats available are the ones mentioned in the outfield section — but we’re going to hope the Mets bring back Marlon. As for the rest of the bench, the Mets definitely need a catcher, possibly a “supersub”, maybe another bat. My guess is they’ll try to bring back one or more of Castro, DiFelice, Valentin, Easley, and Newhan. The alternatives simply aren’t much more inspiring.

Among my favorites who haven’t yet been mentioned: Robert Fick (who can catch, play first and OF, and has a stick), Tony Graffanino, Luis Gonzalez, Mark Bellhorn (who strikes out too much), Scott Hatteberg (yet another lefty bat).

Like the relief pitching, quality free-agent position players — the ones who fit the Mets’ needs, anyway — are few and far between. My guess is that Omar will take that into consideration when choosing which current Mets to bring back.

Next up: the free agent market in regard to starting pitchers. And it ain’t getting any better.

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How A-Rod Can Affect the Mets

Alex Rodriguez with wife CynthiaIt’s premature to start thinking about the offseason intentions of Alex Rodriguez — from what I understand, the postseason is still happening (when the Mets stop playing, I stop watching). However, it’s fun to dream up “what ifs”.

Presuming A-Rod opts out of his Yankee contract and goes on the free market, there will be a handful of bidders who can afford him. My non-educated guesses:

  • Baltimore Orioles
  • Boston Red Sox
  • New York Yankees
  • Chicago Cubs
  • Los Angeles California Angels of Anaheim, San Jose, Napa Valley, the West Coast in General and the United States

There are probably other teams out there with more cash than we know (San Francisco Giants?), but let’s leave the list as is. What, no Mets? Then why are we wasting our time thinking about A-Rod?

Here’s my thought: a team may need to shed a big salary in order to take on the $35M+ commitment that Alex Rodriguez (and Scott Boras) will demand. There aren’t many other teams with deep enough pockets to take on a big salary, who won’t already be in on the bidding. The Mets likely won’t be bidding, but do have bucks — particularly if Tom Glavine, Paul LoDuca, and several other free-agents come off the books.

That said, some possible scenarios:

Orioles

O’s owner Peter Angelos loves to throw money at big-name free agents, and A-Rod is the cream of all crops. But Miguel Tejada is already at shortstop, already making a bundle, and has been something of a malcontent lately. IF Tejada were willing to move to second base, then either Angelos could send him (and the $25M owed on his contract) to the Mets for pitching and outfield prospects. If Tejada is willing to move to 2B and Angelos decides to keep him, then the O’s need to move Brian Roberts. The Orioles also have a logjam at catcher, with Ramon Hernandez — a guy the Mets coveted two years ago — and up-and-coming J.R. House. Who knows, if Angelos is willing to go on one of his wild, illogical spending sprees, he might be willing to take on the rest of Carlos Delgado’s contract as well. A-Rod or no A-Rod, the Mets and Orioles could be trade partners this winter.

Red Sox

The Bosox originally traded for A-Rod — sending Manny away — until the MLBPA stepped in. My thinking is that they’ll pounce on a second chance to steal Rodriguez away from the Evil Empire — at any cost. They could keep him at third base and let MVP candidate Mike Lowell walk, or keep Lowell and install A-Rod at shortstop — then deal Julio Lugo to the Mets, where he can take over at second base. However, Theo Epstein might have to shed some salary to make room for Rodriguez on the payroll — and send Manny Ramirez Sheaward as well. Manny has one year at $20M left on his deal, plus team options for ’09 and ’10.

It’s a longshot, but the logistics make sense for all involved. The Red Sox have wanted to rid themselves of Manny for years, but couldn’t replace his bat — they can with A-Rod. Having A-Rod means they can justify sending away Manny, which clears a big chunk of payroll in ’08 and removes them from the painful decision of the option years. In addition, one would assume they’d get a up-and-coming outfielder in return — Lastings Milledge? — as well as another useful part.

From the Mets point of view, they get one of the best hitters in MLB as a one-year rental with the option of keeping him around if he behaves (and performs). It would be a gamble, for sure — on many fronts — but Omar Minaya likes to make big splashes. If the Mets can get a second baseman of Lugo’s caliber in the deal as well, even better. There’s no question the Mets are playing for a World Championship in ’08, and pulling the trigger on a Manny deal would be a serious statement toward that goal.

Angels

I don’t see a deal with these guys — nothing matches up. Though, if they wanted to “dump” Vladimir Guerrero and his contract on the Mets, I’m sure Omar would listen.

Yankees

Ain’t gonna happen. With Clemens and Abreu off the books, plus Giambi, Pettitte, Pavano, and Mussina (among others) coming off after ’08, the Yanks have a windfall of cash — enough to afford TWO A-Rods.

Cubs

A real longshot, but you’d have to think that the Cubs would need to dump salary to fit A-Rod into the plans. Would they deal Alfonso Soriano, so early in his contract? Derrek Lee has almost $40M left on his deal, which goes through 2010 — though there is a no-trade clause. Probably nothing brewing here.

Conclusion

Again, this is all very premature … for all we know, the Yankees will re-negotiate an extension on A-Rod’s contract before he tests the waters. This was more for fun, and to spark some debate. What do you think? Are there other teams that I may have missed, that could match up with the Mets in a similar scenario? Do you think the Mets will be affected at all by what Rodriguez decides? Will the METS be a bidder? Post your thoughts.

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