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Mets Hot Stove: Looking Ahead to the Winter Meetings

Mike SteffanosSaturday, December 3, 2005
By Mike Steffanos

Baseball's winter meetings begin Monday in Dallas and run through Thursday. Most of the stories in the local dailies this morning focus on what Omar and the Mets might do there.

New York Post: Oh, the horror -- the Mets have competition for Manny
If Omar is still committed to bringing Manny Ramirez to Shea, Mark Hale lets us know that he'll face competition from some other clubs, including the Angels. Hale quotes Sox assistant to the GM Jed Hoyer from an article on the Red Sox' Web site that "probably five teams" have "strong interest" in Ramirez.

Hale reports that there are also many clubs pursuing Bengie Molina and Ramon Hernandez:

The Mets have made offers to free-agent catchers Molina and Hernandez, but they are far from alone in their pursuit. According to Molina's agent, Alan Nero, Molina has six suitors, with two having made offers. Hernandez' agent, Eric Goldschmidt, said yesterday that five clubs are interested in his catcher, though he would not reveal who's made offers.

Although Hernandez' agent has previously stated that his client will probably sign with someone before the end of the winter meetings Thursday, Molina's rep refuses to speculate when his client will sign.

RedSox.com: Malcontent for sale
In the article on the Red Sox' web site that the Post's Mark Hale alluded to, Ian Browne interviews assistant to the GM Jed Hoyer regarding the teams looking to acquire Ramirez. According to Browne:

It should be noted that the Red Sox aren't going to Dallas looking to unload Ramirez. If they should find an offer that will make them a better team, they will strike. If not, Ramirez could be right back hitting behind fellow superstar David Ortiz in 2006.

Browne quotes Hoyer:

...as evidenced by the fact that we haven't made a deal yet, nobody has sort of stepped up to meet the deal that we want for him. We're going to keep listening. If something worked out, and it benefited the club short term and long term, I think that we might act. But we're certainly not going in with the expectation that we're going to make a trade. Somebody would have to step up and meet our expectations.

Right now, the Mets still have a lot of work to do in their bullpen, and it seems really farfetched that they could afford to give up what it would take to get Ramirez, and then have enough spare talent left over to trade for a reliever. Given the money already spent, Manny's salary and the current super-heated market for relievers, it seems unlikely that the Mets would retain the financial wiggle room to make another free agent signing of someone to take on the eighth inning. And for those of you out their willing to "drive Aaron Heilman to the airport" to make this deal, I hope you're planning on bringing some bullpen help back with you.

Newsday: Outside of the box
David Lennon also looks ahead to next week, quoting Omar Minaya from earlier in the week, "We're going to be proactive on how we're going to fill our needs." For second base, Lennon speculates that now that Luis Castillo has been moved to the Twins, free agents Mark Grudzielanek and Tony Graffanino are still being considered, as well as a trade with Tampa Bay for Julio Lugo.

Lennon also reports that Kris Benson will be in play next week, as well as starters Steve Trachsel, Victor Zambrano and Jae Seo.

Daily News: More Grudzielanek and Benson
Sam Borden feels that Mark Grudzielanek has become the top candidate to play 2B next year:

Grudzielanek, who hit .294 for the Cardinals last season, would seem to be a solid fit. Although he came up as a shortstop with the Expos, Grudzielanek now has played more games at second base and has committed just 56 errors over 775 games there.

The 35-year-old has a strong throwing arm and an excellent pivot at second base, scouts say, and would provide some stability for young shortstop Jose Reyes.

Borden also sees a Benson deal in the cards, quoting a source that he would be "surprised" if Benson wasn't dealt. Borden reports that Omar Minaya is still interested in Jorge Julio from the Orioles, but wants to hear what other clubs will offer. The Giants and the Royals are both reported to be showing interest.

Again, I'll restate my opinion that I'd like to see the Mets hold onto Benson. There are many that feel that Benson is not a big step up from Trachsel or Zambrano, and while I respect that, I think he still has the potential to be a really solid starter and give the Mets more than either of those 2, especially Trachsel. At this point of his career, the solid, unspectacular Trachsel has nowhere to go but down. People talk about Benson's struggles towards the end of the year, but after his great start against the Giants in his first game back, Trachsel pitched really poorly the rest of the way. His five starts in September looked like this:

7.1 IP, 4R, 4ER, 7H, 2BB, 2HR -- Loss to Atlanta
5.0 IP, 4R, 4ER, 4H, 1BB, 2HR -- loss to St. Louis
6.0 IP, 5R, 2ER, 9H, 3BB, 1 HR -- Loss to Atlanta
6.0 IP, 0R, 0ER, 5H, 1 BB, 0HR -- ND to Washington
4.2 IP, 7R, 7ER, 10H, 3BB, 1 HR -- Loss to Philadelphia

I understand the concerns about the way Benson finished the year, I just don't understand why no one is questioning the way Trachsel finished, with 35 hits and 6 HRs allowed in 29 innings.

The Blog about the New Mets: Is Minaya looking to trade Benson?
Since one of my pet peeves is people that constantly hammer at one side of an argument, I thought you might enjoy reading this excellent opinion piece by a blogger who believes Kris Benson should be traded.

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