The routine mantra of most GMs is, “never give a starting pitcher more than a five year deal”. The thinking being that the proclivity for injury in that time span is just too high. But, if there’s one exception to that rule, it is probably Johan Santana– the best pitcher in baseball.
SI.com and FoxSports.com have just confirmed a deal between the Twins and Mets for Johan Santana. The Mets now have a 72-hour window to come to terms with Santana on a contract extension. It’s believed that the Mets would like to sign the left handed 28-year old pitcher to a five-year deal, while Santana is seeking a six or seven year deal. If you consider that Barry Zito, who is ten months older than Santana, received a seven year deal from the Giants last season, Santana is almost a lock to receive the same length of contract. It is also highly unlikely that the Mets would agree to this deal if they weren’t willing to meet Santana’s contract demands.
While the nuts and bolts are being fastened, Mets’ fans should expect to pop the champagne cork by this Friday at the latest. While the names of the players going from the Mets to the Twins hasn’t been confirmed, USA Today is reporting that the quartet heading to Minnesota will be, OF Carlos Gomez, SP Deolis Guerra, SP Kevin Mulvey, and SP Philip Humber. Jon Heyman of SI.com mentions that there has been talk of substituting swing pitcher Jorge Sosa for Humber, and there have been rumors that the the Mets’ top prospect, OF Fernando Martinez could still replace Gomez. However,giving more clout to the USA Today report is the news that the Mets did call Gomez back to the states the other day even though his winter ball team was in the midst of the Caribbean World Series.
If the Mets indeed have dealt Guerra, Gomez, Mulvey, and Humber and we were to use the Baseball America’s 2008 Top Prospects list as a barometer, then the Mets would be dealing their # 2 (Guerra), # 3 (Gomez), # 4 (Mulvey), and # 7 (Humber) prospects for the right to sign the best pitcher in baseball to a deal that should be the richest contract ever signed by a pitcher. The contract will probably end up looking something like 7-years/$150 Million.
Once the deal is finalized, the Mets will enter the 2008 season with a rotation that will be hard for the rest of the AL East to compete with:
# 1- Johan Santana
# 2- Pedro Martinez
# 3- John Maine
# 4- Oliver Perez
# 5- Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez
So, rejoice Mets’ fans, it’s almost time to celebrate. Get ready to don your # 57 jerseys, break out your “You Gotta Believe” signs, the Mets just got a WHOLE lot better, and Santana-Mania is about to hit the Big Apple!
Carl the Cabbie
Grab your coffee Met-lo-maniacs! Here is the quick & dirty guide to making the 2008 edition of the Mets better. So, sit back, relax, and enjoy my Cabbie three-course meal, specifically prepared for your Mets’ 2008 dining pleasure.
Both Paul Lo Duca & Ramon Castro are free agents, so the Mets need a catcher. Sure the easy thing to do would be to re-sign both guys and maintain the status quo. This would be fine if there was nothing better out there. And if your looking for something better in the free agent pool you certainly won’t find it, unless your fond of a guy who likes to punch out his pitchers (Michael Barrett), or you honestly think that Jorge Posada will jump ship (Not!). No, to find the pearl, sometimes you have to go diving.
My first Cabbie tip for Omar Minaya is for him to use some of those free weekend cell minutes he’s been saving up to say "Hey" to Bill Bavasi in Seattle. Start with a little schmooze, "Hey Bill it’s Omar, how’s it going?… How is old Buzzie doing?… Yeah, I’m sure he misses Montreal as much as I do. Wish ’em my best huh!… Listen, I heard you might be looking for a young starter and maybe some fresh guns to help Putz out in the pen. And with the success you guys have had with that Johjima kid at catcher, I was wondering if you’d figured out what you were going to do with Jeff Clement yet?…" Yada, yada, yada. You get the drift.
So, let’s assume Bill decides to play ball. The Mets get their catcher of the future, a young power hitting lefty. A guy who might only be average defensively, but has the potential to hit a good 30-35 home runs a year with a .280 average. Think the next Todd Hundley. The only question now is, what’s the final fare? Hmmm, well considering the guy was the # 3 pick in the 2005 draft and he plays a high-need position, you’re not gonna just get him for some sandwich meat. But, I’ll bet a young set-up guy with plenty of arbitration eligible years left, plus a former 1st round starter could do it.
Mets get C Jeff Clement
Mariners get RP Aaron Heilman and SP Philip Humber
What do the Mets need more than anything else? How about a couple of RELIABLE relievers. Yes, yes. But, let’s be more specific. Well, it seems that the only good relievers we do have, pitch from the left side. And if we trade Heilman, we’ll need at least two good right handed relievers. Some might say we even need three, but I’m an optimist. I’m going to count on either Duaner Sanchez or Ambiorix Burgos staying healthy next year. However, since I’m no longer an idealist, forget about Guillermo Mota or Joe Smith being anything more than extra-inning fodder.
What to do? Ah, I got it! Terry Ryan just left for the president’s lounge. That means new GM Bill Smith is probably chomping at the bit to make his mark in Minnesota. Omar, call Bill immediately! He’ll probably just be impressed that you know his number. Since he’s been in their organization forever, I’m sure you’ve run into him at a GM meeting or a Rule 5 draft. So, start out like he’s your long lost buddy, "Hey Billy boy how’s it goin’? Congrats on the job, no one deserved it more than you! Hey listen, I know Pohlad’s accountant must be driving you crazy. My hat goes off to you. Figuring out how to keep Johan and Morneau is hard enough, let alone dealing with Joe Nathan and maybe losing Tori this year. But, that’s why I’m calling Bill. I think I can help." Yada, yada, yada.
Now, before you get ahead of yourselves Met-lo-maniacs, I’m not even dreaming of trying to trade for Johan Santana. Remember, I’m not an idealist anymore. No, we want Joe Nathan, the perfect right handed compliment to Billy Wagner in our pen. And I think I know just how to get him. When Tori Hunter officially leaves, the Twins will have a gaping hole in center. Perfect! We can offer them either Carlos Gomez or Fernando Martinez, two of the best CF prospects in the game. As the old adage goes, ‘you can never have enough pitching’, so we toss them a 6′ 10" 2nd round lefty stud from last year’s draft and WHALLA Nathan is a our new set-up man.
Mets get RP Joe Nathan
Twins get CF Carlos Gomez and SP Scott Moviel
This one is simple. It’s just about cost and risk. With Nathan aboard we have a dominant set-up guy, but we still need a solid seventh inning guy. Now, before you all jump on me about his injury history, I want to point out five reasons the Mets should sign RP Kerry Wood.
1. He’s still only 30 years old
2. He’s an incredibly dedicated and hard worker
3. He had a 3.33 ERA with 24 K’s in 24 IP after his long awaited return
4. He was clocked at 98 mph by the end of the season
5. He would cost you less than what you pay Guillermo Mota
Let’s recap. After this fine Cabbie dining delight, the Mets end up with Jeff Clement as their new catcher, and Joe Nathan and Kerry Wood as their new right handed set-up men. And all this can be ours Met-lo-maniacs for the modest fare of outfielder Carlos Gomez, and pitchers Aaron Heilman, Philip Humber, and Scott Moviel (2007 2nd round pick).
Now Go Chew On That!
Cabbie’s Prescription For Mets’ Fans
My suggestion to all Mets’ fans is to take off tomorrow and
sleep the day away. If you’re musically inclined, a little blues harp
under the light of the moon would probably being soothing to the soul.
And if you really find yourself unable to function, I would suggest a
swift and sudden tirade. Throw a chair, break a glass, pick up your
dog’s droppings with a Tommy Glavine
card. The long and short of it is to take the day and let yourself
express the agony of the worst September collapse in New York baseball
If you follow my advice I promise you’ll feel less worse on Tuesday.
And hopefully by Wednesday you’ll feel well enough to watch what should
be one heckuva postseason.
A Couple Of Playoff Notes For Non-Mets’ Fans
If you’re a Philly-fanatic, you’ve got to be ecstatic that the Padres and Rockies are playing a one game playoff tomorrow (Jake Peavy vs Josh Fogg).
Not only will the winner only have one day of rest before they travel
to Philly, but if the Padres win, the Phillies will only have to face
Jake Peavy ONCE! That’s a huge advantage for Philadelphia.
Padres’ fans might need to coalesce with Mets’ fans by the end of the
week. Besides blowing a nice wild card lead over the Rockies over the
past two weeks, they have to travel to Colorado tomorrow with the most
injury ravaged team that’s still alive for the playoffs. Their have
been plenty of signs in the past couple of weeks that karma might not
be on their side.
First, Mike Cameron gets a viral infection and misses a bunch
of games. When he finally returns last Sunday, he tears a ligament in
his thumb. His availability for the playoffs is now in doubt. Next,
they lose their best hitter, Milton Bradley, to a torn ACL when Bud Black, the Pads manager, throws a ballistic Bradley to the ground while trying to prevent
Bradley from ripping the first base umpire’s head off.
If those two major injuries weren’t enough to make Pads’ fans doubt their
team’s destiny, the Rockies win 13 of their final 14 games, including a
three game sweep of the Padres in San Diego.
Mr Padre’s Son Beats Padres—Ouch!
But, the omen of all omens that would really make me shutter if I were a Pads’ fan happened in the
bottom of the ninth on Saturday. With Corey Hart on second and the Pads one out away from clinching a playoff berth, all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman faced off against Tony Gwynn Jr.,
the son of the greatest Padre ever. Hoffman tossed eight straight
changeups at Gwynn Jr. before Gwynn hooked one into the rightfield
corner for a game tying triple. As karma would have it, the Pads would
go on to lose the game a couple of innings later.
AL Playoff Notes
Angels’ fans have to be delighted with how Kelvim Escobar pitched on Saturday. He looks good to go for Game 2 of the ALDS.
Since the Red Sox won home field advantage, they will get an extra
day off during their series with the Halos. That means they can use
just three starters if they want should the series go five games. Both Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka would be available to pitch twice on normal rest.
The Yankees on the other hand will now have to use four starters should their series go four games. That leaves Joe Torre with a big decision. Does he start veteran Mike Mussina if there’s a Game 4 or young phenom Philip Hughes? Who ever doesn’t get the Game 4 start would be up early in the bullpen for Game 3 in case Roger Clemens‘ bum hammy is still giving him problems next Sunday.
The postseason starts Wednesday, so get your rally caps ready fans,
the first round match-ups look to be the most competitive they’ve been
in quite a while.
Wed. October 3rd
Angels @ Red Sox (John Lackey vs Josh Beckett)
Cubs @ Diamondbacks (Carlos Zambrano vs Brandon Webb)
Padres or Rockies @ Phillies (Greg Maddux or Jeff Francis vs Cole Hamels)
Thurs. October 4th
Yankees @ Indians (Chien Ming Wang vs C.C. Sabathia)
My good karma gestures of the week go to the Washington Nationals. Matt Chico, you can ride in my cab for free anytime. Jason Bergmann, I will wear a "Jason Bergmann is the best pitcher in baseball t-shirt" for an entire week if you beat the Phils tomorrow. And a big Cabbie shout-out to John Maine, you were fan-FREAKIN-tastic today! Same goes for you Lastings Milledge. O’k, now back to work.
Coach Cabbie’s Pre-Game Speech To The Mets (Game 162)
I offer you nothing but tough love. I’m glad to finally see some fire in the old gut. Mets’ fans have been waiting. A matter of fact, I think Mets’ fans have shown a tremendous amount of faith and support this entire month, even through the late September slide. As players and coaches, we now need to show the same effort and heart as we’ve gotten from the fans all year long.
So, make sure you run out every ball tomorrow Reyes… Don’t leave the bat on your shoulder this time Beltran… Delgado, pay attention to that shift like you did today and keep going the other way… Watch the uppercutting Wright, we just need a bunch of base hits… Moises, lay off the inside pitch… Tommy G, do your thang… Bullpen, forget the past and throw STRIKES… And Willie, everybody but Maine should be available, including Ron Darling up in the booth if you need him. It’s now up to every single player and coach to man-up and get the job done!
Stay focused, get a good night’s rest, and let’s show some patience with Dontrelle tomorrow. No more tightness, we’ve already blown it, and thanks to Matt Chico and the Nationals we still have a shot.
So, play with all you got and stay loose as a goose. Loose as a goose, one pitch at a time… those are my Cabbie words of wisdom for ya.
So, it comes down to this— Three home games against the club with the second worse record in the NL. Three home games against a team the Mets are 10-5 against this year. Three home games against the highly dubitable troika- Byung-Hyun Kim, Chris Seddon, and Dontrelle Willis, and their combined 5.59 ERA. The Mets, they throw their three best- Oliver Perez, John Maine, and Tom "300 Wins" Glavine.
A Message From George Steinbrenner
For any Mets’ fans who are disgusted or are losing sleep over the
fact that the Phillies are now tied for first with the Mets, think of
it this way— If the Mets don’t win the division, not only don’t they
deserve to be in the playoffs, Willie Randolph and Omar Minaya need to
A Message From Cabbie
Here, Here! I hope you are listening Mets’ players, because you’ve
all played like a bunch of scared headless chickens these past two
weeks. Do you want to be the first team ever to blow a 7 game lead with
17 to play? I hope you feel the pressure, cause it might be the only
thing to wake your arses up. Enough coddling, enough wishing, enough "waiting to lose"
(as Paul lo Duca said yesterday). Enough is enough! Play like your life
depends on it, and just win the darn thing already. Mets’ fans deserve
OUCH! Watching the Mets is becoming more painful than a nightly root canal. A week ago Willie Randolphand Mets’ fans were thinking about who we should rest down the stretch
and here we are five days later crossing our nail bitten fingers, and
praying to the baseball gods that we’ll even make the playoffs. So what
the heck has gone so wrong?
A. Willie Randolph’s brain has gone numb
B. The Mets are playing the field like the Keystone Cops
C. The Mets bullpen STINKS!
D. All of the above
Auditioning For The Part Of The Scarecrow In The Wizard Of Oz
Message to Willie, STOP using Jorge Sosa, Scott Schoeneweis, Aaron Sele and
There’s a reason all four of them were still free agents a month before
the season began. Next time the Mets need a reliever before the 7th
inning, I call on all Mets’ fans to yell the name Philip Humber
at the top of their lungs. ****, we only drafted this guy in the 1st
round a couple of years ago. You’d think Willie would want to find out
if he could help the weakest part of this team. Look how it panned out
for Joe Torre when he gave Joba Chamberlain and Edwar Ramirez a shot.
6 errors in one game! 12 errors in 4 games! Willie, make this team
play Pepper every day for the next two weeks. If that doesn’t tighten
things up, hire a Lasik surgeon as your team doctor and petition the
commissoner for an extra fielder.
Firemen or Arsonists?
The four aformentioned arsonists have pitched a combined 262.1 innings this year to the tune of a 5.11 ERA and a 1.51 WHIP. If you subtract the 80 IP
Sosa threw as a starter, these four account for 48% of the Mets’
bullpen innings this season. Willie needs to watch more basketball. In
the NBA, there’s an old strategy teams employ during the stretch run,
it’s called "shortening the rotation".
Time to face the hard facts Willie- You have two pretty good relievers, Aaron
Heilman and Pedro Feliciano, and a lights out closer, Billy Wagner. You
need at least two more reliable guys for the playoffs. You have 12
games to find out who they are.
The time has come to make bold moves. With Pedro "Maestro" Martinez
back in the fold, the Mets have five starters. That means one of them
is going to end up in the bullpen SHOULD we make the playoffs. Tom Glavine and Martinez are the top two starters, and Oliver Perez is way too wild to count on to enter a game with men on base. So, there are only two choices- Orlando Hernandez and John Maine. While El Duque has pitched in relief before, his body is just too finicky at his age to
be counted on to pitch every two or three days. That leaves the young and fresh arm of John Maine.
While Maine has been god-awful the past two months, most of his
troubles have come the third time through a lineup. And for good
reason, he lacks a solid third pitch. But, the two good pitches he does
have are more than enough for him to be successful for an inning or
two. His fastball/slider combination is a deadly duo that could work
perfectly in a seventh or eight inning role.
Unfortunately, Omar Minaya made some bad decisions after the
All-Star break. Not adding an arm before the trade deadline could prove
to be the Mets’ downfall. Not adding Humber or Kevin Mulvey
(the Mets’ minor league pitcher of the year) before September has
limited the Mets’ options even further come playoff time, since neither
would be eligible for the playoff roster.
Cabbie Recipe For Success
The good news is that all is not lost, and the Mets are still
leading the Phillies in this race to the ribbon. Remember Mets’ fans,
the Cardinals were stumbling to the finish line in similar fashion last
year. But, it is time for Willie and his crew to wake up. So, here’s my
Cabbie recipe for repairing this train wreck of a bullpen:
1. Get John Maine prepared for a late inning role NOW!
2. Use Philip Humber and Mike Pelfrey as much as needed over the next two weeks.
3. Soak El Duque’s foot in Epson-salt.
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)