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It's How You Spend It

Mike SteffanosSunday, July 16, 2006
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.

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Comments (8)

"The bullpen."Thats why I think if the Mets get a pitcher, it will be a inning eater pitcher and not a 2or3 starter. Somebody every 4th time out who can give the guys a rest, and you still have your farm in place for a big trade, if one opens up.

Sounds right to me. I'd be surprised if any 2 or 3 starter changes teams at the dealine other than Livan Hernandez who is a decent 3 if he has anything left.

Vasquez and Garcia are both innings eaters, one of these guys is coming our way, no doubt. This will cost us Heilman but I think it is a very fair exchange. Garcia is a proven winner even if he is not pitching at his best right now.

Abreu's salary will be slightly offset by losing Floyd's $6m making him effectively a $10m upgrade. Yes thats alot for a #2 hitter but scoring runs wins games and the more runs scored = the less runs the pitchers have to worry about giving up. Yes Abreu's numbers have declined but who would be playing 100% on this Phillies team??? Lok at how much better Beltran has plyed this season, it doesnt take much imagination to understand that playing on a winner makes plyers want to play better. Look for 30+ HR next season if he is on a winner.

They will not be asking for Milledge or Hughes if they are asking the Mets or Yankees to eat big bucks. What do they want? Obviously a pitcher but they will not be asking for Pelfrey. Give them Soler and/or Bannister.

Zito will be looking for a big payday but having Uncle Rick as our pitching coach, throwing in the NL and pitching in a lower pressure environment than Yankee Stadium must be more appealing. The Mets are now on the up and the Yankees on the decline, this will also play a huge factor in any players decision...not just the dollar figure.

Ask Tom Glavine if he would like Abreu in the 2-hole after yesterdays game and the number of times the bats have put up donuts for him!!!!!

Wow that was some inning today.

Guys, you're entitled to your opinion. I think you're not being realistic in what the Phillies would be looking for in return for Abreu. And Bob, run support has not been a problem for Glavine. Giving up runs immediately after the Mets score for him is his biggest problem right now.

I'm not as concerned as you are about Abreu's defense. The Gold Glove is a sham, but he did win it last year, didn't he? OK, that's a poor argument....my point is that he'll at least be an upgrade over Xavier Nady, who's the worst defensive outfielder for the Mets since Todd Hundley.

Money is a concern, sure. But, Reyes and Wright are locked up for the next two years. And, with Floyd, Zambrano, etc coming off the books and (hopefully) two of Pelfrey, Soler and Bannister ready to take spots in the rotation, they can afford it. Plus, all we hear about it how great the ratings are for SNY; shouldn't they have a few more dollars to spend? I find it difficult to believe the Yankees can afford nearly twice the payroll of the Mets.

If getting Abreu takes Milledge, I'd steer clear. But if it's, say, Nady, Humber and Lindstrom, I'd do it and not think twice. Elite players, especially ones that help the offense as much as Abreu, are hard to come by.

Ryan, it's not my point that Abreu's defense was the sticking point, I just mentioned in passing that I hate his defense. Nady is making about $15 million less than Abreu, and at least doesn't shy away from the fence. But I just feel Abreu's salary is too much to take on for a team that already had several players paid at that level. Nady was brought in to replace Cameron because Cammy was making $6 million and Nady under a mil.

I don't think they are going to go the whole 6 year process with Wright and Reyes. I think they echo what Cleveland did and sign both to long-term contracts this offseason or next at the latest.

The Yankees payroll is ridiculous, and I don't want the Mets to go there. Boston is #2 at around $120 million, and I see the Mets getting close to there just by signing Zito and locking up Wright and Reyes and maybe upgrading at 2B.

I agree with you that what we have to give up makes a difference. Gillick is desperate for quality starting pitching, and I can't see him giving up his one big chip without getting some in return. I'd be surprised if this was just a salary dump.

Look, if the Mets get Abreu I'll root as hard as anyone. I'd rather win than be right. Seriously, thanks for sharing your opinion.

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