By Barry Duchan
Several weeks ago, I wrote that the Mets would retain Minaya and Manuel and make only enough moves to give the impression that they are trying to improve the team, with an eye on the pocketbook.
Well, M and M are back and Jeff Wilpon is publicly saying that the Mets will spend "whatever Omar needs" to make the team a contender next year. There has been a minor shuffle in the coaching staff and several rumors have been circulating regarding the team's plans. Here's my take on what will happen regarding some of those rumors:
RUMOR #1 - The Mets will reach out to Wally Backman and offer him a meaningful job in the organization.
PREDICTION - The Mets will promote AAA manager Ken Oberkfell to third base coach and shuffle the managers within the organization, creating an opening at Savannah. Backman will interview for the post and may even be offered and accept the job if nothing better comes up. This would hardly put him in line to be the next manager of the Mets, but might create some positive vibe among Mets fans.
RUMOR #2 - The Mets will consider hiring J.P. Ricciardi or Josh Towers as assistant to Omar Minaya.
PREDICTION - The Mets will talk to both and one of them might wind up with a job with the team, again pending any better offers they might get. They will become the likely successors to Minaya if either accepts.
RUMOR #3 - The Mets will make a play for Roy Halladay.
PREDICTION - The Mets will discuss Halladay with the Jays. The Jays will insist the Mets take Vernon Wells as part of the deal. Rumors will intensify that the Mets are offering some combination of the following players: Daniel Murphy, Angel Pagan, Fernando Martinez, Mike Pelfrey, Brad Holt, and Eddie Kunz. The Jays will bring up Ike Davis, Jenrry Mejia, Wilmer Flores, and Jeff Francoeur and try to turn the Mets' attention to Lyle Overbay and one of their lesser starting pitchers. Any deal completed between the teams won't involve Halladay. Or the talks could break down completely.
RUMOR #4 - The Mets will talk to the Rays about Upton, Crawford, and Pena
PREDICTION - The Mets will bring up the same names that they did with Toronto and find that the Rays have interest in Jeff Francoeur and Fernando Martinez as well as some of the prospects. The Rays will offer Pat Burrell, who was a bust with them but built his reputation with his slugging against the Mets. The name Andy Sonnanstine, once regarded by some as the Rays' best pitcher, but who had a terrible season, will surface. The Mets may actually make a multi-player deal with the Rays, but it won't be a no-brainer and the Mets won't get Crawford. I could see Pena or Upton plus Sonnanstine possibly coming to the Mets for a 5-player package which won't even look good when the deal is made and that will turn out bad in the immediate future and even worse in the long run. But if it happens, it will be the talk of the winter (for Mets fans). I'm sure there are many Mets fans who would be excited if the Mets added B.J. Upton or Carlos Pena. Well, for say, Daniel Murphy and Pat Misch, I would be too, but it will cost a lot more and I don't think it will be worth it in either case.
RUMOR #5 - The Mets will make a big play for a free-agent power hitter.
PREDICTION - The Mets will look into Matt Holliday and Jason Bay, but both will get better deals from better teams and the Mets will say they made "competitive" offers and sign someone like Melvin Mora instead as a super sub and "feel-good" story. The Mets might pick up someone like an Austin Kearns to throw into the mix.
RUMOR #6 - The Mets will go after the top free agent pitchers
PREDICTION - The Mets will talk about John Lackey, but he'll go elsewhere. The Mets' most serious involvement could be with Joel Piniero, who they just might get if they overpay.
RUMOR #7 - The Mets will get a new #1 catcher
PREDICTION - It won't be Victor Martinez. The Mets WILL sign one of the many journeymen catchers with big league experience who are available, maybe a lefthanded hitter, maybe a switch-hitter, to split the job with Omir Santos. The Mets may well get a Molina, but most likely, Gustavo (the unrelated one). In any case, it won't be the second coming of Gary Carter or even Jerry Grote.
CONCLUSION - There will be a bunch of new faces on the Mets by spring training and they will certainly offer more promise than the likes of Elmer Dessens, Ken Takahashi, Wilson Valdez, and Jeremy Reed, to name just a few of the players who likely won't be back, but they won't be anywhere nearly enough to compete with the Phillies, Braves, or Marlins. If the Mets can stay closer to first place than last, Jerry and Omar may keep their jobs through the season, though not likely beyond. The Mets should not make the mistake of trading relatively young proven major leaguers like Pelfrey and Francoeur, unless they are getting a no-question-about it bonafide star in exchange. Unfortunately, I think either or both may go in a miscalculated deal to bring in a "tools" guy like a B.J. Upton or Chris Young.