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The Mets Really Don't Need To Do Anything Crazy

Mike SteffanosTuesday, December 5, 2006
By Mike Steffanos

I keep reading how the Mets need to open the vault and give Scott Boras everything he asks for in order to bring Barry Zito to New York. Failing that, there are some who advocate trading prospects who are close to major-league ready, such as Mike Pelfrey or Phil Humber, in a trade for mediocre starting pitchers who will be free agents themselves in a year or two. With respect to proponents of both viewpoints, my vote is for "none of the above."

The market has gone crazy, and it seems that Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks is prepared to take another stroll of the deep end. Meanwhile, it appears the Mets have assigned a value as to what Barry Zito is worth to them, and mean to stick to it. They hope Zito might be willing to take a little less to pitch in the spotlight of New York City, but are prepared to move on if he isn't.

As I've said many times in this space, I could live with the Mets giving Zito a 5-year contract along the lines of what Roy Oswalt received from Houston. Still, five years is a long, long time for a starting pitcher. Unfortunately, that's just the reality of today's market. To my mind, however, going past that is like playing Russian Roulette -- if you spin it that many times, there's bound to be a bullet in the chamber sooner or later. Starting pitchers, even ones like Zito who have a good track record of staying healthy, are vulnerable to injuries that could halt or even end their careers rather abruptly. With all the uncertainty around him, aren't you glad Pedro Martinez' contract only runs another two years? I'd love to see Barry Zito taking the mound every 5 days for us next year, provided the deal makes some kind of sense. At 6 or 7 years, I'm not sure it does.

If Plan B involves trades, that's fine with me, but if it involves trading some combination of Lastings Milledge, Mike Pelfrey or Phil Humber for an unglamorous starter that is close to free agency, maybe I'd rather see the Mets roll the dice with what they have. Sure, a lot can go wrong with pitching prospects, but developing even a solid mid- to bottom-of-the-rotation starter that is years away from free agency has a lot of value in the new reality of major league baseball.

Those of you who go back as far as I do remember some pretty good Cincinnati Reds teams from the mid-70s that lacked an imposing starting rotation. The 1975 World Series winning club featured an immortal starting rotation of Jack Billingham, Gary Nolan, Fred Norman, Pat Darcy and Don Gullet -- and this was at a time when starting pitching was much more important than it is today. What the Reds did have was a very good offense, a solid defense, and a bullpen that was the best in baseball. In what was still an era of complete games, manager Sparky Anderson was nicknamed "Captain Hook" for his speed in pulling one of his starters. The formula may not have been pretty by the aesthetics of the day, but it worked to the tune of a championship.

If the Mets have to piece it together again without dominant starting pitching, so be it. Concentrate on being really strong in the bullpen again and trying to develop some of those young starters. Some worry about asking too much from John Maine and Oliver Perez, but the Mets asked a lot of them in the NLCS, and I was rather impressed with their answers. Both seemed to grow quite a bit this past postseason.

History teaches us that when the market really spins out of control, as it did in 2000 and seems to be doing this winter, often the best thing to do is stay out of it for a year. Sometimes the best moves aren't the splashiest or most popular. Sometimes the best moves are the ones you don't make.

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

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Comments (9)

Hi Mike- I agree I don't know if I would want to sign Zito to a 6 or 7 year deal-you what happened with Pedro andhis 4 year deal, the Mets did that knowing that the last two years may be a crap shoot. Although Omar seems to be the sign the guy for the immediate future and worry about the last 2 years later. I guess if they can get Zito and it's a question of an extra year or two he may be inclined to pull the trigger on the deal.
I can't see Zito wanting to go to Texas when he can be reunited with Peterson. Lets hope Boras can be reasonable for once.

Players that sign with Boras are usually looking for the most money. I wouldn't sign a pitcher to anything longer than a 5-year deal, period. In a perfect world, no more than 3 years, but the world isn't perfect.

I don't know, didn't Beltran lower his price for the Yankees though? I am with you on the three year deals, but I remember the Mets trying that in 2003 or 2004, lots of players passed on them because of it. I would love for ZIto to sign a 5 year deal, I think thats fair, but you know Boras, he is the devil.

Let's see: the Mets and the Yankees seem to be showing restraint in their pursuit of free agent ballplayers. The Cubs, Angels and the Dodgers have already spent a lot of money, on questionable deals no less; they aren't as flush as they were a month ago.

Do you get the idea that there might be several players left standing when the music stops? If there is any justice in this world that group will include some of Boras' clients. How many Boras deals have actually paid off for the signing teams?

I am glad that the Mets are behaving like grownups this time out. The marketplace is supposed to be a self-correcting mechanism, after all; somebody eventually has to say No.

I would rather sacrifice two years or more on Zito, than sacrifice our youg arms to fix a void. Five years from now, if the world lasts that long, the money will not mean that much, 15 mil or more a year, Citi Field could pick that up and our youth is solid and fitting in. I think thats what your buying with Zito,4 years or 5 years from now you look back and see that you bought time to develope a strong rotation from within.

To me, Zito's greates value is as a bridge from Shea to CitiField. Pedro, Glavine, and El Duque won't be setting foot in that Promised Land, and Pelfrey, Humber and Maine will still be gearing up for the prime of their careers (assuming we're able to keep them all).

Zito at any cost, and with any terms, is just foolish. Zito at more than we might like, but less than Boras wants, would be just fine.

Now you've got me wanting to go back to the Dolphin Hotel and press my ear up against the door.

Mike: Good to see you writing. And this post was too good to pass on. It seems we are reaching an equilibrium........

a. You bring up good points. yes Pedro is in yr3. But then again this is his first major injury, and as Gammons always lauds Pedro pitched 1.5 yrs with a 70-90% tear in his labrum. I say he gets extended. Pedro is 34-35. He has enuff baseball left.
b. Glavine has a Max of 2 years. More likely one year. With his age/health/luck I can imagine he gets his ten wins ans walks away from baseball.
c. Zito is a cornerstone for the future. A Maddux to add to Glavine & Smoltz or in our case Humber, and Pelfrey.
d. METROPOLITANS mike has some extended info: One interesting bit goes back to Victor. VZ still could be a wildcard a RHP complement to Ollie. He is still listed on the 40 man and has not been released (yet). Could he be a potential reliever?
e. With that in mind I get the feeling by next July we might have a glut of pitching. If Zito is here, with Glavine, Duke, Ollie and Maine. Plus Bannister, Pelfrey, Humber Rob Paulk, Zambrano and then Petey...Omar could have more options available to trade.
f. That said, I did like the proposal of Buerle for Milledge.

I would really like to see the Mets give some of their young arms a chance, rather then acquire some of the pitchers that are on the market. I think that the upside of our kids is much better than what is available. Our guys should be about ready. If we sign pitchers that are just back end of the rotation starters to contracts of 2 to 4 years, they will just clog up the pipeline and the talent we have will not be able to flourish for us. I really am fine going into spring training with what we have. Let's give these guys a chance,I think they are ready!

That said I like the signing of Moises to a one year deal because I think that Milledge and Gomez (for example) need another year to be ready. I'm not sure they are ready now. But I don't think they need more that a year away.

Omar's experience with Montreal may have helped him get a feel for the timing of when to bring a player up and how to develop players from the minor leagues on up to the majors. For years Montreal brought some of the best players in baseball through their farm system. (Even though they couldn't keep them once they matured into stars)

Shari - I agree with you that 3-year deals for top pitchers are things of the past, at least in this market, but I wouldn't give anyone more than 5 unless it was Seaver in his prime.
dd - I think it will be like 2000, and everything will settle down quite a bit next offseason to less insane levels.
Rev - I hear you, and I agree up to a 5-year deal, but you're not buying anything if the guy has a big injury 2 years into a 7-year deal. I know you can buy insurance, but that's also getting really expensive. I guess my point is, why not try something different if both the free agent and trade markets are crazy?
NostraDennis - I think they're hoping to get him for less than the Rangers are willing to pay. I hope they're right. I'll roll the dice along with anyone for 5 years.
Ed - My point isn't about the Pedro signing, which I agreed with, but what happens if Zito has this kind of injury in year 2 of a 7 year deal? That's my point. If they can sign Zito for 5 I'm in.

You never have a glut of pitching. Last year proved that. I could see trading Bannister, but not Humber or Pelfrey. I might do Buerle for Milledge, but I heard the Sox wanted Milledge and either Pelfrey or Humber, which I would not do.
Carolina Met Fan - Makes sense to me.

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