Major League Baseball's Winter Meetings officially kicked off on Monday morning. General Managers, executives, and player agents converged on the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas, NV to discuss contracts and trades.
Mets GM Omar Minaya got his work week off to an early start when he had dinner with free agent closer Fransisco Rodriguez on Sunday night. Minaya has the upper hand in the closer market this winter and he is taking advantage of it.
The Mets reportedly offered Rodriguez a two-year deal with an option for a third year, worth about $12 million per year. That is well short of the five years, $75 million that Rodriguez and agent Paul Kinzer expected to receive when the offseason began.
With a surplus of available closers (Rodriguez, Brian Fuentes, Kerry Wood, Trevor Hoffman, as well as those potentially available via trade), and a shortage of interested teams, "K-Rod" is at the mercy of Omar Minaya.
K-Rod's former team, the Angels, have not expressed any interest in bringing him back. Some teams looking for a closer such as the Tigers, Cardinals, and Diamondbacks prefer a cheaper option.
The Indians and Brewers appear to be the Mets only competition for Rodriguez. The Brewers are currently preoccupied with CC Sabathia and likely will not make an offer to K-Rod until they know where Sabathia is headed.
The Indians are not looking to spend as much as the Mets are on a closer and seem to be waiting in the wings should negotiations break down.
I believe K-Rod will end up as a Met by the end of the week. The Mets desperately need a closer and have placed Rodriguez at the top of their list. While, New York is the only interested team willing and able to offer K-Rod the money he desires.
Minaya also met with Brian Fuentes' agent this afternoon, and has meetings scheduled with the agents of Kerry Wood and Trevor Hoffman for Tuesday. So, Minaya is exploring his options, or at the very least, scaring K-Rod into accepting their offer.
If Kinzer and Rodriguez were to take too long in deciding on the Mets offer, Minaya could always turn to another option. This is the last thing K-Rod wants because if the Mets sign a different closer before Rodriguez signs anywhere, he can kiss his big payday goodbye.
Minaya holds a great deal of leverage and I think he has done an excellent job so far with the closer market.
In October, I expressed concern about the Mets signing K-Rod. My biggest concern was the length of the contract (and the too large sum of money). Looking at K-Rod's numbers, he appeared to be on the decline and I feared the Mets would be left with a washed up former closer with a $15 million salary. This two-year deal suits me just fine, and a three year deal wouldn't be bad either.
It's K-Rod's move now.
Once Minaya has locked up a closer, he can turn his full attention to the fixing the rest of the bullpen and the starting rotation.
According to reports, Minaya is also currently pursuing a trade for relief pitcher Huston Street to serve as the Mets' set-up man.
Street was dealt to the Rockies earlier this offseason in the Matt Holliday trade and the Rockies are now willing to trade him.
Maligned reliever Aaron Heilman, whom the Rockies see as a starting pitcher, is the centerpiece of the deal. Colorado is looking for a left handed set-up man and is interested in Pedro Feliciano. However, Minaya prefers to trade a prospect alongside Heilman rather than Feliciano.
Talks between the two teams are ongoing.
The 25-year-old Street is a former Rookie of the Year, and has a 2.88 career ERA with a 1.07 WHIP. He served as Oakland's closer until injury problems in 2007 and early 2008 caused him to lose his job to rookie Brad Ziegler.
Street finished the 2008 campaign strong, posting a 1.74 ERA in September.
The Mets are on their way to opening Citi Field with a fortified bullpen. The groundwork has been laid but there is still more work to be done.