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Mets Hot Stove: Fiscal Responsibility

Mike SteffanosMonday, December 12, 2005
By Mike Steffanos

It's a slow Mets news day, as you might expect, but we did manage to find one article on which to comment.

New York Post: Tejada and Baez
Michael Morrissey offers us the following:

The Mets have been linked to disgruntled Baltimore shortstop Miguel Tejada in numerous reports -- a development that one team official refused to comment on last night.

I knew this was going to happen, even though Tejada is now backing off his trade request. If you look at the wording of that excerpt, what does it even really mean? Let's put this aside for a moment, as this story is primarily about a swap of Aaron Heilman for Danys Baez:

But if the club regards its bullpen as a priority, there is at least one other trade the Mets could make immediately. Granted, they'd be showing the same disregard for money and/or prospects they showed in the Paul Lo Duca and Carlos Delgado deals, but they could swap righty Aaron Heilman for Tampa Bay closer Danys Baez if they wished.

However, Mets officials have continuously stated that Heilman is very unlikely to be moved this winter, a stance that has shifted almost 180 degrees over the last year.

I guess the point here is that Baez, despite being an experienced closer, is only a year older than Heilman. With Roberto Hernandez gone, there is a lot of question as to who might be the "plan b" closer in the event that Billy Wagner goes down with an injury. Baez might seem the more logical choice, despite the fact that the 8 saves that he blew last year was the same number as Braden Looper.

Danys Baez is on the verge of having enough major league service to get paid major league money, which is why the Devil Rays are looking to move him for someone cheaper. Moreover, Baez walks too many guys and his strikeout rate has been slipping over the last couple of years. With Minaya now forced to making salary dump type moves to bring in a top pitcher, why would you give up the salary flexibility that Heilman affords for a reliever of Baez' caliber?

Which brings this all back to Miguel Tejada. A friend of mine was irate with me that I wasn't willing to consider a deal that would bring Tejada to Shea. As my friend rightly points out, Tejada, unlike Manny Ramirez, is in the prime of his career. Like Ramirez, he is an offensive powerhouse. Certainly, the Mets would be a better offensive team with the all-star shortstop, this year and for the next several.

But a move like this, as with the Ramirez deal that refuses to go away, would tip the Mets payroll heavily towards their offensive side. It seems quite unlikely that they would be able to afford a Miguel Tejada -- or Manny -- and be able to add front line pitching.

More than that, though, it would prove the Mets to be a team that was more interested in adding marquee players than to really build a team. Omar needs to find a way to add young, cheap and productive players to the roster if this team hopes to maintain competitive flexibility.

The same friend that called me to task over Tejada is one that over the past several years has laughed with me over the Yankees incessant chase after big name superstars while the balance of their team suffered. The Yankees have reached a difficult place now where it is extremely difficult to improve their team in any manner. To GM Brian Cashman's credit, he is making the difficult decisions necessary to extricate the Yankees from their current mess.

The Mets don't need to fall into this trap. Omar can improve this team without adding more huge salaries. The bullpen still requires a lot of attention, and adding a front-line starter, although not a necessity, would be much more helpful in the long term than adding a bat.

Mets Daily: Interviews with Adam Rubin and Tom Singer
I posted this yesterday, but readership goes down fairly dramatically on weekends, so, if you missed it:

At MetsDaily.com, John Strubel has "In the Studio" audio interviews with the Daily News' Mets beat reporter Adam Rubin and MLB.com's Tom Singer. I especially enjoyed the long Rubin interview, covering his experiences as a beat reporter and his forthcoming book on the Mets.

Also, if you haven't already, check out this excellent Ken Davidoff column from yesterday's Newsday.

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