By Dave Mills
As the non-waiver trading deadline approaches, it is time challenge the semi-conventional wisdom being strewn about newsprint and the Internet and to think like a general manager. In particular, a guy by the name of Minaya.
Wading into the last week of July, our beloved and oft times frustrating Amazins, do in fact, have the best record in the National League and should have little trouble being included in the postseason festivities. That being said, a wise GM will be looking for a little something for the short term with an eye on building for the future.
Perhaps the best way to analyze the Mets is an in-depth analysis, position by position.
No matter what Carlos Delgado ends up doing for the balance of this year, he will be the first sacker next year. His contract is rock solid and no one will take him off the Mets hands. With Mike Carp as their best 1B prospect and at least two years away from The Show, about the best thing Omar can do is pick up a righthanded-hitting first baseman, who can play three times every two weeks and offer some pop off the bench. Probably the best pickup in this regard would be former Met Ty Wigginton, who is a very versatile infielder and has the potential to be a stellar role player for many years. With Delgado or Carp (a left-handed hitter), Wiggy could platoon very nicely at 1B or 2B. The next best option for the balance of Delgado's tenure could be Jeff Conine, a durable 41-year-old with some baseball savvy.
While no one wished Jose Valentin be injured (more than he already was), it is a blessing not so well disguised for the Mets. Ruben Gotay has been eating up right-handed hurlers since being brought up and is deserving of at least platooning with Damon Easley, which is the likely scenario for the balance of the year. Anderson Hernandez is not likely to stick around. The only second sacker with some serious curb appeal is Brandon Phillips. If the Reds want to take Pelfrey, Heilman and Gotay, I make the deal right now. Lorreta is intriguing, but for who? And with Biggio retiring, it seems the Stros might want to hold on to their Mark.
We have Reyes and nobody else does. Anderson Hernandez will spell Jose a few times in September as Willie gets Reyes a little rest before the playoffs.
We have Wright and nobody else does. Easley will spell David a few times before October.
While no one mentions it, this is where Omar can get very creative for the long term. Clearly, Paul LoDuca is having some issues with age and being beat up behind the dish. It appears the Mets will not be looking to bring him back next year and, if they do, it will be for one year only. Alomar is certainly not an answer. All the while, Ramon Castro is really blossoming. I have never been satisfied as to why so many sages think Castro is only a backup. The Mets have no legitimate plate jockey in their farm system, so a deal will have to be made. No doubt Minaya should look for a switch-hitter or a lefty. There are six potential targets who could help the Mets next year and beyond. All are 29 or less. Ryan Doumit (26) of the Bucs is a legitimate candidate as is Miguel Montero (24) of the D-Backs. A little less attractive, but interesting catch, could be Mike Rabelo (27) of the Tigers. A prospect of some note is the Red Sox George Kottaras (24). Josh Bard (29) of the Padres and Eric Munson (29) of the Astros round out the field. Any of these backstops could potentially balance out with Castro to create an excellent platoon and get into 90 games or so. The Mets won pennants with lefties JC Martin and later Ron Hodges balancing out Jerry Grote.
Shawn Green is likely to be gone at the close of this season, but like LoDuca, he could end up with a one-year extension at the most. Alou will not be back. Endy Chavez will. That leaves three sensational prospects to make major contributions over the next three seasons--Milledge (2008), Carlos Gomez (2009) and Fernando Martinez (2010). With all that talent and speed and Carlos Beltran in CF, why would any smart GM do anything except perhaps pick up a platoon mate for Green. The outfield depth goes even further than those three genuine prospects, with names like Ben Johnson, Corey Coles, Caleb Stewart and Dustin Martin making for a strong "B" list that could be moved for some of the backstops indicated above or for a Wigginton or Conine.
Addition by subtraction, with Marlon Anderson a deft left-handed swinger and more agile utility player replacing Julio Franco. In fact, Anderson (2B, IB, OF) and Easley (2B, SS, 3B, OF) are not only extremely versatile, but they may be a perfect compliment from the left and right. Wigginton (1B, 3B, 2B) or Conine (1B, RF) would fit Willie's mold perfectly. And Endy Chavez has to be the best 4th outfielder in baseball, defensively and offensively.
Lets be truthful...the starters have been very good and, like in the outfield, there is considerable depth in the system. With Pedro a possible before the end of August and certainly for next year, is it really worth giving up "A" prospects like Pelfry, Humber, Vargas, Mulvey (my keeper), Guerra? Perhaps one. "B" prospects include Ambiorix Burgos, Willie Collazo, Steve Schmoll, Ryan Cullen, Brian Lawrence and a few others. Glavine will retire at the end of this campaign. Bet on it. If the Mets enter the 2008 season with a rotation of Martinez, Maine, Perez, Sosa and El Duque backed up by the prospects, I could sleep very soundly.
If Omar is to make a powerful statement, he might do something about a right-handed setup man to compliment Aaron Heilman and Pedro Feliciano. But with Heilman coming around and Mota delivering glimpses of his 2006 medicinally enhanced self, is it worth giving more than the B's away? The big name this week is Chad Cordero. He is more than serviceable. Brad Lidge or Eric Gagne would be even better. Wagner is pushing for Lidge. Sele has been very effective lately. Joe Smith is starting to move toward Schoeneweis, which is not encouraging. Right now, those are the two weak links in the pen.
If Minaya can find a right-handed setup guy and add a Wigginton or Conine, along with a platoon catcher for the future, the Mets will be well-served. If just one of those moves happens, it will also be fine. The risk is if nothing happens at all.