By Mike Steffanos
I remember previous seasons reading complaints that Omar Minaya was impatient and too quick to overpay for the player or players he wanted. Now there is criticism about how none of the holes on this team have been filled yet. While I can't pretend to have any insight into our GM's thinking, for what it's worth it seems to me he's playing things about right in an economy and a market for closers that actually works somewhat in his favor.
Reading between the lines, I'm starting to think that it will be K-Rod closing games out here next season. I don't believe at all he will sign for the 2-year deal the Mets are reportedly offering, but he seems to want to come here and is willing to be flexible to work something out.
I'm leery of seeing the Mets spend big on a closer again, and someday hope to see them actually develop one from their own system, but Rodriguez probably is the best option for them right now out of all the names being bandied about. Kerry Wood is intriguing to me, but I don't think the Mets can afford to gamble on another somewhat fragile player given the history of the past couple of years.
I suspect the eighth inning guy will come via trade, someone along the lines of Huston Street. I'd love to see the Mets get a little creative here, possibly looking for someone young with upside who hasn't established himself yet. Probably won't happen, though, as I suspect they'll be looking for something a little more certain after two years of bad bullpen work.
If the Mets manage to land their closer this week they'll probably start kicking the tires on some of the starters out there. I have a feeling Lowe is going back to the Red Sox, and I'm not madly in love with any of the options out there.
Jon Garland is a name that gets mentioned a lot, but he seems to me like this year's Carlos Silva -- a mediocre pitcher who will be overpaid based on his ability to pitch 200 innings. This guy pitched to a 1.51 WHIP last season in a pretty good pitcher's park as opposing hitters tattooed him for a .303/.355/.464 batting line. He allowed 237 hits in 196 innings last season while striking out 4.1/9 innings. How much do you want to spend on the guy likely to be the next Steve Trachsel?
I'd love to see them take a run at Ben Sheets, but he may prove a little pricey for a team already spending a lot for their ace. I like Randy Wolf as an inexpensive option, but he's unlikely to remain healthy for a full season. He managed 190 innings last year in San Diego and Houston, but that was the first time he made it over 140 innings since 2003.
A lot of folks think that once the Mets know how much they'll be spending on pitching they might look at upgrading left field from the planned platoon of Daniel Murphy and Fernando Tatis. I know that's what a lot of fans are hoping for, but I'm actually okay with going into the season with these two guys.
I think that Murphy and Tatis are a couple of guys who bring the kind of intensity to the game this team needs. I wouldn't want to go into the year counting on 550 AB from either one of them, but a platoon increases the chances of them being successful.
No doubt there are question marks with both. Tatis had a nice year for them last season, but it's quite possible that he'll come back to earth as the league sees more of him. Murphy had a fine rookie season, but has only 131 major league at bats.
With a platoon of these two, even if one falls flat it will be easier to find a player to fit into a platoon than an everyday type. Another thing you get from a platoon is a stronger bench.
More problematic to me in the long run is my doubts that Murphy will hit for enough power to justify a corner OF slot. He has a solid approach and I think he'll hit for a high enough average and also take his share of walks with that patience he displays. But you're looking at a kid who only managed a .444 SLG in 3 minor league seasons. Maybe his power is developing a little late -- he did slug .496 in Double-A last season -- but I didn't get the impression that he had a lot of HR potential.
Long term, I'd like to see the Mets continue to try to make him a second baseman. I know he'll never be a gold glove there, but if he can hold his own there his hitting skills would be a good fit. The Mets tend to be very conservative with moves like this, but I'd love to see them at least give Murphy a chance there in the future, as long as he continues to produce offensively.