Omar Minaya is in a truly tough spot. The Mets face a legion of key players returning from major injuries. We have a great number one starter returning from surgery, and a rotation filled with question marks otherwise. We have a first baseman who many people question, and we have no one to play left field. And we clearly need at least one more bullpen arm. And possibly a catcher.
Despite the incessant anti-Omar whining from some quarters, he has, the anomalous injury-plagued disaster of 2009 notwithstanding, made the Mets an annually competitive team, and has added many big-name players. The anti-Omarites do have a point when it comes to finishing the offseason job after the big-game hunt is over. This is where Omar needs to distinguish himself this year. Get that one big name to pitch after Johan, and then show us an Omar who can focus with equal zeal on the secondary players this team badly needs.
The temptation to want Lackey and Halladay and Holliday and more is strong, but unrealistic and unreasonable. Lackey is the most likely one we will wind up with, and all things considered, probably the wisest player to target. Halladay is better, but is a year and a half older and would cost much of our farm; his contract extension likely would surpass what Lackey could be had for. And we do not need to dramatically overpay for Matt Holliday, whose career numbers are tremendously inflated by his years in Denver. A good half season in St. Louis does not merit the insane numbers he will ask for. Jason Bay is a very good player, who had an excellent year in a hittersâ€™ park that favors righty batters. Is he worth this kind of long-term mammoth deal? Not likely. Holliday and Bay are not Mark Teixeira, and both will benefit from there not being a Tex available this year.
This teamâ€™s top needs are a real, reliable number two starter, and players with some power to complement our already excellent core.
Some argue that the 2006 team owed a lot more to LoDuca, Floyd, and Valentin than we realized at the time. The events of the last three years have most certainly intensified this thoughtâ€™s merit: the core just needs more around it. All three of these guys were seemingly gamers with grit, who wanted to win at all costs, and who drove the 2006 team as Keith drove the 1986 team. With all three of those guys gone in 2007 and never adequately replaced, the team was left with little to support the core.
In this light, reconsidering the team-wide failures and combined efforts that missing the postseason in 2007 and 2008 entailed is indeed illuminating. Perhaps the core just needs more support, as it clearly had in 2006.
Were he willing to play left, bringing in Mike Cameron for a year or even two would be a good start. Surely he would be relatively cheap, especially when considering what Dunn and Abreu went for last year, and other than hitting for average, he really does some of everything. He would happily hit 6th or 7th and produce 30+ 2B and 20+ HR, he would play very good defense, he knows NY and was liked here, and he is a hustling guy. His overall skills, and his offense being placed in a spot in the batting order where his numbers would be excellent, when combined with his attitude, make him a seriously affordable and appealing option for the Mets. He might be the right type of respected, hard-nosed veteran this roster needs. And what a defensive OF we would have.
Cameron is by all accounts a wonderful person, hugely charitable, great with fans, and would help this team on and off the field. This move improves the bench by placing the potentially outstanding 4th OF Angel Pagan there. Jeremy Reed as 5th OF/defensive replacement/PH finishes a very good, diverse OF. Power, speed, defense, depth.
Sign him, have lots more to spend elsewhere, and when there is a better option available in a year or two, move on it then, rather than grossly overpaying for Matt Holliday or Jason Bay (or overpaying for an out-of-position Chone Figgins for LF) now, and being hamstrung by another giant, long-term deal for a less than deserving player.
If Jorge Cantu is really available as Florida rumors say, why not try and obtain him? A productive player who could possibly be had for prospects. And a product of two organizations which have produced and spotted some talent the last few years. Cantu cut his Ks significantly last year, and had a career high OBP. Adrian Gonzalez is a fine player, but would cost much, much more in a trade-as he is so good and so affordable, why would SD trade him unless overwhelmed? In addition, despite his excellent overall numbers, his home/road splits are surprising, and do not suggest that he would be ideal for Citi Field. Cantu could clearly be had for much less, and it is indeed time that we allow some prospects of ours the time to succeed in a Met uniform.
Cameron and Cantu would be affordable, reduce the power issues, and save money so that a big 2010 mid-season move can be made, as well as allow for more retooling/improvement for 2011. And it leaves more than enough in the budget for Lackey, a bullpen arm, and a possible catcher, in 2010 and beyond.
A lot of potential Ks, yes, but a huge increase in power as well. And with the pressure being slightly taken off of Wright to be responsible for as many HR, the top of the order can concentrate on getting on base to score on all of the extra base hits the 4-5-6-7 spots will produce.
Of course this all continues to evolve instantly if we become able to move Slappy and/or if serious effort is indeed made to upgrading behind the plate. Brandon Phillips or Dan Uggla would be welcomed at second base quite warmly.
With or without our next generation Keith Hernandez, this team needs a lot more than one 90-million-dollar pitcher or outfielder to become a consistent success. Bringing back largely the same crew with Lackey or Holliday may be competitive in 2010, but unless more effort and thought is put into players to complement the core, bullpen depth, the bench, and financial flexibility for possible midseason improvements in 2010 and beyond, it seems to me that more frustration could be the result. We have already bagged enough big names; we have the core. Letâ€™s fill in the remaining missing pieces.
The 2007 and 2008 teams showed that, despite some great individual years, the Mets did not have quite enough overall to win, good as the core may be. In 2010, in addition to trying build on 2006-2008, the team will have the almost unfair task of also having so many key players returning after major injury. Most almost certainly will return to form, but we cannot be sure about everyone.
Combine these considerations with the hardest to find ingredientâ€”patienceâ€”and we might have something going. Wright, Reyes, Beltran, Johan and KRod have more than a year left. Regardless of what happens in 2010, the future onward can indeed be bright if the Mets do not outdrive the headlights and overspend on one or two players. The starpower and core is there. The secondary pieces and depth must be built with the same care and effort with which Johan and KRod were acquired. Start to do it now. Players like Werth and Victorino are huge cogs in the Philsâ€™ success, and Cameron and Cantu (or Phillips) could possibly be precisely the type of complementary players our excellent core needs.
As Confucius almost surely would have said, a several-year journey towards building a successful organization starts with a single stepâ€”and that step is NOT overspending on radically overpriced free agents.
Sign Lackey and Cameron, trade for Cantu and/or Phillips, and then take a long look at available catchers and bullpen arms for the 7th and 8th. Re-signing JJ, were he willing to come back for a small deal with huge incentives, would be a great start. Weâ€™ll take a longer look at pitching moves next week.