To me, discussing off-season moves in the same October that the Mets have actually played games in is like dating Angelina Jolie before all of the paparazzi pictures of you with Jennifer Aniston have ran in The Enquirer.
So now that the calendar has turned, let's talk about 2007...known to Wallace Matthews as: "The Year We Have No Shot".
I myself find it hysterical how Matthews deals in hypotheticals and assumes the worst in all cases:
"How do they know the Braves will continue to play like bottom-feeders"Gee, because every move they've made in the past three seasons has been to cut payroll, so why should we assume that the pattern would change? Or has Captain Planet's alimony payments to Jane expired?
"or that the Phillies will continue to underachieve"Um, hello...because Art Howe is on their coaching staff?
"or that Jeffrey Loria, whose largesse gifted the Mets with Paul Lo Duca and Carlos Delgado, suddenly won't decide he would like the Marlins to win again?"Let's see: a young, impressionable roster who lose the man who made many impressions on them, the first big league manager that many of them have ever known?
I will say that Matthews got one thing right:
How Minaya or his boss, Fred Wilpon, can truly believe the baseball planets will align this way for them again next year, only they know.That's right...Omar Minaya knows.
Not you, Wally.
I will tend to trust Omar Minaya, who in his short time here has proven that he knows how to put together a championship caliber roster, as opposed to Pat Gillick's Phillies regime in which all that he's proven so far is that he knows how to step in it by stripping the roster of it's stars and still come within a breath of the playoffs on the strength of Gillick's pom pom waving.
Nevertheless, I'm here to help and provide guidance...free of charge as always. Herego, my master plan for 2007. Let's start with what's out there in terms of free agents:
The Bench: The Mets bench has been a strong point of the club over the past two seasons. Marlon Anderson and Chris Woodward highlighted the squad in 2005, and Endy Chavez was the diamond in our rough in 2006. The problem, as Eddie Coleman has said on the "Mike and The Angry Puppy" show, is that when Chavez was forced to be a starter, the bench was weakened. Because of this, Omar has to take much care in making sure the bench is strong, and can remain strong throught injury in 2007.
How does this happen? Damned if I know. We know that Julio Franco will return (it should be as a coach but that's another blog for another time), and my feeling is that Chris Woodward should be re-signed to be their utility player. Woodward has had some health issues last season which probably caused his production to fall off from '05 to '06. But what if Woodward leaves? Well, I'm not an expert on who is going to make an impact on the bench in '07, but I will ask a question:
How exactly would an orange soul patch look on Scott Spiezio?
Call me crazy if you want. You can even crucify me (I'm used to it) for even considering bringing the Cardinal that killed us on board. But consider: Spiezio can play just about every non-battery position on the field in a pinch, he's older yet not ancient, and you know he can hit a high and tight fastball (thanks, Guillermo). And if you think that the switch hitter is a one-hit wonder, remember that he was getting big hits back in 2002 for the Angels in their World Series run against the Giants. So if Omar wants to use the "if you can't beat them, sign them" theory with Soul Patch Spiezio, I for one would be all for it, as long as he dyes his facial hair to match the uniform scheme that the Mets are wearing that day...black one day, blue the next, white with pinstripes on the weekends...the signing would be worth it for entertainment purposes alone.
From out of Left Field: The Metmaster, you must know, looooooooooves Alfonso Soriano.
In fact, Metmaster is at home right at this very moment sending a lifetime's supply of red velvet cupcakes to Diego Bentz's home right now.
I've never been a big fan of Soriano, for various reasons. First, it was the Yankee affiliation. Then, it was the big numbers in the small Arlington ballpark. Then, it was his whining and bitching about having to play left field. I'm still not a Soriano "fan" per say.
But a 40-40 season in a cavernous ballpark while not really killing the Nationals on defense at a new position is pretty damn impressive. So yes, Virginia, there is an Alfonso Soriano. And yes, Omar would be a fool not to at least consider him to play left field, while still making sure that Willie Randolph makes sure that Endy Chavez gets enough at bats to feel wanted and useful.
Sacks of Second Helpings: All right, so we're assuming at this point that Jose Valentin is a goner. It could work out that Valentin does come back...but let's assume that someone else overpays him and that the Mets look elsewhere. If you look at the lists of free agents that are out there, there are some interesting possibilities at second base...certainly more interesting than you'll find in left field (outside of Soriano and perhaps Shannon Stewart...let's not even mention Carlos Lee, who's being fitted for Roger Clemens' old locker in Houston as we speak). Ray Durham had an interesting season for the Giants in 2006, hitting career highs in homers and ribbies for a Giants squad that was without Barry Bonds for most of it. Impressive that this season came in a ballpark that isn't the easiest to hit dingers in.
But is it me, or does Ray Durham have "bloated contract" written all over him? Something tells me that he's going to not only be expected to match his 2006 numbers, but that same something also tells me that he's not going to match them.
That's not to say I wouldn't welcome Ray Durham. I would certainly welcome free agent and recent Angel Adam Kennedy to play second base. Anybody who hits three home runs in an LCS game is all right by me, and luckily for the Mets, we're on his radar...even if it is the radar that consists of the agent realizing that he's talking to a New York reporter ("Adam definitely has interest in the Royals, insert Kansas City beat writer here...no, really. He does!)
The problem here is that Kennedy is a lefty stick, and the Mets would probably be inclined to look for righthanders to balance out the lineup. Quite honestly, I don't want to live in a world where the Mets lineup is vulnerable to pitchers like Mark Guthrie, Gene Walter, and Jeff Musselman.
This is what makes Red Sox free agent Mark Loretta an attractive option. If you recall, I liked Mark Loretta last year, and I like him again this season, when he doesn't have to be traded for.
And don't forget that Loretta, in addition to being a .285 hitter in '06 was part of that Red Sox team that made virtually no errors all year long (four last season for Loretta if you want to nit-pick). You know that Loretta is going to come in and play the same steady defense that Jose Valentin played for the Mets in '06.
Trading Up: Of course, there are trades out there. Some obvious, some obvious only to me. Let's start with the obvious one. Look, we know that Lastings Milledge is a strong candidate to be traded. We also know that there aren't a lot of left fielders besides Soriano on the trade market. So we first look to Tampa Bay and Carl Crawford.
Paul Lo Duca was the quintessential two hole hitter for the Mets last season. He puts the bat on the ball, uses great control, and has no problem giving himself up to get Jose Reyes an extra base. There aren't a lot of guys out there in free agency, or who would be available in a realistic trade, but Crawford is that guy.
Crawford is an interesting guy in the fact that he's a player that actually admitted to having a goal of being the best fantasy player in major league baseball. I for one, would settle for Crawford being the best reality player in the borough of Queens.
And then there was Crawford bitching and moaning earlier in the 2006 season that he does all the same things that Jose Reyes does, but because he plays in Tampa, nobody notices. But Carl, what about all the fantasy baseball geeks (settle down, I play fantasy baseball so I'm allowed to call us "geeks", so lighten up on the hate mail) that notice you? We're not enough? And hey, you want a chance to prove that you're every bit as good as Jose Reyes? Be my guest. You have a standing invitation to be traded for Lastings and Phil Humber anytime.
Pitching: Did you by chance know that the Mets are deficient in starting pitching?
If not, what cave are you living in?
Daisuke Matsuzaka looked fairly impressive at the WBC with his "Gyroball". But how long will it be before major league hitters look for that pitch and learn to lay off it? More importantly, how long would it take for Matsuzaka to follow the path of every other unproven Japanese import to come directly to the Mets and immediately become Japan's answer to Mike Maddux? And at what cost? Thirty million just to negotiate? Then another hundred over six seasons to lock him up? Not to mention the inevitable billion dollars in medical bills as this guy has been known to chuck 200 pitches a start during his career.
So forgive my constant Komiyama flashbacks, but I'll pass.
And I won't even consider the Giants' Jason Schmidt as an option...That's how sure I am that he's staying in the Pacific time zone (think Pacific Northwest).
Now you and I know the obvious answer here (besides convincing Tom Glavine's family that it's OK for Tommy two teeth to finish his career on a winner rather than a rebuilder). He's close to last in your baseball register, and he's too expensive to stay where he is. Yes, it's Barry Zito. And it seems like we've been talking about Zito for the better part of five seasons (well, at least I've been talking about him for five seasons). We've been asking the questions about whether parting with prospects to get him. Well, there are no questions left as Zito made it official just hours ago: he's a free agent. All it will take will be draft picks (contrary to the drastic rule change we thought was coming in the new CBA, it will still take a draft pick to sign Barry Zito.)
Zito, to me, with the resumed tutelage of Rick Peterson, and a bevy of 7, 8, and 9 hole "hitters" in the NL, would instantly return to Cy Young Calibre with that big curveball. And if there's something the Mets desperately need, it's a starter that has averaged 219 innings per 162 games.
Here's the remaining issue with Zito, and here's why Minaya is publicly posturing that he's not signing any big names: The Mets are in desperate need of starting pitching. Again, I put to you that you would have to have lived in a cave for the last six months not to realize that.
Guess who else doesn't live in a cave?
That's right boys and girls...Zito's agent, Scott Boras. And he preys on weaknesses in much the same manner that Hannibal Lechter would (some would say that the two are one in the same).
So whether the Mets and Zito consummate a working relationship or not, the Mets need a back up plan. (It doesn't necessarily have to come instead of Zito, but rather, in addition.) Yet Omar Minaya has said that he will be creative this offseason in reshaping the future of this club, and he has said that he's not going after big names on the free agent market. We know that Omar likes to create smokescreens, but assuming that he's semi-serious, what will Omar do? Luckily, Omar has Metstradamus on his side, at the low low cost of nothing.
Now granted, what you've read so far hasn't exactly reinvented the wheel. But you see, I have the answer to all of Omar's problems in the form of a blockbuster trade. It is so blockbuster and so trade-a-licious that it will knock your socks off (it's in italics because it's a thinly veiled hint).
What is this trade? Who does it involve? Does it involve more than two teams? Will there be a hated rival involved? Who will be the latest big ticket addition to the New York Mets? And who will see it coming?
You'll have to find out tomorrow in: "The Mother Of All Stupid Trade Proposals".