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Mets Hot Stove: Chasing Tavarez, waving goodbye to Vazquez

Mike SteffanosWednesday, December 14, 2005
By Mike Steffanos

Looks like Javier Vazquez will not get the chance to prove that he is equal to pitching in New York, after all. Meanwhile, Omar is still trying to pull a bullpen together, and Kris Benson is jolly because he is still a Met.

Daily News: Mets pursue Tavarez
Adam Rubin cites "industry scuttlebutt" that the Mets might be willing to make a 4 year deal in order to sign free agent reliever Julian Tavarez. The Yankees are also interested, at least for three years. The 32 year old Tavarez is a noted head case, but also one of those rubber-armed guys that could be valuable, especially to a team like the Mets, with the somewhat fragile Billy Wagner closing games. Rubin quotes Tavarez' agent Scott Boras:

This guy pitches four days in a row. He provides a very strong, durable arm. He can protect a closer like Wagner or Mariano Rivera. They don't need to get every save. This guy has been a save guy, and he does it at a ratio that's almost 80%. That ratio for a setup guy is very, very high. That may be very helpful to guys you want rested for the postseason.

Tavarez, despite his baggage, is one of the top set-up men in the game. After making $2.6 million last year, he's sure to be looking for more than that in the current market. I'm not sure if Omar could find the money in the budget to sign him, and I wonder if he would want to have another long term contract with a guy already in his 30s. I guess we'll all stay tuned.

Rubin also cites a Mets official that Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada is not going anywhere, including the Mets; and reports that Braden Looper is close to signing with the Phillies. If Loop has a bounce-back year down there, he'll be even more of a fan favorite in Shea.

Newsday: White Sox get Vazquez
Ken Davidoff and John Heyman cite a major league executive that Diamondbacks pitcher Javier Vazquez has been traded to the Chicago White Sox. Davidoff and Heyman report that the Mets' efforts to acquire him fell through because of an unwillingness to include Aaron Heilman in the deal.

My thoughts here are as follows: I originally thought Vazquez could be a good pickup for the Mets. Arizona was motivated to move his salary, and I hoped Vazquez could be had fairly cheaply, at least in regards to talent going back to Arizona. But then the pitching market exploded with Burnett's signing, and Arizona was in the driver's seat. If the Mets had more prospects in their system they still might have done something -- but Heilman or Milledge wouldn't have made sense.

The Mets simply can't afford to let Heilman go, there just is no way to replace him at his salary level in the bullpen. The Mets are going to wind up really scraping to put a 'pen together as it is. Of course, if Arizona wanted Heilman last year it would have cost them a pack of gum, but that's another story.

New York Post: The Benson saga continues
Michael Morrissey reports that the number of teams interested in Kris Benson is falling, and at the time he wrote his story he didn't know that Vazquez is off the market. He tells us that talks with the Royals died when they were unwilling to part with both Mike MacDougal and Jeremy Affeldt, but talks may be revived in the future.

Morrissey reports that Benson is still honoring a commitment he made before all the trade rumors started:

Regardless of trade speculation, Benson wanted to honor his commitment to play Santa Claus at the Mets' annual Christmas party for local children today. He's flying from Atlanta to keep his pledge.

"The trade talks are one thing; it's different when it comes to dressing up like Santa Claus and helping," Benson told The Post on Monday.

Morrissey then makes this observation:

The Mets like Benson a lot, and they've gone back and forth on their attempts to trade him. They keep receiving calls, though, so they'll continue to listen this winter. [my emphasis]

I was surprised to read that, as I was of the opinion that the Mets were really hot to move Benson and his salary elsewhere. We certainly haven't reached the end of this soap opera, I just hope if they do trade him, they get something useful back.

Bergen Record: This is odd...
In a column primarily about the Yankees (as usual) Bob Klapisch passes this along:

According to a major league executive, the Mets made a strong effort to trade Kris Benson to the Rangers recently, hoping to acquire starter Juan Dominguez and outfielder Laynce Nix and then package them with Carlos Beltran in exchange for Manny Ramirez.

The deal with Texas dissolved, however, and Ramirez is no longer considered a front-burner issue at Shea.

Klap doesn't explain who was going to be playing centerfield in this scenario -- perhaps Manny himself! That would certainly dial up the excitement when the Mets were in the field.

AP: Ballclub for sale, inquire within
Both the Atlanta Braves and the Turner South cable network are reportedly for sale. I would think getting out from under corporate ownership might raise John Schuerholz' budget some. It probably wouldn't hurt if the Braves could sell out some playoff games.

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