When I first heard this trade early this afternoon, I was actually in my car and I literally had to pull over and let it sink in… Then I felt a perfect storm brewing in my head… I was freaking mad…
After hearing all this hype about what a talent Lastings Milledge was, and how he was going to be in our outfield for years and years, what happened?
Wasn’t this the same Lastings Milledge that was deemed untouchable only two seasons ago when the Red Sox wanted to trade us Manny Ramirez??
Needless to say I went back to work, confused, irritated, and feeling let down. I heard all the calls on WFAN from other outraged Mets fans sprinkled in with Yankee fans who were laughing their asses off. I heard Mike and the Maddog rip the trade from all angles all afternoon. When they said that Omar Minaya would be a guest at 4:30 PM I thought, let me hear what Omar has to say. Maybe he can impart some words of wisdom or at the very least encouragement so that I can feel better about what had just transpired. You know what?? He did just that. Omar told us why he made the deal, why it improved the Mets for 2008, and why he felt he had to move Lastings Milledge. It all made sense.
Let’s look at the right field situation first. Omar said he thought Ryan Church was better defensively and offensively than Lastings Milledge is right now. I agree with Omar on this. The 29 year old Church,had his first full season in the majors in 2007 and batted .271 with 15 homeruns and 70 runs batted in. His on-base percentage was .349 and his slugging percentage was .462. He also connected on 43 doubles. He did all of this while playing in a notorious pitchers park that has robbed many a player of his power and average.
Omar seems to think that his numbers will improve significantly at Shea Stadium. Maybe 10-12 of those doubles would have gone over the wall at Shea, who knows for sure, but one thing is certain, I do believe Church will out-produce Milledge for the next two seasons at the very least.
I still believe that Milledge will become a very good ballplayer in the major leagues, but he clearly was not there yet. Church has a tendency to strike out a lot, so I would say he probably gets penciled into the number six spot of the lineup behind Delgado and Alou. Defensively he is an excellent corner outfielder with a strong arm, good instincts, and gets a nice jump on the ball. Minaya said that he would be the everyday right fielder, but I could see him being worked into a platoon if the Mets pick up a solid right handed bat.
Okay, let’s take a look at Brian Schneider…
To begin with, he is a left handed batter. This would make for an excellent platoon partner for Ramon Castro. Minaya has always loved him, and it’s easy to see why. He is regarded as one of the better defensive catchers in the game and is well thought of by all of his pitchers, past and present. Last season he threw out 31% of attempted base stealers, which was actually low for him, but infinitely better than Paul Lo Duca, Ramon Castro and Johnny Estrada.
Offensively, don’t expect much more than a .250 average and around 50 RBI’s, but he has a good eye at the plate and had as many strikeouts as walks last season with 56. He’s by no means an easy out and he does turn it up a notch in clutch situations. At 32 years old, he is five years younger than Lo Duca.
I’m not thrilled about losing Lastings Milledge. But, I am also much more calmer about the situation than I was when I first heard the deal this afternoon. There was not one team out there who regarded Milledge as highly as us Mets fans did. We all like to feel our prospects are better than what they really are.
You can count on one thing after this trade. The Mets are significantly a better defensive team going into next season, and they didn’t take that much of a hit offensively to do it.