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Mets Hot Stove: Smoke, But No Fire

Mike SteffanosWednesday, December 7, 2005
By Mike Steffanos

Despite rumors of a Kris Benson trade to Kansas City there has been no confirmation as yet. Meanwhile, we hear murmurs of Barry Zito or Javier Vazquez coming to Shea.

AP: Omar Calling
Mike Fitzpatrick of the Associated Press reports that Mets GM Omar Minaya has called Kris Benson regarding all of the trade rumors swirling around his name:

Minaya said he just wanted to touch base with Benson and let him know what was going on, something he's done with other players mentioned in trade talks -- including left fielder Cliff Floyd. But the GM did not give Benson any assurances that he would not be traded.

"My policy is one that if a team wants to talk about a player, I'm willing to listen," Minaya said.

One thing that we have learned about Omar is that he isn't going to really overplay his hand. As we hear rumor after rumor that he is talking to teams like the Orioles and Royals about Benson, all Omar will say is that teams are enquiring about him:

I'm getting calls on him. His name is out there. It's a hot name right now... My policy is one that if a team wants to talk about a player, I'm willing to listen.

Of course, the reason that the name is "hot" is because you put it out there that he's available, right Omar? It's a safe bet that Benson will be gone by the end of the week.

The most common rumors involve Benson being moved for bullpen help. Speaking of that, Fitzpatrick reports that Omar has confirmed that he has spoken to the agent of Roberto Hernandez, last year's most pleasant surprise. Signing him might not be that easy, though, according to Omar:

I think they see the market for relievers being dragged north and they want to attach themselves to that.

Mets.com: More Benson
Marty Noble also reports that Kris Benson is on the trading block, amid general unhappiness in the Mets camp with Benson's durability:

Benson, who began his season late -- in early May -- because of a strained pectoral muscle, finished his first "full" season with the Mets with 10-8 record and 4.13 ERA in 28 starts. But his record and ERA stood at 9-4 and 3.47 after his 20th start, Aug. 16. The Mets were disappointed in his last eight starts and that, for the second straight year, one of his late-summer starts was pushed back because of arm fatigue.

Noble feels that the Mets next move will be for a starting pitcher, most likely Barry Zito or Javier Vazquez. Benson might be part of the trade -- more likely in a Vazquez scenario -- or in a salary clearing trade for a young reliever.

Noble also reports that the Mets won't attempt to re-sign Miguel Cairo or Braden Looper, but might re-sign Jose Offerman, begging the question, why?

New York Times: Red Sox having difficulty moving Ramirez
The Red Sox went into these winter meetings with the attitude that Manny Ramirez was a valuable commodity, and they weren't going to just give him away. Now, according to Sox president Larry Lucchino, it doesn't look like it will happen at all, at least not before the meetings end Thursday:

At the winter meetings last year, there were four deals; I don't think it'll happen. I guess my sense of it is it's not likely. It's such a big thing that it's not likely to get done.

If they do find a taker, it probably won't be the Mets, who have more pressing needs to fill, according to Omar Minaya:

Getting the extra big bat is not a priority. What's more of a priority for us is making sure we get a good bench in place and continuing to improve the bullpen. Getting a big bat is not a No. 1 priority because of Delgado. When you're talking about a big bat, you're usually talking about salary. Nobody's going to be trading big bats that are cheap. And any time there are salaries, there are always complexities.

Tyler Kepner also reports the news that the Omar might be interested in re-signing Jose Offerman. Damn, I was hoping that was just a misprint in Noble's story. Then again, why wouldn't you want a guy that didn't hit well and made several bonehead plays in the field and on the bases?

Newsday: Zito Talk
David Lennon reports that Omar has turned his attention away from Manny Ramirez and towards Barry Zito. Lennon also tells us that Minaya has been trying to work out a deal with the Royals to swap Kris Benson for a young reliever, either Jeremy Affeldt or Mike MacDougal. According to Lennon:

The benefit of trading Benson is twofold. The Mets not only would get a chance to upgrade their rotation at the No. 3 spot with a former Cy Young winner in Zito, but they would get to clear Benson's salary off the payroll. He is due $15 million in the next two seasons.

Lennon quotes Omar Minaya on the importance of landing a marquee pitcher:

"We would like to add a guy. In our ballpark, we like to have pitching as a priority. If there's an opportunity to get a front-line guy, you have to explore it.

I understand the move, I just hope that if they get this guy he really is willing to play in New York. We keep hearing how laid-back and "California" he is. He becomes a free agent after this season, and we don't need to give up what Billy Beane will extort from us for just a one year rental.

Mets.com: It's official, David Wright is too good to be true...
Marty Noble also reports on the inaugural event of the David Wright Foundation, a charity gala to raise money for two centers that help people with Multiple Sclerosis. I'm old and heterosexual, but I would marry this kid if he asked.

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