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Firing Up the Stove At Last

Mike SteffanosWednesday, November 15, 2006
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.

Mets.com: Mailbag
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.

More Mets Stories:
SportsSpyder Mets

Continuous Mets Coverage:
Hot Foot

Comments (5)


Gotham baseball. A good read but disturbed that the Mets info was in the fine print section.

I like Mazzilli as the 3rd base coach. His experience and place in Met lure blend well.

Johnson/Adkins 4 Royce/Bell: I liked Royce. He was the missing link in the NLCS as a lefty that could come into a tied game. The Xtra bat..be it Cliff, Ahern or Tucker did not pan out.

The point you do not expound is that Burnitz (hitting .286/18 HR at the trade ) for Diaz and Ring for Alomar yielded NOTHING. There was not net gain from those trades at all. Now that Kaz is gone, Benson is gone and Cam is gone the Duquette ERA looks very poor.

I agree that the Mets could make a splashy trade. But I think Contreras or Vaz is a better fit than Willis. We might just have to live with those 3-4 losses every yr of his career while he has Omar's number.

Addendum: Could Ben Johnson be X-Nady II ? or just Michael TuckerII

Ed - He's going to lead with whatever he thinks gets him the most readers. As far as Duquette goes, since the team was run by committee back then he might not have even been the guy that picked Ring and Victor. I liked the Cameron signing, and he'd still be here if not for signing Beltran. Benson and Matsui are, of course, not good pickups. Kazmir was worse -- I prefer not to dwell on that era. I guess I'll have to see Johnson play a little before I form any opinion.

Here is what The Transaction Guy site had to say about Johnson:

Johnson, 25, hit .250/.333/.425 for the Padres last season. He can play all three outfield positions, and has been regarded as a pretty good fielder in all of them. Think Endy Chávez but with actual skills.


So he can play all the outfield positions; so good. But: Endy Chavez has no skills? That last comment leaves me longing for the days before The Transaction Guy changed hands; THAT guy knew some stuff.

He also mentions that the Pods' acquisition of Bell and Ring will probably lead to a Scott Linebrink for Marcus Giles trade.

It's amazing how many out there pass themselves off as experts and make silly statements like that. As for the Braves getting Linebrink, it looks like they're finally serious about their bullpen.

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