By Mike Steffanos
Sorry to disappear on you for a few days. Work got crazy again and then Lisa got even crazier as we prepared to have family over for Thanksgiving -- the first holiday we hosted in our new house. Although I didn't have a chance to comment yet on the Guillermo Mota for Johnny Estrada deal, I think 99% of us see that as a virtual no-brainer. Although I think Mota's problems were mental rather than physical, and there is a decent chance he can have an effective year, the chances of him pulling that turn around in New York were very small. In the meantime, although Estrada has some issues both on and off the field, the Mets at least bought themselves some breathing room at catcher. Now they can look for a deal that makes sense or roll this dice with Castro and Estrada sharing time at catcher.
Estrada isn't a great offensive player, but he's probably an upgrade over Torrealba. He's not the most patient of hitters, walking only 25 times in over 900 plate appearances the past two seasons. The number of pitches he sees per PA has declined steadily since his fine 2004 season in Atlanta, from 3.47 that year to 2.99 last season. He has decent power for a catcher, but not enough to make up for his lack of patience. His defense has declined, although that appears to be related to some injuries.
Picking up Estrada for a reliever who needed to move on allows Minaya to pursue other catching options without being a position of weakness. It was a swift and sensible response to the collapse of the Torrealba deal.
When Tom Glavine re-signed with the Mets last year, we all knew that it was only because Atlanta failed to make an offer. Still, his return probably allowed the Mets to pass on Barry Zito (4.53 ERA), Jeff Supan (4.62 ERA, 243 hits allowed in 207 IP) and other overpriced options from last year's market. Still, there was a sense when watching Glavine pitch that we were cheering on a guy who really didn't want to be here. I honestly don't understand why so many in the media feel that the fans didn't "appreciate" Glavine enough, and believe that we're only glad to see him go because of that last game of the season.
Glavine treated members of the media well, and they all seemed to like him. I'm sure they'll have a nice reunion when the Mets and Braves play each other. But if they can't understand why fans are reluctant to root for someone who would rather be playing somewhere else, though, they're just not very perceptive.
Hey, I'm sure there are plenty of fans that are angry with Glavine, but even many of us who aren't are still relieved that he's gone. He really seems to be declining dramatically as a pitcher, and it's time for the Mets to get younger and move on. ESPN's Keith Law is extremely pessimistic for Glavine in 2008:
Glavine's stuff is just about gone. His fastball is only 80-84 mph and looks softer than that, almost like BP fastballs. His curveball is a big slow roller around 75-77 mph, and his changeup -- once a plus pitch -- is fringe-average, mostly 74-75 mph, but the way his arm slows as he throws it is a tip-off to observant hitters. His command is good, but needs to be almost perfect, and his game plan is to avoid contact at all costs. If he's not getting a generous strike zone, he's in trouble because his stuff is so hittable, and he doesn't have a pitch with which he can fool hitters.
Glavine's statistical record bears all of this out. His 2007 stat line featured his second-highest ERA and worst strikeout rate since 1988, his highest home-run allowed rate (in a good pitchers' park too), and the worst groundball rate of his career. He's now moving to a less pitcher-friendly park, especially to flyball pitchers, and he's leaving behind one of the best defensive units in baseball, with perhaps the best fielders at their positions in center, at short, and at third.
I don't think I'm quite as pessimistic for Glavine as Law seems to be, but it wouldn't surprise me too much if he wasn't very good in 2008. The bottom line was that he didn't want to pitch here in 2007, much less 2008. The Mets get Atlanta's first round pick and a sandwich round pick in return for a player who didn't want to be here. That seems like a pretty good deal. You'll forgive me if I shed no tears at Glavine's departure. He seems like a decent guy, and he was serviceable if not spectacular for most of his 5 years in New York. Of course, he was paid very well for that. Live a happy life, Tom -- but don't let the door hit you on the way out, buddy.
People keep asking me about Santana. To be honest with you, I don't see him coming here unless the Mets are willing to part with a Wright or Reyes as the key player in the deal. The Mets just don't have the kind of "can't miss" pitching prospect that would be the centerpiece of an all prospect deal that Twins management could sell to their fan base.
Sometimes fans are so hot for a player on another team that they don't stop to consider how that club's fan base would react to a trade. I'm sure many Twins fans understandably are annoyed by the endless speculation surrounding a player they watched grow into being arguably the best pitcher in baseball. With Hunter already out of the picture, they're going to need to see something that makes sense to them in return for their prized lefty. While I feel that it's inevitable that Omar will make a deal for a good young pitcher, I think it will be of a tier below Johan Santana.