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Mets Hot Stove: The Next Move

Mike SteffanosFriday, December 9, 2005
By Mike Steffanos

The winter meetings are history, and the Mets still have some major work to do. Their bullpen took a big hit when they couldn't work anything out with Roberto Hernandez. In a climate where good relief pitchers with a track record can practically write their own ticket, Omar is going to have to explore every possible option if the Mets hope to enter the 2006 campaign fully armed.

Mets.com: Much accomplished, much left to do
The Mets entered Dallas on an unbelievable roll, but, as Marty Noble informs us, left with some unfinished business:

The Mets aren't distressed by [setup man Roberto] Hernandez's departure -- they could've have upgraded their offer if they believed he was essential to their 2006 plans. But they did leave Dallas a bit disappointed by their inability to reinforce the bullpen and upgrade the rotation.

... By not offering salary arbitration to Hernandez and, thereby, losing rights to him until after May 1, the Mets increased the void in their bullpen. Lo Duca was acquired to catch, so fortifying the bullpen -- bringing in a left-handed setup man and an eighth-inning reliever -- became the Mets' primary objective. Now there's urgency, too.

Given the inflated market for relief pitching, and considering the Mets appear to be pushing hard against their budget, it would appear unlikely that Omar will be able to bring in an established pitcher to setup for Wagner. Thank God Aaron Heilman wasn't shipped out in a Ramirez or Soriano deal that so many wished for. He will be a crucial member of next year's bullpen, most likely as the key eighth inning guy.

In the meantime, Omar is confident that some of the groundwork the Mets laid down will pay off down the road:

Ideally, you'd like to get something done. But my experience is that you put so much work in here and things will start to happen in the next two, three, four days, or the next week.

Newsday: Two senior citizens for the bench
David Lennon reports on the two new bench players obtained Thursday, reporting that Jose Valentin is already signed and Franco's deal should be finalized today. According to Lennon, Omar values Franco for more than just what he can give the Mets with his bat:

As soon as the Braves declined to offer Franco arbitration by Wednesday's midnight deadline, Minaya pounced, working quickly to land one of his all-time favorites. While Franco can still hit -- he batted .275 with nine home runs and 42 RBIs in 108 games for Atlanta -- Minaya values him almost as much for his clubhouse presence and leadership. Prying him away from a division rival, and especially the Braves, was an additional bonus.

On a personal note, I value this signing in that, for what is surely the last time in my life, there is actually a player on this team who is as old as I am. Maybe I should try some of those steroids...

Lennon also speculates on some ways the Mets might be able to move Kaz Matsui, but also quotes Omar that he doesn't want to "give Matsui away". You have to believe that there aren't many teams out there willing to take on Kaz for even a fraction of his salary. I wouldn't mind seeing them go into the spring with Kaz, Anderson Hernandez and Jeff Keppinger all duking it out for the second base job. Maybe you'll catch lightening in a bottle, and one or some combination of the three will suffice. You could then use the money saved for the bench or bullpen. If not, you should be able to land a decent second baseman during the season.

New York Times: The Over the Hill Gang
Tyler Kepner reports on some of the new Met additions. Some of the nuggets he offers:

1B Julio Franco
Third baseman David Wright and shortstop Jose Reyes were not even born when Franco played his first game in April 1982. Franco's Phillies teammates included Pete Rose, Sparky Lyle and Tug McGraw.

INF Jose Valentin
Valentin, 36, missed much of last season with torn knee ligaments and batted only .170 for the Dodgers. He strikes out often and is not strong defensively, but he hit at least 25 homers a season from 2000 through 2004 and is versatile.

"He can play anywhere," Minaya said. "He can hit the fastball at the end of the game. He's got power."

LHP Matt Perisho (minor league contract)
Perisho, 30, had a 1.93 earned run average in 24 games for the Marlins last season, and he also faced one batter in September for the Boston Red Sox. He has held left-handers to a .239 average over the past two years, but had more walks than strikeouts last season.

Also, regarding the bullpen, Kepner reports that Omar intends to keep looking for nonroster relievers to sign, hoping to find the same magic that he found last season with Hernandez. Kepner quotes Minaya that Aaron Heilman is now the primary setup man:

Heilman replaced Hernandez as the year went on. We feel comfortable with that.

AP: Tough times for an old friend
The Associated Press reports that the Pirates have released former Mets 3B Ty Wiggington. Wiggy spent part of last year in Triple-A Indianapolis after struggling early in the season with Pittsburgh.

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