To Get A Pitcher, The Mets May Have To Give Up Some Talent

The Mets’ June cruise has not only made them relevant in the National League pennant races, but subsequently also at the July 31 trade deadline.

With management believing this is no fluke and the Mets will continue to play alert, aggressive baseball, there are serious discussions not whether they should trade, but whom to trade for – and just as important, whom they should not trade.

Their interest, despite this remarkable run by the rotation, must remain pitching. First rotation; second bullpen.

There is a sense of calm derived from how well Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey have pitched, and a feeling of optimism with Jon Niese’s run since coming off the disabled list.

Slots four and five are a house of cards.

R.A. Dickey, despite being sterling since coming up from Triple A, is sailing unchartered waters. There’s every reason to think, until he does this for another six weeks or so, that the magic dust might be blown off that dancing knuckler.

Afterall, the Mets have these few starts as a frame of reference, not a lengthy resume.

Hisanori Takahashi is pitching well overall, but has shown some cracks. Plus, he’s better suited for the bullpen, which, as a side note is getting a much deserved break during this stretch after being run into the ground in April and May.

And, seriously, who is really counting on John Maine and Oliver Perez? I mean, beside their mothers?

There are two names out there that stand out like neon on a dark night: Roy Oswalt and Cliff Lee.

Either would look good in Met pinstripes. Because of the length of his contract (through 2012 with the option) the Astros don’t have to trade Oswalt. Consequently, he carries more value to the Astros to the Astros than Lee does to Seattle.

Because the Astros hold some leverage, he’ll cost the Mets a lofty price in prospects, plus the $39 million remaining on his contract if they pick up the club option.

Lee, however, will cost only prospects and the balance of his $8 million contract. Lee, however, has repeatedly said he wants to test the market, and reportedly that could mean as much as $23 million, which is Santana and CC Sabathia-type money.

Do the Mets really want to pay that much? I’m thinking no, even if it means draft choices in return.

However, reportedly the Mets are more interested in Lee than Oswalt, and depending on the prospects demanded, could opt for the rental.

For prospects – and they can’t all be high end if the Mets accept Lee moves – for a chance at October is worth it.

Seattle wants young pitching in return, which means either Niese or Jenrry Mejia. Both are too important to give up for a rental, plus if the Mets are thinking they could contend, dealing Niese for pitching makes no sense because they would still need to add a pitcher.

They aren’t going to trade a promising lefthander who already has tasted success and comes on the cheap for somebody who’ll be at LaGuardia moments after the season ends.

There are other intriguing options, such as Arizona’s Dan Haren, who’ll cost prospects and the balance of his contract, which is in the second year of a four-year (plus 2013 option) for $44.75 million package.

Other options to explore are Cleveland’s Fausto Carmona and Jake Westbrook, or Oakland’s Ben Sheets. Oswalt and Lee are better, but far more costly, especially if the latter bolts.

As much as I believe Mejia should be in the minors learning to be a starter, I wouldn’t want to deal him for Lee unless I could sign him. I would be more willing to deal him for Oswalt or Haren, pitchers who figure to be here for several years.

In the end, I’m figuring the Mets to pursue Lee but eventually settle for a second tier arm.

I think they’ll keep both Niese and Mejia, but might have to deal from this group: Ruben Tejada, Josh Thole, Dillon Gee and Fernando Martinez.

Somebody good will have to go.

John Delcos has covered Major League Baseball for over 20 years, including more than ten in New York on the Yankees and Mets beats. You can read Delcos on his blog,http://www.newyorkmetsreport.com, where he hosts a chat room for each Mets game.

Posted under Astros, Bullpen, Club Option, Fluke, Frame Of Reference, House Of Cards, Johan Santana, Jon Niese, Lofty Price, Magic Dust, Mets, National League Pennant, New York Mets, Night Roy, Oliver Perez, Pennant Races, Pinstripes, Roy Oswalt, Serious Discussions, Top Story, Trade Deadline, Unchartered Waters

This post was written by John Delcos on June 19, 2010

Roll The Dice With Oswalt

Just because Roy Oswalt told a friend he would accept a trade to the Mets doesn’t mean he’s in Manhattan on the off-day looking at apartments.

Depending on what “friend” you talk to, Oswalt would also accept trades to Philadelphia, St. Louis, the Yankees and Washington Nationals. However, if it means getting out of Houston, a chance at the playoffs and perhaps an extension, the list of places suddenly favorable to Oswalt could grow.

The Mets have been getting sterling pitching from rotation fill-ins RA Dickey and Hisanori Takahashi – together they are 9-2, but Takahashi is only 2-1 as a starter – but that’s not to say all their pitching concerns have been answered.

We don’t know how long this run will last as neither Dickey nor Takahashi are proven over the long haul. We don’t know that about Jon Niese, either, and John Maine continues to throw 88.

If the Mets are to get Oswalt, they should strike now while it is early. The closer to the deadline, the more the Astros will be asking.

After standing pat over the winter in the pitching market, general manager Omar Minaya has a chance to add an ace that would make his rotation arguably the best in the National League with Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey and Oswalt.

However, there comes a price tag, not only in terms of prospects, but in dollars.  Oswalt is owed $31 million for the remainder of this year and $16 million next season, and a $16 million club option for 2012 (also includes a $2 million buyout).

That’s pricey, but he would make the Mets formidable for the next three years.

Oswalt also makes more sense than Cliff Lee in that his cost is definable, while Lee wants to test the market. Trading for Lee over Oswalt would be foolish, as it would be dealing for a hired gun because he’s gone after the year.

Oswalt would represent less a risk than Lee. He is somebody the Mets should roll the dice with — now.

Posted under 31 Million, Ace, Astros, Club Option, Hired Gun, Ins, Johan Santana, John Delcos, Jon Niese, Long Haul, Mets, Mike Pelfrey, New York Mets, Omar Minaya, Philadelphia St, Price Tag, Prospects, Ra Dickey, Remainder, Roy Oswalt, Takahashi, Top Story, Washington Nationals

This post was written by John Delcos on June 14, 2010

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