Bengie Molina and Joel Piniero Signings Leave New York Mets Red-Faced

Lou CappettaAnalyst IIJanuary 22, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO - JUNE 17:  Bengie Molina #1 of the San Francisco Giants walks back to the dugout in between innings during their game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at AT&T Park on June 17, 2009 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The New York Mets have preached patience when it comes to offseason moves for the past few years now. For the most part, the strategy has worked, as the Mets have landed Johan Santana, Francisco Rodriguez, and Jason Bay, without overpaying or outbidding themselves for them.

But now, it seems that patience has hurt the Mets.

First, the Mets lost out on free agent pitcher Jason Marquis, a local product who all but begged to pitch in Queens. Not wanting to negotiate with anyone until they knew if their first two offers to Bengie Molina and Jason Bay would be accepted, Omar Minaya didn't even make Marquis an offer.

Marquis, a 15-game winner and All Star in 2009, waited and waited before finally signing a two year deal with the Washington Nationals, for a relatively reasonable price of $15 million.

Then, Bengie Molina, a catcher who is coming off of back-to-back 80-plus RBI seasons with the Giants, and a player who was one of Omar Minaya's priorities this off-season, spurned the Mets after lengthy negotiations, to re-sign with San Francisco for less years and less money.

The Mets immediately turned their focus to pitching, a need that many feel they should have been addressing to begin with, and were expecting to make a pitch to 15 game winner Joel Piniero, only to watch Piniero sign a day later with the Angels for $16 million over two seasons.

The pitching market was thin to begin with, especially after John Lackey was snatched up by the Red Sox almost immediately, and now that Marquis and Piniero are gone, the Mets may have waited too long to significantly bolster a rotation that has one reliable pitcher in Johan Santana.

New York Newsday is now reporting that the Mets will turn their focus to John Smoltz and Ben Sheets.

Smoltz is 42 years-old, and was absolutely terrible with the Boston Red Sox last year. He was released after only eight starts, and did pitch much better after being picked up by the Cardinals.

Smoltz will begin the season healthy for the first time in two years, but his best days are clearly behind him.

Ben Sheets is the ultimate wild card. He's been a constant injury risked his entire career, and missed the entire 2009 season due to injury. When he's healthy, he's as good as they come, but for a Mets team that was killed by injuries last year, it may be too big of a risk for the Mets to take.

If Sheets is healthy, and that's a huge if, the Mets will finally have a top No. 2 starter to follow Santana. He's a hug injury risk, but the Mets may have no choice but to take a chance on the fragile pitcher.

As for catcher, the Molina signing really hurts this team.

Molina was considered by most experts to be headed to Queens, and it's still unclear why he would turn down a two year deal with an option at $5.5 million per year, for a one-year deal at $4.5 million to remain in San Francisco.

Whatever happened, the Mets will lose a chance at having quality veteran catcher, who can hit and play defense. The Mets seem to be leaning toward using Omir Santos and Henry Blanco to begin the season.

However, there have been rumors of the Mets acquiring Chris Snyder from the Diamondbacks or possibly signing Bengie's brother Jose Molina. Still, none of the afore mentioned backstops compare to Bengie Molina.

So now the Mets find themselves with more questions than answers. While their patience may have kept them from giving Jason Bay a fifth guaranteed year, it has hurt them in other ares that needed improvement.

It's hard to believe the Mets can compete with the pitching staff the way it is currently assembled. Not to mention, can Omir Santos, who has never put up numbers at any level of professional baseball like he did with the Mets last season, be the catcher the to handle these pitchers while contributing offensively.

Those are two huge question marks for the Mets. It remains to be seen if the Omar Minaya remains patient, or begins to panic just a little.

Ironically, the Mets season may end up riding on the biggest question mark of all, Ben Sheets.