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Omar's Job Is Just Beginning

Mike SteffanosFriday, February 1, 2008
By Mike Steffanos


Update 5:10 PM: Just found out on SNY that there is a 2 hour extension for this negotiation, pushing the deadline back to 7 PM tonight. Time to pop a couple of Rolaids and then re-cross all my fingers...

Update: Multiple sources are reporting a done deal. I'm putting away the antacids and grabbing a celebratory cold one.

Just a few thoughts while we are waiting for the Mets and Johan Santana to come to terms on a contract extension. (Apologies to MetsBlog's Matt Cerrone for the bandwidth usage of reloading your page every 5 seconds all day.)

The heat that Omar Minaya has been baking in all winter has cooled off considerably with the news of a Johan Santana deal. Assuming that the Mets and Santana's agent will be able to come to terms on a contract extension -- a safe bet, really, if Omar and the Wilpons plan to stay in New York -- Minaya will find himself basking in the praise of the scribes that were trashing him a week ago. All of a sudden he is a genius again. While it is undeniable that Omar was in the right place at the right time after the Yankees and Sox cooled on a deal, he deserves credit for correctly sensing that he always had a gambler's chance to land the big prize.

Although I wasn't buying into the inevitability of a third place finish without Santana, the addition of a true ace to the staff gives the Mets a leg up in the National League East. However, I also part company with those who believe this acquisition guarantees a trip to the playoffs for our Metropolitans. I like their chances, certainly, but Santana will only pitch every fifth day, and there are some questions surrounding this team -- both short and long term. For 2008 it's up to the players, who must show the grit and determination of the 2006 campaign rather than the maddening ennui of last year.

As for the long term -- again, assuming a successful negotiation between the Mets and Johan Santana's agent, as of now the Mets would have only Santana and John Maine under contract for 2009. If Pedro has a solid 2008 season it's likely that he would wish to continue pitching. I'd like to think he'd want to continue pitching here, but there is certainly no guarantee of that.

Oliver Perez will be eligible for free agency after this season, and if he even approaches last season's stats, he'll be looking at a big contract in this current market for pitching. If he improves and shows more consistency he'll be one wealthy line-hopping southpaw. Wish I had some stock in him.

The Mets will easily wind up paying Santana more than $20 million per, and resigning Pedro will likely cost in the range of $15 million per year. Maine will still be a bargain, but you wonder how much the Mets would be willing to pay Perez in what could be one very expensive rotation. I'm sure they are hoping a young guy like Pelfrey steps forward who would be comparatively cheap as a fifth starter, but if Pelfrey doesn't pan out there isn't much young pitching left that's close to major league ready in the system. I still like Pelfrey more than most, but he's certainly no sure thing.

While Moises Alou and Carlos Delgado could be gone after this season, the Mets will still be paying big-bucks contracts to Santana, Pedro, Billy Wagner and Carlos Beltran. David Wright and Jose Reyes' contracts go up significantly every year. If the Mets don't bring Delgado back for his option year they will have to replace him. Mike Carp may be an inexpensive option if he bounces back from a poor 2007, but if not the Mets will have to chase a free agent. The Mets payroll will inevitably go up very significantly in the next few years, and the Mets will need to find some young, cheap, and hopefully solid pieces from their farm system to balance things out. What they have left there is either very young (Fernando Martinez, the pitchers from the 2007 draft) or somewhat limited in upside.

As of 4 PM while I am writing this piece I hear that the Mets and Santana are close to a record-setting deal. When it happens, as previously stated Minaya will receive some well-deserved kudos for his persistence in the face of long odds in making this deal. Sure, the teams like the Yankees and the Red Sox who had the bigger-named prospects get an assist for ultimately opting not to go the limit to acquire Johan Santana, but Omar never lost faith that he had a real chance to land the big one. I honestly don't think he can get too much credit for pulling this off.

Most fans -- the kind that don't pay much attention to the farm system and all of the nuances of how their franchise operates -- will think Omar's job gets easier once the deal is done. Those of us who are paying attention understand the real hard work is just beginning. It's crucial now that the farm system is not just rebuilt, but improved to a level that can compete with such systems as the Red Sox, Tigers, Yankees and Diamondbacks. The Sox have already proven that a team needs to invest heavily in its future, not just the occasional great player. The Mets are going to have to sign on to the successful strategy of paying over slot to land the best talent in the draft.

As they did in landing Delgado and Lo Duca two off seasons ago, the Mets have given up most of their impact prospects to ensure the club is ready to compete now. While I don't fault that, I hope it is now finally time to show the patience and wisdom required to build a real productive system and compete in the long-term. Yeah, you've done well, Omar, but you have bigger and more difficult work ahead of you.

A couple of quick notes:

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For you Rangers fans out there (and I'm one), our friend Gary Sparber who shares Mets game pics with us, has some great pictures of Brian Leetch night at the Garden. Give them a look.

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

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Comments (6)

Regarding your last thoughts, it has become clear that the prospects given up for Lo Duca and Delgado were not necessarily impact players, but rather ones that were sold off at their highest value...Certainly the jury is still out on Gaby Hernandez, but its safe to say that Petit, who switched teams again, and Jacobs are not missed in Flushing.

This is certainly a possibility with the guys that were sent to Minnesota -especially with a player like Mulvey. So lets not say the future has been mortgaged just yet. The payroll however will certainly be an issue.

Ravi - What I meant by impact prospects was those who have the potential to be significant major league contributors. Of the ones sent to Minny, it's unlikely that all will turn out to be that, but that's part of the patience involved with successfull farm systems. And I honestly don't criticize Minaya for any of these deals.

WOW!This is a great day to be added to Met history.I really had dreams of going to Shea one more time before they take it down, but now because of sell outs might get into the parking area only. Man I am ready for this season to start now. A week ago or so I didn't really care. What a differance a day makes. Just one little Santana and a trillon dollars.I'm very excited, .Good to have you back Mike, lets play ball.I jotted down my line up and it looks very good and Church could surprise! with 40+ doubles/20+ HRs/80 RBI's in the 7th spot? and our starting 4 , pitchers! Man we haven't looked this good in a long time. LETS GO METS!

Rev Al - I'm making a trek from Orlando to Flushing sometime this spring or summer. After this week's news, I fully anticipate not being able to buy tickets. But I'll tailgate with you and listen to WFAN from the parking lot any day!

Tailgate Tailgate!!!! Thank you God for Santana and the ability to get him signed. I agree with you Mike, now is the time for good scouting and making good draft picks.

Mike - thank you - I always enjoy your sober and insightful articles

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