Archive for the ‘2008 Offseason’ Category

The Mets never gave J.J. Putz a physical

Monday, February 1st, 2010

J.J. Putz signed a one-year, $3 million contract with the Chicago White Sox this offseason.  His stint with the Mets will not go down as being particularly memorable.  He did not pitch particularly well when he was on the field, and spent the majority of the season on the disabled list.  It was speculated going back to late-April by Dave Cameron at Fangraphs that Putz did not look like himself, and pointed to evidence such as the loss of 2.5 MPH off of his fastball and a diminished strikeout rate.  When the Mets finally put Putz on the DL in June, I wrote:

[T]he team didn’t think then to investigate if Putz was truly injured, kept running him out there for a month, during which he gave the Mets several ineffective innings of relief, and only shut him down a few weeks ago for him to have surgery.  Dave Cameron is a baseball writer for a pretty good stats website; he is not a member of the Mets front office, and does not follow the team on a daily basis.  If he was able to figure out in late-April that something is wrong with JJ Putz, why did it take the team a full month for them to figure this out?

As it turns out, it didn’t take the Mets a full month to figure out that J.J. Putz was injured; they knew the entire time.  Putz gave an interview with Comcast Chicago that does not paint a pretty picture of the Mets’ front office.  The money quotes:

When the trade went down last year, I never really had a physical with the Mets. I had the bone spur (in the right elbow). It was discovered the previous year in Seattle, and it never got checked out by any other doctors until I got to spring training, and the spring training physical is kind of a formality. It was bugging me all through April, and in May I got an injection. It just got to the point where I couldn’t pitch. I couldn’t throw strikes, my velocity was way down…

…I knew that I wasn’t right. I wasn’t healthy. The toughest part was having to face the media and tell them that you feel fine, even though you know there’s something wrong and they don’t want you telling them that you’re banged up.

So according to the timeline being laid out here by Putz:

  • The Mariners’ doctors found a bone spur in Putz’s elbow during the 2008 season.
  • The Mets traded six players for J.J. Putz without conducting a physical of their own. I assume the Mets read the Mariners’ medical reports on Putz about the bone spur, though.
  • They checked out his elbow in spring training and discovered the bone spur for themselves.
  • They forced Putz to pitch through what I imagine is a very painful injury, while not allowing him to talk to the media about said injury.
  • Putz pitched terribly because, you know, having a healthy elbow is important to pitching.  In particular, his velocity and strikeouts were down.
  • Eventually, Putz went on the DL to have elbow surgery, never to pitch again for the Mets.  I cannot confirm this, but Omar Minaya probably called Putz a “pussy” afterwards.

I mean…in which of those steps do the Mets look good?  The part where they traded six players for Putz, Sean Green, and Jeremy Reed without making sure he was healthy?  The part where they discover the bone spur, make him pitch through it anyway, all while hiding it from the media?  The part where Omar Minaya called him a pussy?  OK, I made that up, but still, the other stuff is pretty bad.

There has been a lot said about the way the Mets’ medical staff handles injuries.  We got another glimpse of that a few weeks ago, with the Carlos Beltran debacle, and now J.J. Putz paints a pretty grim picture of the way this team handles injuries:  by sticking their fingers in their ears and pretending they didn’t happen.  This isn’t a total failure on the part of the medical staff; they have to share a pretty big part of the burden with the front office. 

The J.J. Putz trade and how it was handled is a fireable offense.  The Mets traded a good defensive outfielder, two relief pitchers of some value, a decent first base prospect (better than anything they will trot out at 1B in 2010, for sure), and two low-A minor leaguers, and all they currently have to show for it is one relief pitcher of some value, all because they never bothered to make sure the key part of the trade was healthy.  Hopefully this story gains some traction in the New York sports media and helps hasten the demise of Omar Minaya.  I’m disgusted with the way he is running this team, and it’s not getting any better.

The Mets get worked over

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

The more I think about the Oliver Perez signing, the more convinced I become that the Mets were utterly worked over by Scott Boras.  Think about it: was there ever really a market for Oliver Perez?  He was a Type-A free agent, meaning any team that signed him would have to give up a first round draft pick in order to do so.  Throw in Boras as his agent, who was clearly gunning for an eight figure per season deal, and the cost was prohibitive to just about every other team in baseball.  There was no market for Oliver Perez.  All of the teams that supposedly had interest, teams like the Cardinals, Rangers, ”maybe the Rangers,” never even made an offer.

So why did the Mets offer so much money per season?  Omar got played by Boras.  Right from the start, when the Mets were negotiating with Derek Lowe.  If the Mets had signed Derek Lowe, that would be the worst thing for Boras’ bottom line, because even if the Mets had offered Lowe the exact same package the Braves had offered, no other team out there would have offered Perez the 3 years/$36 million offered by the Mets.  Boras had to find another team other than the Mets to take Lowe, and caught a break when the Braves became desperate when John Smoltz signed with the Red Sox.  That gave him the opening he needed to set this up to be a lucrative postseason even before Manny Ramirez signs.

Then, somehow he leverages the Mets into offering Perez $12 million a season despite a lack of interest from other clubs.  Seriously, who out there was going to offer Ollie Perez eight figures?  The economy is killing baseball’s middle class right now.  The Cardinals and Brewers could use another starting pitcher, but only if Perez became available at a discount.  Both would have had to forfeit a first round pick to sign him.  The Rangers were mentioned at one time as a possibility, but they are always mentioned when a Boras client is involved, and they seem to have zeroed in on Ben Sheets.  Who else was seriously pursuing a starter?  So why did the Mets even budge off of 3 years/$30 million?

They even tried to leverage the situation by entertaining the idea of pursuing Sheets.  But was this ever seriously discussed?  There was never even any talk of bringing Sheets or his agent to town, and you would think that if the Mets were really looking to sell Sheets on New York, they would bring him in, take him to a show, maybe a basketball game, maybe out to the suburbs.  They never did any of this.  As far as I know, they never even really spoke to his agent.  I mean, I can’t even tell you who his agent is, because I don’t ever remember reading anything about Sheets where his agent was mentioned.  If he was a serious option, don’t you think they would have had serious dialogue with his agent, something that would have been reported somewhere?

Knowing Boras, he probably saw through all of this.  After all, if there is one person who knows how to leverage through the media, it’s Boras.  Nobody seem to buy for one minute that the Mets had been shaken off of their pursuit of Perez, even with pitchers available who are as good, or in the case of Sheets, better (but injury-prone).  Perez ultimately got his money.  It reminds me of a Steve Phillips move, where the Mets paid top dollar for a mid-level player.  One thing Omar had always been good at doing is avoiding high-priced mistakes for mid-level talent.  Under Omar, the team’s credo seemed to be, if you are going to overpay, overpay for the best.  The Mets overpaid for Perez, but are only getting a mid-level talent in return.

This is all just speculation on my part, of course.  I could just be a paranoid fan.  But the way I see this scenario, Scott Boras played the Mets to perfection, and got what he wanted.  And hey, good for him.  That’s why he’s the best at what he does.  I don’t hate him as a result; in some small way, I admire what he does, because he gets results that other agents don’t.  Sadly, it came at the expense of our beloved Mets.  And that is unfortunate.

Mets and Oliver Perez are close

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

Looks like I made a good assumption last night, huh?  To be honest, ever since the Mets made little movement in their initial offer to Derek Lowe, it looked like they preferred Oliver Perez.  They also seemingly had a set amount of money that they wanted to spend on a starting pitcher: 3 years, $36 million, or around what they paid for K-Rod.  And if they plan on going out and adding a nice power outfield bat from the remaining pool of Manny, Dunn, and Abreu, I’m glad that they were able to get their guy for their dollar amount.  If they don’t, though, then they are basically saying that they feel their only needed improvement this offseason was in the bullpen and that they will be able to finally avoid collapse in 2009 with an improved bullpen, and I’m not so sure that’s the best way to look at this.

I guess I like the signing, though I’m not sure if I’m ready for another three years of Good Ollie/Bad Ollie drama.  The fact is, game to game, month to month, season to season, Oliver Perez is often a completely different pitcher.  You never know which Ollie Perez will be taking the mound, how many innings you’re going to get, whether he has his control or not, whether he can keep the ball in the park.  At times, he is a dominant starting pitcher, a potential ace, but he doesn’t appear to have the makeup to be anything more than rotation filler.  Giving a guy like that three years…I just don’t know.  I would have been pretty content letting Ollie leave, picking up the first round pick for him, and bringing in a guy like Sheets or Lowe, a guy who would be a marked improvement.

I think we are now at a point where Mets fans just aren’t that excited about this season.  The K-Rod and Putz acquisitions were nice, but they feel like so long ago, and while the bullpen should be better than last year, there are still problems with the composition of this team, problems that have not been resolved.  Second base and catcher are still disaster areas.  Ryan Church is still being counted on to start, when his past performance indicates he’s a platoon guy.  The team is hoping to squeeze another miracle out of Fernando Tatis and Daniel Murphy. 

Signing Oliver Perez is nice, and hopefully we will see more Good Ollie than Bad Ollie this year, but the problem with bringing Ollie back is that it makes the rotation exactly the same as a year ago.  There just feels like an overriding feeling of sameness to the 2009 Mets, and considering that the past two seasons have ended in heartbreak for the Mets, it is hard to get excited simply for an improved bullpen.  I think Mets fans were hoping for a more sweeping change, with a better #2 to back up Johan or an impact bat to help cover for expected declines out of Delgado and the corner outfield platoons.  Other than Johan, Putz, and K-Rod, what has really changed from the team that ended the 2007 season and the team that opens the 2009 season?  This team could use a small shakeup, with a new base around the core, but this team has been loathe to do so, and with what has happened the past two seasons, I am wondering why.

How the Mets bungled their postseason

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

The Mets had done everything well up until this point.  They handled the bullpen situation as smartly as one could hope, bringing in the best available free agent closer, and then trading for another closer without giving up anything of real value.  The bullpen was one of their biggest problems last season, and in two nicely done moves, they solved both of them.  Nobody can take that away from them.  This was an excellent way to kick off the offseason, and Mets fans were suitably pumped up, as the team seemed intent on paving a road to a championship caliber ballclub.

But to think that addressing the bullpen alone would bring this team a championship is foolish.  The starting rotation last year was thin outside of Johan Santana, and to a lesser degree Mike Pelfrey.  John Maine is coming off of an injury, and was not particularly effective before the injury.  Pedro Martinez was pretty bad last year, although he is a free agent.  And Oliver Perez was maddeningly inconsistent, going from looking like a worldbeater one game to getting destroyed in another without any rhyme or reason.  He was also a free agent, and a Type A free agent at that, a free agent that will bring the Mets back a first round pick should he sign with another club.

There is also a problem with the offense.  Carlos Delgado probably isn’t going to repeat his 2008 again; he is more likely to resemble first half Delgado than second half Delgado.  Luis Castillo and Brian Schneider were two of the worst everyday players in the majors last year, combining terrible offense and lousy defense.  Between Ryan Church’s recovery from a serious head injury and the planned Fernando Tatis/Daniel Murphy platoon (which should be good, but it is likely neither will be close to as good as they were last year), the corner outfield spots are far from certain.  While the team should rely on continued good seasons out of players like David Wright, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Beltran, every other position has at least a question mark, and some have both a question mark and an exclamation point.  And the bench stinks.

So what have the Mets done to improve in these other areas since solving the bullpen problem?  Well…um…nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  This team remains as flawed as it was after the J.J. Putz trade, where they were improved but certainly no lock to play October baseball, and with Derek Lowe signing with the Braves today, it appears unlikely that the team will make those necessary moves towards a World Series.  Add this to the Wilpons’ refusal to even consider bidding on Manny Ramirez, an impact bat that would instantly make the Mets’ lineup the best in the National League, and it appears as though the team the Mets take to war next year will once again fall short of expectations.

The move to make was sign Derek Lowe.  I have gotten over the fact that the Mets simply will not sign Manny; that’s fine.  Twenty million dollars for a late 30’s slugger probably wouldn’t be the best investment by year 3 anyway.  But Lowe was different.  The Mets simply needed to sign one of the three best starters on the market.  CC Sabathia was always a pipe dream, since the Mets are already paying Johan Santana the kind of money Sabathia would want, and Santana is better.  AJ Burnett was the next best starter available, and considering the years he would want, he probably wasn’t the best investment for the Mets.

That leaves Lowe.  As I discussed last week, he’s good at getting ground balls, and above average at striking batters out.  He avoids walks.  He’s fairly unspectacular, but that is exactly what the Mets needed in their rotation!  They didn’t need somebody who was going to wow you with his power; they needed a guy who avoids mistakes, pitches 200 above average innings a season, and gives the fanbase little to worry about.  That’s what you get out of Lowe.  There is a real value in what he gives his teams.  For the Mets, he fills out their rotation perfectly.  Even being a Type A, which would require giving up a first round pick to the Dodgers, the Mets could recoup that pick by letting Perez sign with another team, giving the Mets two picks in the top 50.

The problem is, the Mets tried to dictate the pitcher’s market to Scott Boras.  You can dictate the market to an agent like Paul Kinzer; you can’t dictate the market to Scott Boras.  The moment John Smoltz signed with Boston, Boras saw an opportunity to get the Braves involved for Lowe and pounced.  By sitting back and letting Boras work the market, the Mets allowed the opportunity for another team to get involved in the starting pitcher’s market.  By doing so, it cost them the best starter still looking for work after the winter meetings, a guy who would have slotted in perfectly.

Where does this leave the Mets?  It leads them back to…Oliver Perez.  Think about this; isn’t this EXACTLY what Scott Boras would want?  The last thing Boras wanted was for the Mets to sign Lowe; they were his biggest suitor for Perez as well.  Lowe signing with the Mets for $12 million a season (Carlos Silva money, by the way) hurts his market for Perez too.  The smart money was to get the Mets involved, but not too involved, on Lowe, use them to drive the market up for another team, and then have the Mets sign Ollie at an inflated rate.  Boras played the Mets like patsies.

The thing is, this could have been avoided.  The Mets needed to make a stronger initial offer to Lowe; they knew as well as anybody that three years and $36 million was not getting this deal done.  Three years, $42 million with a vesting option for a fourth year…that is at least in the ballpark of where Lowe and Boras were looking.  By lowballing Boras, they allowed the opportunity for another team to get involved.  They have nobody to blame but themselves for letting Lowe not only slip out of their own grasp, but to go to a division rival no less.  But hey…at least they have Tim Redding to round out the rotation!

So now the Mets are going into 2009, at best with a rotation that will see an upgrade from Pedro Martinez to Tim Redding in the 5th spot (and that disgusts me to write that we now live in a world where Tim Redding is a better pitcher than Pedro Martinez), and is otherwise unchanged from last season.  John Maine’s health is a question mark, and even before his injury, he didn’t look particularly great on the mound.  Mike Pelfrey will be back, and it could be a mistake to assume he will be as good as he was last season; he needs to start striking more batters out before we can assume he’s going to use his tools to their fullest.

And Oliver Perez, in the best case scenario, will now be back for another four years.  Four more years of maddening inconsistency…four more years of walks and fly balls…and to be fair, four more years of high strikeout numbers, but still…four more years of Good Ollie/Bad Ollie drama…and that’s the best-case scenario.  That assumes Boras doesn’t figure out a way for Ollie to wind up on another team, with the Mets forced to explore the Ben Sheets/Randy Wolf “severe injury problem” market.  The Mets’ best case scenario as of right now involves four years of never knowing which Oliver Perez Mets fans will see on the mound.  Does this get anybody else excited?

The Mets blew it.  We all know they aren’t going to make the big addition to their lineup that could give them the help they need.  This is a team in need of a big righty bat, that they aren’t going to sign.  They are stuck with their current unsatisfying solutions at second base and catcher.  The bullpen is better, and should blow fewer games, but that was merely a nice step in the right direction.  There was more work to be done, and the team does not seem intent on doing what they need to do to put them conclusively over the hump for 2009.  Mets fans today should feel disgusted that their team could have made the big move to put them into the playoffs for 2009, but instead chose to play hardball with the toughest agent in baseball, and then acting surprised when everything blew up in their face.

Mets Starting Pitcher Options – Pro/Con

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

With rumors flying over who the Mets might be signing to fill out their rotation for 2009, I thought it would be a good time to look at what each man out there brings to the table.  Here is a list of guys who have been linked to the Mets offseason plans in some form or another over the past few weeks.

Derek Lowe

Pros:  Sinker ball pitcher, does not allow many home runs, shoulders heavy workload year after year (having thrown 180 or more innings a season the past seven years), a solid but unspectacular six strikeouts per nine innings, low walk rates, sinkerballers tend to age well, probably the best pitcher remaining on the market right now.

Cons:  Scott Boras client, currently about $12-16 million difference between perceived value and the contract offer made by the Mets, seeking contract that will pay him until he turns 40, Type A free agent will require first round compensation pick to whomever signs him (which will actually be a second round pick, meaning the Mets won’t pick until the third round of the draft)

Lowe has dominated the headlines for the Mets ever since the J.J. Putz trade was consummated, as he has become their main target.  Most of the concerns surrounding Lowe center around his age and his contract demands, as right now the two sides seem to be $4 million apart per season, and the Mets seem unwilling to go beyond three years.  He is probably the most likely option for the Mets, and I suspect a 3 year/$42 million plus an option year which could be obtained through reaching innings pitched minimums would be the likely ending point should the Mets sign Lowe.

Oliver Perez

Pros:  Youngest pitcher on the market, offers the upside of a #1/#2 starter, high strikeout totals, left-handed in a division with big left-handed bats

Cons:  Also a Scott Boras client, looking for a long term deal, has been extremely erratic (to say the least), even in good seasons, will walk a bunch and allow a lot of home runs, does not eat up a lot of innings due to early exits, which are a big part of the Oliver Perez Experience, a Type A free agent who would net the team two high draft picks if he signed elsewhere

That last point might be the most important; had Oliver Perez only been a Type B free agent, I think the Mets might be making more of an attempt to resign him, since he would only net the team a sandwich pick if he signed elsewhere.  But with the Mets having already lost a draft pick for signing K-Rod, allowing Perez to sign elsewhere would bring back two high draft picks in return.  That is the reason why the Mets haven’t aggresively tried to bring back Perez.  Then there is the massive inconsistency from start to start, and Perez’s general flakiness, and it would seem to make more sense to let another team deal with all of this, even acknowledging that he could emerge as a #1 starter elsewhere.

Randy Wolf

Pros:  Not a Scott Boras client, left-handed, good strikeout pitcher

Cons:  Last year was the first time since 2004 where Wolf had even as many as 136 IP, moderately high walk rate, high home run rate (which could be depressed greatly at Citi Field)

Randy Wolf would be a decent option for the Mets as their #5 starter.  Unfortunately, he was just good enough last year to where he seems to be establishing a market above that of a low end starter, despite years of injury problems.  At one point, Wolf looked like a safe bet to emerge as a very good pitcher, but injuries have kept him from realizing that potential.  I’d like him more if the Mets sign either Lowe or Perez, but not as a fallback option if they fail to sign either.  But as I said, his good few months in Houston have likely priced him out of that market.

Tim Redding

Pros: Would be cheap filler for the back of the rotation, solid strikeout rate, ate 182 IP for the Nationals last year, would keep Jon Niese in Buffalo for a little while longer

Cons: High number of home runs allowed last season while pitching half of his games at Nationals Park, high walk rate, wants a two year contract (and might get it)

Tim Redding is not a good pitcher, but for a #5 pitcher, you could certainly do worse.  He was underqualified to be a #1 or 2 in Washington, but slotted against lesser pitchers with a good offense behind him, he would probably have a nice year in New York.  Personally, if I were his agent, I’d want him to sign a one year deal with the Mets, where a good offense and defense behind him will artificially inflate his win totals, making him a good bet to get a 2-3 year deal worth more money next year, where the free agent crop is thinner.  Redding ultimately isn’t anything to get excited about, but would be a good option to fill out the rotation.

Pedro Martinez

Pros: Mets fans still love the guy

Cons: He was really, REALLY bad last year, and is not at all durable

I think a lot of Mets fans would love to see Pedro back in blue and orange, and hell, if he learns to adjust his approach to match his current skillset, he could still be an effective pitcher.  But I think at some point, it’s time to move on.  We are now three full seasons removed from Pedro’s last good season, and expecting him to be that Pedro at this point simply is not realistic.  With Pedro, it’s always a major question of whether he’ll be healthy enough to get through another season, and I don’t really care to go through that again.  I love Pedro, I love his personality and I love what he brought to the 2005 Mets.  But it’s time to move on.

Jon Niese

Pros: Has pitched very well in the minors, will be a future solid starter for the Mets

Cons: He isn’t ready to be that in 2009

The Mets made a mistake in hoping Mike Pelfrey would be ready to give the Mets good innings in 2007, and paid for it with growing pains.  He didn’t really fully develop until the middle of last year.  The team likes to rush their prospects along, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see Niese pushed as a potential low end starter next year, but he isn’t ready for the role and would be better off spending the year in Buffalo honing his pitches a little more, and only pitching in Queens if there is an injury to another starter.  Eventually, I think Niese is going to be a part of what the Mets want to do, but he isn’t ready yet.

Our long national nightmare is over

Saturday, December 13th, 2008

Scott Schoeneweis will likely not end the Mets’ season in 2008.  Well, I guess if the Arizona Diamondbacks traded him to the Houston Astros next year sometime, hypothetically it could happen.  But that would seem unlikely.  In two seasons with the Mets, Schoeneweis did little to distinguish himself, not pitching well in either 2007 or 2008.  He could get left-handed hitters out, but that’s it, and on a team that already had about 5 specialists too many last season, one of them was clearly expendable; why not the one that gave up the run that eliminated the Mets from the playoffs?

I shouldn’t be too hard on Schoeneweis; he didn’t belong in the game for that batter (who was right-handed), he was suffering from some real personal trauma with his newborn baby at the time (and of course, I wish him nothing but the best with that), but…I mean, as a Mets fan, you can’t help but be disappointed by the way Schoeneweis pitched.  Plain and simple, he just wasn’t a good pitcher most of the time.  He was marginally better in 2008, but he still wasn’t somebody you felt comfortable with when he was on the mound, particularly if the batter was right-handed.  He won’t be missed, but I still wish him well, particularly on the family front.

In exchange, the Mets got right handed reliever Connor Robertson.  Robertson has been a strikeout pitcher in the minor leagues who, in limited big league innings, hasn’t shown much.  Granted, when I say “limited,” I mean “nine big league innings,” but still.  He’s 27 years old, so he’s not young, but he could turn into a useful reliever at some point.  It does feel like right now, the Mets bullpen is very right-handed, with Feliciano being the only lefty reliever likely to pitch in 2009.  With the Phillies picking up another left-handed bat, you’d think that the Mets might be looking to pick up another lefty reliever at some point, but we will see what happens.

Phillies sign Ibanez, 3 years/$30 million

Friday, December 12th, 2008

I believe the internet term used to describe this would be, “LOL.”  Seriously, I can’t figure out why the Phillies did this.  So they replaced their right-handed, power hitting, walk drawing, poor defensive left fielder for…a left-handed, power hitting, walk-drawing, poor defensive outfielder, only this left fielder hits for less power, draws fewer walks, and might even be worse defensively.  And he’s five years older?  And it replaces the only power righty in their lineup with another left-handed power hitter?  And they signed him until he turns 40?  I wish Mets fans could really, truly laugh out loud at this signing…but the Phillies just won the World Series and we didn’t, so…

Look, I know not everybody loves Pat Burrell, and he has his problems.  He has periods where he is absolutely terrible at the plate, he strikes out a lot, he stinks defensively…I get the problems.  But he draws walks and hits for power from the right side of the plate.  The Mets should get involved here – it really wouldn’t be a bad move for them at all.  It would make Murphy a super-sub for 2009, which might be his best position, and it would make Tatis a pinch hitter/4th outfielder, which also might be his best position.  Sure, the Mets would have to figure out a way to jettison Marlon Anderson, but the team would be better and more interesting.  What’s not to like here?

Mets acquire J.J. Putz

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

Four hours ago, I wasn’t sure who the Mets were going to find to set up for Francisco Rodriguez, but I was pretty sure they’d use Aaron Heilman to get him.  Well, I was partially right – the Mets used Aaron Heilman and a cast of thousands to help get their setup man, and his name is J.J. Putz.  Here’s a breakdown of who is going where:

THE METS GET: 

J.J. Putz, Jeremy Reed, and Sean Green

THE INDIANS GET: 

Joe Smith, Luis Valbuena

THE MARINERS GET:

Aaron Heilman, Endy Chavez, Franklin Guttierez, Mike Carp, Jason Vargas, Ezequiel Carrera, Maikel Cleto

Breaking this down…

The Mets essentially replace Aaron Heilman in the setup role with J.J. Putz.  Putz has primarily worked as a closer the past three seasons, racking up 242 strikeouts in 196.3 innings.  This gives the Mets two hard-throwers working the 8th and 9th innings, guys who make the defense irrelevent by racking up strikeouts.  Unlike K-Rod, he doesn’t seem to be all that walk-prone, although he had his issues last year (which could be due to injury). 

But considering how horrible Heilman was in 2008, Putz brings a new look to the 8th innings, and backup in case K-Rod is injured.  This has to be seen as an upgrade for the Mets.  There are risks, mainly regarding Putz’s health, but as long as he’s healthy, it gives the Mets a strong, viable setup man and it helps ease the concerns of Mets fans worried about the bullpen in 2008.  The Mets bullpen has become quite strong tonight thanks to this trade.

I will miss Joe Smith.  I have been a Joe Smith supporter.  But…the difference between Joe Smith and Sean Green isn’t that wide.  They are both essentially the same player; right-handed groundball specialists.  Green is older and hasn’t pitched quite as well as Smith, but will likely be limited to facing exclusively righthanded batters in the 6th or 7th innings.  As far as value, it’s a step down, but not a massive one.

I’m not a huge fan of Endy Chavez.  I hate watching him hit.  I mean…hate, hate, hate watching him hit.  But I’m not sure if I’m down with the Chavez for Reed swap.  When used exclusively as a defensive sub, Chavez has real value.  He’s probably one of the top defensive outfielders in all of baseball.  Reed is good, but not great.  There is a definite defensive downgrade here for the Mets, and considering that the 5th OF is going to play very often, it’s a bit suspect there.

He also isn’t much with the bat.  He had real promise in the minors, but he’s never adapted to major league pitching.  He needs to hit .300 to have any value.  Who knows, maybe HoJo can work wonders, but I liked Chavez when used as a strict defensive replacement.  The thing with Reed is that he does have potential, and if they can figure out how to get him to utilize his abilities, he could wind up being a steal, but for now, he’s a step down.

The Mets traded four minor leaguers in the deal.  Mike Carp has been in the Mets system for a few years.  He showed some promise last year, after struggling in Binghamton the year before, but he was either 3rd or 4th on the Mets’ organizational depth chart at first base (depending on how you feel about “Nasty” Nick Evans) and was expendable.  He’s a good player, but redundant in this organization.

Jason Vargas was acquired two years ago as part of the Matt Lindstrom trade.  He hasn’t pitched great, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see him moved to the bullpen in Seattle and for him to do well as a lefty specialist.  It’s too soon to do any real evaluation on Cleto or Carrera, but neither has particularly distinguished themselves in the minors.  Cleto is a hard-thrower, but hasn’t had any success yet.  His strongest value to the Mariners is his youth.  Carrera struggled last year, but is also quite young.

Overall, you have to see the trade as a win for the Mets.  They improved the bullpen again without trading anything of real value to do so.  The Mets now have two lights-out caliber relievers pitching the 8th and 9th, hard-throwing strikeout guys.  Figure the two of them throw about 130-140 innings per season with about 140-160 strikeouts. That’s going to be quite formidable for other teams who used to feast on the Mets in the later innings.  The Mets came into the winter meetings needing to revamp the bullpen and they have done so in dramatic fashion.

Okay, so what’s next?

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

Now that the Mets have signed K-Rod, is it time to pack up and get ready for next year?  Of course not.  The Mets have a lot of work to do before Spring Training opens in Port St. Lucie next February.  Right now, the starting rotation goes 3 deep.  Much of last year’s bullpen is still on the roster.  Luis Castillo remains, as does the catching platoon that never got going last year.  There are still things to do.  Let’s take a look at what else they might be thinking about

 

Relief Pitching

 

Ken Rosenthal from FoxSports.com is saying that the Aaron Heilman for Huston Street trade is off the table for now.  This is disappointing to me – I was really hoping the Mets could figure out a way to make this one work.  Street would be the perfect set-up man, and would be valuable insurance in case the drop in velocity does mean K-Rod is hurting.  Another potential option is Matt Capps of the Pirates, but the Mets are balking at adding Jonathan Niese, and rightfully so – even if his ceiling isn’t particularly high, he should be a good, cheap mid-rotation starter no later than 2010, and Omar Minaya has shown in the past how much he values cheap starting pitching.

I do think at some point, Heilman is going to get moved, and he’s either going to bring back another reliever from a team that wants him to start, or a starting pitcher from a team that wants him to setup.  My gut tells me the former is more likely in this case, I just don’t know what his value is by himself.  I do think the Mets may have made a mistake in balking at including Feliciano in a trade for Street; Feliciano isn’t particularly young and is likely working his way into strict lefty specialist territory.  With Scott Schoeneweis already on the roster and likely untradeable, the Mets should have acted on that one when they had the chance.  Too bad.

 

Starting Pitching

 

This one is tricky.  The Mets obviously weren’t getting CC Sabathia.  At this point, AJ Burnett has probably priced himself out of their grasp, and Derek Lowe is on his way, though the Mets are talking to Boras today.  Who does that leave as the best starting pitcher in their price range?  It might wind up with the Mets bringing back Oliver Perez.  I will admit, at first I wasn’t a huge fan of bringing back Ollie, but with the way the market is going, it might not be a bad gamble.  Sure, he will continue to drive Mets fans crazy, and he had periods where he flat-out stunk in 2008, but who else is out there?  Jon Garland?  Randy Wolf?  Ben Sheets, who will spend a good chunk of his next contract on the DL?  There are no easy answers here, and the Mets need somebody halfway decent in case Maine isn’t healthy.

Jon Niese is right now nominally the Mets’ #5 starter, but to say I don’t think he’s ready is an understatement.  Until he pitches in AAA, and shows he can get AAA hitters out, I think the Mets need to look at him as a contingency plan in case one of their other starters gets hurt.  The thing about Omar Minaya, though, is that he has shown a reluctance to overpay for low-end rotation help, so don’t expect a Wolf or even perhaps a Brad Penny here – expect either a trade or a minor league deal for somebody who can compete with Niese for the last spot in the rotation.  Personally, I’d like to see a more established, good pitcher in camp, but payroll simply may not allow for that.

Second Base

I think the Mets are stuck with Castillo here.  I wish it weren’t true, even if I’m not personally a huge Orlando Hudson guy, but I don’t see how the Mets could get out from under the Castillo contract.  Incidentally…who do you think would blink first on a Castillo for Andruw Jones trade request?  Right now they are paying Castillo $18 over 3 years.  Andruw would require one year at $18 million, and if nothing else, would give the Mets right-handed power in the lower part of the lineup and good outfield defense.  Both could use a change of scenery.  I know most Mets fans have no love for Andruw, but as a #6 hitter and left fielder, he might not be a bad option.   Then the Mets could sign Hudson to play second and use Tatis and Murphy as super subs.  I think it’s not a bad idea.

Left Field

Not a lot of movement here.  There are some interesting options available, but most of them are defensive nightmares, and it appears that Omar Minaya covets good defense, particularly since it is unsure how Citi Field will play defensively.  If he wants power, there’s plenty out there; Bobby Abreu, Pat Burrell, Adam Dunn, Raul Ibanez, and the big name of course is Manny Ramirez.  I wonder if the Mets will continue to steer clear of Manny even as other teams show little interest.  If they could do this one short-term, 2-3 years, it might not be a bad gamble.  Alas, I just don’t think it’s going to happen.

Catcher

Ever since early talk had the Mets interested in trading Brian Schneider to the Red Sox and signing Jason Varitek, there hasn’t been much talk about the Mets and the catcher position.  That trade might have caused me to heave something out a window, so much would I hate it – Varitek is utterly finished.  I don’t expect the Mets to do anything at catcher before opening day, but a transaction wouldn’t catch me totally off-guard either – there just isn’t much out there.

So what’s actually going to happen?  Heck if I know.  They have to get another starting pitcher.  Oliver Perez makes the most sense, even if 4-5 more years of wavering between Good Ollie and Bad Ollie is enough to cause me to break out into hives.  Aaron Heilman will probably be moved, likely to a team that wants him to start and can spare a setup guy.  Luis Castillo will likely be back to torture Mets fans, as will the catching platoon.  Mets fans might dream of seeing Manny Ramirez in Blue And Orange, but it likely won’t happen.  Keep an eye out on pitching the next few weeks, and don’t be too shocked if the Mets figure out a way to get another decent bat over here.  The Winter Meetings may be over, but the Mets roster reshuffling continues.

Mets sign K-Rod

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

The Mets and Francisco Rodriguez appear to have reached a consensus on a contract, and as long as K-Rod passes a physical, he will be the first offseason acquisition of the New York Mets.  It’s a good move for the Mets, as they managed to keep the contract to 3 years/$37 million, roughly half the dollars K-Rod’s agent was originally asking for and two fewer years.  It’s another offseason victory for the Mets, to go along with the Carlos Beltran contract four years ago and the Johan Santana trade last season.  We will soon see if this offseason victory can help propel them to postseason wins as well.

We here at BlueAndOrange.net had earlier endorsed Brian Fuentes for the role of the Mets closer in 2009.  While we are sad that Fuentes will not wear the colors for which this site is named in 2009, we wish him well in his future endeavors.  We meant K-Rod no ill will; we simply preferred Fuentes.  With K-Rod in the fold, you can bet that this site will support K-Rod to the max.  He’s our guy now.

And there is a lot to like about Francisco Rodriguez.  As his name implies, K-Rod is a strikeout pitcher.  He has never had a season where he threw more innings pitched than strikeouts.  Because he is a power pitcher, he tends to be walk-prone as well, but is capable of having stretches where he is absolutely unhittable.  Another plus is his ability to avoid the long-ball; he has allowed only 7 home runs in 135.7 IP over the past two seasons.  Plus, for those of you who like to know that a pitcher can get it done in the 9th, K-Rod has proven himself an adept 9th inning man with four straight 40+ save seasons.

Of course, this isn’t a perfect signing.  K-Rod’s strikeout rate has dropped in each of the past four seasons.  Now, one could argue that striking out 12-13 batters per nine innings was simply unsustainable, the fact is we are a pretty far way past that point.  Of concern is the drop in his velocity.  Keith Law of ESPN.com does a great job here explaining that part of the reason is because K-Rod has cut back on throwing his vicious slider, adding a changeup to his repetoire of pitches.  Hmmm…Venezuelan pitcher, wears #57, throws a changeup…I think there is somebody that can perhaps help K-Rod improve that changeup a little bit.  But the violent delivery of the slider has caused K-Rod to cut back on using the pitch and makes him a health risk if he continues to use it, even though it’s his best pitch.  But worst-case scenario, if K-Rod gets hurt, it’s only a three year deal.

The Mets aren’t done yet, of course.  While K-Rod does improve the Mets significantly, there is still the matter of adding a starting pitcher or two, more work to be done in the bullpen, finding a way to jettison Luis Castillo and install a second baseman who isn’t terrible, and perhaps upgrading behind the plate and in left field as well.  But the big move is out of the way; the Mets have found the man who will close games for them the next three-plus seasons, and based on what was available on the market, they may very well have gotten the best relief pitcher they could, and on favorable contract terms.  As a Mets fan, how can you feel bad about that?