For many fans the St. Louis Cardinals’ victory in this year’s World
Series marked the end of the baseball season. But for the hardcore fan,
the season never ends. The games on the field might have stopped for
the moment, but the games off the field have just begun. Here at INSIDE
PITCH we continue our look into the future as the New York Mets’ hot
stove heats up! In our last post we wrote about GM Omar Minaya’s
main offseason priority, beefing up an aging and fragile starting
rotation. Today, we will focus on one of Minaya’s ancillary
priorities— fortifying the bullpen.
The pen was not only the anchor of the pitching staff in 2006, it
was the best bullpen in the NL and possibly the majors (Though I’m sure
Twins’ fans might take umbrage with that statement). The Mets’
relievers provided all the ingredients that go into a great
bullpen—consistency, strikeouts, innings, different looks, effective
lefties, and a dominant closer. They led the majors in wins (32) and
BAA (.239); led the NL in ERA (3.25) and fewest blown saves (15); were
2nd in the NL in saves (43); 2nd in the majors in K’s (485); And only
the putrid Royals’, Cubs’ and Nationals’ threw more relief innings
(542.2 IP). Most importantly, this gutsy group of specialists carried
the entire team to within one game of the World Series with their
stellar postseason performances.
So, it is understandable that when it comes to the 2007 bullpen, the Mets will basically adopt the "don’t fix what isn’t broken"
philosophy. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t tinker a bit. The one
major change that fans can expect next season is the probable trading
away of elite set-up man Aaron Heilman.
There are many flags pointing in Heilman’s direction as the odd-man
out. For one, Minaya will need to deal from the team’s strength if he
decides to land a legitimate starting pitcher through trade. Secondly,
Heilman sees himself in a starting role, the Mets do not. And thirdly,
with Duaner Sanchez (photo on right) returning from his taxi-inflicted dislocated shoulder the Mets’ need for Heilman has diminished.
In 2005 Rick Peterson helped reinvent 40-old Roberto Hernandez with glorious results. This past season Peterson took aim at lefty retread Darrin Oliver.
After a career of scraping by on relief scraps and as a bottom of the
barrel fifth starter, Oliver at age 35 and in his 12th big league
campaign, finally showed the promise that once inspired the Texas
Rangers to draft him in the third round (1988). For the first time
since his rookie season, Oliver had an ERA (3.44) under 4.00. His WHIP
was a career best 1.12 and hitters batted a paltry .231 against him.
Best of all, Oliver actually became an effective lefty specialist for
the first time in his career. In his first 11 seasons, Oliver could
never be trusted to get a good lefthanded hitter out- they batted a
robust .284 against him. In 2006, Oliver finally realized that as long
as he could get his curveball in the strikezone, there was no reason
to feed lefthanded hitters’ a steady diet of his not-so-fast fastball.
The more he relied on his curve, the better his control became. With
the new found confidence in his best pitch, Oliver posted the best K/BB
ratio (2.86) of his career. So, it was no coincidence that lefties hit
only .208 against him.
Unfortunately for Mets’ fans Oliver won’t be back with the Mets in
2007. But, fortunately the reason he won’t be back is because of a very
talented young lefty named Royce Ring (photo on left).
Ring was a 1st round draft pick of the Chicago White Sox in 2002. The
Mets obtained him as the centerpiece of their deal with the ChiSox when
they traded away Roberto Alomar in 2003. Besides being ten years
younger than Oliver and throwing 8-9 mph harder, Ring possesses an
hellacious curveball that he finally mastered after three years in the
Mets’ farm system. With Billy Wagner as a mentor, Ring has the
potential to be a solid closer one day, but for the time being he will
support Wagner and Pedro Feliciano as the Mets will continue to holster the most dominating lefthanded relief corps in the majors.
Darrin Oliver’s departure will also open up another need for the
Mets— a solid long relief man. My best guess is that control atrist Brian Bannister (photo on right) will
be given first shot at this role. Bannister showed promise as an early
season starter before being derailed by an injured hamstring. His
greatest asset is his cool headed composure on the mound. Even though
he his only 25-years old, Bannister pitches with the guile of a
veteran, and relies on the solid command of a wide array of pitches. He
throws a two-seam (for groundballs) and four-seam fastball, mixes in a
changeup and a curve, and will even throw the occasional slider. Since
he is young and doesn’t rely on searing velocity, his recovery time in
between appearances should be minimal. This is an added benefit for any
long reliever. His ability to spot a starter in case of an ailment is
another caveat that makes him a very suitable replacement for Oliver.
Minaya has done a solid job of locking up his key players with longterm
contracts and recent contract extensions, but there are still a few
Mets’ free-agents that he must make sure don’t slip away. One of those
free-agents was crucial to the Mets’ bullpen success. After spending an
injury plagued 2005 in Beantown USA, Chad Bradford (photo on left)
was reunited with Peterson (his pitching coach form his Oakland days)
when he signed a one-year contract for $1.4 million at the beginning of
2006. Bradford, because of his submarine style, provided Willie Randolph
with a great change of pace option out of the pen. While Bradford has
always been death on righthanded hitters, he learned how to control
lefties this season by commanding the outside corner. Entering 2005
lefthanders had a .309 career Avg against him. In 2006 they hit only
.256, allowing Bradford to be more than a one or two batter pitcher.
Bradford also added to his resume as a clutch performer. In the 2006
postseason Bradford was the Mets most effective reliever going 5.2 IP
without allowing a run. In 17 career postseason games Bradford has
never allowed a run. For Minaya to lock Bradford up, he will most
likely have to offer him a two-year deal in the neighborhood of $4 or
$5 million dollars.
In August, after the Sanchez injury, Minaya had seemingly found gold when he saved Guiilermo Mota
from the Cleveland Indians’ dog house. Unfortunately, it now appears
that Mota was nothing more than fools gold. Mets’ fans wanted to
believe that Rick Peterson had pulled off another miracle by helping
Mota rediscover the missing 5 mph that his fastball had lacked for most
of the season. As it turns out, steroids had more to do with Mota’s
turn around than any of Peterson’s tutorials. Because of Mota’s
deceptive violation of MLB’s new performance enhancing policy, he will
be suspended for the first 50 games of the 2007 season. While Mota
could possibly be back for the second half of the season, there will
most likely be an open spot in the pen come spring if the Mets decide
to carry seven relievers as they did most of 2006. While it’s possible
the Mets will bring in a free agent to compete, flame thrower Henry Owens (photo on right)
seems primed to have first crack at the open slot. Owens blew away
Double-A hitters while pitching for the Binghamton Mets most of the
season. Thanks to a fastball that ranges from 95-98 mph, Owens went 2-2
with 20 Saves, a 1.58 ERA, a 0.73 WHIP, and 74 K’s in 40 IP as the
B-Mets’ closer. In his brief stint with the big club in 2006, Owens
showed that if he can gain control of his slider he could be a force
for major league hitters to reckon with.
Hard to believe that Billy Wagner (photo on left)
was the Mets’ least effective reliever in the postseason, but hopefully
he will have the chance to avenge his ill-pitching in the 2007
postseason. Despite his hiccup in the playoffs, the fact remains that
Wags is still the most dominant lefthanded closer in the NL. And along
with B.J. Ryan, is one of the two most dominating lefthanded
closers in the majors. In 2006, Wagner reached the 40 Save mark for
only the second time in his career. He ended the season with a
spectacular 2.24 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP, 94 K’s in 72.1 IP and held hitters
to a .219 Avg (lefties batting only .161 against him).
Mets’ Potential 2007 Bullpen:
Closer- Billy Wagner (L)
Setup- Duaner Sanchez (R)
Setup- Aaron Heilman (R)
Middle- Chad Bradford (R)
Middle- Pedro Feliciano (L)
Middle- Royce Ring (L)
Long- Brian Bannister (R)
* Guillermo Mota possibly in second half of season
Middle- Henry Owens (R)
Wow, what a difference 24 hours make. A bevy of high profiled players have blitzed the aisles of Home Depots across the nation scarffing up packing tape by the basketful. Here in New York, the Yankees grabbed the back pages with a steal of a deal for outfielder Bobby Abreu, and then bolstered their bench by acquiring first baseman/outfielder Craig Wilson from the Pirates. But, not to be left out, our friendly Flushing Metropolitans have also joined the trading fray. As of 5 PM Monday, the Mets have completed a deal motivated by the untimely accident of premier set-up reliever Duaner Sanchez. Sanchez separated his right shoulder in a Miami taxi accident late Sunday night. He will be (gasp!) lost for the season. Upon hearing this "black cat" news, Omar Minaya immediately sprang into action to replace this new gaping hole in the bullpen.
Outfielder Xavier Nady (14 HR with 40 RBI and a .265 AVG in 75 games) has been sent to Pittsburgh for 41-year old reliever Roberto Hernandez (2.93 ERA, 1.63 WHIP in 43 IP) and lefthanded starter Oliver Perez (2-10 with a 6.63 ERA and a 1.83 WHIP in 15 starts before being demoted to triple-A). Hernandez returns to Shea, where he revitalized his career last season under the tutelage of pitching coach Rick Peterson. Perez, who only a couple of seasons ago was on his way to becoming one of the elite lefthanders in the National League, will most likely go straight to Norfolk as he continues to try
to overcome his latest bout with "Steve Blass disease" and tame a fastball that he has lost all control of. However, he is still only 24-years old.
The Mets came dang close, as there were rumors rumbling late in the day from the Westin Hotel, to prying vaunted set-up man Scott Linebrink from the Padres in exchange for the newly acquired Perez and Heath Bell. The Padres yanked the deal off the table at the last moment though, most likely because the Mets wouldn’t part with a better prospect then Bell.
It appears that in place of Nady, Lastings Milledge will return to Shea and split right field with Endy Chavez.
Well, Roberto Hernandez is not as good as Duaner Sanchez, and Lastings Milledge, at this point in his development, is not nearly as solid as Xavier Nady. Oliver Perez is a nice gamble, but not someone who will help the Mets this year. With Pedro Martinez back in the fold, maybe John Maine or Mike Pelfrey can help Hernandez fortify the gaping hole left in the bullpen. They both certainly have the stuff to dazzle for an inning or two. Overall, the Mets got a little more vulnerable today, but hats off to Minaya for replacing Sanchez so quickly when faced with so little time.
Let’s hope this traffic accident that cost Duaner Sanchez the season wasn’t the cabbie’s fault. But, nonetheless, I want to issue condolences to the Mets from all the concerned cabbies across the country. If you ever hail my cab Duaner, you’ve got a free fare from me.
While the free-agent market is turning into a small time vending station, the trade market is bracing for a blockbuster of "King Kong" proportions. For the moment, all things Manny go through Baltimore. The latest Manny trade winds are blowing east with heavy gusts towards Shea Stadium. The NY Daily News is reporting a possible four-team deal with Miguel Tejada and Manny Ramirez acting as the center pieces. The Mets, Orioles, Red Sox and Devil Rays are the ones stirring the pot.
First, remember to take anything the sensationalist Daily News says with restraint. While it’s almost a given that Manny is moving on, their are too many pieces to this puzzle to hone in on exactly what players would be involved as part of such a mega-deal. Further complicating a possible four-team deal are the on-going talks between the Orioles and Cubs in a deal that would send Tejada to Chi-town for Mark Prior or Carlos Zambrano. The Mets are also talking to the Rays about a separate deal for Danys Baez to beef up their bullpen. Four-team deals are extremely complicated— for this trade to occur creating the perfect alchemy is the major challenge. According to the News, this is how the trade could shape up:
Red Sox Get
SS-Miguel Tejada (Orioles)
OF-Joey Gathright (Devil Rays)
SS-Julio Lugo (Devil Rays)
P-Matt Clement (Red Sox)
P-Kris Benson (Mets)
Devil Rays Get
3B-Andy Marte (Red Sox)
P-Aaron Heilman (Mets)
P-Jae Seo (Mets)
2B-Kaz Matsui (Mets)
This deal almost makes sense. I still don’t think Tampa Bay or anybody else will alleviate the Mets of their Kaz Matsui burden, but maybe getting Marte would make it worth it for them. The problem with this whole scenario is that I cannot imagine that Orioles’ general manager Mike Flanagan would be willing to part with Tejada for two average starters, who are owed a ton of money, and a shortstop who is a free-agent next season. I’m also dubious of the idea that the Red Sox would part with Marte in any deal involving Manny.
If this trade really does come to fruition, the Mets would probably have to make another deal because they would then be short two starting pitchers. My Cabbie gut tells me that Manny is more likely to end up in New York in a straight deal or a less complicated three-team deal. Also, don’t be surprised if the Angels resurface as a player in the Manny sweepstakes. The Halos need line-up protection badly for Vladimar Guerrero and they are stocked with high-level prospects and bullpen stalwarts. A Kelvim Escobar, Casey Kotchman, Garret Anderson package might be enticing to the Bosox. Furthermore, Arturo Moreno (Angels’ owner) has shown that he is willing to spend for star power, especially if the player is latin. Marketing-wise, the surrounding area of Santa Ana contains the largest per-capita latin community in the Country- a community that would most likely embrace Manny Ramirez as fervently as they did Vlad. Manny would probably feel very comfortable as he would be the 15th latin-born (6th player from the Dominican Republic) player on th Angels roster.
Carl the Cabbie
The New York Yankees came to the shores of free-agency, but had yet to make a splash. Yesterday, was D-Day in the Bronx and they jumped into the water full-force! In a New York minute, the splash caused a ripple that will affect not only the American League (AL) East, but the entire junior circuit. Johnny Damon is one of the top three leadoff men in the AL (along with Ichiro Suzuki and Grady Sizemore). By adding him to an already potent line-up, the Bronx Bombers are as dangerous as ever. Bombers’ general manager (GM) Brian Cashman was banking that Damon and his agent, Scott Boras would come down in their demands from seven to four-guaranteed years. At 32 years of age, four years is about what Damon has left as a dominant player. Once the Los Angeles Dodgers dropped out, there was no team willing to go past four years (The Baltimore Orioles discussed offering Damon five or six years, but never got into serious discussions with Boras). It came down to the Boys in Beantown versus the Bronx Bombers. After the Yankees $52 million offer was tendered, the Red Sox had a chance to match. But, the new young guns in Boston’s front office (Ben Cherington and Jed Hoyer) blinked in the end and decided to pass, making Johnny Damon the new center fielder for the New York Yankees.
The Yankees were busy on another front while they were winding up the Damon negotiations. Early yesterday, they signed former Met and injured closer, Octavio Dotel to reinforce their bullpen. Dotel is the latest former fire-baller coming off of Tommy John surgery. The Yankees guaranteed Dotel $2 million for the season and gave him the chance to earn another $3 million to $4 million in incentives. Like Damon, Dotel is 32 years old. He has been a closer or dominant set-up man for most of his seven-year career. The progress of his rehabilitation has the Yankees targeting June or July for his return, just in time for the second half of the season. Last year, Dotel had 7 saves and a 3.52 earned run average in 15 games before opting for surgery. Before getting hurt, Dotel was one of the premier strike-out relievers in the game. In 2001 he struck-out 145 men in only 105 innings and has never had fewer strikeouts than innings pitched in any of his seven seasons in the bigs.
Damon will be joining his fourth team in his 11-year career. Not only has Johnny been one of the most effective lead-off men in the game for the past eight years, but he has also been incredibly durable- not counting his rookie year, Damon has avoided major injuries and has never played in fewer than 145 games in a season. With Derek Jeter, Gary Sheffield, Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui and Jason Giambi hitting behind him, Damon should have no problem extending his streak (8 consecutive years) of scoring at least 100 runs in a season. Heck, with Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, and Robinson Cano hitting at the bottom of the order Damon could drive in 100 runs for the first time in his career. The Yankees hitters’ resumes are so impressive that Damon will sport the second lowest career average in the starting line-up, even though he is a lifetime .290 hitter and has hit over .300 in four different seasons.
While the Yankees starting nine is top-shelf, their bench is mostly driftwood. The present group should see very little playing time. The sprited and hustling Bubba Crosby is presently their fourth outfielder. He is 29, and a lifetime .221 hitter in 163 career at bats (ABs). Long-time minor leaguer Felix Escalona, 26, is their utility infielder. He is a career .209 hitter in 206 ABs. Andy Phillips is another guy who has seemingly laid down roots in Columbus over the last couple of years. Phillips, 29, is the backup first baseman and has a .167 average in 48 major league ABs. Kelly Stinnett is Randy Johnson’s new personal catcher and has the most experience of all the spare parts. Stinnett is 35 years old and a .239 career hitter in 1860 ABs. With the Yanks having cut ties with Ruben Sierra, expect the Bombers to add an experienced and versatile veteran who can play some first-base and outfield. Eduardo Perez and Daryl Ward are two options that Cashman might explore. Another player Cashman has been interested in before, former Oakland A’s outfielder, Eric Byrnes is also available now that the Orioles have non-tendered him.
Scratch Carl Everett off the free-agent list. Everett agreed this week to a one-year deal to become the Seattle Mariners new designated hitter. While the free-agent market is thin, there are still some freebirds out there who can make an indent on their future team’s destiny… but, BEWARE— after the next storm of signings which is about to occur, the pickings will become even slimmer! This is a good time to forecast the impending storm and take a closer look at the top remaining free-agents.
The Yankees and Red Sox continue to be the lead dogs in the Johnny Damon sweepstakes, waiting patiently for agent Scott Boras to nod his implacable head and say yes to a four-year deal. Well, the Yanks and Sox are about to get some more competition. Dodgers’ general manager (GM) Ned Colletti has pushed the envelope- first by hiring Grady Little (Damon’s old manager), then by signing former Damon teammate, Bill Mueller, and now by reportedly offering five guaranteed years and about $50 Million more reasons for Johnny to choose La La Land. However, if Los Angeles signs Nomar Garciaparra their interest in Damon could vanish. The key to the Damon negotiations seems to be the length of the contract. Damon is 32 years old and this is most likely his final big money contract, so Boras in his attempt to increase Damon’s negotiating leverage to its highest potential started the bidding at an unreachable seven-year minimum length contract. The Yankees and Red Sox have both been willing to guarantee up to four years, but the Dodgers might be willing to offer five years. The Orioles also might become players in the Damon derby. After a quiet offseason and a Miguel Tejada tirade, GM Mike Flanagan might feel pressure to sign a big fish in Baltimore. The wheel continues to spin and where Damon ends up is anybody’s guess.
The Blue Jays, Cubs, Twins, Orioles, Pirates and Dodgers have shown the most interest in Reggie Sanders. Since spending the first eight years of his career in Cincinnati, Sanders has become the poster boy for veteran nomads. Keeping with his pattern of a team a year- whoever Reggie signs with will be his seventh team in the last seven seasons. Sanders has never been a durable player, playing at least 140 games only once in his career, but he has always been a consistent run-producer and a good defensive outfielder when he is in the line up. Keep in mind that Reggie has always played in the National League (NL), so the Cubs, Dodgers and Pirates might have the edge in signing him.
The biggest wild-card of the bunch is Juan Encarnacion, as he is likely to sign with one of the teams that misses out on Johnny Damon and Reggie Sanders. Encarnacion is a small notch below Sanders as a hitter, but he is 8 years younger and more durable. One of the advantages of signing Juan is his versatility- Encarnacion has seen extensive playing time at all three outfield positions. He’s cheaper than Damon, more useful than Sanders and would be a nice bargain buy for the Yankees or Cubs, who are both in desperate need of outfield depth. On the heels of trading two outfielders in the Alfonso Soriano deal, GM Jim Bowden and the Nationals have interest and could become a strong contender for Encarnacion’s services.
Jacque Jones, Jeremy Burnitz, Preston Wilson and Rondell White represent the final solutions for teams seeking a starting outfielder through free-agency. All have big swings; all have big holes in their swings; and all are over thirty.
Jacque has the biggest upside because he’s the youngest, and has a smaller hole in his bat than Burnitz or Wilson. Jacque is also the fastest and best baserunner of the three (39 stolen bases over the past 3 years). The Cubs and Royals have been zeroing in on Jones while the Pirates and Cardinals have been monitoring the bidding. The Orioles have also expressed interest recently.
Jeremy Burnitz is only a year removed from his best season ever, unfortunately that was during his one season in Colorado. Teams are wary of signing the 36 year old lefty slugger as a full-timer. Burnitz is a .242 lifetime hitter against lefthanders and is usually good for 120-130 strikeouts a year. Allard Baird the GM for the Royals has had the most contact with the Burnitz camp, while the Pirates have also been mentioned in rumors.
Preston Wilson’s knees are failing him and he is beginning to enter into Rondell White country in terms of reliability. Both are free and both wield strong righthanded sticks when they’re healthy. The Cubs like the fact that Wilson will sign a one-year deal with them while their other favorite, Jacque Jones, will require two to three years. Wilson has also let it be known that the Cubbies are his first choice. Rondell is being looked at by the Astros as a backup if they can’t convince Nomar Garciaparra to come play left-field for them. The Twins and Orioles are also in play as possible destinations for White.
Garciaparra is on just about every teams radar to play just about every position. As for the outfield- the Indians, Astros and Dodgers are all pursuing him for a corner outfield spot. The Astros have moved leftfielder Lance Berkman to first creating an opening in their outfield. The Indians would put Garcy into right if they sign him and platoon Ben Broussard and Casey Blake at first next season. Should the Dodgers sign him, they would use Nomar in left and occasionally at first-base.
Stay tuned! Next blog we’ll look at
the free-agent infielders on the Market.
by John Overmyer
As Bob Sheppard’s voice rings out on opening day at Yankee Stadium, "Now playing first-base for the New York Yankees, Nomar Garciaparra", the Bleacher Creatures’ echoes erupt, "No-Mar Garci-a-Parra…", Nomar tips his cap and Yankee fans cheer deliriously and delightfully. Welcome to the future. Yesterday Joe Torre made his Bronx Bomber pitch to Nomar Garciaparra from his red phone, a rare call that usually signals the gift wrapping is under way. It looks like the Yankees might have three potential hall-of-fame shortstops starting in their infield next year.
Garciaparra’s agent Arn Tellem is one of Steinbrenner’s favorites. He is also Jason Giambi’s agent, which means that if Nomar does sign to play first-base, the Giambino’s move to designated hitter will be assuaged. Now that Blue Jays’ general manager J.P. Ricciardi has said ‘No More’ to Nomar, it appears that the four finalists for Garcy’s services are the Yankees, the Astros, the Dodgers and the Indians. Along with the Tellem angle, the Yankees are the only team of the four willing to keep Garciaparra in the infield. The media attention in New York also creates the perfect market for a great hitter trying to re-establish his value. If Nomar signs a one-year deal for about $4 or $5 million and has a successful season, he will command double that on next year’s free-agent market. The Astros are moving Lance Berkman to first-base and are looking at Garciaparra as a left-fielder, while the Indians and Dodgers are trying to upgrade in right-field. Since all four teams are looking at one-year deals, the Yankees should be able to outbid the others.
Because of two serious injuries (achilles and groin) over the last couple of seasons, many baseball observers perceive Garciaparra as an older ballplayer in decline. But take heart Yankee fans, Nomar is still only 32 years old and would be moving to first base at about the same age as another great former shortstop, Ernie Banks. Banks played another solid eight years and hit 214 of his 512 career home-runs after his positional switch in 1962 at age 31.
If the Yankees do come to terms with the former Bostonian, it would add the latest fire cracker to the fabled Red Sox-Yankees rivalry. Garciaparra would probably hit second in the lineup behind Derek Jeter. He could also slide into the seventh or eighth slot if the Yankees keep second baseman, Robinson Cano in the two-hole. Garciaparra is a lifetime .320 hitter and has the 48th all-time highest career batting average in major league history. He led the American League in hitting in 1999 (.357) and 2000 (.372) and has hit over .300 in eight different seasons.
The Winter Meetings have officially ended, but the lava continues to flow from Wednesday’s and Thursday’s eruption (see yesterday’s blog entry for all the transactions). Earlier today, The Mets completed the Paul Lo Duca deal by sending A-Ball outfielder Dante Brinkley to the Florida Marlins. Brinkley, 24 years old, batted .364 in 214 at bats (ABs) for the Mets’ A-Ball Hagerstown affiliate last season. he doesn’t project as more than a fourth outfielder. Mets’ general manager (GM) Omar Minaya made two other moves— Last night he drafted righthanded pitcher Mitch Wylie (Giants organization) in the Rule 5 draft and today he agreed to a two-year deal with old-timer and pinch-hitter extraordinaire Julio Franco. Wylie is 28 years old and a nine-year vet of the minor leagues. The Mets will have to keep him on the roster all season, otherwise they will have to offer him back to the Giants for $25,000. Because of Wylie’s age and mediocre repetoire the Giants probably wouldn’t want him back, allowing the Mets’ to send him to AAA at some point. Franco is the oldest player in the league (47 years old) and is the only player that has been in the majors longer than Roger Clemens (He broke into the Bigs in 1982 as a member of the Phillies). Even at his advanced age, Franco continues to be a solid hitter. In 2005 for the Atlanta Braves, he hit .275 with 9 home runs (HRs) and 42 runs batted in (RBIs) in 233 ABs. He is a lifetime .299 hitter and should be one of the Mets’ top pinch-hitters this coming season. He will also get an occasional start at first-base and possibly be used as a designated-hitter during interleague games. After signing Jose Valentin yesterday, the Mets’ now have two new utility infielders that are a combined 83 years old.
More Moves Around The League
The Baltimore Orioles are not only having a hard time attracting
free-agents, their lone star player has now asked for a ticket out of
town. Miguel Tejada is tired of losing and has demanded a trade. Tejada is owed quite a bit of money on his current contract and there are only a
few teams that would be able to afford him. The Red Sox could inquire about a possible
Tejada/Manny deal. Stay tuned! The O’s did complete one signing when
they signed yet another past-their-prime player by inking 1B/OF Jeff Conine to a 1-Year/$1.5 Million contract. Conine was previously an Oriole between 1999-2003.
Former Mets’ set-up man, 41 year old Roberto Hernandez has
agreed to a one year deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who might give
him a shot at their closer’s role. The Indians signed utility man and
former Red Sox’ player, Lou Merloni to a minor league deal.
Anaheim Angels great bullpen just got greater! Early Friday, they
completed the one trade of the day thus far when they acquired premier
lefty set-up man J.C. Romero from the Minnesota Twins for infield prospect Alexi Casilla.
The Halos are loaded with young infield talent and Casilla was only
their 4th or 5th best infield prospect. With the price for good
lefthanded relievers always high, it seems like Twins GM Terry Ryan got
very little in return here while saving only a little more than $2
million dollars. Romero is 29 years old and was 4-3 with a 3.47 earned
run average (ERA) last year. Romero’s best season was in 2002 when he went 9-2 with a 1.89 ERA in 81 innings pitched. To make room for J.C. on the 40-man roster the Angels designated catcher Josh Paul for assignment.