(Yes, even you, Omar…)
I’ve taken some time off to recharge my batteries and renew some good Mets vibes, secretly hoping that during my hiatus, the Mets would do something to justify my ulcers and hair loss. I wasn’t even hoping for a miracle — just something positive to show this team is actually planning for 2008, instead of waiting for the much healthier free agent class of 2009.
Instead, I woke up to this today:
…The Mets’ most important offseason move was spending $25 million on an old second baseman, Luis Castillo. They had better come up with more than that to compete for the NL East crown.
Yes, our friends over at SI.com’s Extra Mustard went so far as to put the Mets current offseason maneuver status as among the worst in baseball. At this point, one of the richest teams in the game is languishing behind the suddenly-relevant Royals in terms of improvement. Nicely played, Minaya.
Because I’m bored, and because no amount of rationalization could explain the Mets’ stagnation this winter, let’s analyze the Amazins’ moves - and non-moves - meticulously categorized by coulda, shoulda and will.
1B - Carlos Delgado
Coulda: Found a desperate taker in the AL and unloaded a growing paycheck from a declining player.
Shoulda: Seen the signs in 2006, and capitalized on his value before 2007; Made a healthy offer to the Rangers for Mark Teixeira before the Braves got a hold of him.
Will: Allow Carlos to play out his contract, hoping for a revived 2008 from those 36-year old legs.
My take: The Mets will have to be content with Carlos for now, because no team in their right mind is going to accept a trade for him, when he’ll certainly come much cheaper as a free agent in 2009. I firmly believed as recently as last month that he was a goner, but once I saw the thin market and how big budget AL teams were backlogged at DH, I conceded the battle. Now, come 2009, when the Mets enter the sure-to-be-pricey Mark Teixeira sweepstakes, Carlos will be headed elsewhere. But for now, he stays. One bright light: He is loooooooong overdue for an…ahem…comeback season.
2B - Luis Castillo
Coulda: Been firmer on a contract offer instead of allowing him to take advantage of a thin second base market.
Shoulda: Let him take his wares to Houston and signed the younger Marcus Giles for one year, in hopes of a resurgent NL East return. No harm, no foul, right?
Will: See a decent season from Luis, then regret the four year deal in about half that time.
My take: The more I see Castillo’s new deal, the more I want to scream. How on earth does a slowing middle infielder, with plummeting annual numbers garner this contract? On any team, much less the free-spending Mets? Despite what I write, I like Castillo, and think he can be an asset, but for that money, I need guarantees — a luxury the Mets won’t have with Luis’ balky knees and declining defense. For half of what Castillo makes per spin around the sun, the Mets could have rolled the dice on a one-year deal for Marcus Giles, who is primed for a breakout, is younger, and has always hit well at Shea. Disconcerting, to say the least.
SS - Jose Reyes
Coulda: Traded him and a third of the farm, for the AL’s best pitcher.
Shoulda: Done exactly what they did - nothing.
Will: Thank themselves once Reyes returns to form, and Johan has trouble adjusting to Fenway.
My take: Crybaby or not, Reyes is one of three Mets pillars. Barring a Minaya panic attack, he’s not going anywhere.
3B - David Wright
LF - Moises Alou
Coulda: Allowed Moises to walk away, realizing that even playing at the top of his game, he is as fragile as Jim Leyritz’s driving record.
Shoulda: Done just that, and maybe signed a less delicate veteran…which is pretty much everyone else available.
Will: Enjoy watching 81 games of strong hitting, and 81 games of an even more fragile platoon in left.
My take: I’m not going to get into the “age thing”, because I’ve done it ad nauseum. I will get into the “injury thing”, however, as the last thing the Mets need in ‘08 is another full-time salary offering part-time production. Alou can still rake with the best of them, and helps the Mets a ton….when he’s playing. When he’s not, the Mets are forced to use a platoon situation of Endy Chavez and Carlos Gomez, one of which is an excellent bench player, and the other is greener than my homemade beer. Lastings and Shawn are gone - who fills in when Alou gets a cramp from leaning on the wrong hip? We should have seen the return of Xavier Nady, but instead we get a permanent B-team. Poorly spent money, regardless of how age-defying Alou can be when he’s not changing bandages.
CF - Carlos Beltran
Coulda: Packaged him for pitching, giving the Mets the necessary chips to land a frontline starter, such as Haren or Santana.
Shoulda: Not even considered it…
Will: Pat themselves on the back when Carlos drives in 130 runs.
My take: Beltran has been on an “off again, on again” pattern since arriving in New York. Fortunately, 2008 would be an “on” year, historically speaking. Though he continues to be moody and often sullen to teammates and the media, frankly no one can blame him after last year’s debacle. Though it wasn’t widely publicized, you know it would have been easy for the Mets to package Beltran to Minnesota or Baltimore instead of Reyes, in exchange for pitching. But they didn’t, and I think the management will be happy they stood firm. Even Santana on full-throttle doesn’t quite bring what a healthy, enthused Beltran does day in and day out. He may not seem thrilled to be in Queens anymore, but thankfully we’ll see him get a chance to lose the rainy face and win in New York.
RF - Ryan Church
Coulda: Kept Lastings Milledge and platooned him with Carlos Gomez.
Shoulda: Probably gotten a bit more for Milledge.
Will: Possibly be surprised by how Church performs at Shea.
My take: Ryan Church has about as much baseball star appeal as the right fielder in your beer league. But he’s proven to be a steady, consistent, balanced kind of player. And given the erratic nature of these Mets, perhaps a little stability is exactly what they need. I’m one of the few baseball pundits who actually liked this trade, despite the fact that we lost a potential superstar for two proven non-stars. Of the two players, I’m more enthused about Church, and the possibility of him rattling doubles into Shea’s cavernous gaps. Though he’s not a power guy, per se, a few well-placed extra base knocks will certainly bring more thunder than Lastings trying (and failing) to dent the new stadium. Church has “pleasant surprise” written all over him.
C - Brian Schneider
Coulda: Kept Paul LoDuca; Given Johnny Estrada more than a one month lease; Let Ramon Castro play everyday; Ignored Yorvit Torrealba’s shoulder woes; Packaged the farm for Pudge Rodriguez; Signed Sal Fasano, just for ****, giggles and porn mustache jokes.
Shoulda: Made sure Schneider came with more than just Ryan Church in exchange for Lastings Milledge.
Will: Have a better defensive catcher handling a very young pitching staff; Satisfy fans as long as they don’t expect much in the way of offense.
My take: From what I’m gathering, Brian Schneider already enjoys being a Met. He’s toured Broadway, showed off his hot kept wom-…umm…wife to the Post, and touted how much he thinks the Mets are primed to win a World Series. The question is, will the Mets love Brian as much as he loves them? Schneider comes to Queens with a solid resume of handling difficult pitching staffs — which can only help the mess the Mets are throwing out there as of right now. But he also brings declining offense, steady but unspectacular defense, and a decidedly average all-around game. Though Paul LoDuca was more like a bad rash than a spark plug, he did bring some spirit to the team. Schneider has an awfully flat personality, and may be someone that might not adapt well to a tumultuous Shea clubhouse. Ultimately, Schneider is the biggest “wait and see” maneuver of this lifeless offseason. Time has shown that having no expectations often leads to NYC success, but the jury remains firmly out on this one.
The Mets’ bench and pitching situation warrants a column unto itself, so I won’t waste your time or bandwidth expounding on this………yet. Suffice it to say, there will be plenty of couldas and shouldas in that list, as well.Again, happy new year. It’s good to be back.