By Mike Steffanos
As the Mets gear up to get back into action this afternoon in Chicago, the rumor mill is firing up, also. With just over 2 weeks left to go until the trading deadline, don't expect that to cool off anytime before then. Let's take a look at some of the names that are being thrown around:
Javier Vazquez or Freddy Garcia (Source: Adam Rubin, Daily News)
This is a new one, as Rubin reports that the Sox would be willing to deal one of these pitchers for top-notch relief help, which Rubin thinks could be Duaner Sanchez or Aaron Heilman. I would hate to let Sanchez go at this point, and you would have to think it would take two good relievers for the Sox to part with one of these guys. I know Omar has liked both of these pitchers in the past, but I'm not particularly enamored with either -- especially at the expense of decimating the bullpen. I'd probably like Vazquez a little more than Garcia, although their stats are very comparable this year. This one would at least seem to bear watching.
Julio Lugo (Multiple Sources)
This also popped up in Rubin's story, among countless others. Lugo to the Mets is the rumor that won't go away, as Manny to the Mets was last year. I can understand concerns about Jose Valentin holding up for the whole season, but with the pitching concerns I would think 2B would be the least of Omar's worry. To give away Aaron Heilman or any other chip of any value for Lugo makes zero sense to me. At this point, if I'm the GM I'd roll the dice with Valentin and try to fortify elsewhere. I'd be really annoyed if anything of value went to the Devil Rays for a player who would be a luxury for this squad rather than a necessity.
Bobby Abreu (Source: Joel Sherman, New York Post)
If Lugo would be an unnecessary luxury for this club, Abreu would be an unfathomable expense. The offense is good enough, and there is already a lot of salary tied up in Delgado, Pedro, Wagner, Glavine and Beltran. Whatever Abreu would cost in prospects, and the large amount of salary Abreu would chew up to me would be unjustifiable. The thought of watching him play fly balls 20 feet from the wall into hits makes me ill. Pass on this one. Please.
Trading Milledge (Multiple Sources)
Lastings Milledge made a generally favorable impression on most fans, but it seems safe to say that is not the case with most of the writers. I'm sure the kid is cocky and has an ego, but the same could be said about many very good ballplayers, and that's the key. If Milledge becomes a very good ballplayer, people will overlook the baggage. If he doesn't, not so much. If the Mets want to trade Milledge, they have to bring something young and worthwhile back in return. Milledge for Livan Hernandez does not fill that bill. It just seems to me if the Mets feel they can spare this kid the time to trade him would be over the winter when you would have more teams involved.
Trading Mike Pelfrey (Multiple Sources)
With apologies to Joel Sherman after verifying that a team has 6 months to complete a "player to be named later" deal, that would indeed make Pelfrey tradable at the deadline. I'd still hate to see him go. Bringing back a young pitcher like Willis -- although I think Willis would command more than Pelfrey and Milledge in return -- would justify it, while bringing in a mediocre older pitcher wouldn't, at least in my eyes.
Why do I feel this is so important? The Mets are moving into a period of significant salary pressure over the next few years. They will owe a lot of money to aging (and probably declining) veterans like Pedro, Delgado and Wagner. Beltran has 5 more years on his deal after this one, and David Wright and Jose Reyes are on the verge of cashing in on their stardom. It's crucial that they have some young, cheap and good players on the roster -- the roles filled by Wright, Reyes, Nady, Duaner Sanchez, Heilman, and Brian Bannister this year. The big question is, where are these players going to come from? If you trade your prospects away, in particular if traded for older players, this type of player won't be there. The Mets will look like they did at the end of the Steve Phillips regime: some high-priced vets, many mediocre roster fillers, and a farm system as barren as Jim Duquette's scalp.
Some sportswriters like to write off the concerns of fans like me with the patronizing thought that we just get "attached" to the prospects like Pelfrey and Milledge that we hear so much about. That's unfair and untrue. We understand that the balancing act is to find a way to improve what you have now without destroying your future. The Red Sox have proved that you can win now and still have a productive farm system supplying that key young, cheap quality talent. In today's MLB, where parity and revenue sharing have dried up the trade market to a tremendous degree, having a balanced roster is going to be a key to succeeding for any team going forward. For writers, developing prospects makes for a boring story compared to the hubbub generated over a big trade. For ball clubs, it can mean the difference between mediocrity (or worse) and winning.
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