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Mets Hot Stove: Omar Does Dallas

Mike SteffanosMonday, December 5, 2005
By Mike Steffanos

Looking ahead to the winter meetings starting Monday morning, we have to ask ourselves what's left to do. After a dizzying week Omar Minaya has accomplished most of what he needed to do; what's left is to find bullpen help, a possible upgrade to the starting rotation and maybe a second baseman and a right fielder. I'm sure we'll be hearing more about Manny Ramirez this week, and Omar will probably pull off some surprise that no one anticipates. Does anyone out there remember when the Mets used to have boring off-seasons?

ESPN: Peter Gammons
Peter Gammons is previewing the winter meetings on ESPN's web site. At the time the article was written the Mets had not yet made the trade for Paul Lo Duca, but there is still some items of interest for Mets fans. Regarding Barry Zito:

A's GM Billy Beane will sit there and wait for a line to form for Barry Zito, with a requirement of at least two pitchers for entrance to his suite. [my emphasis]

"Billy is in a great position," says one AL GM. "He can go for it in 2006 with Zito, or he can sit and wait until he gets what he wants."

If Beane is really looking for two pitchers as a starting point to discuss Zito, that would seem to eliminate the Mets. I suppose if for some reason Omar has his heart set on Zito, I wouldn't be too fast to bet against him.

Previewing the market for catchers, Gammons makes the point that if the Mets were able to obtain Lo Duca, the market for Molina and Hernandez drops significantly. Of course, there's still the possibility that Omar could use Lo Duca, who the Diamondbacks desired, as a chip to obtain Javier Vazquez and still sign one of the free agents. In the meantime, having Lo Duca would give him more leverage in a negotiation. Of course, maybe he just plans on going with Lo Duca.

Regarding Manny Ramirez, Gammons says:

At this point, since Cliff Floyd has Boston on his no-trade list, even the Mets don't seem capable of putting together a package for Manny.

Good news for those of us that don't like Manny as a Met, but again, I wouldn't bet against Omar if he really wants this.

Regarding Mark Grudzielanek, the reported front runner for the Mets 2B job in 2006:

The Cardinals are not supposed to offer Grudzielanek arbitration, which will make him more appealing to the Mets, Red Sox and others who have called, if he doesn't return to St. Louis.

The importance being that signing him won't cost the Mets a draft choice. They already lost their first round pick in 2006 for signing Billy Wagner. My God, doesn't it seem like the Wagner signing was a long time ago? Omar is going to exhaust all of us before Christmas. Finally, regarding Kris Benson, Gammons offers the following:

One reason the Mets are eager to move Benson is Anna Benson's potential Playboy spread that could hit in spring training. "Between that and her radio show," says a GM, "the Mets just want her out of town." Somehow Anna Benson and annabenson.net doesn't play in some middle-America markets.

Okay, you're kidding me here, right? This is New York, not "middle-America". I could give a damn what Anna Benson does, and I'm annoyed if this is at all true. Benson is a quiet guy, never a problem, and a decent pitcher. I don't give a crap about anything else -- neither should the Mets.

AP: More Winter Meetings
The AP's Ronald Blum also looks ahead at this week in Dallas. He quotes Red Sox assistant GM Jed Hoyer concerning the "more than a dozen" teams that have inquired about Manny Ramirez:

They haven't been able to meet the price that we would want for Manny. We're certainly not going in with the expectation that we're going to have to make a trade. Teams would have to step up and beat our expectations. [my emphasis]

It just doesn't sound like Boston has low expectations as to what they would take for Manny Ramirez, and you can't blame them. The fan base is ready to revolt over trading him, and they need to come back with some sort of great deal if they move him. I wish Omar could just pass on this deal and keep the team from getting even older and more top-heavy in salary than they already have in the past week.

Blum points out that the deadline for teams offering arbitration to their free agents is midnight EST on Wednesday, December 7. If a player's current team doesn't offer arbitration, the signing team doesn't lose a draft pick. A lot of teams will wait until after December 7 to see if the player they're interested in is offered arbitration.

There is some discussion as to whether the Mets will offer arbitration to free agents Mike Piazza and Braden Looper. If they don't, they will receive no compensatory draft picks. If they do, and either player accepts, they're stuck with them, and the arbitrator is probably going to award a salary much higher than they would be willing to pay either player. For Piazza in particular, with all he has meant to the Mets, offering arbitration could prevent teams from attempting to sign him. Plus the Mets have no slot for him with the Lo Duca signing. We'll all stay tuned to see how this turns out.

New York Times: LA to Miami to New York
Ben Shpigel reports on the similar career path that Mike Piazza and Paul Lo Duca followed to the Mets; starting their careers with the Dodgers, being traded to the Marlins in controversial deals and then traded to the Mets for prospects.

According to Shpigel, the Mets obtained Lo Duca because they were fearful of a bidding war that might ensue for Bengie Molina and Roberto Hernandez at the winter meetings. Shpigel figures the Mets will wind up saving about $2 million per year with Lo Duca; and that money can be used to sign a second baseman, trade for Javier Vazquez, or getting relief help. Shpigel describes Lo Duca as follows:

A gap hitter who does not strike out often, he batted .283 with 6 home runs and 57 runs batted in last season and is a career .285 hitter... He is more durable than Piazza, and is better defensively, but not by much. Lo Duca ranked 20th among starting catchers in throwing out 21.2 percent of potential base-stealers, and he ranked 22nd with a .991 fielding percentage.

Shpigel notes that Lo Duca has a history of fading after the all-star break. Ramon Castro is likely to play a good number of games behind the plate to try to keep Lo Duca fresher and prevent this. He also notes that Lo Duca has the reputation of being a solid clubhouse presence wherever he plays.

Mets.com: The amazing Omar
Tom Singer has an extremely complimentary look at Omar Minaya's accomplishments through the Lo Duca trade. According to Singer:

Minaya hit the ground running, following a tease of a 2005 season that ended in familiar disappointment... He's gone through his to-do list like a manic compulsive... Only two entries remain, to be addressed during the Winter Meetings that officially convene here Monday morning: an upgrade to the starting rotation, and one Manny Ramirez.

Ah, yes. Manny. Sigh...

I haven't been in favor of a lot of Omar's moves, and I certainly can live without him crossing Manny off his to-do list, but Omar has to be given credit for all that he has accomplished. It will be interesting to see how the rest of this week plays out. It's just sad to see how barren the farm system has now become.

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