The Mets have bolstered their beleaguered bullpen with the acquisitions of Francisco Rodriguez and JJ Putz, the question confronting the Queens faithful now is “where do we go from here?”
Having addressed the greatest deficiency in the Mets roster, general manager Omar Minaya must concentrate on team’s secondary concerns. This is what my priority list would look like at this juncture of the offseason:
1) Fourth Starter. The top of the Mets rotation is pretty solid, anchored by Johan Santana, and supplemented by Mike Pelfrey and John Maine. While there is no reason to except anything less than sensational out of Johan, it is not so certain what the Mets will be getting out of “Big Pelf” and Maine, whether Pelfrey can repeat ’08 or Maine can match his ’06 stats coming off a shoulder injury.
Because of the uncertainty, although admittedly not that great, out of the No. 2 and No. 3 slots, the Mets need to target a No. 4 pitcher who can step up and be a top of the rotation starter if necessary. My choices would be: 1) the eccentric (and often untouchable) Oliver Perez or, 2) Derek Lowe.
While it would be ideal to deal for both, I do not know how deep the Mets' pockets are, especially with Scott Boras representing both. If I were to choose between the two, I would go with Lowe. He is constantly sound and an innings eater.
Another interesting option:
John Smoltz: His years closing seem to have increased the life expectancy to his arm. He is getting up there, but he has also been putting up big number for years, showing no signs of slowing down. A shoulder injury made have lessened his value, but perhaps also his cost.
Jake Peavy: Okay, this may be a bit of wishful thinking, but if there is anyone that warrants moving the seemingly untouchable prospect, Fernando Martinez, Peavy is the one.
Wouldn’t Waste My Time:
A.J. Burnett: Will come at too high a price with some health concerns.
Ben Sheets: The reverse, too many health concerns, some price issues.
2) More relief pitching! If last year, proved anything to the Mets, it is you can NEVER have enough relievers. Although K-Rod and Putz are definite upgrades, the loss of Joe Smith and Aaron Heilman show Minaya’s job is not done in the area.
It is still worthwhile to continue to pursue talks with the Colorado Rockies for former Oakland A’s closer, Huston Street (although it was reported Heilman would have been the trade bait Colorado was looking for in a deal).
Also, the Mets keep communications with free agent Brian Fuentes. The closer market is still very deep, and now also very deflated with K-Rod, the best relief pitcher on the market, getting only $37 million for three years.
If Minaya plays hardball, which he has proven capable of doing, there is no reason to doubt he could reel in Fuentes to add and wicked set-up duo with Putz.
Other Names to Consider: Brandon Lyon, Joe Beimel, Eddie Guardado, Luis Ayala, Will Ohman, Alan Embree
3) Second Baseman. Luis Castillo will go into 2009 (if still a Met) residing in the new Citi Field doghouse in the hearts of many disappointed Met fans. I am not so sure deservedly so. Castillo has what is required for a Met second baseman and No. 2 hitter. When healthy, he is a solid, though no longer stellar, defensive player. At the plate, he is a patient and pesky out, though possessing zero pop, he provides Jose Reyes the time to swipe a bag.
Since there is such vitriol for Castillo, if the Mets do find someone who would be willing to take him (which does not seem too likely), there is only one person I would spend the money to replace him with, Rafael Furcal. Furcal is the consummate No. 2 hitter, and would come with a reliable bat and a steady glove. The big question with Furcal is whether he would be willing to make the move to second.
4) Left fielder: Many have been barking how the team lacks legitimacy at this position. I don’t see it. I am perfectly fine with having Fernando Tatis, David Murphy, and Nick Evans platoon, which the Mets have so-far indicated is the plan.
If last year was any indication, clearly Tatis has some Mets magic up his sleeve. As for Murphy and Evans, they strike me as the kind of kids who quietly continue to develop, and before you know it can be found on an All-Star roster.
But since this is the season for wishing, and because Minaya has shown anything is possible, there are two obtainable options worth considering, Raul Ibanez and Bobby Abreu. Oddly enough, I have read some rumblings saying the Mets have had some reservations about adding another left-hand batter (which both Ibanez and Abreu are) to the lineup, with the likes of Cole Hamels and Josh Johnson in the division, but I would not give such concerns any notice.
Both are veteran hitters with great bats on their shoulders and heads for the game.
If push came to shove and I had to pick one over the other, I would go with Abreu. Although each’s age is an issue, Abreu is two years younger. Abreu is also more of a complete player as a 20-20 threat and a more accomplished outfielder.
Additionally, even though Ibanez is a native New Yorker, it is unknown, considering he has spent his career playing in Kansas City and Seattle, how he would react to the pressure of the east coast.
That all said, I still wouldn’t break the bank for either of these guys if with they were to push for a multi-year deal.
5) Resign Pedro! If the Mets aren’t able to sign both Perez and Lowe, which seems entirely likely, I would not hesitate to resign Pedro Martinez, who has shown interest in returning to New York. No one would argue that Pedro is still in his prime (or anywhere near it, for that matter). At the same time, no one would doubt the positive influence he has played on this ball club both as a leader and as a teacher.
His numbers last year were atrocious, but this might mean the Mets may be able to craft a contract more to their liking—possibly including a condition saying if Pedro’s troubles continue starting, he could be moved to the bullpen…to coach!
This is all especially true if the Mets are able to resign Oliver Perez, who has made some strides working with Pedro the past few years. Not to mention, since his numbers from last season were so dismal means, as legendarily optimistic Met fans seem to always say, they’ll definitely be better...next season.