By Mike Steffanos
I have not received universal agreement with my stance that Bobby Abreu and Julio Lugo were unnecessary luxuries for the Mets, not that I expected I would. While I have no problem with those who disagree with me, I'd like to spend a moment explaining myself in more detail.
Lugo is an intriguing ballplayer for the Mets, and would slot into what is currently their weakest position, second base. The problem is that Tampa Bay still seems to want Aaron Heilman in a trade for Lugo. Although Heilman is undoubtedly struggling in his sophomore season as a reliever, on this Mets team still grasping to put together an effective rotation and dipping deep into the bullpen almost every night, I just don't think this one makes sense. It would weaken a bullpen that is already experiencing some difficulties, and I don't think the return justifies the cost.
I'm comfortable with the semi-platoon of Valentin and Woodward there. Even if Valentin wears down a little (and I think Willie is doing a good job of guarding against that), you're talking the eighth place hitter in a NL batting order. Valentin has earned his playing time and what will certainly be his last major-league season as a semi-regular. Chase Lugo in the off-season if you feel the need, I just can't support weakening the bullpen to upgrade a position of relative unimportance on this team. If Tampa Bay decides they would take something less than Heilman or a top prospect, I would definitely reconsider my opinion.
Bobby Abreu is not as cut and dried in my mind. I hate him as a right fielder -- sure, he can run well and throw, but you can count on him to shy away from anything hit within 20 feet of the warning track. That's demoralizing to a pitcher. He is, however, without question an on-base machine at the plate. He still has good power, even if the home runs have dropped off some. You can slot him #2 in the order, move Lo Duca down near the bottom, and upgrade your offense significantly. One commenter on the site left the opinion that the Wilpons have not significantly raised payroll over the last 3 seasons and could certainly afford Abreu. I'll give you no argument on that here.
My point on payroll is that it's not just what you spend, it's how you spend it. First of all, you can't look at 2006 as separate from the larger picture of the next couple of seasons. When the Mets came up with their budget for this year, they undoubtedly looked ahead, also. Wright and Reyes are making under $1 million combined this season, but both will need to be signed to long-term contracts in the next year or two, and that has to be accounted for. Abreu will cost about $16 million for the next two seasons if the Mets pick him up, which is close to Carlos Beltran money. Add in what Delgado, Wagner and Pedro will make in that same time period, take a guess what it might cost to keep Wright and Reyes with the Mets, and my presumption is that payroll number will go up very significantly with no Abreu.
As for who's coming off the payroll, assuming they don't re-sign any of them -- Cliff Floyd ($6.5 million), Orlando Hernandez ($4.5 million), Victor Zambrano ($3 million) and Steve Trachsel ($2.5 million) are the ones making the most significant money. Note that Abreu would eat up almost all of that money, and that's not counting the cost of whoever replaces these players.
Now consider that the Phillies are not looking to merely dump salary if they move Abreu, they actually want something in return. I would assume that this would cost Lastings Milledge and some pitching, which the Phillies are desperate to acquire. Giving up your best chip when you have so few left for someone you don't really need doesn't make much sense to me, either.
Another thing to factor in is the Mets are likely to be participating in the Barry Zito sweepstakes this winter. It's estimated that it will take at least $15 million per year for 5 years to sign Zito, and with the Yankees as likely players, this number could go significantly higher. Zito would instantly make the Mets significantly better -- much more so than Abreu. If you're Omar Minaya, and you feel that you have a chance for Zito, you have to hold money aside for that purpose.
I have more to say on this, but I feel I have used my word quota for today. I'll finish this tomorrow. Remember, I'm not on a crusade to change anyone's mind here, I just explaining my views on this matter.
Daily News: Fonzie Returns
Adam Rubin reports that the Mets signed Edgardo Alfonzo to a minor-league contract with the Triple-A Norfolk Tides. Fonzie was released by both the Angels and the Blue Jays this season and was playing with the independent Bridgeport (CT) Bluefish. Alfonzo is only 32, but a problematic back has cost him most of his power and seemingly his major league career. Still, this was a no-lose move for the Mets, as Alfonzo is still popular among Mets fans. Good job by the Mets. (Thanks to J. Mark English of American Legends for being the first to let me know Edgardo was back.)
Rubin also reports that the Mets demoted Henry Owens back to Double-A Binghamton after yesterday's game, and not Triple-A Norfolk as reported in the game recap on Mets.com. Finally, we learn that Brian Bannister will begin officially rehabbing in Port St. Lucie on Thursday.
Daily News: The Bullpen
Jesse Spector reports on the beating the Mets' bullpen is taking in appearances and innings pitched:
With Pedro Martinez about to miss his third straight start, the Mets sorely need their other veteran starters to eat up some innings, but Tom Glavine and Steve Trachsel have done everything but that. While Glavine closed the first half not having lost since April 24 and Trachsel has gone unbeaten since May 17, it seems preposterous that the duo averaged a combined 5.667 innings in their last 13 starts of the first half. That's not including Trachsel's six-inning outing on Friday.
It certainly is worrisome how many innings the Mets have received from their bullpen so far, although Spector failed to point out that the Mets did have an extraordinary number of extra-innings games in the first half. It's undeniable that the Mets have to get some more innings from their starters in the second half. Ironically enough, despite the extremely brief outing in Toronto, it is the middle-aged Orlando Hernandez who has been most consistently going deep into games.
Take The "7" Train: 1986
SNY's Simply Amazin' documentary on the 1986 Mets provides Shari a starting point for her own memories of that championship season.