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Hot Stove Warming

Dave MillsWednesday, December 10, 2008
By Dave Mills


With the apparent signing of Francisco Rodriguez, the Mets have made the first real noise at the Winter Meetings in Vegas. But surely, Omar is on the prowl to beef up an already interesting roster.

He may not have to spend wildly to accomplish the task. A blend of mid-priced free agents and a trade or two can do the trick.

Lets take look at the various options position by position, starting with the bullpen:

RELIEVERS
K-Rod is very good, very experienced and very young (only 27 on 1/7/09). And Minaya appears to have gotten his man at the Mets price. The next step is a reliable 8th Inning guy who can step in as a closer. Two available arms seem to fit the bill if they are willing to become setup men--Trevor Hofffman and Chad Cordero. Cordero may not be ready to pitch until midseason, but he is also young (27 in March 09), has superb stats and is an Omar favorite. The Mets could use the first few months to see where Duaner Sanchez is and perhaps build up his trade value, rather than to get little in return now. In the meantime, the Mets have plenty of arms to audition. Hoffman is still able to get outs and nothing will faze him. Joe Beimel and Darren Oliver, role-playing southpaws, are still available and either, or both, could compliment Joe Smith, Brian Stokes (both sure to be there) and either Pedro Feliciano or Scott Schoeneweis (one or both of whom will surely be gone). It seems a pretty good bet that Aaron Heilman will be dealt soon.

ROTATION
If Heilman is dealt, it seems the team most interested is the Rockies. The trade matchups are pretty good. Colorado is long on lefty starters (Greg Smith/Jeff Francis/Jorge De La Rosa--all 27/28 years of age). Throw in Feliciano (or perhaps Schoeneweis and some bucks to cover his hefty salary) and we could have a deal for one of the trio. If the Mets are serious about giving Niese a shot at the rotation, having three southpaws is never a bad thing (Koosman/Matlack/Stone comes to mind--of course, the Terrific One led the charge). The other arm to focus on is certainly Jon Garland--a true workhorrse and only 29 through next season. The Mets would probably have to pool a prospect due to Garland's FA status, but I like Garland over just about any other option. Niese would also get a full season of AAA in Buffalo, which could be useful. Santana (30), Maine (28) and Pelfrey (25) will round out an impressive and young rotation no matter which way Minaya goes.

RECEIVERS
Brian Schneider got healthy late in the year and seemed to be playing and hitting well for the last six weeks or so. Castro always seems like he should visit the ER at the end of each workweek. But when healthy, both guys are well above average defensively and decent bats, especially Castro. Can we get something out of these two (and a retread like Cancel) while waiting for Josh Thole, Rene Rivera or another prospect to develop? Sure.

FIRST BASE
After Randolph was dismissed, Carlos Delgado really turned things around. In fact, astoundingly so. While everyone talked about his offense, I want to know how did his defense improve so radically? It did. Plenty of backup with Fernando Tatis, Dan Murphy and Marlon Anderson likely to be in the mix. The Mets are also pretty deep on the farm--Nick Evans, Mike Carp and Lucaas Duda.

SECOND BASE
Omar will be a magician if he can rid the Mets of Luis Castillo and that crazy contract. Jerry doesn't want him, nor do most Mets fans, but face it--Castillo is likely to be the man. The chatter is that Nick Punto is being pursued. Punto is a nice fit as a slick fielding utility man with a good switch-hitting bat. He plays 2B, SS, 3B and OF. Right up Omar's alley. Orlando Hudson would be great, but not with Castillo onboard.

SHORTSTOP
This will be Jose Reyes' best year to date. MVP all the way. You heard it here. But Punto would also be a nice fit in the pinch.

THIRD BASE
Write in Wright, David that is, and play ball. Tatis and Punto could fill the occasional bill more than adequately.

OUTFIELD
Carlos Beltran anchors a potentially terrific outfield if all stay healthy. Ah, but there's the rub. We'd all love to see Ryan Church play 140 games. He and Beltran make all the plays and have all the tools.

I have no problem with LF being manned by a platoon of Murphy and Tatis. Both offer adequate defense and nice bats with very good RBI potential. And with, arguably, the best 4th outfielder in baseball in Endy Chavez, who plays stellar defense, the 8th and 9th innings are covered. Injuries and a lack of right-handed depth could prove costly, but Evans could be employed as a platoon in LF if Tatis moves to cover RF or goes doen to injury. Picking up aging outfielders like Raul Ibanez (the Mets do not need a lefty bat with Fernando Martinez waiting in the wings) or Jermaine Dye, is really not the way to go, but Dye is a more intriguing option. But what to do with Murphy?--unless Church is in the Dye deal.

BENCH
If the Mets replace Damion Easley with Punto and the Murphy/Tatis platoon as an extension of the bench, the Mets are deep. Perhaps the only thing they lack is a true power guy. Anderson is probably less attractive than other options, but Murphy, Tatis, Chavez, and Punto (if they sign him) may be as good as any group from a number of angles.

ON THE FARM
The Mets will be strong if they do not have to call of their prospects, but the reality IS the inevitable. If Omar can start the season with Niese, Jason Vargas, Bobby Parnell, Carlos Muniz, Eddie Kunz and Dillon Gee, their best arms, working in upstate NY (Buffalo and Binghamton), the Mets will have some talent to call upon. Some veteran arms like Nelson Figueroa and Brandon Knight will be in that mix as well. Position players may be in shorter supply than arms, but Evans, FMart and Argenis Reyes are going to be on a shuttle of sorts. All are decent options and likely to be productive major leaguers somewhere in The Show, especially Martinez, who will be in LF in 2010 with Murphy and Tatis or Evans manning the first sack.

If the Mets can land three of this bunch: Garland, Beimel, Oliver and Punto, as free agents, and can move Heilman and Feliciano or Schoeneweis for a Colorado lefty starter, it will be a very exciting season at Citi Field, or whatever it ends up being called.

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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