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Mets Hot Stove: Winter Meetings End Today

Mike SteffanosThursday, December 8, 2005
By Mike Steffanos

The winter meetings conclude today with the Rule 5 Draft of minor league players -- an anticlimactic conclusion to four days full of trades and trade talk. Amazingly enough, it looks like Omar and the Mets won't be completing any deals during the meetings, but discussions that began here will certainly continue.

Mets.com: Bert not coming back
Marty Noble reports that the Mets did not offer salary arbitration to any of their free agents; thereby cutting ties with all of them. Players such as Danny Graves, Jose Offerman, Doug Mientkiewicz and Shingo Takatsu will not be missed. Braden Looper will be mourned by only a few masochistic personalities. Most of us will miss Mike Piazza, and find it strange to see him in a new uniform next year.

Although it was known that the Mets weren't bringing Piazza and Looper back, it was considered a possibility that these 2 "type a" free agents would be offered salary arbitration, in order for the team to be eligible to receive a compensatory draft pick in return. According to Noble, the risk outweighed the potential reward:

As much as the Mets coveted a selection in the first round -- they forfeited theirs to the Phillies when they signed Billy Wagner -- they were unwilling to take the chance that Piazza would accept the offer and thereby return to the team for no less than $12 million.

The rules of arbitration limit a club from submitting a proposal of less than 80 percent of the previous season's salary, and Piazza earned $15 million in 2005.

By forcing a team to sacrifice a draft pick to sign Piazza, the Mets might have made it less likely that another team would be interested in him. As for Looper, I'm sure that their biggest worry would be that he would accept arbitration, and blow their salary budget out of the water -- not a good idea for a team willing to trade Kris Benson for lesser value in order to clear a few million for another starting pitcher.

Roberto Hernandez was more surprising. I guess the team felt that an arbitrator would award him a salary much higher than they were willing to pay. Ironic, because they have something to do with the escalating value of relief pitchers with the Wagner contract. It was reported that the Mets were negotiating with Hernandez' agent right up to the deadline, but couldn't reach an agreement. I guess I can't blame Bert for going for the gusto -- at this stage of his career he could well be signing his last contract. I have a funny feeling someone will give him closer money in this market.

Newark Star-Ledger: Go to hell
According to Dan Graziano:

The Mets were still talking to the Arizona Diamondbacks about a trade that would bring them right-hander Javier Vazquez, and the name of top Mets prospect Lastings Milledge has surfaced in those discussions.

We can only hope that when Milledge's name "came up" Omar's response was suitably unprintable.

Graziano also reports on various schemes to move Kaz Matsui -- good luck with that -- and some talks with the Dodgers regarding Derek Lowe and Brad Penney. Neither pitcher is considered close to the top of Omar's wish list.

Newsday: More Benson Trade Talk
David Lennon informs us that Omar Minaya is now also talking with the Rangers in an attempt to move Kris Benson and his salary. The underwhelming names that the Mets would receive back are strikeout machine outfielder Laynce Nix and mediocre middle reliever Juan Dominguez. C'mon, Omar -- I know you want to dump Benson's salary, but you really need to bring back something of value in return. I'd rather have Jorge Julio.

Daily News: The news we were all waiting for...
For all of us that feel a little blue about Roberto Hernandez and Mike Piazza leaving, we can console ourselves with the knowledge of the imminent signing of 36 year old Jose Valentin as a bench player.

Adam Rubin also tells us that the Mets still have interest in Julio Franco. Omar, please don't...

Mets.com: Bernie Williams
According to Mark Feinsand:

One high-ranking Mets official said that if [Bernie] Williams is willing to accept a contract significantly lower than the $12.3 million he earned in 2005, the club would be interested in bringing him across town from the Bronx to Queens. The Mets would probably offer Williams a one-year deal not worth more than $2 million.

"Depending on the type of role Bernie would be willing to take on, I think he'd be a good fit for us," the Mets official said. "His leadership, his experience in New York, those are qualities that aren't easy to find."

Some things are just wrong.

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