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Mets Hot Stove: Manny Claus not coming to town

Mike SteffanosFriday, December 23, 2005
By Mike Steffanos

Sorry for posting so late today, I got caught up in some holiday responsibilities. There is some interesting news to discuss, and a couple of interesting Marty Noble profiles on Mets.com, so let's get started.

Daily News: Of Manny and Money
Adam Rubin pens another of those Ramirez articles. He writes that Johnny Damon considers it likely that the Red Sox will trade Manny this winter, and cites Damon that the Mets would be a good fit for the petulant diva. But Rubin also catalogs the reasons it is unlikely we will see Manny in a Mets uniform:

The Mets are holding the line on payroll after another winter of spending, as evidenced by their pursuit of low-priced relievers while letting Roberto Hernandez walk and hesitating to bid over-aggressively on Julian Tavarez.

Also, Boston brass has maintained its desire to get equal value for Ramirez. The Mets would be hard-pressed to put together such a package, even if the money issue was resolved. It's doubtful the Red Sox would accept Lastings Milledge as the primary chip back because they already have to make up for the loss of Damon's bat. And Aaron Heilman isn't expendable because of the lack of proven relievers leading to Billy Wagner.

I'd like to make some points here. First of all, I think the Red Sox are going to have to revise their definition of what constitutes "equal value" for Ramirez. For all he can bring to a club offensively, he's carrying a lot of baggage, both of a personal type and financially. If they hope to trade him, the Red Sox are going to have to eat more of his contract than they wish. As to what they receive in return, I think they're going to have to give up on the fantasy that they can receive talent in return that is going to make the fan base happy. If I was the Sox' GM, I'd be happy with some young talent and getting out from under that contract. Whether they wish to admit it or not, Boston is in a rebuilding mode. Besides losing the players they have lost to free agency and giving Renteria away to Atlanta, there are question marks about Curt Schilling, too.

If I'm the Mets, I'm not helping them out. We don't have that much young talent left, and what we have I'd like to see them hold back in case a top line pitcher becomes available. I'm certainly not trading Aaron Heilman, not with the huge question marks that already exist in the 'pen. I was amused by all of the Mets fans calling into WFAN a while back, offering to drive Heilman to the airport to bring back Manny. I'm positive they would be the same ones calling in to complain about the bullpen once the season started.

On top of everything else, I don't believe with the other moves they have made over the last two seasons that the Mets can afford another huge contract to an aging ballplayer. Adam Rubin does a good job of summarizing the potential problem:

From a Mets perspective, obtaining Ramirez also could be dangerous down the road considering the organization's other financial obligations. The slugger is owed $57 million over the next three seasons. When 2008 arrives, the Mets will be in the final year of Pedro Martinez's contract, when he's 36 years old and making $11.5 million. They also will be in a final guaranteed year at $16 million (with $4 million paid by the Marlins) with Carlos Delgado, who will be 36 then. Billy Wagner will make $10.5 million and be 37 in '08. Carlos Beltran will be making $18.5 million (with $8.5 million of that deferred). Plus, David Wright and Jose Reyes' salaries figure to increase dramatically as they enter arbitration and approach free agency.

I understand that the Manny talk isn't going to go away unless the Red Sox manage to find a trading partner. I know that some of you out there believe that the Mets acquiring Ramirez would be the coup de grace of a great winter, a way to steal back the headlines from the Yankees. I'm sorry, I just see it as a huge mistake, and one so typical of the kind of mistake the Mets have made so often over the last 15 years. Winning a back page battle with the Yanks in 2005 is cold comfort down the road when the team sucks again because of it.

Boston Globe: Omar the stealthy
I was also amused by this paragraph in Gordon Edes' story in the Boston Globe:

Ramirez's future with the Sox remains as unsettled as ever, with multiple industry sources insisting they still believe Mets general manager Omar Minaya, who has shown a keen interest in Ramirez in the past, will make another run at Manny. Given the stealth-like fashion with which the Yankees made off with Damon, it should surprise no one that Minaya might just be waiting for the opportune time to strike.

The only thing I'd like to point out here is that it is much easier to be stealthy with a free agent than with a player you need to make a trade to obtain. Perhaps Mr. Edes had a little too much spiked eggnog before he wrote this piece. As for the "opportune time to strike", may I suggest that it would be the point that the Red Sox are willing to eat at least half of Manny's salary, and accept a package of Kaz Matsui and Victor Zambrano in return.

AP: Endy Chavez?
The AP is reporting that the Mets and outfielder Endy Chavez have agreed to a one-year, $500,000 contract. I hope this isn't guaranteed. Omar is quoted regarding Chavez:

Chavez is an athletic player with excellent defensive skills in all three outfield positions. He gives us another outfield option as we approach spring training.

Just what the Mets need -- another speedy guy that doesn't get on base. On the plus side, he's a better outfielder than Tike Redman.

ESPN Insider: Shopping the bargain aisle
Buster Olney has an interesting look at some of the bargain basement free agents available:

The Konerkos and Burnetts and Wagners and Damons are off the board, and yet there are still dozens of free agents available -- most of them attractive for one reason or another, so long as they come in at the right price. Some are guys who may or may not be finished as effective players, but they have so much passion for the game and are such a positive influence that you would always be willing to bring them into spring training to see if they have just a little bit left.

Some of the names are interesting, in particular Bengie Molina, who had a remarkable drop in value in a short period of time. That 3 year, $24 million deal looks good now, doesn't it?

Mets.com: Gregg Jefferies
Marty Noble informs us that Gregg Jefferies' name has appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot. Noble does a good job of summarizing Jefferies' career:

The weight of expectation fell hard on Gregg Jefferies, partly because of his brilliant Minor League career and partly because the Mets brought him to the Major Leagues when only his bat was ready for the challenge.

A skilled offensive player with speed and the ability to drive pitches to all fields, Jefferies never conquered the defensive part of the game.

I remember when Jefferies came up with the Mets. He was a good looking hitter that really didn't have a defensive position. Some of the Mets veterans didn't like his cockiness, and the Mets and manager Davey Johnson did an absolutely horrible job of integrating Jefferies into the team. A really sad piece of Mets' history, for a team that produced so few attractive position player prospects.

Also on Mets.com: Barry Lyons
Marty Noble has another nice piece on former Mets backup catcher Barry Lyons, whose world was smashed by Hurricane Katrina. This was a nice story of faith helping him to carry on after a catastrophic event, and, in an odd way, a nice antidote to the downer of remembering the waste of potential that was Gregg Jefferies.

Happy Holidays, Everyone
I repeat what I said yesterday: I will try to post over the weekend if there is anything out there worth talking about. I wish all of you a safe and happy holiday season. Thank you for sharing your love of the Mets with me.

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