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The Depth Charge

Dave MillsMonday, February 12, 2007
By Dave Mills

As I commented on December 1, right here on Mike's Mets, there was very little tinkering left to do with the non-pitchers. In fact, Omar only made one further move by signing David Newhan to a contract, which deposited the son of LA Times sportswriter Ross Newhan on the 40-man active roster.

Minaya clearly resisted the Phillipsian method of over-meddling, yet he did a few things that should give real Mets fans a clearer picture of the future. At the same time, he gave Willie Randolph some options to ponder.

Other than adding Moises Alou, a consummate destroyer of left-handed pitchers (and protector for David Wright in the lineup), there will be no changes to the Mets starting infield or outfield from the final two months of the 2006 season. There will, however, be a bevy of bench talent to sort out and apply roles to. Let's start by acknowledging that Randolph loves versatile bench players.

Quietly, the Mets GM added the right-handed hitting Damion Easley and the left-handed hitting Newhan. This synergy gives Willie a couple of experienced veterans with pop. Easley is more of an infielder who plays some outfield, while Newhan, originally an infielder, has become more of an outfielder who can play all around the infield. Both are marginally competent defensive performers and unlikely to turn up on Web Gems.

At the same time, two youthful switch-hitters will have an opportunity to make the 25-man roster. Anderson Hernandez (a stellar defensive performer) and Ruben Gotay have speed, range and talent, which were on display at the recent Caribbean World Series as Hernandez set the table for a talented Dominican team and Gotay anchored the second sack for Puerto Rico. This extremely youthful duo are Willie Randolph-type talents, who only need to prove one thing--the ability to get on base. And Hernandez actually has an edge if he performs well, since he can play both 2B and SS with panache.

It is pretty much a given that Julio Franco will be on the bench as both a right-handed backup for Carlos Delgado and morale coach, perhaps the latter of which he appears to be quite gifted. The Mets might be better served with Michel Abreu in the backup role, but Franco does have a $1 million contract and is not an easy out for any pitcher.

Factoring in the remarkable Endy Chavez as the fourth outfielder, there is one other man vying for a bench role on this 2007 roster. Right-handed hitting Ben Johnson was a fascinating pickup by Minaya. From all reports, he is a gifted defensive performer with a strong arm, good speed and some power. With Lastings Milledge unlikely to play a part-time role, Johnson may be a nice compliment to Shawn Green in a platoon. And Like Chavez, he can play all three outfield positions very well.

So, Omar has done his job well by giving Willie some interesting talent to assess and sort out. At the same time he has answered some key questions as to the future of the Mets.

Lastings Milledge, Anderson Hernandez, Aaron Heilman, Mike Pelfrey, Phil Humber ALL remain property of the Mets. And there is other talent on the farm that did not move elsewhere. I refer to Fernando Martinez, Carlos Gomez, Mike Carp, Kevin Mulvey, Eddie Comacho, Joe Smith and a few others. This bodes well for the future as the contracts of Green, Alou, Jose Valentin are not guaranteed beyond the 2007 season. Delgado and Paul LoDuca have just two more years guaranteed.

Potential replacements for most of the soon to be departed will be from that pool of young players and perhaps a solid trade or free agent signing (Mark Texiera will be a free agent after the 2008 season).

Minaya has stabilized the farm system and put the Mets in a position to not have to sign overpriced free agents. He also has the older players on a short contract leash while at the same time signing long-term deals with Beltran, Wright and Reyes, all of whom are signed through 2011. And in case you're not counting, most of these other young studs are Mets possessions at least through the same year.

At the very least, the Mets GM has been the model of restraint. So, how might it all shake out?

Ben Johnson will start the year at New Orleans in a powerful outfield alignment of Milledge, Gomez and Johnson (left to right). Should an injury occur to a Mets outfielder, look for Johnson. Anderson Hernandez, Gotay and Abreu will anchor the infield and should an injury occur, look for Hernandez. New Orleans will be a AAA (Pacific Coast League) powerhouse will solid offense, defense and pitching (How's a rotation of Pelfrey, Humber, Vargas, Soler and Sosa?)

Omar has put the same program in place with the pitching staff. Throw a bunch of guys at the wall and one or two may stick (Chan Ho Park, Jorge Sosa, Aaron Sele). Deal for a few young arms with raw talent (John Maine, Oliver Perez, Jason Vargas). Hold on to the legitimate prospects in the system (Pelfrey, Humber, Alay Soler). The veterans, Tom Glavine and El Duque, while certainly advanced in age, are a pretty durable duo and Pedro may be able to make a return by the end of July. If so, and if the Mets need to strengthen their rotation, they may not have to deal away young talent and will thereby get even deeper in the arms race. If they are getting positive performances from a Sosa, Park or Sele, they might trade for more prospects.

The Mets will have five quality starters at the major league level and at AAA and AA. Very few franchises will be in a similar position.

If you're Willie Randolph, you have to like the options, especially the young talent. If you're a Mets fan, you have to like the way it is all shaping up, as the Zephyrs will probably be the best AAA group the Mets have ever put on the field. If you're a real baseball fan, you have to love having watchable minor league franchises feeding your major league roster. Keep watching!

How about a little campaign to make the SNY folks run a Zephyrs game or two each week? It would be good for New Orleans and great for the Mets faithful. It would also beat the pants off of the incessant reruns of each Mets game and SportsNite.

SNY should also consider producing a 30-minute weekly show that exclusively focuses on the Mets farm system and include some highlights and interviews, especially with the various managers and coaches.

With their own TV network, a new stadium under construction, a first-rate major league product and what well may turn out to be the best AAA franchise in a city that could use the promotion, the Mets can use SNY much more effectively and create much more of a "buzz"!

Are you listening Curt Gowdy Jr.?

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.

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Comments (8)

Good news/Bad news:

Anderson Hernandez won the Dominican League batting crown.

The bad news is, Rey Ordonez once won a Winter League batting championship too.

I disagree about Soler being listed as a top prospect..Soler is nothing more than a washout

I love your ideas about the SNY program. That would really make it a lot more interesting to watch. Reading your bio, I was born in 1940 and I remember the Willie Mays catch. I also remember Choo Choo, hitting long foul balls down the line many times before making an out. Thanks for the baseball lift on a cool 12 degree day in the Pocono Mountains of Pa. Lets Go Mets.

You know what, reading about Julio Franco not being an easy out, you have a point. Despite the fact that he made plenty of outs last season and wasn't as good as I thought he would be pinch-hitting, he did battle during his at bats. He worked the pitcher out, which is solid and just as important.

Something the Mets have that the Braves and Phillies don't have is depth. If an OF, bullpen arm, or starter goes down on the Mets, they have plenty of guys to ocme in and fill in. I'm not going to lie, the infield isn't the same situation. But whatever.
The Braves have "graduated" most of thier depth.
The Phillies just have... nobody in the minors.

Great read:

Without re-hashing, there is some outliers that I think are worthy looking at. Metsblog has story on players likely to be traded in Spring amongst them Pavano. I think Omar has stacked his deck and could trade in spring.

He has depth at every position. Ben Johnson has his suitors, as does Milledge. But I think Green, and certain others could be traded especially if Park, and the relievers have good Springs. I too think Anderson and Gotay are ready. I cant remember Rey winning ANY batting crown. I think one year (98/99?) he led until Alomar showed up and spanked him.

Lo Duca does nt have two years remaining, this year is his last.

Not only do we have a LOT of pitchers to choose from, we've also got a glut of guys who can play the outfield.

I've never seen Newhan play. You said he has "pop", but is that really true? The guy is just what... 5' 11"? And he's not exactly powerfully built. Maybe after I watch Newhan play, I might like him. He looks like a scrappy, pesky type of ballplayer from what little I've seen.

But, to be honest, I want Johnson to make this team out of spring training, because Johnson HAS pop. And I like the kid's HR trot! The last video clip I saw of him was a HR off a 96 mph fastball thrown by our old friend Armando Benitez! When he rounds the bases like that he looks like a young Gary Sheffield--only Johnson seems like a nice guy!

If Green and Alou are both healthy this spring and Green's playing well, of course those guys should get the majority of the AB, but right now I like Johnson too much to leave him off the team. That leaves Newhan out of the picture, unless somebody else goes down. Maybe that's not going to happen, I don't know, but that's what I hope will happen.

Maybe I'll change my tune after I see what we've got in spring training.

Great post. This is the best I've seen on this site that hasn't been written by Mike. I pretty much agree with everything.

I disagree, however, with the poster who claimed Alay Soler is a washout. Sorry, but after seeing two complete games from him with a grand total of one run surrendered between them, you can't do that at the major league level as a "washout." He ran into the two best offenses in baseball (Yankees and Red Sox) in ENORMOUS interleague games when they were at their peaks. ANY ROOKIE PITCHER would have been shelled. That's no reason to give up on him. I think that he can still be a serviceable fourth or fifth starter, and he's a dark horse candidate to make it out of Spring Training.

I also hope Anderson Hernandez tears it up before the season starts and is able to post a .260-.270 batting average in the majors, but maybe I'm wishing for too much.

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