By Mike Steffanos
The Zito Sweepstakes
Now that the Matsuzaka saga has a reached a conclusion, the conventional wisdom is that things will pick up for Barry Zito's search for a new place to call home. Then again, most experts still expect the calendar to turn over to 2007 before Zito signs his name on the bottom line.
In today's Bergen Record, Steve Popper quotes David Wright that he couldn't conceive of Zito preferring any destination over New York:
"This place sells itself. As much as [Tom Glavine] and those guys showed Billy [Wagner] around [last year], what is there not to like about this atmosphere? If you flipped on a TV during the playoffs, I mean, that sells itself. It's just an unbelievable experience.
And I couldn't imagine somebody that didn't want to come and be a part of what we have going on right now in this city and with the team that we have. You read all the articles about just the chemistry and stuff. So in my eyes you'd have to be crazy not to want to come here.
Wright also states his willingness to be Zito's tour guide, the same role that Tom Glavine played in last winter's courting of Billy Wagner. Wright finds it hard to believe that Barry Zito would pass on a chance to play here just for a few more dollars, but we all know Scott Boras' track record in these matters -- and so did Barry Zito when he hired Boras.
Perhaps that's why Omar Minaya is cautious when asked about the Mets chances of landing the southpaw:
I don't know that. But I will tell you he is one of the guys we are still considering. Look, Barry Zito has been a proven winner. He's given innings. That said, we feel our pitching staff, as it is right now, it's similar to the second half of last year. And in some ways it might be better because of the development of the younger pitchers.
Is he a guy we'd like to have? We're definitely going to talk to his agent. But if it doesn't make sense, we're comfortable with our starting pitching and our overall pitching.
This whole thing is guaranteed to drive us all crazy into the new year, but I find it fascinating as one source states that the Mets will "do what it takes" to sign Zito while a supposedly equally reliable one insists the Mets are prepared to pass on him if the bidding gets too high. I'd personally like to see the Mets land Zito if the contract is at all reasonable, but my lack of true ardor for this soon-to-be-very-rich southpaw keeps me from climbing walls as some fans seem to be doing.
Another item that is getting some of you worked up is the Mets failure to pursue second baseman Marcus Giles, recently cut loose by the Bravos. It's not that I don't think that he's a nice little player, but he's injury-prone and I believe somewhat overrated both offensively and defensively.
It's not a big secret that Giles wants to go home to San Diego and play with his older brother Brian. I'm sure you could change his mind if you really outbid the Padres, but I don't think he's a guy you want to overpay to get and keep over the next few seasons. Don't get me wrong, if he stays healthy he'd be an upgrade over Jose Valentin, but he's not coming here on a 1-year deal, and I understand if the Mets aren't enamored of a long-term commitment with Giles.
Kevin Goldstein's Top 10 Mets Prospects
At Baseball Prospectus, prospect guru Kevin Goldstein offers his Top 10 list for the Mets:
1. Fernando Martinez, cf
2. Philip Humber, rhp
3. Mike Pelfrey, rhp
Very Good Prospects
4. Carlos Gomez, of
5. Alay Soler, rhp
6. Jon Niese, lhp
7. Kevin Mulvey, rhp
8. Mike Carp, 1b
9. Deolis Guerra, rhp
10. Joe Smith, rhp
When looking at all players in the organization 25 and under, Goldstein picks Jose Reyes for the top spot over David Wright. Although Goldstein noted that he expects to receive some angry emails from Mets fans, I'm not so sure. The progress that Reyes has made, particularly in 2006, indicates to many of us who follow the team daily that Jose still hasn't achieved his potential as a ballplayer. Wright, on the other hand, is a more finished product. They're both wonderful players, but it wouldn't surprise me if when it's all said and done, Reyes wasn't acknowledged as a little better. Anyway, having both 23-year-olds on the same team is almost an embarrassment of riches.
I always enjoy Goldstein's analysis, and have a lot of respect for his judgment, but if there is one item in this article that I don't agree with, it's his assessment of John Maine. He looks at Maine and Oliver Perez and sees both of them staring games next year:
Perez and Maine will both likely begin 2007 in the rotation, and with Perez, it's still a coin flip situation where he won't surprise many if he wins 15 games, and won't surprise anyone if he's out of a job by May. Maine is solid and no more, but good enough to carve out a Steve Trachsel kind of career.
I agree with him on Perez, in that I could see him falling anywhere between being a solid contributor or a total bust, but I think the Trachsel comparison was a little unfair for Maine. Their styles are quite different, but Maine has that moving fastball that gives him a weapon that Trachsel always lacked. On the other hand, if Maine would develop the complementary pitches Trachsel had, you'd be looking at a solid #3 starter on a good team, which is more than Trachsel was.
It's going to come down to consistency with Maine. He'll need to develop a dependable delivery, and that will help him throw his off-speed stuff more consistently. If he fails to do that, he'll hover between being a bottom-of-the-rotation guy and a decent middle reliever. I like his maturity and the way he handled himself in a do-or-die game against the Cards in the NLCS last season, and I think he'll exceed Goldstein's expectations.