There has been much criticism for Omar Minaya this year regarding the lack of a move in getting a hitter for the depleted, injury-ravaged New York Mets lineup. With injuries to Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Beltran, the Mets are left with only David Wright, a 40-year-old Gary Sheffield, and a bunch of “he doesn’t scare me” type of hitters.
I have been critical of Minaya in the past, primarily for his lack of building farm systems as GM of the Mets and, after he was given the GM job for the Montreal Expos, making inexcusable trades by the boatload.
Notice how many proven major leaguers Minaya has traded away, including Jason Bay, Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips, Cliff Lee, and Orlando Cabrera.
This piece has been in the hopper for two weeks, but after a terrible 10-game stretch where they went 2-8, it merits even more consideration. After taking three of four from the (at that time) first-place St. Louis Cardinals, the Mets were only a half game out of first place.
The Phillies had lost 14 of 18 games and were receiving terrible pitching, Raul Ibanez was injured, and Jimmy Rollins was mired in a huge slump.
The Mets were ready to make their move towards first place.
Except a little thing happened on the way to a World Series title.
The Mets remembered they had a minor league lineup surrounding David Wright, their starting pitching (outside of Johan Santana) was terrible, and their bullpen is hit or miss on any given day.
Even their most reliable bullpen arm, Frankie Rodriguez, has been inconsistent lately. Over his last seven appearances, K-Rod has allowed eight hits, five earned runs, and seven walks in 7.1 IP, and has blown two saves
Throw in shoddy defense and awful fundamental baseball, and you realize this is not a good baseball team.
Their recent bad stretch started with being swept at home versus the New York Yankees, where the combined score was 18-3. The minor league lineup was impotent, but the pitching was not good either.
That is the rub: The Mets fans want Omar Minaya to make a move for another bat to improve the lineup, but the Mets will never win if they do not get better starting pitching.
The current Met starters are Santana, Mike Pelfrey, Livan Hernandez, Fernando Nieve, and Tim Redding. That is one great pitcher, one up and down youngster, and three journeymen.
That is not the making of a postseason rotation, and even Santana has looked well…un-Santana-like lately. His last seven starts have returned a 2-5 record, 5.61 ERA, and 1.43 WHIP.
Please do not tell me about his lack of run support. The job of a starting pitcher is to win games—not to have the best WHIP or ERA or FIP, but to win games for your team. Santana has not done that consistently this year. To his credit, he has 16 decisions, but he needs to begin outdueling the other starter.
Now with Santana normalized and everybody else iffy, when are the Mets likely to put a good stretch together that gets them back into the race?
Is the return of Oliver Perez going to brighten everybody’s day in Metland? Definitely not.
Perez has always been a head case, and now with the guaranteed three-year, $36 million contract, he is even more so.
When is John Maine going to return? He is not yet throwing, and if he does return, will it be the usual inconsistent Maine who has that terrible inning every game?
Maine is a pitcher who does just enough to keep you thinking he is really good, but when you see the end result, it is almost never good.
Their home park is designed to be a pitcher’s park, so the Mets need to design their team to fit their ballpark. Getting better, more consistent starting pitching and getting better defensively will help the Mets more than adding a big bat to a AAA lineup.
The Mets do not have a good starting rotation, and there is no real help on the horizon unless they take drastic steps to improve their team to their ballpark.
The worst thing for the Mets (and Omar) to do is panic and make a move for a bat that will not help them this season.
Eventually Reyes will be back, and likely Beltran too, but probably not Delgado. Even if all three came back next week completely healthy, the Mets rotation is still an inconsistent wreck.
The second-worst thing for the Mets is to go on an improbable little run where they win seven of 10 after the All-Star break, giving the team (and the fans) hope that they could recreate the aura of the 1973 Ya Gotta Believe team.
But that team had great pitching. This 2009 Met team does not.
The same thing happened to the Yankees last year. They went on an eight-game winning streak after the break and thought they could come back and overtake both the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays.
They made the big trade for Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte, but the Yankees were without the big bats of Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada and did not have the starting pitching to keep in the race.
The 2009 Mets should not make the same mistake the 2008 Yankees did. The Mets should make a move, but make it for pitching, and not to try to win this season, but to win in the future. Instead of trading for a bat, the Mets should trade a bat, and trade their best bat, because that will get you more value for the future.
Under Minaya’s tenure, the Mets have always played for this season and to win now. Now, it is time to change course and build for the future.
The future is with a potent rotation based upon good young arms that, while pitching half their games in spacious Citi Field, will not be afraid to throw strikes.
The Mets should pursue a trade with the Boston Red Sox that sends third baseman David Wright and Fernando Martinez to the Red Sox in exchange for CF Jacoby Ellsbury, RHP Clay Buchholz, AA 1B Lars Anderson, and any two of Justin Masterson, Daniel Bard, and Michael Bowden.
This trade does three things.
First, it improves the stable of young major league-ready arms for the Mets. Second, it gets the Mets their power hitting first baseman of the future. Third, it kills the Mets’ crosstown rival New York Yankees, who see the Red Sox improve an already potent lineup with the addition of the power-hitting Wright.
Just imagine the righty-hitting David Wright in Fenway banging line drives off and hitting towering drives over the Green Monster, and doing it in a big series against the Yankees!
The Met fans will enjoy their take of the loot too, as Buchholz and Masterson/Bowden step right into the rotation, and Ellsbury provides a solid leadoff hitter and great defense.
Ellsbury at the top allows Reyes to move into the middle of the lineup, where his 190-plus hits every year will plate 120 runs, many of them scored by Jacoby.
Anderson is a big power hitter, providing necessary power for the Mets for years to come. He should be ready for the majors next year, and whoever loses the first base battle between Anderson and maybe Ike Davis, the Mets’ first-round pick last season, moves to a corner outfield spot or is trade bait for more pitching.
Ellsbury is a proven major leaguer, something the Mets do not yet have in the young but talented Martinez.
F-Mart’s youth and their potent lineup allow the Red Sox to groom him slowly for center. The 20-year-old would get a few months of seasoning in AAA and would be brought back up in September.
The Mets would be wise to explore this option soon, as the Cleveland Indians have scouted the Red Sox’s minor league system in anticipation of the Sox making a run at Indians catcher Victor Martinez.
The Red Sox need extra offense, and by getting the powerful Wright to play third, they can move Kevin Youkilis back to his comfortable first base, having cornerstones at first and third through the year 2013, which are club options for each player.
The Mets can fill their third base need with a free agent in the offseason for a one or two-year deal.
The future at third, however, is currently a shortstop in the Mets system. Wilmer Flores is only 18 but currently stands at 6’3″ and 175 lbs. This is an Alex Rodriguez and Cal Ripken type of physical stature, and it will be more beneficial for him and the Mets if he switched over to third base.
Flores is very adept with the bat, and although he does not walk too much yet (only a .325 OBP at Low A), he also does not strike out much (only 38 K’s in almost 300 PA).
With the big park a major factor and the lack of quality arms in their system, the Mets need to merge the two. That means trading their big bat in David Wright for some proven speed and defense (Ellsbury) and some power arms to build up their stable of pitching talent.
Combining these pitchers with 23-year-old Jonathan Niese, having a good season at Triple A, the Mets can be a force in the National League East for years and help bury the crosstown rival Yankees in the same process.