Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Seo Annoyed
By Ben Valentine

Last week the Mets reportedly got tired of Tampa Bay trying to fleece them for Danny Baez and decided to go in a different direction. With the asking price of Aaron Heilman, the Mets were smart to do this. A set up man is definitely not worth a quality starter. In Heilman’s case there was the added fact he already is a successful reliever, so even if he doesn’t hack it in the rotation, he would still be able to give you everything Baez could in the pen.

Then Mets went and did it anyway; they dealt a quality starter for a middle reliever. Jae Seo was sent packing to the LA Dodgers for righty reliever Duaner Sanchez.

G.M. Omar Minaya’s most recent trades leave something to be desired. In Paul LoDuca’s case, one could argue the Mets gave up nothing that would have helped them this year, or even next, for a player who filled a need. In this case, anyone who looks at the numbers has to be scratching their heads. Statistically, the Mets dealt their best pitcher not named Pedro Martinez over the last three years for a reliever! Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at Seo, Kris Benson, Tom Glavine, Steve Trachsel and Victor Zambrano over the span of Seo’s career in the majors.

Seo, Age 28:
2003: 188.1 IP, 9-12, 3.82 ERA, 5.26 K/9, 2.39 K/BB, 1.27 WHIP, .86 Hr/9
2004: 118.2 IP, 5-10, 4.90 ERA, 4.13 K/9, 1.08 K/BB, 1.56 WHIP, 1.30 Hr/9
2005: 90.1 IP, 8-2, 2.59 ERA, 5.88 K/9, 3.69 K/BB, 1.11 WHIP, .90 Hr/9

Zambrano, Age 30:
2003: 188.1 IP, 12-10, 4.21 ERA, 6.31 K/9, 1.25 K/BB, 1.44 WHIP, 1.00 Hr/9
2004: 142.0 IP, 9-7, 4.37 ERA, 7.80 K/9, 1.21 K/BB, 1.56 WHIP, .82 Hr/9
2005: 166.1 IP, 7-12, 4.17 ERA, 6.06 K/9, 1.46 K/BB, 1.48 WHIP, .65 Hr/9

Benson, Age 31:
2003: 105 IP, 5- 9, 4.97 ERA, 5.83 K/9, 1.89 K/BB, 1.55 WHIP, 1.20 Hr/9
2004: 200.1 IP, 12-12, 4.31 ERA, 6.02 K/9, 2.20 K/BB, 1.31 WHIP, .67 Hr/9
2005: 174.1 IP, 10-8, 4.13 ERA, 4.90 K/BB, 1.94 K/BB, 1.26 WHIP, 1.24 Hr/9

Trachsel, Age 35:
2003: 205.2 IP, 16-10, 3.78 ERA, 4.88 K/9, 1.71 K/BB, 1.31 WHIP, 1.14 Hr/9
2004: 203.2 IP, 12-13, 4.00 ERA, 5.20 K/9, 1.41 K/BB, 1.41 WHIP, 1.11 Hr/9

Glavine, Age: 39:
2003: 183.1 IP, 9-14, 4.52 ERA, 4.03 K/9, 1.24 K/BB, 1.48 WHIP, 1.03 Hr/9
2004: 212.1 IP, 11-14, 3.60 ERA, 4.62 K/9, 1.56 K/BB, 1.29 WHIP, .85 Hr/9
2005: 211.1 IP, 13-13, 3.54 ERA, 4.47 K/9, 1.72 K/BB, 1.36 WHIP, .51 Hr/9

None of the five have set the world on fire, however Seo has been the best of the bunch, even with his awful 2004 season. (which probably can be partially attributed to Art Howe and Rick Peterson messing with his head) Glavine comes the closest because of his good ERA, but his peripherals are not particularly good. Trachsel is similar to Glavine; his peripherals again suggest he’s at best as good if not slightly worse than Seo. Now add in the age and money factors. Seo is the youngest of the bunch at 28, and is the cheapest because he is still not arbitration eligible. Thus he makes the major league minimum. The Mets have dealt away their second best pitcher who also happened to be their cheapest one! Makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?

But is anyone really surprised? The Mets have never shown any respect to Seo, thus perhaps this is the best thing for the Korean righty. Mets fans meanwhile have to be left wondering what he did to be treated so poorly. (No pun intended) Some speculate Rick Peterson is the problem, as the two supposedly never got along. However, how could Minaya, who should have no loyalty to a pitching coach he didn’t hire, be in such a hurry to deal a quality pitcher for a middle reliever? Is Duaner Sanchez a quality reliever? Maybe; he was good last year. But most set up guys are a crap shoot; good from one year and toast the next.

Perhaps Minaya is doing the best he can with the hand he’s been dealt. Glavine is not tradable. Benson doesn’t have much value, but if someone was willing to take that contract, it’s addition by subtraction. That not only would free up the money, but also a rotation spot for Seo, and now Aaron Heilman, though the Mets have decided to short change him by refusing to give him a rotation spot. But if the Mets are so adamant about not letting him in the rotation, why is Sanchez necessary? After all, wouldn’t Heilman, who thrived in the relief role, be the choice for primary set up man?

Therefore, what this trade boils down to, is trading the second best starting pitcher on your staff for a 7th inning guy. Again, Omar what are you thinking?

The Mets last year were a better team than their record indicated. Their run differential was one of the best in the NL, suggesting they were very nearly a playoff team. With the additions of Carlos Delgado and Billy Wagner, it was not crazy to think they had done enough to put themselves over the top. But with the trade of Seo and the refusal to put Heilman in the rotation has to be considered a question mark. There’s no reason to believe Glavine, Benson, Zambrano or Trachsel will get any better at their age. In fact, they’re probably going to get worse. You would figure at his age, Seo is at least going to be as good as he was in 2003. This is an aging pitching staff that is going to be declining, if it isn’t already. The Mets should be looking to get younger, not hand these old men the keys to their season.

But that’s exactly what the Mets are doing. Believe or not, the Mets would be wise to sign Jeff Weaver. At this stage, he’s a better option than any of the four the team currently has lined up behind Pedro. Then the Mets should deal Benson for whatever they can get and send Zambrano to the pen. (What has he done to deserve a rotation spot over Heilman except get traded for Scott Kazmir?) That would leave a rotation of Martinez, Glavine, Weaver, Trachsel and Heilman. It isn’t great, but it’s better than throwing out Glavine, Benson, Trachsel and Zambrano.

Unfortunately, that would require the Omar get over whatever fear he has of Heilman and the organization admitting what a terrible trade the Kazmir deal was. The way things look now, that won’t be happening anytime soon.

So to a longtime favorite of mine, Jae Seo, I wish you nothing but the best in LA. I’d say good luck, but with his rotation spot assured, I don’t think he’ll need it this time around.

The Mets rotation on the other hand, will need all the luck they can get.

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