Point/Counterpoint: Omar Minaya

It should come as no surprise to long-time readers of that website that Joeadig and I would disagree on a topic. I think we have thus far disagreed on every topic ever written about the Mets, and will likely continue to do so. With that in mind, we are starting a new feature today called “Point/Counterpoint.” Why is it called Point/Counterpoint? Because I couldn’t think of a more original name or format. Anyway, our first topic of conversation here is the Omar Minaya contract extension. My comments below are in blue, and Joe’s are in black. Enjoy!


  

Jose Reyes was drafted by the Mets in June of 2003 by Steve Phillips.

Technically incorrect – Jose Reyes was signed as a Latin American free agent in 1999 and called up to the major leagues by Jim Duquette in 2003. Omar Minaya was the Mets’ assistant GM when Reyes was signed, and credit for scouting and development should probably go to the entire front office, and not Steve Phillips by himself, since Steve Phillips probably never even saw Reyes play when he was signed.

My point isn’t that we need to credit Steve Phillips—it’s that we CAN’T credit Omar Minaya for signing Reyes.

And my point is that we CAN credit Minaya – he was part of the Mets front office at the time. Staffs should be credited for international signings and drafts – Omar was a part of this staff.

David Wright was drafted by the Mets in July of 2004 by Steve Phillips.

Again, technically incorrect – Wright was drafted in 2001 and called up to the major leagues by Jim Duquette in 2004. Again, Omar Minaya was the assistant GM when Wright was signed, and credit for scouting and development of young players should probably be shared by the entire front office. Minaya was a big part of the scouting department until he took the GM job with the Expos in 2002.

Pedro Martinez was signed by the Mets in December of 2004 by Omar Minaya—the Mets were the only team willing to give him a guaranteed 4th year (how’s that work out?)

This turned out to be a bad contract – Pedro generously gave the Mets a year and a half of good baseball out of a four year deal. One of Omar’s big problems seems to be giving players one year too many on these contracts, which is how he often wins their services, but leaves the team holding the bag in that last year (the Wagner deal is another example).

Carlos Beltran was signed by the Mets in January of 2005 by Omar Minaya—he allegedly wanted to go to the Yankees so badly that he was willing to go there for less money; Omar simply got him because he threw a ton of cash at him.

Are we going to hold it against Omar that he got a deal done? That’s what he’s supposed to do as GM – he’s supposed to get things done. He identified a need to add a big bat to the lineup (the 2004 Mets finished 12th in the NL in runs scored), so he went out, identified the best use of resources would be to “throw a ton of cash” at Carlos Beltran, and got the deal done. That’s a good move.

I’m not saying that I don’t like the deal: quite the opposite, actually. I really like having Beltran in CF. What I’m saying is that ANYONE could have said to Beltran’s agent, “Hey, we’ll give you more than anyone else to come play here for us.” Signing Beltran hardly makes Omar a good GM.

Omar got the Beltran deal done. That was something his predecessors had continually failed to do. I think there is more to free agency than simply “throwing cash at a player and hoping he signs” – Houston’s offer was competitive, if you remember. The Yankees were involved. Omar going after Beltran and letting no price get in the way of preventing a done deal is a feather in his cap – it made the team better and he deserves credit for that.

Billy Wagner was signed by the Mets in November of 2005 by Omar Minaya—his teammates in Houston and Philly didn’t want him back, so Omar got him by throwing a ton of money at him.

While his teammates may or may not have wanted Billy back in Philadelphia, the Phillies sure did; they had made a contract offer after the Mets made their offer. Billy chose the Mets’ offer. You think the Phillies might have preferred to have Tom Gordon as their closer in 2006 rather than Billy Wagner? Again, I’m not going to hold it against Omar that he got a deal done, albeit a deal that again went a year too long.

Johan Santana was acquired by the Mets in January of 2008 by Omar Minaya—Omar was the only GM willing to part with both good prospects and the GNP of a small developing nation.

Again, we’re holding this against Omar? He identified a problem (no ace in the starting rotation), saw a lack of options on the free agent market, and made a trade that was beneficial for the team. He should be lauded for trading a package of three future mid rotation starters (and that’s their ceiling) and a speedy OF who may or may not ever pan out for the best pitcher in baseball, then getting the contract done and making the team better.

I’m not holding it against Omar at all. What I’m saying is that just about every single beat-writer in NY had already proposed that exact deal that Omar made—so how can we say that Omar did anything special? Again, any GM could have done what he did here.

But no other GM *did* what he did here. Cashman could have beaten this offer, and has been ripped to shreds for not doing it. Theo Epstein could have beaten this offer, and didn’t. Also, if you remember, the first “rumors” of such a deal involved Jose Reyes, who wasn’t traded, and the Mets managed to complete this trade without dealing their top hitting prospect at the time as well. I don’t think it’s fair to Omar to say “anybody could have gotten this done,” – the fact that he got the best pitcher in baseball without dealing their best prospect or best young player is a coup. Lastly, you don’t think that the beat writers were proposing that exact same trade because they knew that’s what the offer was? C’mon now.

We can all agree that the above players constituted the change from the dead years of 2001-2005 to the consistent playoff contender of the last few (and next few) years. We can all argue that Pedro was not the Pedro of his Red Sox/Expos days, but he helped bring about the change.

I won’t agree that Pedro did anything to “bring about the change.” He was a good pitcher in 2005 and then was a non-contributor to every other team after that.

I can’t ignore your short-sightedness. Pedro’s stats may not have warranted that huge contract, but his presence, his attitude and his prestige did. He wasn’t an ace, but he had the presence of an ace, and that helped to change the feeling of the team. You were just as excited to have him as anyone.

I hate the “Pedro turned everything around!” talking point. What exactly did Pedro do that changed things around? The team was at its best when he wasn’t in the clubhouse every day. Also, you should remember this – after the Pedro signing, I wrote a scathing E-Mail hating the Pedro signing, in the days before MiracleMets.net (if I can find it, I will reprint it here). Why do you seem to give Pedro more credit for the Mets’ turnaround than Omar Minaya? You and I agree that the contract was a bad one, and when other moves definitely made the team better, this one did not.

With that in mind, you can clearly see that all Omar did was rely heavily on the two young studs that were in his farm system (Reyes and Wright), and then throw a ton of cash at each years’ crop of free agents (and Johan).

What major free agent acquisitions did Omar make post-Wagner? Alou? Also, what was Omar supposed to do, not sign Beltran? Not sign Wagner? Those were good moves that improved the team. You’re going to hold it against the guy that he made moves to make the team better?

No, but I’m going to hold it against the guy that he DIDN’T make the smaller, complimentary moves that helped the big guys do their thing.

Free agency is the worst way to build benches and bullpens. It’s OK to overpay for star players via free agency, but it’s exactly the wrong way to find role players, because you wind up diverting resources towards players who don’t add that many wins, when players as good or better are often available for a minor league deal.

Anyone, myself included, could have thrown a ton of money at the free agents each offseason—and make no mistake about it: the Mets were the top bidders for all of the acquired top-level free agents— so to give Omar credit for acquiring any of them is a mistake.

Um, why? That’s his job. His job is to field the best possible team year in and year out, and with a lack of internal options to fill certain positions, he made some smart moves that made the team better (and a couple that didn’t pan out).

But WHY was there a lack of internal options? Where were all the Rule 5 guys that he let slip away? How many mid-level players have gone on to play important roles on contending teams over the past three years? The GM’s job is the “field the best possible team” but a team consists of 25 guys PLUS a minor league that can supplement the big guys.

The lack of internal options can at least be partially blamed by poor drafting and Latin American scouting by the Mets before Omar got here. We just finished Year 4 of the Minaya regime, meaning most of the fruits from his drafts should be just ready to come to the majors now (outside of guys who were rushed, like Pelfrey and Joe Smith). The Latin American guys will be even longer, since they are signed younger. If there are still a lack of internal options 2-3 years from now, it’s fair to blame Minaya, but not yet. Also, remember that a lot of the high minors pitching prospects who could have aided in the pen were traded to get Johan Santana – call me crazy, but I’d still rather have Johan.

In addition to this core nucleus, what has Omar Minaya brought in to help this promising nucleus? Let’s take a look:

Orlando Hernandez – Signed as a free agent in January of 2005— not counting a half-season with Arizona, he has been on the DL six times, including the ENTIRE 2008 campaign. For his “services” he has been paid upwards of $28 million.

He was acquired by the Mets for Jorge Julio a quarter of the way through 2006. He gave the team 250 good innings over two years in exchange for a lousy reliever that would pitch in the minor leagues for most of 2008. This was a good move; the bad move was signing him through 2008.

Oliver Perez – Acquired with Roberto Hernandez for Xavier Nady in July of 2006; a good deal for both teams so this is a wash.

Agree on this one. This was a good trade.

John Maine – Acquired from Baltimore in January of 2006 with Julio for Kris Benson. This will go down as the best move that Omar Minaya ever made, since Maine was basically a throw-in.

Call me crazy, but I think that getting the best pitcher in baseball for three low-end starters/middle relievers and a potential fourth outfielder might trump the John Maine trade. Also, it’s worth pointing out; 60% of the Mets’ rotation for part of 2006 and all of 2007 was acquired in exchange for Mike Cameron and Kris Benson. And that 60% was really good, too.

Agree with the last part of your statement, but your first point is just wrong.

Unless one (or more) of Phil Humber, Kevin Mulvey, or Delois Guerra should become the best starting pitcher in baseball, or unless Carlos Gomez becomes Carlos Beltran, the Johan deal was a much better move. Acquiring a #3-4 starter for an older #3-4 starter is nice; acquiring the best pitcher in baseball for the pu-pu platter was nicer.

Moises Alou – Since his signing in November of 2006, Alou has played in exactly 102 games, and been paid $20 million.

He signed for one year too long, a Minaya problem; he was still a good acquisition for 2007. The problem with Alou wasn’t signing Alou, but not having a good backup in place for the inevitable injury – I feel like that the big Minaya shortcoming when it came to Alou was the idea of relying on him to play 162 games when that clearly wasn’t happening.

What’s that? You’re admitting a “Minaya shortcoming”? Wow.

Awww c’mon, that’s not fair, I’ve admitted plenty of Minaya shortcomings.

Carlos Delgado – Acquired in December of 2006 for Mike Jacobs, Yusmeiro Petit, and Grant Psomas. His July and August aside, Omar traded Jacobs (32 HR, 95 RBI on a lousy team) for an aging cement-handed first-basemen (38 HR, 115 RBI). I’d say the future for Jacobs is much brighter (and MUCH cheaper) than Delgado, and heading into 2009 I’m much rather have Jacobs, especially when you consider the money difference.

I disagree – Delgado has outplayed Jacobs all three years of the Delgado contract. Jacobs is in his prime and has a lot of the same problems Delgado has; he’s not a good defensive player and he’s not a good hitter against lefties. The Mets traded the poor man’s Lyle Overbay, without the defense; is that really such a bad trade? Also, those 32 homers by Jacobs will lead to a nice arbitration raise this offseason, narrowing their gap in salaries.

You’re the numbers guy. Look at them, and then compare salaries, and then tell me Jacobs isn’t heads-and-tails above Delgado in the real world (i.e., not fantasy leagues).

What? Delgado’s numbers are better across the board each and every year he’s been under contract (Delgado’s rates: .265/.349/.505/.854; Jacobs: .258/.314/.483/.796). Throw in the fact that Jacobs is even poorer defensively than Delgado, and this isn’t even a contest – I’d much rather the Mets pay Delgado more to be better than Jacobs than save some bucks at first base and be a worse team. And this is post-prime Delgado vs. current prime Jacobs, and Delgado is still out performing him. You’re the one citing fantasy numbers like home runs and RBIs, and even there he falls short of Delgado’s production.

Luis Castillo – Signed to a FOUR-YEAR deal less than a year ago and he’s already being shopped around? Good call Omar. Really.

This one didn’t work out, to say the least. The problem was, the team didn’t have a second baseman; the only two on last year’s market were Castillo and Kaz Matsui (who realistically, Omar could not bring back to New York). The Astros had offered Castillo three years; in order to get Castillo, he had to offer four. It was still a bad move, but it was a justifiable bad move.

I’ll remember to quote you that this was a “justifiable move” in three years when he’s done getting paid his $24 million.

I said “justifiable bad move.” It was still an utter failure, but at least there was a thought process behind it. It was either bring back Castillo, bring back Kaz Matsui (which wouldn’t have worked), or option 3, which is to start a sub-Matsui, sub-Castillo option at second base. Besides, he won’t be on the team next year, let alone three years from now, so I doubt I will care.

The bullpen – I don’t need to say anything.

The bullpen has been lousy the past two years, no question. He did a good job in 2006, bad job since. I do think you get lucky with bullpen construction, but the organization should start targeting hard throwers for the system who either pan out into good starters who turn into relievers; the upper part of the farm system currently lacks players like this.

And whose fault is that?

Steve Phillips? Jim Duquette? Johan Santana? To be fair, Bobby Parnell and Brian Stokes do fit the bill here, and will probably (hopefully?) be a part of the next good Mets’ bullpen.

Daniel Murphy/Nick Evans – Both drafted in June of 2006—it remains to be seen if these two are anything more than good late-season call-ups. My gut says Murphy pays off but Evans is never heard from again.

It’s too soon to tell what will be of these guys. Neither were prospects before this year, Murphy made himself into one, Evans less so. But who can tell? Surely neither is can’t miss.

Brian Schneider/Ryan Church – Traded for an ornery Mets top prospect (Lastings Millidge) in a move that was pretty much universally questioned by everyone; couldn’t Omar have gotten more for this once untouchable kid?

You’d think they could have gotten more, although Church looked good in his first season. I think history won’t be kind to Minaya for this trade, although it’s too soon to tell; it depends on if Milledge ever pans out. Clearly, the team didn’t think he would.

Mike Pelfrey – Like I said before, when a draft pick goes well for a team, the scouting and development staff deserves the credit, so it doesn’t all go to Omar here, but he was the GM when Big Pelf was drafted, and so far, so good.

Pelf deserves credit, and so does Omar.

Small moves, the ones that fill the middle relievers and bench players, are the ones that a GM should be judged by. As seems pretty clear to me, the “smaller moves” that Omar has made during his tenure with the Mets have been less-than stellar.

This seems like an arbitrary criteria, given that the big moves Omar has made have by and large worked, and have been the difference between a 60-70 win team and an 80-90 win team. I mean, think about it…when a GM hits on the small moves, and misses on the big moves, you know what you have? The 2001-2004 Mets, teams that whiffed on major free agent signings and trades that failed to make the team better while generally having decent benches and bullpens.

That’s a lame excuse. The Mets wouldn’t “whiff” on major free agents no matter who the GM is if they keep offering to outspend everyone. So why can’t they do that PLUS do well with the small moves?

They were outspending everyone on guys like Tom Glavine, Cliff Floyd, and Mike Cameron. That doesn’t win games; hell, it didn’t win games. That was my point. The change in philosophy, to spend top dollar and getting top free agents instead of spending high dollar and getting mediocre free agents was not a system that was working. Credit for Omar for knowing who to go “all in” on and generally staying away from costly mistakes (Castillo nonwithstanding).

Plus, while Omar does have the reputation for being a GM who nails the big moves and misses on the small moves, what about 2006? Every small move he made that year worked – Darren Oliver, Chad Bradford, Pedro Feliciano, Jose Valentin, El Duque, Maine, Ollie, Duaner Sanchez, Guillermo Mota, Endy Chavez – all of these were small pickups, guys who weren’t on the 2005 Mets that helped give the team the extra few wins they needed to become a great team. It just happens that the guys they brought back from that group, with a few exceptions, generally fell off a little bit (or in Mota’s case, a lot), whereas the guys they let go continued to pitch well for other teams and were replaced by lousy guys (I’m looking at you, Scott Schoeneweis).

So what I’m learning from the above paragraphs is that you want to give the guy credit for moves he made in 2006? Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t it 2007 and 2008 where the Mets crashed? And now you’re okay with giving the guy a contract through 2012 (all guaranteed money, by the way)?

My point was, you get lucky with small moves more often than not. I cited those guys from 2006 as a point where Omar has found luck with smaller moves in the past. As another example, I think the Phillies have gotten really lucky with guys like Greg Dobbs (who was terrible in Seattle before the Phillies acquired him), JC Romero (who was released by the Red Sox in the middle of a pennant race and turned into an unhittable lefty stopper), and Chad Durbin (who had never posted an ERA under 4.72 before coming to Philly). I would say a failing of the Minaya regime has been signing guys like Schoeneweis and Marlon Anderson to multi-year contracts when players who are at worst just as bad, but at best hold more upside, are freely available. That said, Omar got it right in 2006 (probably because the team was more desperate going into 2006 than it has been since) and I think he can get it right again.

But with little moves, there is a lot more luck than skill involved; with big moves, you’re bringing in impact guys who can make an immediate impact and help turn things around. With little moves, it’s more about casting a wide net, bringing in a bunch of players, and hoping a few of them pan out into something useful. To judge Minaya solely on the little moves without talking about the big moves that really helped turn this team into a perennial playoff contender isn’t fair.

I absolutely agree that there’s a lot of luck involved in making small moves pay off; to disagree with that would be ignorant. But you’re telling me that it can’t be done? Look at the 90’s Braves and Yankees—those teams were made by a small core of All Stars and a whole revolving boatload of bit players. Those teams were consistently filled with guys who went elsewhere and faded away, but their GMs saw the potential and acted and made their teams winners for a long time. It’s not impossible to do.

On the contrary, I cited some of his smaller moves that worked as an example that I think he can get it done again. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t endorse him for GM. What I am saying is to judge him on the whole; has he made this team better? The answer is yes. I think, given a change in philosophy back to his old philosophy, some hard work, and a little bit of lady lucky, Omar will get this team where it needs to be.

I’m not saying that I don’t like Omar Minaya and want him fired. But I am saying that I would have been a LOT more hesitant to extend the contract of the man, given all of the team’s flaws over the past two seasons.

The team had two options here; extend Omar or fire him. They could not let him go into 2009 as a lame duck because he might be too desperate to kill the future of this team in order to get a contract for 2010. I have no problem with the decision to extend Omar rather than let him go, because it establishes continuity in the front office. This basically gives Omar 2-3 years to show real improvement on the major league level, or else he’s done. It was the right thing to do.

4 Responses to “Point/Counterpoint: Omar Minaya”

  1. Joeadig says:

    I agree with everything written in black.

  2. Chris Wilcox says:

    Even the stuff that was blatantly wrong?

  3. johnadig says:

    has anyone ever written anything that cox didn’t try and debunk to death? jesus. anyway, if omar was so great, he should trade david wright to the phils for pedro feliz and any other latin american player he wants. I mean, isn’t that part of his master plan? what are the odds that by the end of his new contract extension, he formally changes the team name to los mets?

  4. tjv101 says:

    After reading “War and Peace,” I mean Point/Counterpoint, I have a few things to add. Minaya will be credited for 3 things overall: The Signing of Martinez and Beltran in the winter of 04/05 that brought respect to this team (again), The locking up of Wright/Reyes for long term deals (and relatively cheap too I might add) and bringing in Santana for basically nothing. Yes, he did a few other things like add an aging closer like Wagner for 4 years and pick up John Maine as a throw in to rid the Bensons out of NY. But he will certainly be faulted too. Long term signings of Castillo will eat the Mets up the next 3 seasons (whether they trade him or not, no team will pick up his entire contract so the Mets will be handing over 3-5 million a year for the next 3 years to a guy who won’t even be on the team when spring training rolls around. Secondly, Minaya will be faulted for what I like to call “Smaller Failures” like signing El Duque to a 2 year extension and re-signing an oft-injured Alou (even at a relatively reasonable $7.5 million dollars). Most Met fans and I am sure Minaya included expected at least half a seasons worth out of each of these guys for 2008. One gave them a few games, the other gave them nothing at all. Thirdly, and most importantly, Minaya (and Randolph to a large degree) will be credited for the Mets failures the past 3 seasons. In 2006, they should have won the World Series but lost in game 7 of the NLCS in a heart-breaking affair that I may never get over. The last two years, they have had 1st place leads of significance (7 games with 17 to go in 2007 and 3.5 game lead with 17 to go in 2008) and not being able to close the deal and losing once again for the second straight year on the last day of the season costing them a possible playoff berth. You pick which has more detrimental. Apparently the front office think Minaya is doing a better than worse job and gave him an extension for the next several years. To this I agree. I don’t dislike Minaya overall and think extending his contract is good for this team just like it was a no-brainer to sign Jerry Manuel for a contract extension. The Mets want stability heading into 2009 as they christen their new ballpark and I think besides a winning team, Met fans want that too.

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