By Mike Steffanos
As I passed along earlier, the Mets have traded Heath Bell and Royce Ring to San Diego for young outfielder Ben Johnson. I've only seen him play a couple of games, so I don't have much of an opinion on him at this point. From what little I remember, and from looking at his profile on CBS SportsLine, Johnson looks like someone who has some power and is willing to take a walk. He's a right-handed batter, which certainly fills a need. As for what this implies for Lastings Milledge, it could run the gamut anywhere from buying Lastings more time in the minors because the Mets don't believe he's ready to Johnson serving as a placeholder allowing the Mets to trade Milledge and wait for Carlos Gomez to develop. I'm sure we'll be hearing more about him.
Omar Minaya seems to be hinting at an inclination to make some early deals, which was indeed his M.O. last offseason, so I'm sure this is only the icebreaker. I had a feeling Bell would be sent elsewhere this offseason, and though I thought Ring might stay I can't say I'm shocked at the Mets willingness to let go of the young lefty. With the trade of Victor Diaz, this now means that both of the main pieces of 2003's fire sale are no longer with the team.
New Rumor Mill at Gotham Baseball
Mark Healey has the latest installment of GB's Rumor Mill online. He offers this on a possible Dontrelle Willis deal:
Meantime, reports out of Florida say the Mets are engaged in active discussions with the Florida Marlins for the services of Dontrelle Willis, with Aaron Heilman and Lastings Milledge as the main pieces in any deal.
Well, after speaking with two MLB officials, we've been able to confirm a few phone calls between hotel suites, but not much else, except for one interesting note. Milledge is a player that Florida "likes", but they "love" Fernando Martinez, and if the Mets include him in any deal, it'll get done.
I am reporting this for the simple reason that this detail tells me that no deal will get done, because Minaya has no intention of including Martinez in any deal for any player.
"Minaya has other guys in his system that he's willing to deal, but not that kid. No way."
Of course, we've heard in other places that Florida doesn't like Lastings Milledge, so who knows. I suspect that we'll start hearing more rumors involving teams asking for Fernando Martinez, as this kid pushed his way into High-A ball and the Arizona Fall League despite being only 17 years old. If he keeps coming fast, it's quite possible he might see some major league action before he turns 20. While no player is untouchable, here's hoping the Mets hold onto this kid.
Healey also says the Mets are resisting any trade requests that involve Mike Pelfrey and Phil Humber, which I can only hope they continue to do, also.
Bob Klapisch sees the hints from Omar Minaya that he's willing to go into next season with the rotation he already has as just part of a chess match with Scott Boras over Barry Zito:
Welcome to the baseball winter, where major league executives watch what they say, convinced an agent is out there, somewhere, listening. When Minaya gave his blessing to Duque and Tom Glavine, he actually was delivering a message to Scott Boras, who represents Zito, telling him the Mets aren't panicked enough to write a $75 million check over the next five years.
I'm not so sure. If Glavine comes back, the Mets may indeed consider him and El Duque as veteran anchors for a young rotation, especially if Zito winds up getting 5 or 6 years at $15 million per year as so many think he will. Given the huge gamble that the Red Sox were willing to make on Matsuzaka, it's not far-fetched at all to see Zito signing for that $75 million over 5 years. This will be interesting to watch.
Marty Noble once again answers the question from the Great Unwashed, including some interesting responses on Tom Glavine, what the Mets should pursue in the off-season, and the late Buddy Kerr.
Faith and Fear in Flushing: Shea
With all of the brouhaha over the new park, there was a need for some elegant prose devoted to the old. It comes as no surprise whatsoever that Greg Prince was equal to the task.