By Mike Steffanos
Michael Morrissey had a good article in the Post today about how the Mets plan to use David Wright, Tom Glavine and Billy Wagner to attempt to persuade Barry Zito to come to New York for what will probably be somewhat less than the last dollar he could receive if he's willing to go elsewhere. Glavine, for one, believes that the Mets are in a position to lure players here without outbidding everyone else:
I think the tides have turned in that regard," Glavine said. "For the Mets for so many years, they had to overpay for guys to come there. That really isn't the case anymore. They don't have to be a highest bidder anymore."
As the 40-year-old lefty put it, if he can leave Atlanta after 16 years and have fun in New York and do well, anybody can move on. He touted the Mets' strengths - a good, young core coming off an NLCS appearance in the country's most vibrant city.
"There are not too many better places than the Mets," Glavine said. "The future is extremely bright."
There are many Mets fans and baseball pundits who are convinced that this is just negotiating strategy by the Mets. I'm not so sure. I think the Mets are trying to temper the expectations of their fan base precisely because they are committed to not opening the vault for Zito, but rather sticking to whatever internal value they have placed on the southpaw. If you remember back a couple of winters ago when Omar was spending significant amounts of Fred Wilpon's money to bring credibility back to this franchise, he stated that the ultimate goal was not to always have to be the top bidder. So maybe this talk is all just a smokescreen designed to hide their true interest from Scott Boras, but I wouldn't bet that ranch in Arlington, Texas on it.
If the Mets fail to sign Zito, I know there will be a lot of criticism. The "Freddie Coupon" nickname will enjoy a renaissance in disgruntled fan circles, ignoring the fact that the Mets payroll is up there near the top of the list. Even I, who admits to being more lukewarm towards Zito than most, will be disappointed. I've put my misgivings about long-term contracts to pitchers aside because I do think the Mets need someone like Zito in the rotation next year. In a story on Mets.com, Marty Noble concisely states the obvious need:
Just the same, they do need a starting pitcher, no matter how often general manager Omar Minaya says he's comfortable going forward with what he has. A sense of need exists because the two most-established starters -- Tom Glavine and Orlando Hernandez -- also have established that their best seasons are in the past. And the most promising of the younger starters -- John Maine, Oliver Perez, Philip Humber, Alay Soler, Jason Vargas and Pelfrey -- have relatively little on their resumes.
Few legitimate contenders begin a season with three starters who, together, would have so little history as any combination of three from among those six.
Without Zito, the Mets are likely to be heading into 2007 with a rotation that lags behind Philadelphia, Atlanta and Florida's in overall quality. That could change if John Maine and Oliver Perez both step up, and if Vargas turns out to be the sleeper that some in the Mets hierarchy hope he will be. Noble is right, though, it's a huge gamble for the Mets to go into a season where both the Phillies and Braves have improved themselves in their weak areas while they really haven't.
When I look at the large picture, however, I see an organization that articulated a game plan going forward when Minaya took over, and is actually following it. This is an organization that spent all of the 90's and the first few years of this decade changing direction more often than a squirrel in the road. Believe me, I haven't personally agreed with all of Minaya's moves, but I respect his management of this franchise. This is a well-run, professional baseball organization now, and that's a freaking miracle. Of course, this goes beyond Omar, and credit has to be given to both the people under him and Fred and Jeff Wilpon themselves. When Minaya took over two years ago the right things were being said, but I admit that I was quite skeptical of it all actually happening.
It has, though, which makes it easier to take when they don't do what I hope they do. Some of you aren't going to be quite that forgiving if Zito signs elsewhere. I think, if nothing else, this management has earned a chance to prove to us that they know what they're doing.
In the same Mets.com story cited above, Marty Noble offers this on free agent pitcher Mark Mulder:
The club once had interest in another free agent and former A's pitcher, Mark Mulder. But that too has passed because the Mets now believe Mulder won't recover so quickly or early from Sept. 12 shoulder surgery.
It explains why the club has not done anything to pursue Mulder over the past couple of weeks.
Kevin Goldstein interview
Toby Hyde has an excellent interview with Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein, who released his top 10 prospect list for the Mets earlier this week. Among the highlights, this exchange on prospects Mike Pelfrey and Phil Humber:
TH: Very nice. Lets move to the college RHP. You ranked Humber higher than Pelfrey because you believe that it's more likely he maxes out his potential to be a top tier #2, whereas the uncertainly around Pelfrey is still very significant. True?
KG: That's mostly fair. It's a weird balance between what they are and what they can be -- if you asked me which one is more likely to win 100 games, I'd easily take Humber. If you asked me which was more likely to win 200, I'd probably lead towards Pelfrey -- if that makes sense.
TH: Absolutely. It's all about the probability ranges of the two guys reaching their max potential or something less.
KG: Yeah -- Pelfrey's breaking ball really bothered me.
TH: How far away is it?
KG: It's hard to say -- Mets were happy with a slider he worked on in the AFL -- I think we need a long-term run of success with it before we know anything.
That was a pretty thoughtful answer, and also pretty accurate I think. Humber already possesses the secondary pitches to succeed in the majors, while Pelfrey's fastball gives him the higher ceiling if he can master that slider and his changeup. Be sure to check out the rest of the interview on Toby's blog.
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