As one of Omar Minaya’s biggest supporters, I do believe it will be time to demote him after this season. When you take a look around the big leagues, you notice there are eight teams that will continue to operate with a team salary of over $100 million. Those teams are the Yankees, Mets, Cubs, Red Sox, Tigers, Angels, Phillies and Dodgers.
There seems to be one glaring difference between their General Managers and ours, and one word comes to mind thanks to some Theo Epstein quotes in “Yankee Years.” That word is, Bold. In case you haven’t read the book, Epstein discusses in detail how it took one big off-season to really create a rivalry and legitimize the Red Sox franchise. That off-season was 2003, and he credits it to the fact that they were Bold in their efforts.
While I was in San Diego, I saw Minaya on the field with the team, and surrounded by reporters. Word was starting to come out that maybe John Ricco would become Minaya’s replacement, something that if it’s true, will come as no surprise to Minaya. All I kept thinking about was how no matter who has this job next year; their goal needs to remain the same. They need to figure out how to turn this franchise, into those other 8 teams. Those other eight teams are not only putting a consistently good team on the field, but they are also giving their fan base what they want during the off-season, and in the trade market. Effort.
Whether it’s Omar Minaya or John Ricco, the Mets have catching up to do. Here are a few items I think are realistic goals for the off-season, and will not only build a competitive team in 2010, but also set a tone for winning consistently, not just winning in a four year timeframe. Again, keep in mind, whether we want to admit it or not, 2007 and 2008 were not Minaya’s fault. He did enough to build a championship caliber team. The problem was, this year, 2009, was likely the end of the plan.
Let me just say, these are of course opinion. None of us are qualified to make real baseball decisions, but we can try to find realistic solutions to the problems that drive us to drinking. I keep reading how the Mets have something like only $20 million to spend on salaries next year in free agency. I don’t believe it. The main reason I do not believe it is if next year’s team plays as poorly as this year’s team but without major injuries, the Wilpon’s know it’s on them and nobody else. You can’t build a brand new stadium in New York with a lot of taxpayer money, and then claim you don’t have the money to make aggressive offers in free agency to get a winning team here.
So here we go!
#1 – Re-Assign Omar Minaya and promote John Ricco: I truly believe Minaya loves being a part of this franchise. He has a good relationship with a lot of players, and for the most part the media enjoys working with him (except, well you know.) Minaya has absolutely no chance (none) of getting another General Manager job anywhere else, anytime soon. His style of management is being weeded out by a younger generation, and without positive results to back himself up, and of course with the disaster that was Adam Rubin, Minaya’s best bet is to stay within the organization and become a useful asset to the new General Manager.
#2 – Re-structure the on-field management: I love Jerry Manuel as the manager of THIS team. I think no other manager could at least keep the fan base’s hopes alive for as long as he did. Again, take a look at the other managers in the above group. Girardi, J. Manuel, Pinella, Francona, Leyland, Scioscia, C. Manuel, and of course, Joe Torre. Can anybody honestly bring an argument to the table that Jerry Manuel isn’t at the bottom of that list? He’s not a championship manager, nor is he a manager that can attract players to come play in New York under his reign. Guys like Larry Bowa, Bobby Valentine, Buck Showalter are veteran guys who could light a fire in New York just in time for the free agents to make decisions. Another group could consist of Ken Oberkfell, Gary Carter, or Tim Teufel as former players who are all currently managing, and also had respectable careers on the field. Either way, it starts from the top down. You can’t convince a top tier free agent to come play at Citi Field if the manager isn’t somebody they feel can win the big one.
#3 – Trade Carlos Beltran: Mr. Beltran, thank you for all that you have done for this franchise, but we need to move on. Beltran turns 33 around Opening Day next year, and this team is not going to win a championship during the remainder of his contract. He is still one of the best outfielders in baseball and should garner a lot of interest if he were made available. The Red Sox have always been interested in Beltran. The Mets would have to get a big league player in return. With Boston, you have to think Jacoby Ellsbury would be a great fit for this franchise, but if you look at Los Angeles, the addition of Beltran to that lineup would make them a huge threat. The Dodgers could send the likes of Matt Kemp and Russell Martin to the Mets in my opinion, unless Josh Thole is really a big league catcher next year? Either way, Beltran has to go. His contract is too big, and he has to know his time in New York to win a championship has run out. If Thole is not major league ready, the Mets would HAVE to get an outfielder and catcher in this deal in my opinion.
#4 – Be Bold in the free agent market: There are possibly four players who are likely to file for free agency that the Mets should make a Yankees-like push and do whatever they have to in order to get them. In most cases, the Mets would not be competing with a lot of the big market teams for these players.
The first player is Nick Johnson. Quite possibly the most underrated first basemen in the major leagues. A player like Johnson would not only make Keith Hernandez proud, but he’d also make a guy like David Wright a better player in the middle of the lineup. What happens to Daniel Murphy if this happens, is likely he either rides the bench for the year and works on becoming a 2B (which was once the plan,) or he becomes trade bait for a young player. Either way (And I’ve owned Murphy t-shirts since August 08), Nick Johnson would be a perfect 1B for this team moving forward.
The second player is Carl Crawford. I’m assuming here that the Rays will decline his option, since it seems like every year they want to trade him, and they have the young talent to replace him. Crawford would be a perfect fit for the Mets and Citi Field. Close your eyes and imagine a top of the lineup consisting of Crawford and Reyes! He is a very aggressive player, and hustle is never an issue with one of the best base runners in the Major Leagues today.
The third (and this is really in no order,) is either John Lackey or Rich Harden. I think Lackey is more of a realistic acquisition for the Mets, and really is that a bad thing? The Mets wouldn’t ask either of these guys to lead their staff, and as long as they are offered top dollar, why wouldn’t they want to pitch behind Johan Santana? Lackey to me would be a better fit for the Mets, as he is more of a proven big game pitcher than Harden. Either way, the Mets can NOT enter 2010 without a legitimate number two starter. Pelfrey or Maine are third and fourth starters respectively and should not be asked to do more than that. That leaves Oliver Perez as the 4th starter, and then my new 5th starter!
The fourth and final big push would be for Joel Pineiro. We all know about Pineiro by now right? He’s a 30-year-old crazy groundball pitcher. He’s not a superstar, and will not be getting offers for big money spots on a depth chart. He’s a solid 4/5-type starter and a fit for this franchise probably more than any other player available in free agency. He’s not a top tier pitcher, so getting him shouldn’t be too big a problem. To me, a guy like Pineiro would and should love the idea of pitching for the Mets.
#5 – Consider trading John Maine or Mike Pelfrey, along with Jon Niese: Look, Oliver Perez is going nowhere. We’ll have to live or die by his contract, just like we’ve had to do the same with Luis Castillo. Of course, the only way I’d do this is if the Mets could sign Lackey/Harden and grab Piniero fairly cheap. If they can sign then, Maine or Pelfrey can help the Mets gain either quality young prospects or perhaps arms for the bullpen. Starting pitching is at a premium, especially young starting pitching. There would be a market for these guys, but only if they can sign my new #5 guy!
This all could not only help the Mets play catch-up with their competition, but can also build a winning culture within this franchise for several years. Why? Because we’re spending money to make money, while keeping our farm system in tact. There would be no reason to trade the likes of Fernando Martinez, if the Mets take gambles that are certainly worth taking. Imagine what a guy like Martinez could learn with the power of Jeff Francoeur and the speed of Carl Crawford on the big league roster?
Sure, maybe it’s all a dream. But the only other option is to revert back to 2001 and simply waste the talents that guys like Santana, Wright and Reyes have. They are 3 players any team would love to have as their core, and to me there is no sense in sitting around and waiting. There are very few teams who can make strong free agent push’s like the Mets, so they simply need to be the best this off-season. They have the money, they have the atmosphere, and they have the ability, now all they need to do, is be BOLD.