By Mike Steffanos
We continue our look at some of the moves Omar made this off-season, from significant signings to controversial trades.
1/4/2006 - Traded RHP Jae Seo and LHP Tim Hamulack to the Dodgers for RHP Duaner Sanchez and RHP Steve Schmoll.
Many of us spent most of the season clamoring for Jae Seo to return from exile at AAA-Norfolk and replace the dreadful Kaz Ishii in the rotation. We questioned the need to even send him down on the heels of a 7 inning, 1-hit, 0-runs performance -- exactly what had Ishii done to deserve that rotation spot?
Then, when Seo finally does return in August, he pitches to a 1.78 ERA with 4 wins and a no-decision in 5 starts. He had added a cutter and a breaking pitch to his repertoire to keep the hitters from sitting on his changeup. Although he showed a few cracks in the armor in September, we felt pretty good about Seo as a solid bottom of the rotation contributor -- a nice success story from a homegrown player.
Then Omar breaks one of those cardinal rules of baseball -- he trades away a solid starting pitcher that the fans like for a middle reliever (let's consider the other two guys in the deal a wash). What was going on here? Just who was this Duaner Sanchez -- this kid with the funny glasses and a live arm? The quick answer is that he is a fairly promising 26-year-old pitcher with a live mid-90s fastball, complemented by a slider, curve and changeup.
Omar really needed to upgrade the bullpen, and he felt starting pitching was an area of -- well, if not strength, at least abundance. I've heard the Mets actually liked Schmoll -- a right-handed sidearm pitcher that actually has 90+ velocity on his pitches -- a lot, also. If Seo settles back into the decent bottom of the rotation guy most see him as, this shouldn't be too bad of a deal, but if he grows into a solid #3 guy, Omar is going to be living this one down for a while.
So what can we expect from Duaner Sanchez and Steve Schmoll? Sanchez should provide the Mets with a solid set-up man. He's one of those rubber-armed guys that can bounce back and pitch almost every day. He pitched in 79 games for the Dodgers last year. Since the Mets are going to need a lot of innings from the bullpen, a guy like this will prove very valuable. Moreover, Sanchez did a nice job closing games for the Dodgers at the end of last year. He's said to possess a closer's mentality, and with Billy Wagner somewhat fragile and turning 35 this season, it's important to have someone else on the roster that can close games.
As for Schmoll, the 25-year-old hasn't experienced much success, getting beaten up pretty badly last year in 45 major-league appearances. The Mets see something in him, though -- insisting he wasn't just some throw-in on the deal. Most sidearm pitchers are soft tossers, but Schmoll brings it in the low 90s. Peterson has had good luck with guys like him, and he will also have veteran sidearm pitcher Chad Bradford to learn from. He might very well blossom into a solid setup guy.
Who got the better of the trade? I feel like a broken record here, but I think advantage Dodgers on this one. I like Sanchez, and I believe the Mets needed him, but Seo was a stiff price to pay. I think he becomes a solid fourth or fifth starter -- a consistent double-figure winner with an ERA just under 4. Given that, be careful of all of the pundits that want to make Seo more than he really is -- in his last 7 starts, he pitched fairly badly in 3 of them. He has a lot of trouble making it past the sixth inning. The league will make adjustments to him, and he'll likely settle into a solid, unspectacular career.
If Sanchez fulfills his promise, and Schmoll gives the Mets something, this isn't going to be one of those trades you're going to look back on and really hate. Yes, it is a lot easier to develop a reliever than a starter, but the simple truth is that the Mets have been absolutely deficient in developing relievers. Omar wanted a decent one with a power arm, and he had to give up value to get one. That's important to keep in mind here.
1/10/2006 - Signed Mike Pelfrey, their first round pick in the 2005 amateur draft, to a 4-year deal.
With prospects flying out of the system in those November and December deals, this was a nice change of pace. Pelfrey is seen as a guy with the potential to be pitching in Shea at some point in 2007. He'll likely start off in High-A ball in St. Lucie, and then get promoted to AA-Binghamton when the weather warms up. This is one to most definitely keep an eye on. For Baseball America's scouting report on Pelfrey, read this post (scroll down).
1/18/2006 - Signed free agent Japanese RHP Yusaku Iriki to a 1-year, $1 million contract
Iriki is a 32-year-old pitcher that has had a relatively mediocre career in Japan. Omar sees him a swingman that can start or provide long relief.
I'm like most of you in that I know absolutely nothing about this guy. The best thing I've read on him came from Mike McGann at Gotham Baseball. If you are interested in learning more about Iriki, I recommend you check out the excellent feature.
Coming Next: In part 5, we'll look at the most controversial deal of the winter -- Kris Benson for Jorge Julio.