By Mike Steffanos
Baseball's winter meeting wrapped up today in Orlando with the rule 5 draft. If you are not familiar with the rule 5 draft, here is a nice explanation from Baseball America.
The Mets lost one of their better prospects in the major league phase, catcher Jesus Flores. Here is what Scout.com has to say about Flores:
Flores is a complete catching prospect. He can hit for average, hit for good power, and plays the catcher's position defensively as well as most, but the problem now is he'll need to do that at the big league level. He projects to be a Ramon Hernandez type of catcher someday, the question now however is, can he do it next year with the Washington Nationals?
He's got some serious upside to him and he's definitely an interesting risk for the Nationals. Flores is cocky enough to possibly stick in the big leagues. In some ways, he compares to the Marlins' Hanley Ramirez [mentally] in that he might flourish in the Majors because of the mere challenge. Ramirez seemed uninterested in the minor leagues and didn't give it his all until the big leagues and it's not out of the question that the same thing could happen for Flores. Flores certainly has big league talent. ... The jump from high-A to Double-A is huge, let alone a leap from the Florida State League to the big leagues. The chances are better than average he won't be ready for the big leagues in 2007 and the Mets could see him back in the organization sometime next season.
Washington has to keep Flores on their 25-man major league roster for the entire season in 2007, or offer him back to the Mets for half of the $50,000 he cost them. The Nationals are almost a lock to finish last in the NL east next season, so it's not farfetched that they would keep him on the club if they liked him enough. That would be a tough loss for the Mets system which isn't very deep in talent, but there is no guarantee that a catcher from A ball can make it in the majors. For more on Flores, see this article on Mets.com.
Omar and company spent Wednesday, the last full day of the meetings, exploring the trade market in case Barry Zito's price gets driven up to the point where the club can't stomach it anymore. There was a lot of talk yesterday about a possible deal with the A's for either Rich Harden, Danny Haren or Joe Blanton. The two most likely to be dealt are Harden and Blanton. I wrote a lot about my reservations with Harden yesterday. Mark Hale and Joel Sherman make this observation in the New York Post:
Harden, who just turned 25, went 4-0 with a 4.24 ERA in only nine games last year, striking out 49 in 462/3. The fireballer has started only 28 games combined the last two years due to injuries. Several Mets officials are worried about Harden's growing injury history and are against acquiring him even if he were to become available. They wonder if he will be like Tim Hudson, a smallish right-hander who battles nagging injuries and whose game diminished once traded by the A's.
It remains to be seen how much young talent the Mets are willing to give up in a deal for a young pitcher, and I'm sure some of this depends on how it goes with Zito. You can get dizzy from the range of opinion on Barry winding up here. Then again, if there is a deal out there that Omar really likes, I suspect he'd make it whether Zito signs with the Mets or not.
No deal is imminent. As with last year, when trades involving Jae Seo and Kris Benson weren't consummated until January, you could expect a possible trade to develop slowly over the next few weeks.
I think we'll all have a chance to catch our breath for now.