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The Big Picture

Mike SteffanosMonday, February 27, 2006
By Mike Steffanos

In a story in the New York Post, linked to below, Joel Sherman quotes GM Omar Minaya on how looking at the "big picture" makes his off-season trades of Jae Seo and Kris Benson look like less of a gamble. If you read what's written in both the local and national baseball press, you come to understand that Minaya doesn't have a lot of company here -- especially on the national level, where almost every major writer has killed him for trading away starting pitching depth for bullpen arms.

Omar's feeling was that, unlike last year's champion White Sox team, the Mets didn't have a starting pitching staff that would pitch deep into games. He felt that a really deep bullpen would take the Mets a lot farther than having 7 experienced starters. This is a point that I've already talked about, and I'm confident that the debate will linger on for most of the season -- especially if a starter or two goes down for any length of time.

What really isn't debatable, however, is the shift in importance from the starting staff to the bullpen. Don't get me wrong, you still need effective starting pitching to win, but the days of bullpen as an afterthought are gone forever. For all of their ups and downs last season, a few less blown games by Looper and company and the Mets could have easily been a playoff team. In 2006, the bullpen has been upgraded considerably, while the rotation has taken a hit. The "big picture" is that the innings at the end of the game are in much better hands, while there are some big questions about the early innings.

You can argue all you want about the wisdom of trading starters for relievers. What I hope becomes another part of the "big picture" for future of this franchise would be a priority in the organization in developing some of their own bullpen arms. The Mets have had some success over the years in grooming starters, but their consistent failures in coming up with viable young relievers has meant that they consistently have to overpay in salary (Billy Wagner) or trade chips (Seo and Benson) to put the final brush strokes on the "big picture". If grooming relievers is so much easier than producing starters, what's going on down on the farm?

We've been hearing about Henry Owens, who can be a part of the picture in Flushing in the near future. There are also a few promising arms in various stages of development in the Mets farm system. We can only hope that the Mets can find a way to nurture some of them into being productive major leaguers, eliminating the need for trades like Seo for Sanchez in the future.

New York Post: Bullpen Gambles
Joel Sherman uses Jorge Julio's arrival in camp as a starting point for discussing Omar Minaya's controversial off-season moves:

...nothing less than Minaya's reputation and the Mets' season could be tied to how well Julio and Duaner Sanchez chaperone the ball from the rotation to the trustworthy Billy Wagner.

Minaya's predecessor, Jim Duquette, continues to be stung by being on watch when the Mets controversially exchanged Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano. This is Minaya's Kazmir moment; the debatable decision to thin his starting-pitching depth to obtain Julio and Sanchez.

Of course, Minaya doesn't see the moves as a gamble, saying you need to look at the big picture. Sherman quotes Rick Peterson on what the "big picture" is:

When you look at the trades, you get wrapped up in just a piece of the puzzle. But if you look at the whole puzzle, which means covering about 1,450 innings for the season, we have a much better looking overall puzzle with [Julio and Sanchez].

Sherman also cites club sources for the reasons Seo and Benson were readed away:

Behind the scenes, though, Mets people will say Seo overachieved last season and that his stuff is not better than that of prospect Brian Bannister. And it is well known now that the Mets found living with Kris Benson's contract more tolerable than living with Anna Benson.

[Another Anna Benson shot. I swear it's a contest as to who's more childish -- New York sportswriters or Anna. They don't like her, but they keep handing her free publicity.]

Seo and Bannister are indeed very similar as pitchers. Their arsenal is similar, although Bannister's changeup is nowhere near as polished as Seo's. I've gotten flack from readers because I see Seo as ultimately a decent four or five starter, but even I'm not going to say that he isn't an upgrade on an untested prospect. I respect Seo for what he did last year, and I'll never quite understand the low regard the Mets seemed to have for him. Having said that, I like Sanchez a lot and feel it was a trade that had to be made.

I found this quite promising:

Sanchez must prove the change-up he learned from Dodgers teammate Eric Gagne -- that has the Mets so enthralled (bullpen coach Guy Conti called it the third best in camp after Pedro Martinez's and Aaron Heilman's -- can help him better cope with lefty hitters, who batted .310 off him last season.

I think has to be one of our biggest worries, that neither Sanchez nor Julio is all that effective against lefties. If Conti -- who is definitely one of the unsung heroes of this coaching staff -- can help Sanchez to hone that changeup, things will be looking a lot better in that department.

Daily News: Jorge Julio
Adam Rubin also profiles new setup man Jorge Julio, now in camp after obtaining a new visa. Rubin takes what seems to be the obligatory swipe at Anna Benson -- at least he had more reason than most, I guess, but I wish these guys would turn the page and stop contributing to the Anna publicity machine. Anyway, Julio blames "inconsistent use" and not knowing his role last season for his troubles -- which doesn't really explain his problems from the previous two years.

Rubin quotes Lee Mazzilli, his former manager with the Orioles, that Julio's problems were often related to overthrowing:

He's got a really good breaking ball. He's young. I love him. He's a good kid. He's got to stay away from that radar gun. He's got to stay ahead of hitters, that's what he's got to do. He's got great stuff, but he can't pitch from behind. I don't care how hard you throw, you can't do that.

The Seattle Times: The Boone
Larry Stone has an interesting look at Brett Boone.

More Mets Stories:
SportsSpyder Mets
Pro Sports Daily Mets

Comments (6)

all in aqll a very idiotic debate. The reason Maine and Bannister are very valuable is they can be sent down. Seo was out of options. Benson was an arm injury waiting for a pennant race.

Inside the fences you have to see Floyd, Nady, Diaz, as bait to pull in a good pitcher (from a bad team). again I like Mike Maroth who is a mid tier LHP on a team with high tier prospects (verlander and Co. ) waiting for a chance. Nady and Heath Bell for Maroth?

Good point with Seo being out of options, though I would rather have him in the starting 5 over Trachsel, but that ship sailed. I think they can win with what they have in the rotation. I think Victor and Heilman move ahead of Trax and the rotation will be fine, and they have Bannister and maybe Soler as insurance. Personally, I'd rather see Bannister, maybe even Maine get a look than to make a trade right now.

Missed among the media cannon fire is that the Mets may inflate Heilman's value in order to feature him in a trade. He was already in the Delgado, Zito and other proposals, but apparently IS the guy (ala Dan Haren, ), who could go for a name arm.

Alot of talk has pushed up heilman's stock, but is he all of a sudden a top/mid rotation pitcher. A second coming of Rich Harden? I REALLY see Soler vaulting into the 2007 rotation, or even the Mets at the break. You know I have Traxx, outside the pack, at 38 coming off major injury, when his stuff wasnt that good anyway. If his salary had been 4M his option would have been declined.

For what it's worth, I like Heilman a lot. I don't see him as a top of the rotation guy, but I see him as a solid #3 by the end of this year. I want to see Soler pitch some games in spring training -- I hear there is a question whether he's a reliever or starter.

Maybe in 2009 when the Mets are in their new ballpark you have a rotation of Pelfrey, Humber, Heilman, Bannister and Maine...

...who am I kidding? I'd be happy if one or two of them made it.

That will NEVER happen. Never have a minor league rotation made it to the ML in this ERA. even the braves swa Avery fall, then import Maddux. Only Glavine and Smoltz were really fixtures thru the ages.

Pelfrey is the key. if he is good, then I see humber being sacrificed or Heilman.

Look for Zito, or a big LHP, to be targetted and soon. I can see Pelfrey ala Cone pitching his way in by the end of this season. But Soler again is my Livian hernandez. He could be the reason why the title comes to NY. Note he has not pitched ML ball, but he was n international star and faced ML hitting. His precedence is Jose Contreras, EL Duque, Livian with whom he is no slouch face up.

I was kidding about all 5. I agree with you on Pelfrey as the key.

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