"I'm all for Aaron coming to Spring Training as a starter." -Dan WarthenSince Heilman has taken the "Start Me or Trade Me" stance, it's tempting to offer to not only pay Heilman's moving expenses out of town, but to help him pack.
"For Aaron's benefit and for us as a team, we have to explore that option." -Jerry Manuel
It's very tempting.
I guess it all depends on your idea of changing the culture of the bullpen. If Aaron Heilman is a starter, does that count as reworking the pitching staff? Or does Heilman have to be completely gone for you to feel better about the direction of the team?
Think about the following:
What if Heilman were to finally get his Christmas wish and start? He would finally get his Red Ryder carbine-action, two hundred shot Range Model air rifle with a compass in the stock and a thing which tells time. Wonderful. What if he gets completely shelled his first few starts? What if those first few starts were to come at home in front of a drunk, bitter, lathered up fan base? "You finally got your wish and yooooou bleeeeeeeeeeeew iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit! You blew it." Then what? He can't relieve and he can't start. Whatever trade value he has left (which isn't much unless Dan O'Dowd really wants to get rid of Huston Street) is gone. Heilman will have committed the baseball equivalent of shooting his eye out.
Now, what if Heilman were to be traded? Let's say it's for Street, and Heilman becomes a monster in Colorado? With Omar Minaya seemingly the lone dectractor of Aaron Heilman as a starter, would the success of Street be the determining factor as to whether Minaya keeps his job or not? Because with Warthen, Snoop, and Jeff Wilpon seemingly in Aaron's corner, a Heilman trade has the potential of putting Minaya on the (baseball cliche coming ... duck) hot seat.
While we're knee deep in rampant speculation, let's add this layer: What if Minaya makes a quick Heilman trade, and then finds out that Oliver Perez is going to the Dodgers and Derek Lowe is going back to Boston? Now what? Omar would then have holes in the back of the rotation, which may turn into the middle of the rotation if, say ... John Maine decides he wants to officially be "injury prone". These are scenarios the Mets have to think about and weigh against each other.
I'm going to make a prediction: I think Heilman's going to start ... for the Mets. Why? Well think about it: Who wants Heilman at this point? What can the Mets hope to get for him that will help the 2009 roster? And if those returning parts aren't going to help in '09, then those parts will most likely not be anything of major league value in the future either. Letting Heilman start would improve your bullpen in the fact that ... well, Heilman's not there anymore. And you have more room to sign Joe Beimel and Juan Cruz to help the pen if you haven't already lost your first round pick by signing Lowe.
Now you would still have to sign Lowe, or re-sign Perez if Lowe's contract demands make Oliver Perez the cheap option (don't look too hard for the irony of that statement). But if you get one of them, Heilman would be a fifth starter. What would you rather have: Heilman as your fifth starter, or Heilman lighting games on fire in the seventh inning? Or Heilman in the North Pole with Santa Claus wrapping up Red Ryder air rifles?
Nah, he'll shoot your eye out.