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Nothing but an Arms Race Left

Dave MillsFriday, December 1, 2006
By Dave Mills

Funny, it is only December 1, the Winter Meetings have yet to begin, but it appears that Omar's roster of non-pitchers is about as set as its ever been this far prior to Spring Training. If I was a betting man, I would wager that ALL the remaining tinkering will be in the pitching ranks.

Lets face it, there will not be much speculating about who will be at shortstop, first or third base. Those spots are in good hands with Reyes, Wright and Delgado (yet to sign, but going nowhere). Jose Valentin is the second sacker until either Anderson Hernandez or Ruben Gotay wrest the spot away. While unlikely, such a scenario is not out of the question. Both are ready to make an extended appearance in The Show. LoDuca will be the backstop perhaps playing a little bit less than in 2006, providing Castro is healthy.

Pretty nice keystone combo with switch-hitters Hernandez at SS and Gotay at 2B. The very talented right-handed bat of Michel Abreu at 1B will be a player to watch for the Mets faithful, but club insiders are clearly expecting the Cuban exile to replace Julio Franco in 2008 and beyond. While slow afoot, Abreu is a classic gap hitter with some real pop in his bat. And while his strikeout totals are a little high, he does walk once in every eight at-bats or so. Chris Basak will man the hot corner and hope for a breakout season before he turns 30. Yunir Garcia will likely do most of the catching, but the position is pretty wide open right now.

The outfield is likely to give those of us old enough to remember a slice of Gil Hodges, a great manager if there ever was one. But of course, he was a first baseman. So, why invoke his memory here. Because Hodges adored the platoon and used it as effectively as any manager since. With Carlos Beltran a glorious fixture in centerfield and four other highly complimentary outfielders (should the Mets sign Endy as expected), there lives the best platoon options in the corners as has ever been part of the Mets repertoire. Look for Chavez to play about two of five games in left against pesky right-handed hurlers and to spell Alou early and often defensively and as a pinch runner. He will also backup Beltran for the occasional day of rest that Carlos so despises. Rightfield will be much more of a classic platoon with Shawn Green playing against righties and newly acquired Ben Johnson going against southpaws and being utilized for defense and speed in late innings. Both Chavez and Johnson more than compensate versatility-wise for the older and more ponderous Alou and Green.

Here is Omar's chance to take a few bold initiatives and create some real excitement for Mets fans. My guess is Milledge, if not traded for Dontrelle Willis (the only player worth trading him for) will play everyday in left and/or right field forsaking his more centrally located natural position. This will place the even younger Carlos Gomez (6'4", 195 lbs with blazing speed) in CF. The other corner outfielders will likely be Jorge Padilla (a good stick with a very similar approach and numbers to Abreu) and a yet undisclosed left-handed hitter. Gomez and Padilla are at least two seasons away, but worth watching.

The Mets even have their bench locked up right now with little likely to spoil the scenario. Damion Easley will be the swing, utility player likely to pinch hit and play a little 2B and 3B. My guess is Valentin will spell Reyes on a rare occasion. Julio Franco should see a little more plate time in 2007 and perhaps a few more starts at 1B. Ramon Castro will also see some more starts in 2007. Both Chavez and Green will be available from the left side as will Alou and Johnson from the right, as the platoon situations dictate. Any infield injury will likely have Anderson Hernandez flying north faster than a speeding bullet, although he certainly does not exhibit more power than a locomotive.

With the contracts that are currently in place, it is doubtful Omar will trade Shawn Green or any of the other front-line talent. So, barring injuries, what you see is likely what you'll get.

The arms race is on!

About Dave: Dave Mills, born in Kew Gardens, Queens, the day after Willie Mays' circus catch in the 1954 World Series, is a devout Met fan since 1962. The first game he attended was Mets v. Reds at the Polo Grounds on September 14, 1962. With the game tied 9-9 in the 9th, Choo Choo ("Bub") Coleman hit a game-winning walkoff HR down the rightfield line on to the tin roof. The sound is indelibly etched in his memory! Dave lives on Oahu, where he markets and writes about golf. His company, HawaiiGolfDeals.com is the leading deliverer of golfers to the Aloha State. His take on Golf in Australia is in the Oct/Nov issue of Fairways & Greens Magazine.

Comments (4)

Nice read Dave:

But I think Omar as we have seen makes his early moves to set up his later moves.

A. Lastings value is fluctuating but now he has Ben Johnson to offer. He has added Adkins and Standridge, Vargas and Bostwick he has Ahern and Gotay. All represent young ML ready talent. All represent pieces of a future trade. Its waaay to early to forcast.

B. Here are my list of refutes to your arguement;
1. 2nd: here its minor. I think Gotay and Valentin fight it out. But I think Ray Durham is an outsider getting a Valentin-esque shot if he's still available. If Valentin wins, I think Ahern should be the supersub since his speed, and far superior defensive prowess at SS & 2B make him precious. Plus his value jumped in 05 as he found offense in AA/AAA. He regressed a little in '06 until later in the yr. But as he learns the ML, could find his stick as early as this yr.

2.Catcher: This is actually my sore spot: Yes Paulie has the guts/leadership moniker, but his defense is not exactly GG caliber. The discrepancy looms large when evaluting him with his younger peers including the Molina boys. One of these is AGAIN a FA, Benji. I agree that the Catcher needs rotate and Willie does not do this particularly well. In my opinion, I'd dangle Paulie to a team with young talent and sign Molina or Rod Barajas. Also I'm high on Jesus Flores who if not for injury in '05 would be competing for ML time. Yunir Garcia should get a good look too. Castro could well not be offered arbitration.

3. THE OF: I agree with everything here. One tidbit is another blogger noted Moises plays both corners. Depending on who stays I think Milledge is the 6th OFer, and Johnson 5th. I think Green could be off loaded as budgets get tighter and the pool shrinks. At $4M Green could be a nice fit in the AL. Then Johnson slots into RF, rotating with Endy. Lastings then logs many frequent flyer miles as injuries permit.

4. I doubt Franco gets more time. In fact he is my hot pick for 1st base coach.

Dave: In the context of your post there is a big question. I have seen posted the projection of Vargas, Humber, Soler, Pelfrey, Bostwick, Bannister as part of a AAA rotation.

At the mets site on MLB.com, Vargas, Standridge, Schmoll, and Adkins count against the 40man. What then of other potentially significant contenders like Miguel Pinango and Willie Collazzo. Add Blake McGinley Juan Perez, and Robert Paulk. Are they Rule V fodder? Ditto Ambi Concepcion.

Pinango: http://www.minorleaguebaseball.com/app/milb/stats/stats.jsp?n=Miguel%20Pinango&pos=P&sid=milb&t=p_pbp&pid=451538
paulk; http://www.minorleaguebaseball.com/app/milb/stats/stats.jsp?n=Robert%20Paulk&pos=P&sid=milb&t=p_pbp&pid=451663


I thought that was a great post. I agree with mostly everything you were saying. Like Ed pointed out, I'm really anxious to see Jesus Flores come up through the system. However, Ed, I'd have to say I disagree with you about LoDuca... his intangibles (his duties as #2-- putting the ball in play, taking pitches, hitting it to the correct sideo of the infield-- and the way he works with the pitching staff) are too good to give up.

Ed --

Don't bet on Lastings going unless it for D-Train. He clearly needs another half season at least if Triple A ball and there is no reason to deal a package with that much talent.

Ray Durham offers nothing to the Mets. He is a butcher at 2B and a streaky sort of hitter with little pop. Remember, Valentin plays excellent "D", hit 18 dingers and is a very adept baserunner.

Catcher -- Paulie is a born leader and willing to pop off for his teammates. Gotta love diggin in for battle with that man behind the dish. And he can hit for average and not strikeout. Is there a better pure right-handed hitting catcher right now? Injuries DO happen and Jesse Flores is not really on The Show radar.

I will say it right now and clearly...Shawn Green was picked up as a platoon player who adds chemistry to the team. He and Delgado are very close and Omar took an "improving the chemistry even further" flyer. At the end of the season, the Green/Johnson platoon will have excellent combined numbers. You heard it here. They will bat a combined .278, hit 27 HRs and drive in 98 runs. Look for about 18 stolen bases and 14 assists, as well.

I think Franco will be coaching in 2008, but my guess is he will have a few more at bats than last season. Delgado struggles in mid-season and through a couple of droughts and Franco can hit tough lefties. No matter what, Abreu will be there in September and beyond.

I will explore the pitching depth next week.

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