By Mike Steffanos
In today's Baseball America's Daily Dish, Aaron Fitt brings up the same question about Alay Soler that I asked in my earlier post:
Pelfrey already in Double-A, Soler Next?
The clock is ticking on Alay Soler in the Florida State League. The Cuban defector was dynamite yet again last night in high Class A St. Lucie's 1-0 win against Brevard County, allowing just one hit and no walks while striking out seven in seven brilliant innings. The 26-year-old righthander improved to 2-0, 0.64 with 32 strikeouts, eight walks and a .128 opponents' batting average in 28 innings this year. His command has been impeccable since he walked six batters in 10 innings over his first two starts of the season.
Because of his age and background, Soler doesn't figure to be long for the FSL. The Mets signed him to a three-year, $2.8 million contract in September 2004, and he pitched at the Mets' Dominican complex in 2005. A star on the Cuban national team that won the 2002 World University Games, Soler seems to have the makeup to handle the pressure of New York, and his stuff (91-94 mph fastball and low-80s slider with exceptional depth) could put him on the fast track to pitch in the majors later this summer.
If you were paying attention this spring, there was quite a bit of buzz over Soler coming into camp. It was thought that Soler might grab a spot on the big league club, and if not, it was considered such a sure thing he'd be one step below in Norfolk that Soler moved to that town. Unfortunately for the 26-year-old Cuban defector, an awful spring downgraded expectations significantly.
It would seem inevitable that the Mets would challenge Soler very soon in either Double-A Binghamton or Triple-A Norfolk. I hadn't thought much about Soler since his spring training struggles, but he is a piece of the puzzle Minaya was looking at when he felt he could afford to trade Seo and Benson this winter.
John Maine gets an opportunity this evening to prove that he can provide starting depth. If he fails, there are other bullets to be fired. You have two veterans in Norfolk, Jose Lima and Jeremi Gonzalez. Neither is pitching particularly well, but you might catch lightening in a bottle with one. Mike Pelfrey has been doing everything he can to ensure a quick rise to Flushing. Now another option is forcing his way into the picture. You can never have too many options.
The Mets might very well be able to swing a deal by the deadline for a top-flight starter, but I'm not convinced. For those of us that lived through that wild real estate boom in the 80s, when demand forced up prices on houses and condos beyond any semblance of their values, you might be feeling a sense of déjà vu when you look at the market for pitching in today's MLB. There just aren't many sellers, and a plethora of motivated buyers. Where once rebuilding teams asked reasonable value for veteran pitching, now these teams are greedily surveying the landscape and trying to decide how much they can hold up desperate contending teams for in return.
When you look at it from the point of view of the teams that have something to sell, you understand that they are under pressure to go back to their fans with clear value in return. At one time it was understood that a trade involved a gamble on the part of both teams -- with one giving up an established veteran pitcher and the other an attractive prospect or two. I'm not sure that this is still the case. If I have a pitcher to swap, especially if he's good, I'm asking myself "how high is the moon?" Hey, if you're not willing to overpay, there's several teams lined up behind that are.
Going back to that analogy of the 80s real estate boom, a lot of decent people that felt pressured to buy when values were at their peak suffered severe buyer's remorse later on. I know people that are still paying for a choice made so many years ago. When you understand the difficult decisions Omar is faced with, you understand the importance of having in-house options like Soler.
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