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Mike SteffanosMonday, July 24, 2006
By Mike Steffanos

There has been a lot of speculation that Billy Beane might be willing to deal his ace left-hander, despite the fact that Oakland is battling for a playoff birth. I was informed yesterday that there was a rumor that Beane might be willing to deal Barry Zito one-to-one for Lastings Milledge. I guess the thought behind it was that with Zito signing on with Scott Boras, the Oakland GM realizes he has no chance to hold onto his player, and wants to get something in return.

On his ESPN Insider Blog, Buster Olney feels that trading Milledge or Heilman for Zito might make sense:

Here are the reasons why it might make some sense for the Mets to package a deal around Aaron Heilman or Lastings Milledge for Barry Zito.

1. The addition of Zito helps the Mets' chances for winning the World Series.

2. If they trade Heilman, they can go out and add a middle reliever to take his spot, such as Roberto Hernandez. Trading Milledge won't affect their chances of winning this year.

3. They could conceivably re-sign Zito to a long-term deal after Zito becomes a free agent, although with Scott Boras representing Zito, the chances of that happening are diminished.

4. If Zito leaves and signs elsewhere, then the Mets would get two first-round picks as compensation for Zito, effectively helping to fill in the young talent gap created if Milledge or Heilman is dealt.

I'm still finding it kind of hard to believe that Billy Beane would take Milledge or Heilman for Zito. After all, he can keep him for the playoff run, try to resign him, and then take the two draft picks himself if he can't. It's extremely hard to justify to your fans why you traded away their ace pitcher in the middle of a tight pennant race unless you bring a "no brainer" package of talent back. To me, that would be both Milledge and Heilman, maybe more. And that's where I run into a problem.

If you give away 2 young and talented players for Zito, and then Boras takes him elsewhere after the season is over, 2 draft picks are not adequate compensation. You've already traded 2 young and talented players. Even if you beat the odds and both draft picks develop into the same caliber of players, you will still have to wait years to just break even on the transaction.

But wait, you say, Zito could be the final piece of the puzzle for a championship. He might well be, but he might also be yet another player that requires an adjustment period to succeed in New York. It's the rare player that comes to New York and excels immediately. Unfortunately, when you have a two-month rental player, you don't have the luxury of an adjustment period.

Look, if Zito could really be had for one young player, you'd have to consider it. If that's the case, though, the Mets have to be prepared to let him walk away in the off-season if they can't negotiate a deal that makes sense. Boras will know that the Mets have a gun to their head to keep him, and will take full advantage of that. Kris Benson was a recent example of a pitcher that cashed in because it would have been bad P.R. for the Mets to let him walk. You can't negotiate that way. We'll see how this plays out. Only a week away from the deadline, it's almost certain to be one of the more persistent rumors. MetsBlog and Hot Foot are your two best sources to keep up on all the latest.

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Comments (23)

Hi Mike- I would certainly think about it, Zito has an ERA under 4.00 in the AL.......

I would, too, Shari. My only point is that you should only give up what you'd give up for a 2-month rental of Zito, you just can't assume he'll re-sign here.

I think the best wa to go about this is this, If Milledge stays and the Mets make no real imapctful moves, then fine. Go to battle with the guys they have now and I'd be satisfied.

If Omar trades away Milledge for Zito then, just be ok with it and take it. He's the one that puts us over the top.

I'd personally be satisfied with either scenario.

Like I said, Benny, you can't give up more than you would for a 2 month rental of Zito, but if it was Milledge straight up you'd have to consider it.

Entirely agree with your thoughts on the mindset the Mets must take if they do acquire Zito. Don't put the team in a must-sign situation; take him only if you're willing to lose him if reasonable negotiations don't bear fruit.

I've been sort of anticipating the day when Boras' hardline posturing starts costing his clients money. Doesn't it diminish a player's value, having all these qualifications attached when it comes time to deal him to another club? It certainly affects what you can get in exchange for him, which should affect the terms Boras could get for that player in the first place. In a rational world I mean; but if it's happened I haven't noticed.

There's a reason that guys like Beltran and Zito sign with Boras, and it's all about cash. It may cost the A's a chance to make a deal, but I'm sure Zito will get a huge contract. If I was in his place, I might do the same thing.

I don't think Boras' "antics" will ever cost his clients money but what it DOES do is limits the potential suitors and turns off alot of teams.

I mean, who's to say a certain player WOULDN'T sign with a certain team because he does like the environment. So it could hurt the players overall happiness because he might miss out on something with another team.
Whatever, I guess Giambi and Damon don't mind being in that incredibly robotic and un-fun clubhouse, are happy...

Whoa! A realtime response!

If a team signs a player, presumably they expect in return both performance and a certain fungibility should they choose the option of dealing him; they don't want to merely give him away on trade day. If that second option is sharply curtailed, which is certainly the case of a Boras client nearing the end of his contract, why doesn't that dampen the contract that a Barry Zito would get from the A's in the first place? That's whereI was going with that comment.

Speaking of which: how much money is enough? Does anyone else think that Alex Rodriguez might be a lot happier if he had signed a more conventional deal for an ordinary obsene ammount of money, like Beltran for instance? I remember thinking at the time of that signing: what's he planning to do with it? Will A-Rod be starting up his own space program? What he bought himself is a solid gold millstone around his neck, that clashes with those pinstripes.

dd -- I was thinking the same thing about A-Rod. He should have stayed in Seattle. I'm sure he could have gotten enough money out of them to stay secure for life, and he wouldn't have the huge target on his back he's had since signing with Texas. I could see it from both sides.

Yo, maybe I'm dumb but I have no idea what your saying in your first paragraph, lol. I'm young, use simple words, haha.

It's easy to ask the question, "how much is enough?" and say "I wouldn't need that much" but, if someone is throwing that much at you, who cares about the team and how much it sucks, your not thinking about that, your thinking about all that money.
I can bet that A-Rod was more surprised than any of us that he got as much as he did.

I'm not saying that A-Rod was wrong for taking the money, Benny. I might have done the same thing in his place. But for all the money he would have gotten to stay in Seattle, even if he was making $15 million a year instead of 20, it might have been worth it in the long run. Some guys take less money to stay somewhere they are happy. Your career is so short compared to the rest of your life, as long as you make a lot of money maybe that's smarter in the long run.

No one is going to offer me that kind of money, that's all I know.

1.Aaron Heilman is not "young."
2.Aaron Heilman is not that talented.

I really can't understand your reluctance to include Heilman in this deal. Let's say it goes down like this: Milledge & Heilman for Zito; Zito walks; Mets receive 1st round pick from Z's new team + compensation pick. Essentially: Milledge & Heilman for 2 first rounders.

Milledge will not be this team's savior - this year or next. Swapping him out for a new 1st rounder (even if it's the 25th pick) could be to our benefit.

Heilman will soon be 28 (granted, younger than Zito) and is utterly replaceable. There's atleast 3 guys (Bell, Ring, Owens) who would kill to be in his position. They've all got the potential to be as good or better than him; I'm certain all 3 would display more "heart."

I'd take the risk of giving up Heilman for "only" a sandwich pick - which is exactly what we got when Mike Hampton walked. You know how that turned out.

Don't be so conservative. Zito has his mentor here. The fans will embrace him (as long as he doesn't pull a Kenny Rogers) because we know it'll be an "important" factor when it comes time sign him.

I'd say there's no way Omar doesn't re-sign him; regardless if he gives up Milledge alone or Milledge + more.

The reason I feel Milledge is a little more expendable than before is because Fenando Martinez.
Is that fair? Maybe not, but Martinez is showing power, contact, speed, PATIENCE.

Joe, if Heilman wasn't talented, everyone wouldn't be asking for him. And he is still young and cheap. GM's don't base their evaluations of players on what they've done for the past 2 months, unlike fans they don't have that luxury.

Why are you worried about what I think? I'm not the GM, and I can promise you that Omar doesn't waste his time reading my blog. But I would be against both players going for a 2-month rental of Zito. I would take the chance on either player by himself.

It's silly to think Zito is a sure bet to sign here. I want to see it in writing. Plus, if we wait until after the season and he signs, we get him for just a single draft pick. BTW, most Mets draft picks did not become David Wright. If they did we'd be celebrating lots of championships.

I like Martinez, but he's years away. Milledge is right there, you can't compare them. Still, I've already said I would understand if they traded Milledge for Zito.

I know, but if you were to sign FLoyd, who has given ALL indications he would like to come back, to a what, 2 year deal? Fernando Martinez could be ready. Or maybe COncepcion, or Gomez, but I'm not putting any money on them being ready to rock n' roll. But the "depth" is there.

Even if you don't re-sign Floyd, you could come up with an OF somewhere. I'm against trading Milledge in the right deal. I'm not sure that a 2-month rental of Zito is the right deal, but one-on-one for Milledge I would chance it.

Zito/Pelfrey/Maine/Bannister. In 2008 and 2009 you won't remember Milledge and Heilman. New stadium, new young team and still building on a strong foundation. The signing of Zito is the key. Like we said the other day, it's still a tough call.

I wouldn't give up both guys Rev, it's too much if he walks -- especially to the Bronx.


I never said Heilman wasn't talented. I said he wasn't that talented.

And why do I care what you think? Well I just happen to read your site every day and agree with most of your opinions, but cannot understand your reluctance to do a 2-for-1 in this case.

Milledge isn't bringing anything to the big club this year (and could potentially be moved thanks to his ego) and I doubt Omar would have a hard time replacing Heilman.

As Mets fans, we shouldn't shy away from a deal where we'd ship away a top prospect or 2 for a 2-month rental of a top pitcher. I say you shouldn't be conservative because that's usually how I react whenever I hear any deal for any good prospect.

PS. I'm a little insulted you pulled out the "why do care what I think" card. It's not like I flamed your opinion, I offered counter-points. Do you really want to only read posts that agree with your own?

Joe, I'm teasing you with "Why are you worried about what I think?", not putting you down. I didn't expect everyone to agree with my opinion, and it doesn't bother me that you didn't. One of my regular commenters never agrees with anything I say, and we joke about getting together and having a beer so we can throw beer nuts at each other why we argue.

I did explain why I wouldn't trade prospects for rentals, especially the top chip in your system. I think the game has changed to the point that the best teams will depend a lot on their farm system, and can't afford to give away players. I wouldn't do it, but I'm not offended that you would and didn't take your comment as a flame. I think you read something into my answer that wasn't there, as I enjoy give and take with real Mets fans that don't agree with me.

I still disagree with you on trading Milledge and Heilman for Zito, so grab the beer nuts...

Cool. There's not many sites I can comment on from work thanks to a firewall, I'd hate to decrease that number by 1 for any reason.

My reasons for trading either or both stem from perception of their attitudes. Heilman seems to be the "lonely man" at this point and Milledge just wasn't humbled by his month in the bigs. If anything, his ego seems to have gotten bigger since being sent back down.

For that reason I think their respective "talents" are replaceable.

I think I really started following prospects when we drafted Heilman - his college career had me hyped that he'd be a key Met someday. I guess I'm over that now.

I'm glad the way they handled the Milledge call-up: they saw what he's made of and it seems he might not have the right attitude. All top prospects should be handled in a similar fashion.

At this point, I'd rather take a gamble on Zito adjusting to NY quickly than Milledge growing up anytime soon. I'm on the fence about Heilman.

(As you can see, my frame off mind will vary wildly from day-to-day). :)

I think you're too quick to write off both players. I don't think you or I have all of the information necessary to make a decision on either. I will always be philosophically against mortgaging the future for rental players. It was a big concession on my part to be willing to trade Milledge or Heilman for 2-months of Zito, and that's as far as I'm willing to go. You and I are at a philosophical impass on this point, so let's let it go.

Draft picks are crap shoots -- most don't pan out. For 2 prospects to come as far as Milledge and Heilman is an achievement. Despite your reservations on both AH and LM, most GMs would cosider them both draft success stories. In an organization that has few good prospects close to major-league ready, it's too big of a gamble. You could make a deal with either or both this winter and get players that can help you into the future.

Besides, the way Glavine is pitching tonight, I'm not convinced we're only one pitcher away from a championship.

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