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Mets Hot Stove: Manny, Baez and More, Oh My!

Mike SteffanosSaturday, December 31, 2005
By Mike Steffanos

For a Saturday, there was quite a lot of Mets news to report, including the continuing possibility of a multi-team blockbuster, and the ongoing search for bullpen help.

Daily News: Manny Megadeal
Bill Madden and Anthony Mccarron cite "multiple baseball sources" that talks with the Devil Dogs over mediocre reliever Danys Baez could morph into a four-team blockbuster involving Manny Ramirez and Miguel Tejada. They explain the driving forces behind the deal as follows:

According to sources, both the Red Sox and Orioles have resigned themselves to accommodating the trade requests of Ramirez and Tejada, who want off of their respective teams. But since the Orioles have signed Jeromy Burnitz to complete their outfield, they may not have a match with the Red Sox in a straight-up Tejada-for-Ramirez deal, so several baseball executives said they'd have to get other teams involved.

That's where the Mets and Devil Rays come in. The basics of the four-team deal that had the baseball executives buzzing yesterday and would appear to satisfy the needs of all four clubs would have Tejada and Tampa Bay's Joey Gathright going to the Red Sox to fill Boston's holes at shortstop and center field.

Ramirez and Baez would go to the Mets, giving them one of the game's best sluggers and a setup man. The Orioles would satisfy their need at shortstop by getting Julio Lugo from Tampa Bay and add pitching by getting Matt Clement from Boston and possibly Kris Benson from the Mets.

The Devil Rays, who have always been difficult to deal with, especially in complicated transactions, are seeking top prospects and young pitching and would be satisfied in that regard by getting third baseman Andy Marte from Boston and Jae Seo and Aaron Heilman from the Mets. In addition, the Mets would send Kaz Matsui to Tampa to give the D-Rays a stopgap shortstop replacement until prospect B.J. Upton is ready.

So in this scenario, the Mets would be giving up Kris Benson, Jae Seo, Aaron Heilman and Kaz Matsui (along with most of his salary, I would assume), and in return would be getting Manny Ramirez and Danys Baez. This deal doesn't stink as badly as some of the potential deals we've heard this week, but it wouldn't make me happy if it went through. It's a lot of pitching to give up, although sometimes I think the Mets are committed to going into 2006 without Seo and Heilman, which to me is a shame.

I believe the best teams put together a blend of youth and experience, and combine pitching and defense along with offensive power. This team is getting quite old, even without Ramirez. If you make this deal, you're parting with 3 picthers, 2 of them young and showing a lot of promise, and receiving one mediocre closer back that doesn't even want to come here and setup. The defense, even without Manny, looks worse than last year. Cameron was a huge loss in that regard, and Delgado -- defensively -- is a downgrade at first. I just don't like where this deal would take the team -- older and more one-dimensional.

Madden and Mccarron also mention the more likely scenario of a trade between the Mets and Rays for just Baez. They cite two Mets sources that the team would "absolutely" not trade Heilman for Baez, which is somewhat comforting. As I've stated previously, I just don't see Baez as a significant upgrade to Heilman -- just older and more expensive.

Newark Star-Ledger: Looking for an arm
Dan Graziano also reports on the Mets' search for more bullpen help. Along with trying to obtain Baez, Graziano still feels a trade might be worked out between the Mets and Orioles for that Benson - Jorge Julio deal, if the O's are willing to give up more than Julio for Benson.

I still feel the same as I felt at the beginning of December when this trade was discussed. A friend of mine from Baltimore characterizes Julio as "Armando Benitez with less talent." Unless the Orioles are willing to part with a significant prospect, I wouldn't do it. Moreover, don't forget, when this was first discussed, the rationale behind it was to clear Benson's salary space to add a quality starter. Unless the A's change their mind about Zito, that door would seem to be closed.

St. Petersburg Times: Baez doesn't want setup role
In an interview with Damian Cristodero, Danys Baez is quoted:

I don't know if I want to be a setup guy. I want to be a closer. But if they trade me I don't have a choice. If they want me to be a setup guy, that's what I'll do.

What I want is to be a free agent (after 2006) and then I can control what happens. [my emphasis] This way, I don't have any choice. But whatever happens, I'll be ready.

Whatever else can be said about this potential trade, Omar Minaya should not give up Aaron Heilman or Jae Seo for a one-year rental of Danys Baez. The Devil Rays have already fattened up once on Mets stupidity, let's not go there again.

Newsday: Of course, Heilman doesn't want to setup, either
Jim Baumbach informs us that Aaron Heilman would rather be traded to a team that would use him as a starter. He quotes Mark Rodgers, Heilman's agent:

He's been polite but persistent. He's enjoyed the Mets, the city and the people, but he can do the math. He knows right now there's no room for him.

Rogers also says that Heilman told Minaya, "The reason why I went and played winter ball was to prove that I can start."

Fair enough. This doesn't bother me like Baez' statements did. I'd like to point out here that, unlike Baez, Heilman is nowhere close to being a free agent. It certainly is conceivable that a starting role can open up for him with the Mets, if not this year than next. Omar just needs to schmooze him a little.

Bergen Record: Klap: Darling to join Mets broadcast team.
Bob Klapisch reports that former Mets pitcher Ron Darling is close to signing a deal to do color commentary for Mets games on SNY. With Darling, Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez in the TV booth, the upgrade there will be as significant as on the field.

Klap also informs us that the Mets are denying any sort of deal is in the works for Baez:

When asked about a possible deal for Baez, which had been reported by the New York Post, one club official said, "We're not really close to anything right now. We haven't talked to [the Devil Rays] since the winter meetings."

The wild, whacky world of the Mets hot stove goes rolling on...

MetsDaily.com: Brian Bannister Interview Transcript
The highlights of yesterday's MetsDaily.com audio interview with prospect Brain Bannister is now available as text for those that prefer it. The Real Audio version is still available from the "In the Studio" page, too.

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