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New York Mets Hot Stove Moves, Part 3

Mike SteffanosWednesday, February 1, 2006
By Mike Steffanos

We continue our look at some of the moves Omar made this off-season, from significant signings to controversial trades.

12/8/2005 - Selected RHP Mitch Wylie from the San Francisco Giants Triple-A Fresno roster in the Rule 5 Draft.
Once a decent prospect who suffered through multiple injuries, as a rule 5 draftee Wylie must stay on the Mets 25 man roster all season, or be offered back to the Giants for half of the $50,000 they paid to get him.

12/8/2005 - Signed free agent INF Jose Valentin to a 1-year, $900,000 contract
This was at first reported to be a minor-league deal, with an invitation to spring training, but Valentin is on the 40-man roster and it seems like he has a job with the Mets. Personally, I've never cared for Valentin as a ballplayer. He'll hit some home runs if he's healthy, but strikes out a ton and is a bad defensive player. He's coming off a horrible, injury-plagued season in L.A., and he's 36 years old.

This is one guy that tends to get brought up when some people want to accuse Omar of favoring Latin ballplayers, but I don't buy that. Basically, he's a left-handed hitting reserve infielder with a ton of experience, and Omar isn't betting much money on him. If this one bothers you, lighten up. At $900k I doubt that Omar would be afraid to dump him if he bombs out.

12/9/2005 - Signed free agent 1B Julio Franco to a 2-year, $2 million contract
Giving a 47-year-old Hispanic ballplayer a 2-year contract added more fuel to the fire to those that questioned Minaya's Latin bias. It certainly was a head-scratcher, but it really isn't hard to understand when you look at it. By signing Franco, Minaya accomplished several things: he took a great team leader away from the Braves' kiddy corps and put him in the Mets clubhouse. He has a solid right-handed bat off the bench, he is a good defensive first baseman who can be a late game defensive replacement, and he can give Delgado enough days off to keep him fresh.

Thanks to a healthy dose of "Jesus Juice", Franco has done a good job staying one jump ahead of Father Time, and the hope is that he can manage it for another couple of years. If he loses the battle, keep in mind that $1 million per year is hardly a huge investment in today's game.

12/14/2005 - Signed LHP Matt Perisho, INF Juan Tejada, C Sandy Martinez and OF Julio Ramirez to Minor League contracts with invitations to Spring Training.
You can file all of these moves under the heading of "throw a lot of bodies at the problem and see if any stick." Perisho is one of many candidates for the left-handed specialist job in the bullpen. He has decent stuff, but an inability to throw strikes consistently has always been his undoing. Tejada (23) was a prospect in the Tigers system, but not enough of a prospect, I guess, since they released him. He did make the AA Eastern League All-Star team in 2004. Martinez is a 35-year-old catcher with 564 lifetime major-league ABs. He spent last season in AAA. Ramirez is hardly a prospect at 28. In 96 career major-league ABs he has managed a sparkling .167 lifetime AVG.

If you can get Perisho to throw enough strikes he could do the job as the situational leftie. He has shown enough promise to pitch in at least part of 8 major-league seasons, but has failed to deliver anything special. In 276 career IP, he has 202 Ks and 162 BBs with a 6.39 ERA. Of the rest, only Juan Tejada is given much chance to ever contribute anything to the Mets.

12/14/2005 - Signed LHP Darren Oliver, RHP Jose Parra and LHP Pedro Feliciano to Minor League contracts with invitations to Spring Training; Released LHP Kazuhisa Ishii.
Oliver, another candidate for the situational leftie job, actually retired from baseball on May 21 of last season. The 35-year-old is a 12 year major-league veteran. He pitched primarily as a starter in his decidedly mediocre career, and is living proof that any LHP with a pulse has a chance to pitch in today's MLB. Parra and Feliciano have both pitched for the Mets previously. Parra was actually fairly effective in 2004 in a limited sampling. Both spent last season in Japan, where thankfully Kaz Ishii will be pitching in 2006.

12/23/2005 - Signed OF Endy Chavez (Non-tendered by the Phillies) to a one-year contract.
Chavez has always hit well against the Mets. Unfortunately, he has struggled against everyone else. He'll try to make the team as a left-handed batting reserve OF. Tike Redman will be his primary competition for that role. Chavez is a much better defensive OF than Redman. He has great speed and is a good base stealer. Unfortunately he rarely walks, has a lifetime OBP under .300, and almost no power. I'd go with Chavez over Redman on the strength of his speed and defense, apparently the Mets agree. They removed Redman from the 40-man roster during one of their many off-season shuffles, exposing him to waivers.

12/23/2005 - Signed RHP Chad Bradford (Non-tendered by the Red Sox) to a one-year $1.4 million contract.
Not a bad move here. Bradford has been an effective right-handed specialist with his sidearm delivery, especially while under the tutelage of pitching coach Rick Peterson in Oakland. He hasn't been as good since Peterson left, compounded by some back problems he experienced last season that limited him to 23 innings and diminished his dominance over right-handed batters.

It's reasonable to hope that being reunited with Peterson should help him regain effectiveness, giving Willie Randolph some funk out of the 'pen that may actually get people out.

1/4/2006 - Signed INF Bret Boone to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training.
After a steep decline in the 2004 season, Boone looked really washed up last year in both Seattle and Minnesota. In 326 ABs combined, he managed a .221 AVG with 7 HR and 34 RBI. There have been whispers about steroid use since his power numbers jumped dramatically in his seventh MLB season, and they have continued to follow him on the downside of his career.

If Boone is the starting 2B coming out of spring training, we're in trouble...

Coming Next: In part 4, we'll look at the unpopular Tim Hamulack for Duaner Sanchez and Steve Schmoll trade -- with that Korean kid the Mets threw into the deal...

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