It's a good thing next year's Mets changes weren't being planned while Seaver and Piazza were walking into the center field sunset a week ago Sunday. It's even better that I'll have no part in such weighty discussions, because I'm sure the words "multiple homicide" would be involved in some way. I had a particular vision of Shea's right field walls tumbling down on top of a full bullpen, locked from the outside. Stepping back and taking a deep breath, or sigh, is always prudent when deciding on people's futures. Sighhh...
Okay, down to business. There are surprisingly few Mets with contracts in place for 2009 - only a dozen - and that's a good thing. It'll give the team the chance to play the free agent field to their hearts' (and hopefully their brains') content. If you count the impending option on Carlos Delgado, make it a baker's dozen. That's barely enough to field a team. But the Mets spent a good chunk of this season barely able to field a team, so what else is new?
Omar and his team-makers will be busy all winter wrestling with difficult personnel decisions. One of the most interesting is this: what is Pedro Martinez worth?
Pedro has had a remarkable career. When the Mets signed him before the 2005 season, it told me as a fan that they were serious about winning. But after only one full truly Pedro-like season, the idea of Pedro Martinez, Mets ace, has proven to be much glossier than the reality of Pedro Martinez, less than average starter.
For a moment, take the name off the numbers, and look at these figures for 2006-2008. Imagine a free agent with these stats. An average of only 16 starts and under a hundred innings pitched per season. Only ten "quality starts" over three years, and only three since June '06. Coming off a season in which he gave up four or more earned runs in six of his first seven starts and six of his last seven, with a cream filling of five decent starts in July and August. Seventeen wins - total - at a price of $39 million. What's a player like that worth? Well, those are Pedro's numbers in an ugly nutshell.
The Mets don't need to say goodbye to Martinez, but they do need to craft him a one-year contract offer with more incentives dangling from it than a pork-laden bailout bill. If Pedro had been paid $100,000 for every inning he pitched in the last three years, the Mets would have saved twelve million dollars. You can almost get a couple of good middle relievers for that kind of coin.
Pedro at age 37 cannot be expected to win twenty games with a sub-3 ERA. But if he can't be expected to go six solid innings thirty times in 2009, he needs to be compensated accordingly. This isn't being mean; it's being realistic. A mildly productive seasoned citizen like Julio Franco circa 2006 is a cool baseball story. A roster full (or more likely, a disabled list full) of overpaid players way past their prime is no plan for success.