Monday, November 28, 2005

Wagner Signed to Four Year Deal

For the second consecutive year, Omar Minaya has made a pair of acquisitions of such impact that he could probably spend the rest of the off-season drinking mojitos and playing XBox 360 without drawing a word of criticism. Not that I have any reason to expect he will do either.

Hours after Carlos Delgado met the press and had is picture taken in a Mets uni, the report came that Billy Wagner will be joining him.

I may appear to have a bias against the "win now" mentality which, it would seem, a fan should like to see from his or her front office. If there's one thing I think I might be guilty of, analysis-wise, it's overvaluing high-grade prospects and undervaluing outstanding veterans. But this deal takes place in a different context than that which saw the Mo Vaughn, Tom Glavine and (cough) Victor Zambrano acquisitions. The Mets now have a legitimate championship-caliber roster.

To look at the heart of the Mets lineup, the starting rotation, and the top portion of the bullpen depth chart is to peep game. Chalk it up to shrewd management, brute financial force, or whatever; it's hard to imagine this team winning fewer than 90 games. I'm excited. Perhaps even... yes, giddy. I'm going to save my final, and far more quantitative, predictions for the spring, but my preliminary diagnosis of the Mets is that they are just plain sick.

Do I wish Omar could have signed Wagner to a 2 year deal instead? Sure, but I'm comfortable with the impossibility of such a deal. And, for all my harping about the overemphasis on the Dominant Closer in baseball, I do look forward to seeing one ply his trade at Shea.

If we get two years and 140 innings of prime Billy Wagner, I can live with what could very well be an underperforming investment after that. The Mets may not win the Series in the next two years, but at the time the deal was done (i.e. today), Mr. Minaya was well within his rights to consider this a team that can "win now," and should be loaded up with the finest, if not freshest, talent available.

Of course, I don't expect the Mets are done shopping. The dual offers to Bengie Molina and Carlos Hernandez are apparently still standing. I'm pulling hard for Hernandez, and wish Omar had focused on him more exclusively, but he can't just keep doing everything we wish for, can he?

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Mets Miss Ryan Express

The most valuable reliever on the market has been scooped up by J.P. Ricciardi's Toronto Blue Jays. Bummer.

I'm not of the opinion that the closer "position" is of vital importance to a team with championship hopes, but dominant relievers are nice to have. Braden Looper, for all his velocity, never was one, but in 2004 he had a career year control-wise and did a very nice job.

If he had come back last year and shown that he had indeed taken his game to the proverbial next level, I wouldn't be anxiously following the Wagner-Ryan sweepstakes... but he didn't, so I am.

Ryan was the play, having been mayor of the next level for the past two years. He hasn't had the career as a closer that Wagner has, but it's hardly his fault that the Orioles kept going to Jorge Julio in the 9th for as long as they did. He's younger and healthier than Wagner, and his stuff is at least as vicious. He also gets bonus points for looking like the corn-fed Pittsburgh closer at the end of "The Natural."

It's not the end of the world, but even if Omar does manage to land Wagner, it's probably going to be with a much longer contract than would be prudent. I've said it before, I don't mind the idea of a Bell-Padilla 8th-9th. Middle relievers can pitch in the 9th. I've seen it happen time and again.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Hot Stove Action Shakes Negligent Blogger Out of Torpor

I apologize for the long layoff. I'll be posting semi-regularly (once or twice a week) through the offseason, before getting back to my every weekday schedule as Spring Training starts up.

For now, the business at hand is the hot stove, particularly the Mets' acquisition of Carlos Delgado. I can't help but think back to last offseason, when the free agent courtship ended on less-than ideal terms (Delgado signs with FLA for a contract of lesser face value, calls out Omar for playing the race card, etc.). Surely, it would have been preferable for that process to have gone smoothly, making Delgado a Met at the cost of cash only, rather than Yusmeiro Petit, Mike Jacobs, and a PTBN named Grant Psomas (all praise to Vinny for the Psomas info and some very thoughtful coverage generally). To say nothing of making him a Met a year earlier, which, I think we can all agree, would have made the '05 Mets a whooole lot better.

On the other hand, that's why they call them free agents, and the trade should be evaluated on its merits. I've made no secret of my fondness for Yusmeiro Petit, whom I consider one of the top 5 pitching prospects in all the land. I am well aware that the book on him is that he gets by more on deception than stuff, and therefore could be susceptible to getting smacked around above Double-A by savvier hitters.

Do I buy this? I do not. I don't care if he tops out at 83 mph. He has 429 strikeouts as a professional against 75 walks, he turned 21 this past Tuesday, and I fully expect that before too long we will wish he were taking the mound at Shea.

Now that I have that off my chest, I think it's a sensible trade by Omar. First base was a crime scene last year, and Delgado's decline from his Toronto hey has been fairly gentle. He's going to be better than, say, Jim Thome next year, and didn't cost as much in terms of '06-big-league talent.

Last year I wrote out what the lineup should look like with Delgado aboard here. With another season and partial off-season under our belts, here's how I would like to see the '06 lineup:

1. Carlos Beltran
2. David Wright
3. Carlos Delgado
4. Cliff Floyd
5. Xavier Nady
6. Ramon Castro (boy, C. Hernandez would be nice here)
7. Kazuo Matsui
8. Jose Reyes

There it is. That's right, for those who had forgotten, I'm that BP-addled guy who hates on Jose Reyes... But there'll be plenty of time to get into that.

Happy Holidays,