If the information posted on MLB.com can be trusted, then the Mets 40-man roster currently numbers 36, broken down as follows:
– 21 pitchers
– 2 catchers
– 7 infielders
– 6 outfielders
So there is room for 4 more players. In addition, it should be noted that Ambiorix Burgos has to be on the 40-man, but will miss the entire season. Once the regular season begins, I believe, he can be put on the 60-day DL, which frees up a spot on the roster (though they might be able to DL him prior to Opening Day, I’m not clear on the rules). Most likely, the Mets will exercise that option in the first week of April and then have the flexibility to either protect an additional prospect or pick up a player who was dropped from another team at the very end of spring training.
For those of us getting antsy about the Mets picking up some arms that are better known than the Stephen Registers and Andy Cavazoses of the world, it may be somewhat calming to look back a year. Back in January 2007, the Mets signed Aaron Sele, Scott Schoeneweis, and Jorge Sosa — as well as utilityman David Newhan — and invited several players to spring training. So, if there are four open spots on the roster, it’s completely plausible to assume that Omar Minaya will be filling them with usable big leaguers in the coming weeks — just as he did last year.
Most likely, those new bodies will come from the shallow (and getting shallower by the day) free agent pool, but Minaya may also pull off a seemingly minor trade or two — remember in 2006 he made January deals that brought Duaner Sanchez, Jorge Julio, and John Maine to the team.
We don’t need to expound on the free agent pitching possibilities — we’ve beaten that one to death. Jon Lieber, Bartolo Colon, Octavio Dotel, Freddy Garcia, etc., all remain on the radar. (By the way, I’m not fond of Akinori Otsuka anymore, and particular not after reading this about his elbow.) But what about trades?
Let’s forget for a moment the Johan Santana talk … it makes my head hurt. Instead, focus on players who may have worn out their welcome and/or may not have a job on their current team due to offseason acquisitions. For example, the Tigers may not have room for Brandon Inge now that they have landed Miguel Cabrera to play 3B — but it’s doubtful the Mets would have any interest in Inge, either. Unless, of course, he was still catching, but he hasn’t done that in a few years. But that’s just an example to get you thinking.
While reading up on the aforementioned Otsuka, I also learned that the Rangers may not have a place for Nelson Cruz and/or Jason Botts, a 27-year-old power-hitting outfielder. The 6’5″, 250-lb Botts has put up big homerun numbers in the minors, and is at a point now where he needs to either win an MLB job or be a AAAA player. Cruz is pretty much in the same place, and was originally signed by the Mets way back in 1998. Cruz also has homerun power — evidenced by his 15 homers in 162 AAA at-bats last season. Either or both of these sluggers could get squeezed out of Texas after the arrivals of Milton Bradley, Josh Hamilton, and David Murphy (acquired in the Eric Gagne trade).
After trading away Lastings Milledge and non-tendering Ben Johnson (who won’t be physically ready to play by spring training), the Mets could use a righthanded hitting outfielder, and either Botts or Cruz could fit in that role — assuming they want Carlos Gomez to get more at-bats in AAA this year. Botts, by the way, is a switch-hitter who can also play 1B; the negative is that he’s about as astute defensively as Adam Dunn, so he may project as a DH. One final thing about the Rangers: they also have an up-and-coming catcher named Taylor Teagarden who is now blocked by Jarrod Saltalamacchia; he’d be a nice throw-in considering the Mets’ lack of catching prospects.
Another team that might have some surplus of interest to the Mets is the Giants, who entered the Hot Stove season with an abundance of young pitching and still have it. After signing Aaron Rowand, they’re no longer looking for an outfielder, but they might have interest in a young infielder — Ruben Gotay or Anderson Hernandez, for example. I still like the idea of LHP Jonathan Sanchez coming east, but it likely will take more than Gotay/Hernandez to land him. On the lower end, middle reliever Randy Messenger might be expendable, not too costly, and possibly helpful in the Mets’ bullpen.
After trading Josh Hamilton for two pitching prospects, and signing Francisco Cordero, the Cincinnati Reds are suddenly flush with arms. Perhaps they’d be open to trading away someone like David Weathers or Todd Coffey, either of which might bolster the Mets’ relief corps.
The Diamondbacks also appear to have an abundance of arms, though I’m not sure whether the Mets have anything of interest to offer. We’d certainly be interested in someone like Brandon Lyon, Juan Cruz, or Yusmeiro Petit.
Surely there are other teams out there, and we’ll continue scanning rosters for possibilities. Post any ideas you have in the comments — we have four spots to fill!