Tuesday, November 29, 2005

On the Verge
By Ben Valentine

If winning the war of the back pages was the key to also winning a World Series, then the New York Mets would already have reserved their place in October. With the trade for Carlos Delgado, the signing of Billy Wagner to an absurd four year, 43 million dollar contract and the rumors floating about Manny Ramirez, the Amazin’s certainly have generated more talk this off season than their cross town rivals or any other divisional foe. And rightfully so, since the Mets sit on the verge of something big here.

Whether that something is newfound success or colossal failure has yet to be seen.

On paper, the Mets have improved themselves from last season. Delgado at half strength is still better than all of the guys the Mets threw out at first base last year combined. While the last two years of his contract maybe something the Mets regret (I certainly wouldn’t have given him four years), Wagner, barring injury, will be better than Braden Looper was last season. Just adding those two players, given the Mets superb run differential last season, hypothetically should be enough to get the team into the postseason as it stands now. But naturally, General Manager Omar Minaya isn’t one to rest on his laurels. He’s still out looking to make the moves necessary to get this team not only into October, but to be the last team standing in it.

However, rumors continue to circulate Minaya’s vision includes acquiring Manny Ramirez. The part he’s long coveted, Bob Klapisch of the Bergen Record today reported the Mets would deal Lastings Milledge, Cliff Floyd and Aaron Heilman to the Red Sox for Ramirez if Boston would eat part of Manny’s salary.

Excuse me while I vomit.

Minaya has done a lot well since coming to the Mets. This would be a colossal mistake. Forget the fact the Mets should not be in any mood to part with Milledge for a one dimensional, aloof guy with a ludicrously large contract who’s basically begging his way out of Boston, but to also give up their most promising young pitcher and their second best hitter from last season? That’s just ridiculous.

Baseball Prospectus’ WARP ratings for left fielders are posted over at the Roto Authority. Ironically enough, number three on that list is Cliff Floyd. Manny Ramirez trails behind him because while Manny is a better offensive player, his defense is absolutely atrocious. (As if you all didn’t know that.) To be fair, I don’t expect Floyd to repeat what he did this season and I still think Manny is a better player. But it just shows you in terms of value, there isn’t as great a difference between the two players as one might think. Given Floyd’s cheap 6.6 million dollar figure for 2006, Manny for Floyd straight up would be a much fairer deal for the Mets. Including Aaron Heilman and Milledge is a flat out rip off for the Red Sox.

Allow me to once again sing the praises of Heilman. For the five hundredth time, here are his numbers from last year:

5-3, 3.17 ERA, 108 IP, 1.15 WHIP, 8.83 K/9, 3.08 BB/9, 2.86 K/BB .50 Hr/9

There is no reason the best young pitcher in NY shouldn’t be in the rotation to start next season. I can guarantee he will be better than anyone on the current Mets roster with the exception of Pedro Martinez. Contrary to popular belief, the Mets rotation was not a strength last season. Kris Benson, Steve Trachsel, Victor Zambrano and Tom Glavine all posted mediocre peripherals and got by through luck and pitching at Shea Stadium. The best starter on the Mets last season outside of Pedro was clearly Jae Seo, who had to battle just to remain in the rotation. Heilman only started for part of the season, but given his success last year, his history as a starter, and the signing of Wagner the Mets should not be wasting anymore time with him in the pen. He needs to start. But first and foremost, he needs to be on this team next season. When it comes to dumping starters, the Mets should be looking to unload Benson or Zambrano, not Seo and certainly not Heilman.

The Mets offense is good enough right now. In fact I’d say it’s far more likely the Mets need Heilman next year than Ramirez. With a mediocre pitching staff that isn’t all that young, I’d much rather have solid young pitcher with tremendous upside (and who’s begun to show it) than a declining offensive player, who while very talented, has been playing in a hitters park his whole career and has no desire to play defense. Don’t forget the fact the Mets are a fly ball heavy pitching staff. Can you imagine what Tom Glavine’s going to look like when Manny jogs to field a lazy fly ball which dropped in front of him because he didn’t hustle after it?

The Mets want to win now; I understand. But the Mets stand a better chance of doing that without Ramirez. As I said, Omar should be looking into improving this pitching staff. Javier Vasquez wouldn’t be a bad move if they could pry him away for just Benson and Brian Bannister. If the Mets go into the 2006 with a rotation of Pedro, Heilman, Vasquez, Seo and Trachsel, I’d feel pretty comfortable.

It’s one thing to overpay for a guy like Wagner. If it blows up in your face, it just costs you money. But if Minaya makes the deal for Ramirez he may have given away the Mets best chance to win for this season and beyond.

And that of course, would be a front page disaster.

1 Comments:

Blogger Tony said...

Manny's not coming here. It's a fetish of Omar. However, I prefer a fetish for Manny or a fetish for Todd Zeile and "quiet leadership"

12:55 AM  

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