Mike's Mets

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Don't Forget -- Sign the Petition

Visit KeepManny.com, and "Let Manny be Manny"...

...somewhere else.

Drunken Sailor? Don't Think So...

I have just read the latest column by Dayn Perry on the Fox Sports web site. I don't always agree with what he says, but I always find him interesting.

I have to take some exception to his lead in this column that the Mets have gone into "drunken sailor mode". This has become a cliché in baseball circles, and I think it's unfair. This is coming from a Mets fan that doesn't believe in buying a team, and would probably be happier if the team was operating a little differently this winter.

Philosophical differences aside, one thing that I do admire is that Omar Minaya is operating from a solid plan and doing things in a logical manner. That's one thing you could never accuse Steve Phillips of, which makes me much more at ease with Omar's shopping spree. If I don't totally agree with everything done, I do understand what he's doing.

I'm not sure what the rest of the winter holds, so I will reserve my final judgment. Right now, Omar deserves his due. He's earned my respect.

Also, Perry is bringing up that luxury tax loophole, but as Tom Verducci pointed out, the threshold for the tax is $136.5 million -- a figure the Mets are extremely unlikely to reach. (If they do, we will revisit the "drunken sailor" analogy.)

Perry makes some recommendations for the Mets. He wants them to sign catcher Ramon Hernandez -- which we all would love provided he doesn't price himself out of here. The recommendation to keep Matsui as a utility infielder and bring someone else in might be practical if they wind up going the cheaper route for catcher. He wants to make the Kris Benson + prospect trade for Javier Vazquez, I'm not sure I'd give up Benson and a prospect unless the prospect is a grade B. Jacque Jones has been brought up before, and it didn't make sense then and still doesn't. Give Victor Diaz the chance to prove that he can do the job, you'll have Nady as insurance, plus you can always find an OF.

To me, do what you can to upgrade the starting pitching and setup men and then, "play ball!" Dayn Perry reminds me a little of the ex-wife here: too willing to spend someone else's money for things not really needed.

Mets Hot Stove: A Call to Action

Just some interesting items to fill a day without press conferences, and a call to all Mets fans to support their Boston brethren:

ESPN: Omar, Have a Heart
Apparently there is now a grass roots effort underway in Boston to convince Red Sox management to keep Manny Ramirez, including a web site, KeepManny.com. According to the text on the home page:

We here at KEEPMANNY.com do NOT want to see Manny play for anyone else besides the Boston Red Sox. After watching him play in Boston since he arrived via free agency in 2001, we have grown very fond of the quirky and aloof left fielder. We feel it would be an absolute travesty to see him dealt to another team... Whatever your reason for wanting Manny to stay in a Boston Red Sox uniform, we urge you to sign our petition and let your voice be heard.

Hey, I signed, and I recommend that all Met fans that are willing to generously allow the Red Sox to keep Manny do the same.

Daily News: Trying to resign Roberto
I felt somewhat relieved when I read this item by Anthony McCarron today:

The Mets also have made pitcher Roberto Hernandez an offer to return, Minaya said. "It's in their hands," Minaya said. One of Hernandez's reps, Randy Hendricks, wrote in an E-mail, "There is really nothing to comment on at this time."

I was beginning to wonder if the Mets were going to try to bring Hernandez back.

Fox Sports: A look at some of the starting pitching available
We've been hearing that the Mets are looking at upgrading their starting pitching. Ken Rosenthal takes a look at some of the starters still out there. Of interest to Mets fans, Rosenthal opines that a package of Lastings Milledge and Steve Trachsel might land Barry Zito in Queens next year. I find it hard to believe that Billy Beane, dealing from a position of strength, wouldn't ask for more. As much as I'd like to see Milledge at Shea someday, you'd have to jump on this one -- a trade for a still-young pitcher rather than an aging prima donna.

Javier Vazquez is rumored to be on the Mets' wish list, too. If they believe his problems of the last 2 years are strictly mechanical he might be worth a shot, especially if he came fairly cheaply.

Mets.com: Marty answers the mail
One of my favorite features on the Mets' web site is Marty Noble's Mailbag column, where he answers the questions of the great unwashed. Of interest:

  • Noble thinks Anderson Hernandez could supplant Matsui at 2B
  • Marty believes the Mets never had much interest in Alfonso Soriano coming here
  • The Mets do want Roberto Hernandez back in the bullpen, and Aaron Heilman will probably still be here next year.

One of my personal favorites was when a fans asked why Willie Randolph traded Mike Jacobs, and Noble had to explain to him that Willie isn't the GM. Good stuff.

Also on Mets.com: Marty Makes Me Happy
This warms my heart:

...the Mets' reluctance to deal Heilman or Milledge was reinforced Tuesday by members of the club hierarchy as they basked in the glow of the team's signing of closer Billy Wagner. One said neither will be involved in a deal that would import Manny Ramirez, making such an acquisition even less likely. And another expressed confidence the Mets could make the trades they need to make without dealing Heilman or Milledge.

"There's nothing -- no one -- we have in mind that we think will require us to move either [Heilman or Milledge]," another person said. "We think we can make the moves we want without hurting ourselves at other positions."

God bless you, Marty...

Mets Hot Stove: Sorry, No Press Conferences Today

I know, you thought it was going to be a regular occurrence, but I'm sad to report that the Mets have not signed anyone in the last couple of hours.

Newsday: How the Closer Was Won
David Lennon provides an interesting look at the way Omar and the Mets wooed Wagner. After correctly realizing that convincing Wagner's wife that she could be happy in New York was make or break to the deal; Tom Glavine and his wife played a key role in that effort. According to Billy Wagner

We came up here and I think it was a situation that my wife was definitely a little nervous of. I think New York opened up and she really enjoyed it. A lot more than I expected her to. So did Madison Avenue.

Once the Mets had Wagner and his wife convinced they could be happy in New York, and given the fallout of the B.J. Ryan signing, Omar felt it was time to move:

I felt there was a deal to be done here. That's when, as a GM, you've got to have instincts. You could just smell it.

Omar's sense of smell proved accurate, he and Wagner's agent Bean Stringfellow laid their cards on the table, and the rest is history. According to Lennon, one of Omar's first phone calls upon learning of Wagner's acceptance was a voice mail for Pedro, who came to the Mets on faith that Omar would keep his promise to build a better team around him.

New York Times: The Mets' Network
Richard Sandomir looks into the difficulties the Mets will face getting SNY off the ground before it becomes the cash cow Wilpon and company are hoping for. Among the difficulties to be faced:

  • No Cablevison deal. As Sandomir points out, it was the advertising revenue lost by the failure to reach a deal with the notoriously difficult Cablevison that resulted in the YES network operating at a loss in their first year on air.
  • No Satellite Carrier. If your local cable system opts not to carry SNY, you might consider switching to satellite -- if the network can reach a deal with DISH network or DirecTV.
  • Low ratings. Even with their improvement last year the Mets TV ratings were 1/3 of the Yankees' ratings on YES.

Sandomir suggests that if the Mets had a network a few years ago, Mo Vaughn could have had his own cooking show. (Maybe they could have worked one out to combine his 2 big interests -- food and strippers. Nah, I won't touch that one.)

USA Today: A Look Back at the A-Rod Deal
Jorge L. Ortiz looks back at the record deal signed by Alex Rodriguez in 2000, and how the shock waves from that extravagant signing forced baseball executives to reassess the way they built their teams.

ESPN: Nuevo Riche Relievers
At ESPN, Jerry Crasnick looks at the shortage of bullpen help and the big contracts free agent relievers are receiving because of that. He looks in particular at the Cubs' $23 million investment in the twin signings of Scott Eyre and Bobby Howry. Crasnick quotes an AL executive

Howry and Eyre are both risky and overpaid. Look at their track records, and they're all over the map. You can't be confident they'll perform at their 2005 level over the life of those contracts. But when you add Ryan to the mix, he just takes it to a new level of shocking.

Crasnick also points out that the entire world champion Chicago White Sox 6 man bullpen made slightly more than $6 million in base salary this year, which is 2/3 of the yearly salary B.J. Ryan just signed for.

AP: No Place Like Home
If the Manny to the Mets is one soap opera that has become tiresome, how much more so the Washington Nationals' quest for a ballpark and an owner.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Mets Hot Stove: The Wagner Press Conference

Just some quick info on where to find some good reporting on the Wagner press conference:

No Joy In Metsville: Quotes and Audio
Vinny from No Joy In Metsville has quotes and a 13 minute mpeg audio file of the whole press conference.

MetsBlog: Quotes
MetsBlog has quotes from both the press conference and the Mike and the Mad Dog interview afterwards.

Mets.com: More Quotes
On the Mets' web site, Marty Noble has some quotes from the press conference and some speculation on what might be next.

Should the Mets Trade Lasting Milledge for Manny Ramirez?

I apologize -- I fixed a misspelling in Lastings Milledge's first name in the title and created a broken link from search engines.

The page you're looking for is here.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

Tom Verducci on the Mets' Spending Spree

In an interesting article for Sports Illustrated, Tom Verducci takes a detailed look at where the money came from to fund all of Omar's big signings.

He points out that this isn't as big a payroll increase as it might first appear. The payroll is expected to go up to $115 - 120 millions from this year's $101 million payroll. The Mets were third in payroll in 2005 and will remain in third for 2006. They will come nowhere near the 2006 luxury tax threshold of $136.5 million.

Verducci points out that the Mets recovered $30 million in salary they won't be paying Mike Piazza, Braden Looper, Doug Mientkiewicz et al. They made extra money from ballpark revenue in 2005 and expect to do better with an even better team on the field in 2006.

Verducci is one of the best baseball writers around today, and this look inside the business of the Mets is a nice change of pace from what everyone else is doing. A must read for Mets fans.

Mets Hot Stove: Omar, Enough Already

The morning after -- the sweet smell of success combines with a disturbingly stale odor that just... won't... go... away.

NorthJersey.com: Can we talk about something besides Manny?
As I revel in an amazing week for the Mets, Bob Klapisch brings me back down to earth with these sobering words:

Minaya and Sox president Larry Lucchino have agreed to speak face-to-face next week during the winter meetings in Dallas, at which point they'll wrestle with the only remaining obstacle: Who'll pay what percentage of Ramirez's salary? [my emphasis]

Klapisch is talking about a trade that would send Cliff Floyd, Aaron Heilman and Lastings Milledge to the Sox. I still find it hard to believe that the Red Sox want Cliff Floyd, but who knows? The way things are going for Omar lately, I guess nothing would really surprise me.

I've been on record so much against a Milledge for Manny that I'll try to spare regular readers a complete rehash. If you add this contract and this fat body to the mix it's scary to think where this team might be 2 years down the road with a ton of high-priced aging talent with contracts that no one else will want.

Everyone is talking about Omar's creativity. I have a request. Show some creativity here -- resist the urge to add another overpaid mid-30s superstar to the mix and blend in some young up and coming talent instead. The team will be healthier for it now and won't be in salary hell 2 or 3 years down the road. It's not creative to keep making the same types of moves over and over. If you can't get Manny out of your heart, at least wait the Red Sox out on this. It's apparent that no one else really wants him. It's been such a good couple of weeks -- don't ruin it. It is possible to go too far.

Mets.com: What's Next?
Marty Noble takes a look ahead and figures the Mets are finished pursuing the really high profile players. (If only this could be true, I'll take nothing else from Santa.) The Mets will now concentrate on the complimentary parts to fill out their roster.

He cites one source that the Mets might stay away from Ramon Hernandez and Bengie Molina and look for a cheaper option to team with Castro. His thought that the Mets might give Kaz Matsui one more chance at second won't make a lot of fans happy.

Mets Hot Stove: The Billy Wagner / Carlos Delgado Exacta

I've been spending some time this evening checking out various sources on the Wagner signing and the Delgado press conference, and thought I would share some of the interesting ones:

Mets.com: Marty Likes It
I loved Marty Noble's lead to his article on the Met's site:

Buttressed by a bold, five-day power play unmatched in the history of the franchise, the Mets on Monday appear to be the strongest team in the National League East and a significantly stronger entry in the New York baseball market. By agreeing to contract terms with Billy Wagner, the prize in the current free agent market, less than four days after they acquired Carlos Delgado in a trade, the Mets seem ready to compete with any team in their league, on their schedule and in their city.

Noble made the point that by signing the left handed slugger Delgado and the southpaw Wagner the Mets have their most impressive lefty players since Daryl Strawberry and Randy Meyers in 1988, which Marty points out is the last time that the Mets won their division. Speaking of southpaws, Marty quotes Tom Glavine on the acquisition:

No question, Wagner has made us a much better team than we were last year. There's no guarantee, we still have to play, but we have to be pleased with what we have. We made two major deals and did as much as I think we could have done. It's awesome. I'm excited. They put together a game plan, a road map to success, and we followed the map very well. Now I just hope the directions are up-to-date.

Noble also makes the point that the Mets were able to improve themselves while at the same time hurting the Phillies, a team that finished ahead of them in 2005.

MLB.com: A step forward in the Division
In his Baseball Perspectives column on MLB's web site, Mike Bauman applauds what the Mets accomplished today. He also points out that the Wagner signing both weakens the Phillies and strengthens the Mets. He feels that both Delgado and Wagner bring a lot of good things to the table with them:

Delgado and Wagner are distinctly different fellows -- one from Puerto Rico, the other from Virginia -- but they share some traits that are both positive and valuable. They're both solidly among baseball's good guys. They're both honest. They're both bright. Both are proud competitors, but neither is an egomaniac. They'll be good in the clubhouse. They'll be strong in periods of distress. They will add plenty to this club on the field, but over the long haul, their intangible contributions may be just as valuable.

You know, I wasn't thrilled when I heard they were talking with the Marlins about Delgado, but after listening to what Carlos himself had to say today and reading some items like this, it's looking better and better. As for Wagner, there are concerns that he hasn't been a big "money" pitcher in the playoffs, but at the very least he doesn't seem like a guy who will wilt in New York.

Phillies.com: What's their Plan B?
On the Phillies web site, Ken Mandel quotes Phillies GM Pat Gillick on losing Billy Wagner:

We thought we had a very competitive offer on the table. From our standpoint, the average annual value was over $10 million and could have reached a higher number. We think we made a good proposal, but the Mets were willing to go another year and guarantee more money.

Apparently Tom Gordon is the leading choice for the closer role now. Good luck to them.

Newsday: Delgado Happy
David Lennon reports on the press conference, quoting Delgado on coming to the Mets:

This a dream come true. For 11 years, I've never played in a playoff game, never really played in a pennant race. I'm competitive. And if you're competitive, and you don't win, it kind of -- -- . Things didn't work out in Florida. It's time to move on. Here I am. I landed in a good place with a great opportunity, so I think I got lucky that way.

Delgado also says he will follow team policy and stand during any rendition of God Bless America. In fairness, he said this last year, too. The Blue Jays had no policy regarding this, and he said if the team he signed with had a policy, he would follow it.

Also on Newsday: In the "you just can't win" department...
Wallace Matthews calls Delgado to task for...

...agreeing to follow team policy and stand during God Bless America. Damned if he does, and damned if he doesn't. Matthews felt that Delgado's anti-war stance made him "special".

Also on Newsday: It's that Manny guy again...
David Lennon reports that the As are very interested in Lastings Milledge, and Barry Zito is reportedly on the market now that the As signed Esteban Loiza, but the Mets' "first choice" is still to trade Milledge for Manny Ramirez. Yech...

Lennon quotes manger Willie Randolph

We'd love to have Manny Ramirez. That's a no-brainer. Manny's obviously with the Red Sox right now, so I can't speak about that, but who knows? Maybe we're not finished. There's some other people out there still. The more the merrier. Stacking these hitters together just makes everyone that much better, so hopefully, we're not finished.

The way it's been going for the Mets, anything is possible. Someone's got to catch the ball, though, right? Just checking.

New York Times: It's the Omar and Freddie Show
Remember when they used to call him "Freddie Coupon"? Murray Chass reports on the team of Omar Minaya and Cadillac Fred, the fastest checkbook in the east. As Chass points out:

They are a dangerous combination, Minaya's mind and Wilpon's money. Dangerous for the rest of the division, if not the entire league.

Chass also quotes Phillies GM Pat Gillick on his reluctance to do long-term contracts:

A long-term contract sometimes becomes an unhappy situation, because if the player does well, he feels he's underpaid, and if he doesn't do well, the club feels he's overpaid. It doesn't give you any flexibility.

Chass also speculates that Minaya's next move will be Ramirez. I guess everyone is intent on ruining my mood tonight.

FoxSports.com: Kevin Kennedy on Xavier Nady
In an article primarily on the Marlins' fire sale for the Fox Sports web site, Kevin Kennedy discusses how the Mets benefited. I found it of interest that in discussing the Cameron trade Kennedy assessed Nady as "a guy with 35-40 home run potential." This was the first time I read something about Nady that was more than lukewarm, so I thought I'd share it.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Mets Hot Stove: Wagner a Met

I was around all afternoon listening to all the Delgado happenings, then I have to go out for a couple of hours, confident that nothing else big will happen. I go take care of business, on the way home I'm listening to WFAN and almost drive off the road when they announce that Wagner will sign with the Mets as early as tomorrow.

From what I read, the story was originally broken by Ken Rosenthal on FoxSports.com. The deal is worth $43 million over 4 years with a club option for the 5th year, when Wagner will receive his AARP card. The Mets didn't waste any time after B.J.Ryan signed his contract.

I have to admit that I am really impressed with Omar on this. New York was not Wagner's first choice, and Omar did what he had to do to get this done quickly. I'm sure that much of what the Mets are going to do hinged on how much was spent on the closer, now he has a clearer idea on what he can afford to spend.

In an AP story by Roger Blum, Phillies GM Pat Gillick was quoted:

Going to a fourth year as the Mets went to, we didn't feel that comfortable. We were disappointed. At the same time, you can't say you're shocked or surprised that something like this would happen.

In Ken Rosenthal's article he also mentions Juan Encarnacion as a free agent the Mets are pursuing for the RF job. I think he's a decent player, but unless they are looking to move both Victor Diaz and Xavier Nady this would be a somewhat surprising move. Still, nothing would absolutely shock me at this point.

Mets Hot Stove: The Delgado Press Conference

Just some quick Carlos Delgado related stuff:

AP: Delgado will stand for God Bless America
The Associated Press' Ronald Blum quotes the Mets' new first baseman regarding this controversial issue:

I gave him my views on that subject and I also said I would not put myself in front of the team. The Mets have a policy that everybody should stand for God Bless America and I will be there. I will not cause any distractions to the ballclub.

In fairness to Delgado, he has never made a big deal about his feelings as much as others have made a big deal about it for him.

Mets.com: More Delgado
Marty Noble has an article on Delgado featuring some interesting stats, including, "For his career, Delgado has compiled a .290 (172-for-593) average with 50 doubles, 42 home runs, and 129 RBI against National League East opponents."

Metsblog: Delgado Press Conference Coverage on MetsBlog
Matt Cerrone on MetsBlog did what he promised, and has a lot posted on the Delgado press conference (including audio clips) and also the interviews on WFAN of Willie Randolph, Carlos Delgado and Omar Minaya.

Some impressions
I thought Delgado acquitted himself pretty well today, especially when interviewed on Mike and the Mad Dog. He was funny a couple of times and said all the right things. He had an interesting insight on David Wright's hitting style (I believe that was from the press conference -- it's starting to blur). I felt reassured after listening to him that he wasn't coming to New York with a gun to his head.

I found one of Omar's comments interesting. When asked about Nady and Victor Diaz, Omar spoke of the importance and flexibility given by "zero-to-three" players -- and how you can't build a team around just big salaries. Seems like if he makes that trade for Manny he'll have a team that's top-heavy in big salaries. Assuming that Milledge is part of this deal, he will be trading the only position player in the system that's even close to contributing in the major leagues.

One more thing
On Mets.com there is a press release that the Mets have acquired left-handed hitting OF Tike Redman from the Pirates. They could use a left-handed backup OF, and he's a guy that killed them last year.

Mets Hot Stove: Manny Just Won't Go Away

Today Bob Klapisch weighs in that the Manny chase is still alive as we await the early afternoon Delgado press conference.

NorthJersey.com: Klapisch on Manny
Yesterday it was Newsweek's John Heyman, today it's Bob Klapisch telling us the Ramirez deal is not dead. Omar spent the entire Thanksgiving weekend working on this deal, and a NL executive tells Klapisch that the Mets made progress. He cites a Mets official who told him, "We have a shot."

Klapisch quotes an anonymous friend of Manny:

Manny's first choice is still Anaheim, because he feels he could play there without fans bothering him too much. He walked around the malls there and no one noticed him. He liked that.

He's not crazy about New York, but he said he would go there if that was the only way to get out of Boston. [My emphasis] He's just fed up with people bothering him all the time, showing up at his house.

Just out of curiosity, is anyone else out there besides me somewhat less than reassured by these words that bringing Manny here will be a good idea? We're going to give up a great young prospect, plus whatever else Boston pries out of us, and pay a lot of money over the next 3 years to a guy who is willing to come here "if that was the only way to get out of Boston." Crap. Just crap.

Building with speed, youth and defense is out the window now, as the Mets will field a pretty bad defensive team if this deal goes down. We will still have a lot of work to do on the bullpen, and our starting pitching will be good, not great. I try to be fair here, understanding that the Delgado deal was a positive move for the Mets. Getting Manny will create a lot of buzz, but I'm not convinced that it will improve this team significantly. I think that money could be better used elsewhere, and if they have to trade Milledge, I'd rather see him traded for someone younger, or even pitching. I realize I'm probably in the minority of Mets fans with this opinion.

New York Post: Second Base
Switching gears a little, Michael Morrissey discusses the second base situation. He takes a look at free agent Mark Grudzielanek as a potential upgrade for the Mets.

Metsblog: Delgado Press Conference Coverage on MetsBlog
Matt Cerrone on MetsBlog says he "will be posting segments of the press conference a few minutes after they occur", so you'll want to check it out this afternoon. I know I will. The press conference is currently scheduled for 12:30 pm.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Mets Hot Stove: Sunday Brunch at Cafe Omar

We take a look at some of the morning's news items, including the fallout from the B.J. Ryan deal and speculation on who the Mets might pursue next.

Newsday: John Heyman says Omar still wants Manny
John Heyman reports that Omar Minaya will actively pursue Manny Ramirez at the winter meetings. The Red Sox have agreed to talk, and Heyman quotes a source that Omar told, "I'm going for it."

Heyman also shares some interesting morsels about new Met Carlos Delgado. Apparently one of Delgado's first questions upon talking to the Mets was to ask if he was going to be shipped to Boston in a Manny deal. Heyman feels that Delgado is the type of player that will thrive here, which I'm sure all Mets fans hope is the case.

Heyman also reports that the Mets aren't interested in Alfonso Soriano, primarily because Willie Randolph is all too aware of Soriano's flaws. This is starting to become quite the comedy, as one respected journalist tells us that there is no chance that the Mets will still pursue Ramirez while another tells us that Omar still has moist panties over the guy. In one place you here Willie would love to have Soriano and the Mets are pursuing him, in another you hear the opposite. Welcome to the new reality of hot stove baseball, where almost anyone can find something in print that supports their opinion.

For what it's worth, to me the same financial considerations that make a Manny deal difficult for the Mets now argue against making this deal at all. I'm sure Omar can move enough salary to make it possible, but that salary is going to be an albatross around the Mets' neck for the next 3 years -- longer if they extend the contract to get him here. It will seriously hinder their ability to make other deals. As for Soriano, to me you can get by with a good offense/bad defense second baseman in a hitter's park like Texas, or when you have a pitching staff that misses a lot of bats. Neither is the case here. I think he will hurt the Mets in the field, and if they want to keep him they will have to tie up a lot of money in his contract.

Daily News: Braves talking to Wagner
Bill Madden and Anthony McCarron report that Atlanta GM John Schuerholz will be meeting with Billy Wagner's agent this week. (C'mon -- you didn't really think signing Wagner would be a slam dunk, did you?) They could use some of the money made available to them when Larry Jones restructured his contract. It still seems unlikely they would go as high as it will take to land Wagner, but it does muddy things up a little.

Madden and McCarron also report that the Mets are pursuing the incredibly mediocre Jose Valentin for a utility spot on the roster. I'm getting tingly over this...

New York Post: The fallout from the Wagner signing
Michael Morrissey reports on the increased leverage given to Wagner and his agent by Ryan's historic deal with the Jays. It seems more likely that Wagner might receive an attainable fifth year option, and certainly ups the money that will be required. Plus, agent Bean Stringfellow characterized the Phillies latest offer as "very competitive" with what the Mets offered. Expect this to drag on now well into December, unless someone completely blows Wagner away in a similar manner to what the Blue Jays did with Ryan.

Morrissey also reports that the Mets have "cooled" on signing Rafael Furcal, and have some interest in 2B Mark Grudzielanek. I find it extremely unlikely that the Mets will do anything at 2B until the closer and catcher slots are filled.

Buster Olney: The Jays' side of the deal
On ESPN.com, Buster Olney looks at the Ryan deal from the Blue Jays' point of view, pointing out that the Jays are in the same place the Mets were last winter -- needing to overpay to make a splash and convince other free agents like A.J. Burnett that they are serious. (Hey, are they only going after pitchers that use initials instead of a first name?)

They could have waited for Wagner to sign and then watch someone else scoop up Ryan, but instead they shook up baseball. It sucks if you're a Mets fan, but I can't really blame them. They're taking a risk, too. If Ryan blows up that contract will kill them.

The Delgado Trade: An Opinion

I've taken some extra time to put together a full opinion on this trade. I wanted to avoid any type of knee jerk reaction and come up with something resembling an intelligent judgment.

Despite the fact that I really liked all 3 young players the Mets shipped out, I can't kill Omar on this deal. The Mets feel that they need to put together a team to win now, and from that standpoint this was a good step, especially since it is now clear that Delgado has no problem coming here. Delgado is still a very productive player, and plays a position (first base) that doesn't beat up an older player as much as most.

We can argue the point as to whether the Mets should be so committed to winning now. My preference would be for them to go slower and target a year or two down the road as the "win now" season. I worry that undo haste on their part will lead to more mistakes, a scenario that has played out all too often over the years for the Mets. But as a fan, I understand that the Mets are under absolutely no obligation to do the things that would make me happy. I have to put aside my personal preference and judge this trade for what it is.

The Mets gave up a promising player in Mike Jacobs, but they wouldn't have a position for him if they were able to get Delgado for someone else. They also gave up Yusmeiro Petit, their top pitching prospect and rated the #2 overall prospect in the system by Baseball America. That certainly is a loss, but in giving up Petit Mets' GM Omar Minaya was dealing from what is the only real position of strength in the Mets farm system. 4 of the remaining 8 players in BA's top 10 (Jacobs was #4) are right-handed pitchers, and 2005 top draft pick Mike Pelfrey will immediately make the top 10 once they sign him. Grant Psomas is a nice young player, but projects as a utility guy in the majors.

From a solid baseball point of view, this wasn't an excessive amount to give up for a player of Delgado's caliber. I don't really buy the argument that the Marlins would have taken less for Delgado; maybe they would have if trading him to a team outside the division, but not to the Mets. They would have alienated their fan base even more if there was a perception that they just gave Delgado away to a team in their division. And remember, the Mets received one of the top left handed power hitters in baseball, not just some 20 HR, 80 RBI run of the mill first baseman.

The Mets offense has improved far beyond the bare numbers Carlos Delgado can contribute. Having Delgado on this team should take a lot of pressure off Carlos Beltran. David Wright will no longer be the only bat protecting Cliff Floyd, who will no longer have to bat cleanup. Victor Diaz will have the opportunity to take control of the right field job with few expectations and away from the glare of the spotlight.

I can understand the feelings of Mets fans that weren't happy with the deal. The Mets farm system is not deep in talent as it is, and to give up 2 of their top prospects took a big chunk out of it. In addition, many of us feel the Mets place little value on their farm system, and are unwilling to show the patience it takes to develop their own talent. A legitimate concern, indeed, but that's an issue for another day.

On the merits of this deal, Omar did a really solid job. He got something the Mets really needed and did not give up anything that he could not afford to give up. In my opinion, to say differently is just unfair.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Ken Rosenthal Hates the B.J. Ryan Signing

Writing on FoxSports.com, Ken Rosenthal doesn't mince words:

On the list of bad contracts, this one would rank among the worst. Five years, $47 million for left-hander B.J. Ryan, a free-agent reliever who has been a closer for exactly one season and never pitched in a late-season pennant race.

Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi and club president Paul Godfrey would not confirm the signing Saturday night, perhaps sensing that they're about to be fitted for industry dunce caps.

C'mon Ken, don't be shy. Let us know how you really feel.

Rosenthal points out that this would be the largest contract ever give to a reliever. He also points out that a fourth year is almost inevitable for Billy Wagner now -- maybe even a fifth year option. Of course, it gets the Mets off the hook a little for the Benson contract for last year:

Ryan's contract would dwarf last year's market-buster — the three-year, $22.5 million gift that the Mets awarded right-hander Kris Benson. That deal merely elevated salaries for other mediocre starting pitchers.

Ouch... Rosenthal goes on to point out that this contract will not only raise the market for other closers, but for just about everyone. Omar's move to sign Delgado quickly looks better and better in that regard. In fairness to the Blue Jays, who hope to compete in the AL East, they probably got tired of large market teams divvying up the top free agents and trying to scrape by on what was left.

It just keeps getting more interesting, doesn't it. It will be intriguing to hear what Wagner's agent Bean Stringfellow has to say about this.

Mets Hot Stove: Plan B Signs with the Blue Jays

B.J. Ryan is close to signing a 5 year deal with the Blue Jays, and suddenly it doesn't seem quite so certain that Wagner will sign with the Mets soon. Meanwhile, Omar makes the unusual move of offering contracts to both Bengie Molina and Roberto Hernandez on the same day.

AP: 5 Year Deal for Ryan
Ronald Blum reports for the Associated Press that the Toronto Blue Jays and closer B.J. Ryan have come to a preliminary agreement on a 5 year, $47 million deal. Other places have them close to an agreement, but not quite there yet. Since Ryan is Plan B for both the Mets and the Phillies, this should certainly intensify the negotiations with Wagner, as well as driving his price up. With Thome gone, the Phillies should certainly have some more money available to throw at Wagner.

There has been some speculation that Wagner might sign with the Mets as early as the beginning of next week, but with this development you would think Wagner would be more patient. Credit to Toronto, who decided they weren't just going to sit around and wait for whoever was left after the other teams took the players that they wanted.

Daily News: 2 Offers, 1 Job
Anthony McCarron reports on the unusual double offer that Omar Minaya has made to free agent catchers Bengie Molina and Roberto Hernandez. The deals are both 3 year packages for $5-6 million per year. Minaya says that he let both catchers know what he is doing and indicated that he expected further negotiating, i.e. both deals are preliminary.

It's certainly an unusual move on Omar's part. It's usually the player and his agent playing more than one club against each other. This has the look of the opposite. Of course, there are suitors besides the Mets for both players.

One of Molina's representatives, Alan Nero, is quoted that Molina is truly interested in playing for the Mets, given the right deal, of course:

Bengie really likes the pitching staff. He's interested in catching Pedro.

Mets.com: More on the catchers
At the Mets' official web site, Marty Noble reports on the double offer, stating the opinion that the signing of Delgado and the possible signing of Billy Wagner would make the Mets more attractive to them. Noble also states the Mets' preference would be Hernandez, with concerns over Molina's conditioning.

Noble reports that Minaya assured reporters that the Mets do have a budget, although he neglected to provide a dollar figure to them. It's probably not wise to let everyone else in baseball know exactly what you plan to do. Omar also actually acknowledged that shedding Cameron's contract put the Mets in a better position to sign Delgado. We're shocked by this revelation.

Newsday: Salary Clearing Options
Ken Davidoff, in a story primarily about the offers to Molina and Hernandez, also talks about other deals the Mets can pursue, especially if they shed more salary. He quotes Minaya that, "there are clubs interested in our guys who make money." Davidoff mentions Steve Trachsel and Kris Benson as two possible candidates. This is interesting, as Benson has been primarily mentioned as being traded for Arizona pitcher Javier Vazquez, which would actually increase payroll for the Mets.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Mets Hot Stove: 2 Interesting Tidbits

A couple of interesting articles I found since posting the morning news:

AP: Some clarification from Omar
In an Associated Press update on Omar's noon conference call, Omar made it clear that he made an offer both to Bengie Molina and Ramon Hernandez. In my previous posting, I had the impression from a George King article in the Post that an offer was only made to Molina. According to Omar:

I was honest. I let them know I have two offers out there. They're both very good catchers. We might possibly go the trade route, also.

This seems a wise decision on Omar's part. Both of these catchers will probably be really expensive, maybe even overpriced. It's smart for him to keep his options open and not make a strong commitment to either one, which would only drive the price up higher.

Omar also refuses to rule out obtaining Manny Ramirez from Boston. I'd be surprised if they made this move unless the Red Sox were willing to eat a lot of contract, in which case it would cost the Mets maximum in talent. I don't know if the Mets will get Manny, but I wouldn't be surprised to see them pick up one more right handed power bat to complete their lineup.

Baseball America: Trade Analysis
Jim Callis of BA weighs in on both the Delgado and Cameron trades, among others. He offers opinions on all 3 prospects the Mets gave up, including:

  • Yusmeiro Petit: "Petit's command and deception, more than sheer stuff, give batters fits."

  • Mike Jacobs: "He's a left-handed pull hitter with power, though it remains to be seen if big-league pitchers will exploit his lack of plate discipline."

  • Grant Psomas: "A gap hitter with some pull power, he understands the strike zone but is still working on pitch recognition. He's an average defender with some arm strength."

Callis also offers the following on Xavier Nady:

Power is his best tool and nothing else in his game stands out as a plus. His long swing has led to strikeouts and mediocre batting averages, and his speed and defense (at both first base and the outfield corners) are just so-so.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but, as Callis says, "Nady doesn't seem like a tremendous return for Cameron... but the Mets couldn't play Cameron at his best position and will use the savings on his contract to pursue free agents this offseason." This basically is the entire supporting argument for this deal.

Mets Hot Stove: Delgado Trade Official

It's official, the Mets have a new cleanup hitter:

Newsday: Done Deal
Ken Davidoff, among others, reports that the Mets' new cleanup hitter is now officially a member of the Flushing nine. In addition to 1B Mike Jacobs and top pitching prospect Yusmeiro Petit, 23 year old 3B Grant Psomas will go to the Marlins.

For those of you that are interested, Psomas is the Mets' #27 prospect according to the Mets Inside Pitch web site. Here is what they have to say about him:

The former shortstop has become one of the better defensive third base prospects in the system. Psomas, who makes good contact, has very good power as well. He doesn't project to be an elite third base prospect, but his overall ability is very solid. Psomas projects to be a Chase Lambin type as a super-sub coming off the bench. He can play second base in a pinch and his hustle on the field and leadership in the clubhouse is truly fantastic.

Inside Pitch requires a paid subscription to read most of what's on the site. During the long weekend they are offering a free preview of all their content. Definitely worth checking out.

Daily News: Forgive and Forget
Adam Rubin offers some welcome news for Mets fans; Carlos Delgado seems to be looking forward to plaing in New York. Rubin quotes Delgado from an interview in a Spanish language newspaper:

What happened last year is behind... The reason I went to Miami was an opportunity to win. Eleven years I was in Toronto finishing third and fourth. The Marlins were not willing to invest the money to improve the team.

Delgado is also quoted as to whether he is worried about playing in Queens, which the paper described as a graveyard for Puerto Rican ballplayers:

I am going with a positive attitude and the best spirit to do my work... I am going to play ball, and to play hard all the time... I am going to try to do the best possible, regardless of what happens.

It still remains to be seen what happens with the fans if Delgado gets off to a slow start in New York, but he seems to have a decent attitude about coming here, and that's going to help a lot. The concern that Delgado would be bitter about coming here has been alleviated. Now if his agent will keep quiet we'll be doing something.

New York Post: An Offer to Molina
In the Post, George King reports that the Mets are close to making an offer to free agent catcher Bengie Molina, which could happens as early as today. This has come as a surprise to many, as it was generally felt that Ramon Hernandez would be the Mets' number one target. There are also concerns about Molina's weight and his age.

Also in the Post: Keith Hernandez leading candidate for the color job
Andrew Marchand is reporting that Keith Hernandez is "moving closer" to being named as the lead analyst on the Mets' telecasts on SportsNet New York. After scaring me by interviewing Don Sutton for the job, this is really welcome news.

Mets Geek: Doing Things the Brave Way
Andrew Hintz offers the opinion that Mets fans who wish the Mets would operate more like the Braves are missing the point.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Mets Hot Stove: Delgado - The Morning After

Mets Hot Stove: Delgado - The Morning After The reaction to the Carlos Delgado trade is coming in fast and furious:

NorthJersey.com: Woodward on Delgado
Steve Popper reassures us that Delgado wants to come to New York:

According to one Mets official, Delgado is now excited to be headed to New York, realizing that his hopes of a World Series were not going to be realized in Florida. There, the roster is being stripped of salary and talent.
Popper also quotes Chris Woodward, who played with Delgado in Toronto:

He's the best hitter I've ever played with. I don't think any team wouldn't want to have him. He has a knack for getting runners in, whether it's a base hit or a three-run home run. He comes up big. When he's on fire, I've never seen anybody that can carry a team like he can.

He's going to love New York. He never played in a market like that, but he was definitely 'Mr. Toronto.' He'll love it and people will love to watch him play.

Also on NorthJersey.com: Klap: Soriano might be next
Bob Klapisch feels that Alfonso Soriano might be Omar's next target. Personally, I'm just not that thrilled about Soriano, especially considering what the Mets would have to give up to get him. I've said previously that, although I am against it, a very solid argument could be made to trade Lastings Milledge for Manny; I don't believe the same could be said for Soriano. I'd be really disappointed in Omar if this one happened. For more on this, please see my opinion on Manny for Milledge. Multiply it by 10 for Soriano.

Newsday: Delgado trade means Manny unlikely
Ken Davidoff reports that a Ramirez trade is unlikely after the Mets made this one:

Given Minaya's lust for big names, it's not inconceivable that the GM could continue to investigate a Ramirez trade. But one official familiar with the Mets' plans said that the Delgado acquisition "pretty much" eliminates the 2004 World Series Most Valuable Player from the club's radar screen.

"The price would have to drop dramatically," the official said. "And something else would have to be moved," to make room for Ramirez financially.

The Mets do not see Texas second baseman Alfonso Soriano as a fit for their club. [my emphasis] With Delgado on board, they can boast of an imposing top of the lineup featuring Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, David Wright, Delgado and Cliff Floyd. And they can try the inexperienced Xavier Nady, acquired from the Padres for Mike Cameron, in rightfield.

This Soriano thing is interesting, in that the more you read around you find opinions that he's next on Omar's list and opinions like the above.

Also on Newsday: Wagner on Delgado
Ken Davidoff and David Lennon report on Billy Wagner's reaction to the Delgado pickup.

Also on Newsday: Player Opinions on Delgado
David Lennon gives us quotes from Tom Glavine and David Wright on the deal.

Daily News: More Delgado
Count the News' Adam Rubin as one that doesn't think either Soriano or Manny are coming:

As a result, the Mets have ruled out pursuing Alfonso Soriano, a person familiar with the team's thinking said. Landing Manny Ramirez also is unlikely, though a team insider suggested a significant drop in Boston's asking price coupled with a trade to free up salary could cause that to be revisited.

Rubin also quotes Delgado's agent, the infamous David Sloan on the deal:

Whatever happened last year was a matter of the way negotiations go. One thing I would like to clear up: Last year had nothing to do with not wanting to play with the Mets. Carlos felt in '05 the Marlins offered him the best opportunity to play in the World Series. That being said, in '06 the Mets will offer the best opportunity to play in the World Series. That was it, plain and simple. It had nothing to do with him not liking New York. He has family in New York. He loves the city and the people.

Rubin also reports on a possible trade with the Diamondbacks that would bring in pitcher Javier Vasquez in return for Kris Benson and Brian Bannister. Bannister became the Mets' top pitching prospect once Petit was dealt. On the plus side, he's the only pitching prospect left in the system that is far enough advanced to potentially be able to pitch in NY in the event of an injury. On the minus, Bannister is not projected as a potential elite major leaguer. Vasquez is a better pitcher than Benson, but he has problems, especially with the long ball. He also makes a lot more money. I'm honestly still on the fence on this.

Also in Daily News: Wagner
Adam Rubin quotes Billy Wagner who criticizes the Phillies and praises the Mets. Okay, then Billy, why don't you just sign with us, then?

Happy Thanksgiving
Again, have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Is Soriano next? Will they still get Manny? Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Mets Hot Stove: Delgado Reaction and Opinion

Considering the holiday weekend that's looming, there has been a lot of interesting reaction to this trade. I'm going to try hard here to give a decent range of opinion and not just list the ones that are closest to mine.

I linked to Buster Olney's column in my earlier posting. I stated that I thought it offered some food for thought, although I thought it was unfair in that the Mets were getting $7 million back and if the Marlins were inclined to give away Delgado, it wouldn't be to the Mets.

Mike from The Metropolitans had a different take in Douchebag Extraordinaire and the follow-up Further Clarification.

Vinny from No Joy in Metsille in a post titled Enough Already has an answer to the whole God Bless America controversy. I started to write something myself about this today, bur read this and realized I couldn't say it any better. So many people have attacked Delgado over this, many of them not even bothering to find out what the whole thing is really about. I grew up in an era when people tried to force their own personal views on patriotism onto others. It's disturbing to see this type of thing come back. I say this as someone who would defend this country in a heartbeat if need be. There are some legitimate concerns here with Delgado; I wish we could just stick with them.

Speaking of legitimate concerns, Metstradamus brings up what is to me the biggest worry with Delgado.

Ryan from Always Amazin' finds nothing not to like about the deal. The Blog about the New Mets loves what Delgado brings to the lineup. Greg from Faith and Fear in Flushing has lots of questions. Shari from Take the "7" Train isn't happy that Jacobs was in the deal, while 7 Train's Kevin isn't happy at all. Finally, Matt Cerrone from MetsBlog has a long, favorable opinion piece towards the trade.

My Opinion
I will write something longer on this as time permits, but the short version is that I am taking a wait and see attitude towards this trade. My personal preference would have been to keep the 2 kids the Mets traded away, however, given the Mets' determination to upgrade the line up, this move made sense. I liked Jacobs and have advocated for him in this space, but the absolute pinnacle of his potential was somewhat less than Delgado is now. Petit was an intriguing prospect with some questions -- a potential right-handed Sid Fernandez -- but the Mets actually have some depth at pitching prospects in their thin minor league system. I can't in any conscience kill Omar for this deal.

What scares me a little is the question of how Delgado will react to coming here, given all the crap that happened last year. There is a good-sized segment of the fan base that will be looking for any reason to boo him. This is a deal that really has the potential to go bad.

The other part of my wait and see approach has to do with what Omar does next. I hear Alfonso Soriano might be next to come here. If this rumor is true, and especially if Lastings Milledge goes in the deal, I will undoubtedly have a strong negative opinion.

Happy Thanksgiving
I will be posting over the next 4 days, the regularity of these posts will, of course, depend on whether anything of any real consequence happens.

Mets Hot Stove: More on Delgado

The big story this morning is the Mets trade for Carlos Delgado. We have some early reaction to it, and also the latest on Billy Wagner.

Buster Olney: Big Spender
Although Olney feels the Mets are going to have the best offseason this year, he has some reservations about how Omar has accomplished this:

...the trademark of Omar Minaya's dealings so far is that he overpays for everything. He can get Delgado, and that's great. But why overpay for him? Why not tell the Marlins, Look, you don't have teams beating down your door to take his contract. We'll do you a favor and take his contract, and you'll take one Grade B-minus prospect from this list of three, along with this backup Class A catcher, and you'll be thrilled with that.

Landing Pedro, Beltran, Wagner, Delgado, all good. But at some point, the bill is going to come due, and the Mets at least have to try to pay market value, rather than spending above and beyond that in each and every deal.

In fairness to Omar, according to early reports the Marlins are giving the Mets $7 million of the $48 million remaining on Delgado's contract, and the Marlins undoubtedly needed more from the Mets to complete a trade than they would have to trade Delgado outside of the division. However, Olney does give us some food for thought.

Daily News: Harper on Omar
John Harper offers a much more flattering profile Omar in the Daily News from the Wagner press conference yesterday:

Just as the Mets refused to step aside last year for the Yankees, and wound up holding the Carlos Beltran press conference on the same day that Randy Johnson was introduced in the Bronx, they make their play for Wagner for all to see.

More than anything, it seems, that's what Minaya has done for the Mets. He has convinced the Wilpons of the need to think big, as they did last year in landing Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran because they were willing to outspend everyone else.

Omar offered an interesting take on the mindset with which he pursues free agents: "I go into it thinking I'm the underdog, and I have to push it to the end. I want to be the underdog. You've got to go the extra mile."

Also in the News, Don't forget Billy
According to Adam Rubin, Omar hints that he will top any Phillies bid. Rubin also quotes Wagner:

I can't say what I'll take right now. I'm up here to visit and get an idea of the flavor of New York, I guess. I'm pretty open to anything. Definitely it will be worth coming to New York if we're kind of overwhelmed. Four years is a big deal to us. It all comes down to what our family decides.

I don't know about anyone else, but this whole thing to me is reminiscent of that girl when I was a kid, the one that always seemed right on the verge of giving me what I wanted, only to pull back just short of it. I feel an old ache just thinking about it.

Also in the News, Adam Rubin on Delgado
In an article published while the Delgado trade was still a rumor, Rubin gives us a nice, thoughtful look at all of the considerations. Lest we forget, Rubin reminds us that there is bad blood between the Mets and Delgado that needs to be addressed.

One more from the News, Bob Raissman on Mike and the Mad Dog
I wasn't the only one that noticed how surly the lads were yesterday.

New York Post: More Delgado
Kevin Kernan reports on the Delgado trade, and also imparts the nugget that the Mets are again pursuing Alfonso Soriano. (ugh) Javier Vasquez is also mentioned as a possible trade target.

What does this all mean?
Unless Delgado was acquired to turn around in another trade -- say to Boston for Manny -- I'm a little concerned that there will be a problem with Delgado. If the Mets can work this out, though, this was a huge pickup.

Right now the meat of the Mets' batting order looks a little overbalanced to left-handed batters, but I'm still not convinced that Cliff Floyd will be here. If the Mets get Manny or Soriano that would obviously be a right-handed power bat right there. My concern here is you hear talk that Omar is nowhere near done going after big players -- my question is, at what point do the Mets just become the Yankees here, trying to buy a championship and selling off all of their prospects? Stay tuned.

Mets Hot Stove: Delgado a Met

Just when you didn't think anything could take the spotlight off Billy Wagner:

Newsday: Mets buy at the fire sale
John Heyman broke the story this morning that the Mets have acquired Carlos Delgado from the Marlins. The Mets will be giving up their top pitching prospect Yusmeiro Petit and last September's rookie sensation Mike Jacobs. Heyman rightfully notes that this signing could play a part in convincing Billy Wagner that the Mets are serious about contending next year.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

David Ortiz Doesn't Think Manny's Coming Back

In an AP story, David Ortiz is confirming what everyone knows.

The story quotes Ortiz:

Manny lives a difficult situation that only he and his family know about, and he does not want to play there. I spoke with him last week before he left for Brazil and he told me that he wants to go to a team in the West.

Of course that western team would be the Angels, but supposedly Mike Scioscia is less than thrilled at the prospect of managing Ramirez. According to the article:

Ramirez is owed $57 million during the next three years and has the right to block trades, so the Red Sox and his agent pledged to work together.

As for the Red Sox' intentions, the story quotes Ortiz, "I found out that they are doing whatever is possible to trade him." If the Angels decide Manny isn't worth the trouble, and he really wants to get out of Boston, who else wants him and could afford him besides the Mets? Stay tuned.

Should the Mets Trade Lastings Milledge for Manny Ramirez?

I thought I would address this topic once and for all, in response to the irresponsible campaign of ridicule waged against Mets fans who are not in favor of this trade by WFAN's Mike Francesa. This is a real pet peeve of mine.

I had the misfortune of listening to the "great one" pontificate against this twice in the past week. On Sunday night I turned on the "Miked Up" television show to listen to an interview with Omar Minaya, and I listened to the radio program for a time this afternoon because they were supposed to have Billy Wagner on the show. I also read something about this last week on The Eddie Kranepool Society blog.

The basic idea here that Francesa beats to death is that Manny Ramirez is a future Hall of Famer while Lastings Milledge is a totally unproven prospect. This is certainly a valid argument in favor of doing the deal, but what ticks me off is that Francesa makes it sound that this is the entire argument, making those of us who are against this trade sound stupid. Francesa likes to recite the litany of previous highly touted Mets prospects that didn't pan out; David West, Alex Ochoa et al, as if this settles the dispute right there. Mets fans that call in with reservations about this deal are dismissed as if they are idiots.

Speaking as a Mets fan that has serious reservations about this potential deal, let me say right off that my argument has absolutely nothing to do with which of these two will be judged by posterity as the greater player. Manny Ramirez is the hands down winner of this one point. If Lastings Milledge succeeds beyond our wildest dreams in the bigs he will not eclipse what Ramirez has accomplished, especially from an offensive standpoint. Manny will be remembered as one of the great hitters of all time, this is obvious.

Our reservations against Manny are equally obvious to us:

  • Manny doesn't really want to come here.
    There have been plenty of unambiguous statements from Manny's camp that Manny doesn't want to play in New York. Other sources in baseball confirm that Manny feels like playing in his home town would be a distraction. Plus, he wants out of Boston because he's tired of the spotlight. Does anyone out there believe that he'll be able to hide in Flushing?

  • Manny will be 34 next year.
    Manny sits at the threshold of life where many hitters start losing bat speed. No one has ever accused him of being a physical fitness fanatic or a steroid user like Bonds. I'm 47, trust me, I've already learned the calendar stops for no one. Your hope here, if you support bringing Manny here, is that this decline is gradual. You hope that he avoids the nagging injuries of the type that hit Jim Thome, Mike Piazza, and Frank Thomas -- the kind of injuries that will make a guy in his mid-30s look old overnight. What makes this more frightening is...

  • Manny makes a lot of money.
    Almost $20 million per year for the next 3 years -- and we hear that Omar might have to offer Manny a 4th year to get him to agree to come here. If injury and age slow Manny, this huge salary burden won't go away. You'd better believe it will affect the Mets' ability to make other moves down the road.

  • What happens when Manny decides he doesn't want to play here anymore?
    Apparently, it's Manny that is forcing the Red Sox' hand to trade him. He's threatened not to show up for spring training if they don't. If in a year or two he decides he wants out of here, are the Mets going to find a team willing to give up a top prospect and take on a lot of salary? Doubt it.

I'm not even going to dwell on the fact that Manny is a bad outfielder that will be greatly exposed by a big ball park like Shea. I'll concede that he will easily drive in enough runs to compensate for what he gives up -- unless his offense goes into a Sosian-type decline. By the way, guess how old Sammy Sosa is? He just turned 37 this month. His numbers began a steep decline around the age of 35. Does that scare you at all? Scares the hell out of me.

At the very least, what we have discussed so far has made this trade far from a "no-brainer". We haven't even talked about Lastings Milledge. Francesa is right about one thing, no one knows what Milledge will do in the majors. You can project all you want, but until a player comes up to the bigs and proves it, he is as much suspect as prospect. It's easy to dismiss a prospect in this regard. One thing to remember, though, is that every player was once a prospect. David Wright gave us a great year last year because Mets management resisted the temptation to trade him for an established player. For a paltry few hundred thou, Wright gave us better production than $17 million got out of Beltran.

And that's the point about prospects -- if you take the risk and hold onto them, and they prove out as good major league ballplayers, you have "bargain" production that allows you to take the money saved and chase after a Billy Wagner. Prospects don't always pan out, but when they do there is substantial reward.

Does that mean that you should never trade a prospect? No. But to me, at the very least it means that you should consider what you're getting in return. We're not getting Manny at 30, and we're not getting a Manny that wants to come here. We're getting a Manny on the cusp of decline that has to be talked into coming here, and then convinced to stay here. And trust me, if the Mets make this deal and it goes bad for them, the first two in line making fun of them for it will be Francesa and Russo.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the Sox will receive more than Lastings Milledge in this deal. We hear Aaron Heilman's name thrown around, maybe Yusmeiro Petit. We're going to give Boston one of the top prospects in all of baseball and a good young pitcher. We're going to wind up taking most or all of Manny's money, giving the Red Sox financial flexibility while solving a problem for them. We can only hope that it works out for us.

And the thing is, the only reason that he might wind up here at all is that no other team in baseball is willing to give up so much in return for Manny and take on so much salary.

Does this mean that trading for Manny Ramirez is guaranteed to be an absolute disaster for the Mets?

I'm not saying that. Unlike Francesa, I'm not arrogant enough to think my point of view is the only one that counts. I understand what Manny could mean to this lineup if his skills don't decline too quickly. The Mets have apparently thrown everything on the table in an effort to get to the post-season. There is nothing like the excitement that permeates Shea stadium when the team is a legitimate contender.

But I do have reservations about the philosophy that makes Manny such an attractive target for this team. We've seen it before; it's the same philosophy that created the 2000 pennant winner that three short years later produced a horrendous 95-loss team. I'm tired of riding the Mets rollercoaster -- aren't you? Wouldn't you rather see the Mets try to build something a little more enduring?

The "golden age" of the Mets lasted for the 7-year period from 1984-1990. It happened because the Mets developed a solid crop of players from their farm system and then carefully supplemented them with key acquisitions over a period of several years. It didn't happen overnight, but the reward was a Mets team that contended regularly for a long time. Their record in those 7 years was 666-466.

Since 1990, the philosophy was always "win now, pay later." In those 15 seasons their cumulative record was 1147-1214. Those 15 years have produced an incredible five 90+ loss seasons and only two 90+ win seasons. They only finished above .500 six times. Is this what you want as a Mets fan for the next 15 seasons? Count me out.

To avoid the pitfalls of the past, the Mets will have to exercise a little more patience with their own talent, and avoid the temptation to chase after expensive superstars on the down side of their careers. It's not as "sexy" in the short run to develop your own talent as it is to acquire a Manny Ramirez, but the long-term rewards will make it more than worthwhile -- at least from my point of view.

Lunch with Mike and the Mad Dog: Sour Grapes

I listened to Francesa and Russo on WFAN for a while this afternoon, curious as to what Billy Wagner might say. It's funny listening to the obvious resentment of these two towards the Mets. They love to poke fun at the Mets when they do something stupid, which happens all too often, unfortunately. However, with the Mets dominating the hot stove news over Francesa's Yankees, and with Russo's penis envy towards the Mets, the boys are getting a little ugly. We get to hear the broken record from Russo that all Omar can do is outspend everyone else. They're both tripping over themselves trying to keep Wagner in Philly.

Those who read this blog regularly know I'm not hugely into this free agent spending spree, but even I have to love the fact that it annoys these two. I'm turning the radio off, though, it's just not worth listening.

Mets Hot Stove: More Wagner, Day 2

I inadvertently left out a good article in Newsday from my earlier news recap:

Newsday: The Billy Wagner Tour
Ken Davidoff offers us the following info in today's Newsday: Billy Wagner answered, "yes, definitely," when asked if he could be happy in New York. The offer to Wagner right now looks like 3 years at $10 million per, but could possibly include a fourth year. Wagner again said he was in "no hurry" to sign.

The Mets would like to see Wagner sign ASAP, as they are holding off on a lot of their own decisions pending Wagner's. We keep hearing rumors that he might sign real soon, then we hear that this might drag on for a while longer. There is a rumor that the player's union wants Wagner to take the highest offer (almost undoubtedly from the Mets) and set the market for everyone else. We hear that Wagner would prefer to stay in Philly, but the pressure from the union might push him to Shea. If this is true -- and no one is saying he is dead set against New York -- I hope he doesn't come here. New York is a tough enough place to perform, especially in a closer's role, if your heart isn't 100% into it. Wagner is a tough guy, but I'd still prefer he goes with his top choice, wherever that takes him.

The danger here, of course, is that Wagner delays his choice and then doesn't come here, while in the meantime players who were Plan B for the Mets sign elsewhere. Stay tuned.

Outfield Defense
Related to my posting yesterday on the importance of defense in today's game, in that item on Fox Sports that I pointed to in the earlier news recap, Dayne Perry offers this on outfield defense:

The Mets erred in moving [Cameron] to right in deference to Beltran, but even at a corner slot, Cameron's glove was critical to the team's ability to keep runs off the board. That's because in 2005 the Mets' pitching staff ranked only 11th in the NL in groundball-fly ball ratio. That means lots of balls in the air, which, accordingly, means the quality of the outfield's defense is more important to the Mets than it is to most other teams. That outfield defense has been severely compromised by trading away Cameron.

Just something to think about.

Mets Hot Stove: The Pitch to Wagner, Day 2

It's Day 2 of the Billy Wagner visit to New York:

New York Post: Whose going to catch Billy?
Mark Hale and Joel Sherman report on Wagner's visit. They got in yesterday about 11. I heard they would be looking for a house in Connecticut, so I spent most of the day in my front yard with a "Welcome Billie" sign. Turns out that they never considered my neighborhood, they were in Greenwich on the Gold Coast. It's just as well; I had dreams of playing catch with Billy in the backyard, but, at my age, those 100 mph tosses might be a problem. In any case, Billy's agent characterizes the visit as "going well".

Hale and Sherman also discuss the Mets search for a catcher. Apparently the free agent tandem of Molina and Hernandez might prove to be priced too high for a team that is looking to add so much. The Mets are considering using Jae Seo and Anderson Hernandez as trade bait. Possible targets are Paul Lo Duca and Tampa's Toby Hall. Personally, I just don't want to see another bad defensive catcher like Lo Duca wind up here, and I don't know enough about Hall to have an intelligent opinion -- not that I'd let that stop me from having one.

Daily News: Tom the Tour Guide
Adam Rubin also reports on Wagner's state visit. He mentions that Tom Glavine and his wife met the Wagners at the airport and spent the day with them looking at houses. I think most of us have accepted Glavine as a Met now, for the rest of you, perhaps you should consider it. Rubin expects an offer to be made today before the Wagners leave town.

Also in the News, Mike Lupica does a piece on Wagner and the importance of that dominating closer.

NorthJersey.com: Klap thinks money will mean more than love
That old skeptic Bob Klapisch seems to think that money will be the deciding factor on where Billy Wagner laces up those spikes next year.

Fox Sports: One more against the Cameron trade
At Fox Sports, Dayn Perry lends his voice to those that have criticized this trade. He believes the Mets will miss Cameron, Nady won't be great, and even speaks against a Manny Ramirez trade that many believe this deal will facilitate.

New York Times: Adding a Bat
In the Times, Murray Chass has a long piece discussing potential Mets targets Carlos Delgado and Manny Ramirez.

NEsery.com: When Good Players Go Mets (part 3)
Mike on NEsery.com offers part 3 in his series on Mets free agent fiascos. This one is on Bobby Bonilla. Worth a look.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Just How Important is Defense in Today's Game?

In my earlier posting regarding Marty Noble's Mailbag on Mets.com, the last question struck a chord with me. A reader from Alaska asked why the Mets couldn't concentrate more on improving their defense. The reader pointed out that defense was much cheaper than offense, and the money saved could be put into upgrading the pitching staff.

Noble's answer was to quote Davey Johnson: "You can't hold your opponent to less than no runs. So you have to score." Noble points out that how many runs you give up matters only as far as it compares to how many you score. Even though his personal preference is for pitching, defense and speed, he (rightly) feels this Mets team needs to upgrade offense and power over last year's team. He also points out that offense sells more tickets in today's game.

Noble's thoughtful response stayed with me after I read the column. It's a subject I care about, and I thought about it in my spare moments. For those of us on the wrong side of forty, we grew up in an era where offense occupied a much lesser place in the baseball hierarchy. A player that hit 20 home runs used to be a legitimate slugger -- now he's your shortstop. Games were 2-1, 3-2. Every run was at a premium, defense was so important because you couldn't afford to give runs away.

It is a fact that in today's game where there is so much more offense, a good offensive club can easily recover from giving away a run or two through sloppy play. The Red Sox team that won 2 years ago wasn't great defensively. It's also a fact that teams that are fundamentally sound on defense but are unable to score runs are going to lose a lot of games. You put too much pressure on your pitching staff when they know you're not going to score for them.

This Mets team definitely needs another big bat to compete; two actually, since Piazza won't be back. They lost a lot of games last year when they just couldn't muster the offense to back up a good pitching performance. For as much grief as Looper and the bullpen took -- and they were awful at times, no doubt about it -- I thought it was the 2005 Mets' inability to hit and score consistently that was their downfall. We all agree that upgrading the offense is a must.

I question, however, the notion that defense is just an afterthought in today's game. With the strength of the offenses that you face in the course of the season, the last thing that you want to do is give the other team extra outs. Even the Red Sox had to make concessions to the need to field the ball better before they broke through and won their World Series. The teams that survive deep into October are still the teams that are fundamentally sound and don't beat themselves. In the post-season when great pitching can shut down an offense and every run is at a premium it is defense that often makes the difference.

I found it interesting that Noble quoted Davey Johnson in his answer. Johnson was indeed the manager during some of the most successful years in Mets history. Davey always emphasized offense over defense. Funny though, looking back on those years the Mets more often than not finished behind the Cardinals, a team that epitomized speed, pitching and defense. The Mets always had a little more talent; the Cardinals would just find a way to win. They never beat themselves.

I know that Omar Minaya will find a way to improve this club offensively during this off-season. My hope is that he will be able to do this without sacrificing defense. We all have hopes for this team that go beyond scoring a few more runs.

Jayson Stark: No Luxury Tax for Mets in 2006

In a interesting column on ESPN.com I read today, Jayson Stark informs us that the Mets will pay no luxury tax in 2006.

Apparently this is due to a loophole in the negotiated collective bargaining agreement which specifies that any team which did not pay luxury tax in 2005 will not have to pay in 2006, no matter to how high their payroll soars. This rule benefits not only the Mets, but also any team that didn't pay last year. Also, there is a chance if the collective bargaining agreement gets extended one more year this can happen again.

Marty Noble on Mets.com

There's a new Mailbag on Mets.com.

I enjoy Marty Noble. He obviously has no future in diplomacy, and I can respect that. Among the more interesting responses:

Someone voiced a concern that scares the hell out of me: the possibility of Don Sutton getting hired to do the color on the Mets' new network. The writer mentioned Keith Hernandez, David Cone and Al Leiter as alternatives. Noble's responded that he could understand the writer's "angst". While not saying anything directly against Sutton, he praised Hernandez, saying: "His knowledge of how the game is played and should be played is staggering and -- I must admit -- more than I can process at times. He thinks an inning or two ahead as the rest of us try to track what just happened." I couldn't agree more with that statement.

He also described Cone as "bright" and Leiter as "terrific". For those of you out there that may not have forgiven Al for last year, does the thought of Don Sutton on all the games make it easier? Any one of those 3, or any combination, would be vastly preferable to Sutton. Let him stay in Atlanta.

In response to some other questions, Noble feels the Mets are "aiming higher" than Lyle Overbay right now and ground breaking for the new stadium is still slated for next year. There is an interesting response to a question as to whether David Wright would do better next year. In response to a question about Lastings Millege being traded, Noble points out that, "the Mets again have taken a win-now, pay-later approach." Amen.

Mets Hot Stove: It's Billy Wagner Day

Billy Wagner and the missus are rolling into town today. Needless to say, that's grabbing the bulk of the headlines.

New York Times: Great Expectations
Ben Shpigel does a nice piece on Wagner that looks back at some of the trials and tribulations of his early life, which Shpigel compares to a Dickens novel. Shpigel shows how the things that Wagner endured made him the person he is today, quoting Wagner's agent Bean Stringfellow:

After everything Billy's been through, nothing can intimidate him. He's already felt as bad as you can feel.

Sometimes we tend to think of a guy like Wagner only from a standpoint of what he might bring to the Mets, this reminds us that life is a little more than baseball.

New York Post: Glavine Lends a Hand
Michael Morrissey reports that the Tom Glavine will be playing a key role in the Mets' efforts to convince Wagner to come to New York. There are some interesting looks back at the way the Mets recruited Glavine 3 years ago. Morrissey quotes Glavine: "Playing in New York is not as bad as it's made out to be a lot of times." If this is the pitch to be used on Wagner, you only hope that they punch it up a little bit.

Daily News: Motivated seller seeks buyer with deep pockets
Adam Rubin and Bill Madden discuss how the impending fire sale in south Florida could benefit the Mets. In a wonderful soap opera, owner Jeffrey Loria has lost control of the team to his ex-wife's son. Things are really crashing down on that team as they look to unload virtually everything besides Willis and Cabrera.

According to Rubin and Madden, this sale is more likely to land the Mets 2B Luis Castillo than 1B Carlos Delgado. They quote a source saying that, "I don't think anyone will end up happy," if Delgado got traded to the Mets. Screw Carlos Delgado and his agent. Baltimore is mentioned as a likely destination for him, and that sounds about right. They should be able to put together a pitching staff good enough to make a run at the playoffs about a couple years after Delgado retires. Why should the Mets give up top prospects to the Marlins for a guy that's going to sulk about being here while his lunatic agent issues manifestos to the press on a daily basis? If he doesn't want to be here, f--k him.

Castillo, who the Mets tried hard to sign before settling on Matsui a couple of years ago, would be a huge upgrade both defensively and offensively. His contract is fairly reasonable, the one concern would be that he's been somewhat banged up the last 2 years.

Rubin and Madden also mention Paul LoDuca as someone the Mets might be able to get if their chase for a top free agent catcher proves fruitless. Just what we need; a terrible defensive catcher who is getting up there in age. If we're taking a vote on this, please mark me down for a "no".

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Mets Hot Stove: Sunday Brunch

As we head into the week that traditionally signals the start of the Christmas shopping season, the Mets have long finished making their shopping list, and are now in the process of determining who shows up under the tree.

Daily News: Second Base
Anthony McCarron reports that the Mets have shown some interest in Cardinals 2B Mark Grudzielanek, but not surprisingly are placing 2B low on their list of priorities. Billy Wagner and his wife are coming to town on Monday, and the Mets would love for Wagner to make a quick decision. McCarron quotes manager Willie Randolph regarding Wagner:

We'll be speaking to other people after him obviously and he is the real big fish out there more or less. You don't want to negotiate back and forth and have people use you and play off each other. So, yeah, we're going to be real straight and up front and honest about what we want to do and hopefully it'll happen quickly.

It's become obvious to anyone paying attention that much of what the Mets do will hinge on whether or not they sign Billy Wagner. Wagner is doing a masterful job of playing the Mets and Phillies off each other, despite Willie's hopes to the contrary. You'll read something where he says something really complimentary about the Mets; sure enough, there will be something equally complimentary about the Phillies.

McCarron also reports on the catcher situation, quoting one of Bengie Molina's reps Alan Nero:

My understanding is that [Omar is] trying to make a decision and then he'd get back to us for the next step. That next step could be Bengie visiting Shea or an offer, I don't know. It's up to him. My understanding is that he wasn't ready to make an offer yet. There's not much more we can do. I don't think Omar is in a hurry and nor are we.

Once the Mets sign Wagner or whoever is Plan B at closer, the catcher talks will undoubtedly heat up.

New York Post: Mark Sweeney
Michael Morrissey reports that the Mets are one of the teams pursuing Padres' free agent 1B/OF Mark Sweeney. The Mets offer would be somewhere just under $1 million for one year. Excuse me, but if we have that much available for a guy like Sweeney, why couldn't we come up with a second year to keep Marlon Anderson? Am I just being naive here?

Morrissey also reports that Rafael Furcal's agent hopes the Mets make Furcal an offer this week. If I was his agent, I'd be hopeful of the same thing. To me, the only useful thing that could come out of negotiating with Furcal is to drive his price up too high for Atlanta. I have almost as much chance of sleeping with a supermodel as I have of watching Furcal man 2B for the Mets in 2006.

NorthJersey.com: Gee, Billy, I love your cologne
Steve Popper has a good preview of Billy Wagner's upcoming visit. Apparently Wagner will be visiting the NY area homes of Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine and Carlos Beltran. According to Popper:

The Mets will show Wagner and his family the best that New York and nearby Connecticut have to offer - not just the bright lights of Manhattan that he would have seen as a visiting player, but the areas that will remind him of the country living he grew up in.

For those of us hoping for a quick resolution of this, Popper quotes Wagner's agent, Bean Stringfellow:

Billy is patient. He knows he's going to have a job next year. It doesn't have to drag out for months, but until Billy and his family are comfortable with the contract, the team's ability to compete, where they would be staying - until they are 100 percent on all three - they won't make a decision.

i.e., don't hold your breath.

Mets.com: Yusmeiro Petit.
Finally, Marty Noble offers a feature on Mets' #1 pitching prospect Yusmeiro Petit's success in the Venezuelan Winter League. He's pitching to a 2.15 ERA with 53 Ks and only 8 walks in 50.1 innings. Amidst all the controversy of whether Omar will trade away Lastings Milledge; Petit's name is coming up constantly in every trade discussion. It seems inevitable that one or both will be gone at some point.

Noble also provides updates on other Mets winter leaguers: Juan Padilla (not bad), Aaron Heilman (will he be with us next year?), Mike Jacobs (struggling), and Anderson Hernandez (doing well). For those of you that are interested in following the winter league seasons of Mets players, Mets Geek has been doing a nice job of covering this, including updated stats.

It occurs to me that I might have seemed hard on Omar yesterday when I criticized the way the Mets tried to spin the Cameron trade. My only point was that the Mets have a history of doing this and it just aggravates the true fans. If they had just said this trade was attractive because it freed salary for other things they want to do, that would have been fine. Mets management presents such a silly contrast at times; the front office has enough leaks to sink an ocean liner, yet they often insist on spinning things that just don't need to be spun.

There is no doubt, however, that Omar is working his ass off to improve this team, and any real Mets fan -- whether they agree with everything being done or not -- should appreciate that. I'm obviously not huge on free agent signings, but I understand what he's trying to do.

My ultimate hope is that, after this season, Omar's skills in player scouting and development will come to the forefront, and the team will not be as heavily dependent on mercenaries (like Billy Wagner for instance) from other teams to compete for the post-season. You only have to look back to the past to understand the futility of trying to build something that lasts with this approach.