To Compete The Mets Will Need To Get Creative

What a great week for the New York Mets. After taking Round 1 of the Subway Series, the Mets totally dismantled the Philadelphia Phillies, so much so you have to wonder if they were stealing the wrong team’s signs.

And now, this five game winning streak has put the Mets back in play. They are now two games out of first on a five game winning streak, winning six of their last seven games.

The offence played perfectly to the fury of Citi Field, manufacturing runs while getting the occasional long ball, while the pitching has been sparkling.

Besides ace No. 1 Johan Santana and ace No. 2 Mike Pelfrey, the rotation has been revamped with R.A. Dickey and Hisanori Takahashi filling in nicely for the ousted John Maine and Oliver Perez. Yet, both of those pitcher are 35 and you have to wonder how long it will take for the league to figure out the knuckleballer and control pitching lefthander.

That’s why the Mets need another arm for the rotation. Although Roy Oswalt and Cliff Lee will be available over the next two months, the Mets have to show restraint and not give up too much for either player.

Oswalt requested a trade from owner Drayton McClane; he is signed through next year, due to make $16 million in 2011 with a $16 million club option 2012 (or a $2 million buyout or an opt-out with a reduced buyout). Because a team will control the right-hander, McClane, along with Astros general manager Ed Wade will ask for a king’s ransom for their ace pitcher. Expect any Met trade to begin with the name Jenrry Mejia and move down from there.

With Lee, the Mets will look at a two to three month rental, as he will be a free agent after this season. Making $9 million this season, Lee will demand a very large contract during the off-season and by virtue of  being the biggest name on the market, the Mets will have to pay up for the 2008 American League Cy Young Winner.

But Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik will still ask for the Mets top prospects in return. Remember, this is not the off-season and the Mets can’t wait it out, hoping Lee will fall into their laps with B-Level prospects. Seattle will ask for prospects like Fernando Martinez and Mejia, which may be too rich for the Mets blood.

Rather, the Mets should look for creative ways to fill out the rotation, by taking a chance on a bad contract and hoping a change of scenery will do someone well.

General manager Omar Minaya may look to San Francisco to see if the Giants will be willing to take Perez and Luis Castillo off his hands for Barry Zito, who signed one of the worst contacts in Major League history before the 2007 season. The flaky lefthander has been a total disappointment for the Giants since inking the deal and the still $76 million owed to Zito will hamstring San Francisco over the next few seasons when they try to sign Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain to long term deals.

Lincecum is signed through 2011, but will command almost $20 million in arbitration for 2012, while Cain will make $15.33 million during that year. Along with Zito’s $19 million, the Giants will be on the hook for $55 million for just three starters. Since San Francisco likes to keep its payroll under $100 million, it will be tough for the Giants to compete.

So moving Zito will make some sense. With Castillo and Perez, this season and next will be a wash for both clubs. Perez may be able to re-find his form in AT&T Park, with its vast left field, while Castillo will fight for playing time with Freddy Sanchez (assuming he won’t be traded).

The Mets will get Zito, an enigmatic pitcher, who has a tremendous amount of talent. Behind Santana and Pelfrey, Zito will fit into the No. 3 slot. A fly ball pitcher, the 32 year-old could find new life in the vast canyons of Citi Field.

He had a hot start this April, going 4-0 with a 1.53 ERA, but cooled down in May, going 2-2 with a 4.50 ERA. The lefthander did make changes in his delivery and sometimes a different coaching staff can fix what has been ailing the flaky lefty.

Of course, there’s the small matter of the $57 million Zito is owed from 2012 to 2014, if the Mets plan on buying him out of his option, so the Giants may have to send some money back – say $20 million – to even out this deal.

The window is closing on these Mets as many of the “core” players will be free agents after 2011. With Carlos Beltran, Francisco Rodriguez, and even Jose Reyes free agents after next year, it may be a very different Met team in 2012. If the Mets can fill some of their holes with cheaper options, then Zito’s reduced contract is something the team can deal with.

Now, Zito also has a full no-trade clause, but a trade to New York may intrigue Zito, who is known to love the big city. If all parties agree, it may be just a small hurdle to overcome.

The fact is the Mets will need to do something, but emptying the fragile farm system should not be an option. To compete the team will have to get creative.

Posted under Ace Pitcher, American League Cy Young, Club Option, Cy Young, Cy Young Winner, Drayton Mcclane, Game Winning Streak, Joe Mcdonald, Johan Santana, Knuckleballer, Last Seven Games, Lefthander, Manager Ed, Mets Top Prospects, Mike Pelfrey, New York Mets, Oliver Perez, Philadelphia Phillies, Roy Oswalt, Seattle General, Subway Series, Top Story

This post was written by Joe McDonald on May 28, 2010