Talking Pitching at GMs Meetings
Although the Mets freefall in September was a total team effort, general manager Omar Minaya realizes that the pitching staff was the main culprit in the historical collapse. From the starting rotation to the bullpen, no one was exempt from fault. Especially in a pitcher's park like Shea Stadium (and its eventual replacement, Citi Field), solid arms are a number one priority.
Upon departing the annual meetings that were held in Orlando, Minaya had a positive outlook on the availability of acquiring a front-line hurler. "I think there's potential out there," he told reporters. The question is who and what the price will be to get them.
Looking at the possibilities, yes, it can be done, but the competition will be tough. A buyer's market it is not (in regards to the number of teams looking), and the sellers know that when negotiating with potential trade partners.
The best on the market, and he is not even technically available yet. The Minnesota Twins will try to re-sign the lefty, who is in his walk-year. A long-term contract will be quite pricy for the small market Twins, so if negotiations with Santana hit a wall, they may look to move him by the trading deadline if they are out of the playoff race.
A more realistic scenario is to deal him before the season, and that is where it gets interesting. Trade chips will have to be inexpensive, talented and ready, so a package of only minor leaguers is hardly realistic. Minnesota's new general manager, Bill Smith, will look to bring back major leaguers in addition to youth to justify trading away the former Cy Young Award winner.
Minaya will have to make a decision to include Jose Reyes in a deal for Santana, and then look to lock the pitcher up before the deal is finalized. To have Santana leave Flushing after one season, a la Mike Hampton, would be a disaster if a young budding star like Reyes is lost. To obtain a number one arm, you have to give up quality players. That is just the reality.
The Milwaukee Brewers are in the same position with Sheets as the Twins are with Santana. The righthander's contract is up at the end of the 2008 season, and he also has a limited no-trade clause in the $11 million deal. The Brewers have a depth in their starting rotation and would be looking for bullpen help. The Mets have a few arms out there that may be attractive to Milwaukee, such as Pedro Feliciano and Aaron Heilman.
JOE BLANTON/JOHN GARLAND/JOSE CONTRERAS
The Oakland A's have been dangling Blanton in front of the Mets since last year, and he is a marginal number three or four guy at best. The same goes for Garland and Contreras, the former Yankee. All three can be viewed as a replacements for the soon-to-be departed Tom Glavine, but do not have the same talent. They will be experienced arms that can fill one of the five spots, but should not be counted on and too much should not be given up for either.
The Cleveland Indian lefthander has a history with Minaya, and was included in a deal for Bartolo Colon when Minaya was the general manager of the Montreal Expos. He has won in double digits in the past, but had a terrible 2007. He brings a little less to the table than Blanton and company.
Minaya confirmed that he was speaking to the Houston Astros about reliever Brad Lidge, but would not include either of his young outfielders, Carlos Gomez or Fernando Martinez. The Mets' division rival - the Philadelphia Phillies - eventually acquired Lidge.
The chips that the Mets have for any trades include not only Heilman, but outfielder Lastings Milledge, too. Both have decent market value and are inexpensive, a plus when dealing with smaller market cities like Milwaukee and Minnesota. Oakland general manager Billy Beane is said to be very high on Milledge and will look to have him included if the Blanton talks become serious.
As far as free agent pitchers go, Minaya is reportedly interested in Kyle Lohse and Carlos Silva and a 32 year-old Japanese righty named Hiroki Kuroda.