The following comes from a combo of our friend Matt Cerrone of Metsblog, Fox Sports, and the New York Post:
“Bob Klapisch of FoxSports.com talked to Mets senior officials and says a) the team has no interest in trading Jon Niese to the Mâ€™s for Cliff Lee, and b) â€˜they have no interest in acquiring either Kevin Millwood or Jake Westbrook.â€™
That said, according to Mark Hale of the New York Post, â€˜The Mets are willing to trade for Lee without requiring a negotiating window to sign him to an extension.â€™
The Mets view Lee as a â€˜rental player,â€™ who they are unwilling to trade Niese, Ike Davis or Jenrry Mejia to get.”
If true, fans can rest easy, as this would be another instance of the team choosing caution and the future over gross overpaymentâ€”in dollars or prospectsâ€”for a pitcher with a very checkered career.
Cliff Lee will soon be 32, and does not have a career close to those of pitchers like Johan, Oswalt, Halladay, or the gameâ€™s recent true aces. Cliff Lee has had a couple of great years, a couple of good-to-very-good ones, several poor years, and several injuries.
His career record in no way justifies the kind of contract he will apparently seek as a free agent, no matter how good he looked in half a season with the Phils.
Last offseason, the Nabob Chorus frequently pilloried Omar and the front office for not grossly overpaying for another clear non-ace in John Lackey, and for mediocre mid-rotation pitchers like Pineiro, Wolf, Marquis, etc. These decisions, in the bright glare of hindsight, look spectacular.
This is not to say that this team is complete; very possibly it is not. But the Mets currently have an outstanding and tantalizing mix of young veterans and rookies, along with lots of very promising help in the minors.
As 2006 showed, one can never tell when â€œThe Yearâ€™ is going to present itself, but this team is not loaded with aging vets like the 2006 team was, and simply does not have the look of a group which is going to decline over the next couple of years.
Great as he has been, Johan Santana clearly is feeling the effects of age and multiple surgeries; while still a very valuable pitcher, he is not what he was two years ago. He has several giant contract years left, and it seems very unlikely that the Mets will add another massive long-term deal to their payroll, for an aging pitcher whose career thus far is not in the same class as Johanâ€™s.
It says here that this is excellent news. Trade for Lee, but without mortgaging the future, and without radically overpaying for him.
The Mets did not mortgage the future in the 1980s when trading for Hernandez and Carter. They did mortgage the future by trading Scott Kazmir for nothing. And Omar has very clear memories of his ridiculous deal for Bartolo Colon.
If the team has indeed learned from all of this, it is yet another thing for the fans to be thankful for as we continue to watch the team enter into a period of true revival and dramatic improvement, much quicker than many expected.
This team is set up for years of success with or without Cliff Lee. Trade for him without losing the key youngsters we have. Rent him for the rest of 2010 while he will be pitching his heart out for the one giant deal which is clearly what he is focused on. Then let someone else overpay him for the next 5-6 years. Donâ€™t succumb to the temptation to overpay; patience will indeed be a virtue when carefully observing the extremely talented mix of players we have brewing in Queens.
As this space has suggested before, Roy Oswalt is just one year younger than Cliff Lee, has had an unquestionably superior career, and would be under club control through 2012. His salaries are large, to be sure, but committing that kind of money for a better pitcher for just 2 Â½ years would be a far wiser move than to pay the much larger cost in dollars (and possibly prospects) which Lee will require. Oswalt is due 16 million in 2011 and 2012, but with a 2 million club buyout for the second year. This is not a huge amount of money to commit to a player with Oswaltâ€™s numbers.
Despite his W-L record, Oswaltâ€™s ERA, WHIP, K/9, etc are all quite good this year. As are Leeâ€™s. But their careers and contract situations clearly show which hurler is a much better fit for the Mets.
Johan, Oswalt, Pelfrey, Niese as the top four for the next 2 and Â½ years? Thatâ€™s a serious recipe for success.