Even when the Mets sputtered into the All-Star break, the most skeptical of fans had to admit that this team still had a chance at either a division crown or a wild-card spot.
While the offense might have been inconsistent, the bullpen not always reliable, and the manager a strategic misfit, the Mets still boasted some brilliant starting pitching, the resurgence of Wright and Reyes, and the most spunk, heart and personality we had seen in years. If they weren’t quite as talented as the 2006 or 2007 teams, they were certainly better than the 2004 team that the front office misguidedly saw as a contender and forced that regrettable trade-deadline deal with Scott Kazmir.
With the current team still in the post-season discussion, the question the last few weeks has been what kind of starting pitcher or relief help does Omar shoot for before the deadline. Well, here’s the reality: If Jose Reyes continues to show he can break down at the drop of a bunt, Jason Bay provides no signs he will return to Red Sox form, K-Rod always a late-inning accident waiting to happen, and Mike Pelfrey reverting to his former psychological mess, no deadline deal will give this team a chance at meaningful October baseball.
But in spite of all those obvious problems, which may never abate, we still shouldn’t throw in the towel on this season, especially since the team can’t be eliminated from the race on July 31. If Omar can bring in a Ted Lilly or a Jake Westbrook and an Octavio Dotel (or reasonable facsimile) without trading top tier prospects, he should do it. However, he also should be pro-active and consider dealing guys on the current major league roster who might bring back some valuable pieces to build on for next season. It’s time for Omar Minaya to really get creative and make the Mets buyers AND sellers.
Here’s a list of six players Omar should consider moving who could bring back some building blocks without necessarily ending the team’s chances to win a wild-card this season.
1. Oliver Perez: I admit this is going to be a tough road to hoe. Who really wants a guy who gives head cases a bad name? Well, I would trade our problem child in Perez for the Cubs’ drama king Carlos Zambrano in a heartbeat. The Cubs want to unload the hot head and his hefty contract and they’d get salary relief even if they took back Perez’s contract. Zambrano still has upside if he gets a change of scenery and could help next year, if not this one.
2. Luis Castillo: I admit I’m not up on which contenders need a second baseman right now, but if there is one out there, I’d send them Luis for a prospect and eat some of his money in the process. Classic addition by subtraction.
3. Rod Barajas: His early season slugging helped the team get taken seriously in the race and he’s great in the clubhouse (although I think his backstopping prowess is overrated), but he’s completely collapsed offensively (he had plenty of holes to begin with) and at his age there is no future for him on this team. Did anyone ever think he was anything more than a stop-gap to begin with? The Mets have been floundering in the catching department since Piazza was done and the time has come to either develop Josh Thole or trade for a young catcher to build around. Thole and Blanco are more than adequate to get the job done for the rest of this year.
4. John Maine: I don’t know what we can get for him at this point, especially since he won’t be able to establish that he’s overcome his problems by the deadline. But given his mound demeanor, lack of command and poor secondary pitches, I’d get him out of here for a bag of balls.
5. Pedro Feliciano: Yes, I agree he has been abused by Jerry, but this guy couldn’t get a good right handed hitter out if his life depended on it and is probably one of the most overrated relief pitchers in the game. Yet he would still have tons of value to a division contender in a pennant race as a situational lefty. Honestly, would Takahashi or Pat Misch in the lefty relief role really be much of a downgrade, if any? Move Pedro now, get a mid-level prospect or two and give the job to one of those guys.
At this point, we pause because you’re probably thinking that number six on the list is going to be Jeff Francoeur. Well, we can’t really trade Frenchy. One, even if a team felt he had some value as a stopgap to replace an injured player, I don’t think that we can get much for him. Two, we would need him to play right field the rest of this year because the sixth player we should move is:
6. CARLOS BELTRAN: You heard me right. This is the scenario I’d been hoping for since Beltran’s operation; that he would come back before the trade deadline and get enough at bats to show teams he still had something in the tank. You want a pitcher to slot in behind Johan or a big time catching prospect or a future closer, then this is the guy who has to go. I’ve always respected Beltran’s talent but his passion has always been lacking and he hasn’t exactly provided inspiration since his return. He could be one hard slide into second base away from a career-ending injury. But do you think the Yankees would take him to play centerfield? In a heartbeat. How about Jesus Montero and that second base prospect Adams? How about moving Beltran to one of those contenders in the NL West, especially the Padres and Giants who desperately need a bat and have pitching chips to trade?
The Mets were as many as 9-11 games over .500 when Beltran was out. Let’s not screw around with Angel Pagan, keep him in centerfield, muddle along with Frenchy in right until the end of the year, and bring in a significant young player or pitcher for Beltran. Not to mention getting out from under the last year of that contract so we might be able to actually sign a GOOD free agent next year.
Omar, it’s time to think out of the box or you’ll be thinking on the unemployment line in October.