Grading the Omar Regime: The 2004-2005 Off-Season

An article by posted on February 7, 2012

The look back at the in depth career of general manager Omar Minaya continues with his first off-season in charge.

To see the full effects of the changes made in the off-season by Omar we must first take a quick look at the 2004 New York Mets. In 2004 the Mets GM was Jim Duquette, the manager was Art Howe, and the team finished 4th in the NL East with a 71-91 record.

Opening Day Lineup: Kaz Matsui (SS), Ricky Gutierrez (2B), Cliff Floyd (LF), Mike Piazza (C), Mike Cameron (CF), Jason Phillips (1B), Karim Garcia (RF), Ty Wigginton (3B), and had Tom Glavine on the mound.

Season Finale Lineup: Jose Reyes (SS), Kaz Matsui (2B), David Wright (3B), Piazza (1B), Cameron (CF), Eric Valent (LF), Victor Diaz (RF), and Todd Zeile (C).

List of Pitchers to Make a Start on the Team: Tom Glavine (33), Steve Trachsel (33), Al Leiter (30), Jae Seo (21), Matt Ginter (14), Kris Benson (11), Tyler Yates (7), Aaron Heilman (5), Victor Zambrano (3), James Baldwin (2), Scott Erickson (2), Dan Wheeler (1).

List of Pitchers to Make a Relief Appearance (min. 5): Mike Stanton (83), Braden Looper (71), Ricky Bottalico (60), John Franco (52), Orber Moreno (33), David Weather (32), Dan Wheeler (31), Pedro Feliciano (22), Heath Bell (17), Mike DeJean (17), Bartolome Fortunato (15), Tyler Yates (14), Jose Parra (13), Vic Darensbourg (5).

Offensive Leaders (min. 150 at-bats): AVG – D. Wright (.293); SLG – D. Wright (.525), OBP – M. Piazza (.362), HR – M. Cameron (30), RBI – M. Cameron (76), SB – M. Cameron (22), R – M. Cameron (76).

Pitching Leaders (min 50 IP): IP – T. Glavine (212.1), ERA – B. Looper (2.70), W – S. Trachsel (12), L – T. Glavine (14), SV –  B. Looper (29), SO – S. Trachsel & A. Leiter (117), CG/SHO – K. Benson & T. Glavine (1)

Wow. If there is one word to sum up this team it would be sorry—despite the fact they had a payroll of $96.7 million. The team was cluttered with aging veterans and marginal role players, while the starting rotation was being anchored by a 39-year-old on his last leg and a 33-year-old No. 5 starter who was known more for his ability to make a game last forever above all else.

If I was to point out any bright spots I would say the bullpen looks like it wasn’t awful and by the end of the year things looked pretty exciting with the emergence of two young kids named Reyes and Wright, who you may have heard of.

Other than those two, it looks like is Omar did not have much to work with when taking over this team. Duquette had shipped away the team’s top prospect for a bad pitcher(the Mets were just six games back of the division lead at the time), the outfield was a mess outside of Cameron, there were questions about where Piazza could play defensively, and the starting rotation needed help in the worst way possible.

I will be grading all of the moves individually on their long term value and then grading Omar on how well he did to help the Mets for the 2005 season alone. Now onto the off-season…


Off-Season Moves:

  • The Mets changed the whole coaching staff (except Rick Peterson) and hired Willie Randolph, Manny Acta, Jerry Manuel, Sandy Alomar, Guy Conti, Rick Down, and Tom Nieto.
  • Minaya declined the $10 million dollar option on Al Leiter.
  • Signed Juan Padilla (league minimum).
  • Re-signed Kris Benson to a three-year, $22.5 million contract.
  • Traded Mike Stanton to the New York Yankees for Felix Heredia.
  • Signed Mike DeJean to a one-year, $1.15 million contract.
  • Signed Ramon Castro to a minor league contract.
  • Signed a 33-year-old Pedro Martinez to a four-year, $53 million contract.
  • Signed Chris Woodward to a two-year, $1.525 million contract.
  • Traded Vance Wilson to the Detroit Tigers for Anderson Hernandez.
  • Signed Marlon Anderson.
  • Signed Miguel Cairo to a one-year, $900,000 contract.
  • Singed Dae-Sung Koo to a one-year, $425,000 contract.
  • Signed a 27-year-old Carlos Beltran to a seven-year and $119 million contract.
  • Signed Roberto Hernandez to a one-year, $600,000 contract.
  • Traded Ian Baldergroen to the Boston Red Sox for Doug Mientkiwicz and cash.
  • Traded Jason Phillips to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Kaz Ishii.

Trades

The Good:

  • Ian Baldergroen for Doug Mientkiwicz: After losing out on the Carlos Delgado sweepstakes the Mets were left with a hole at first base and Mientkiwicz was a respectable option because of his defensive wizadry. Although he wasn’t great with the Mets, and ultimately got replaced by a rookie Mike Jacobs, Mientkiwicz was a cheap stop gap for the Mets and Baldergroen never made it past HiA so it would be hard to consider this a loss.

The Bad:

  • Mike Stanton for Felix Heredia: Stanton wasn’t very effective for the Yankees, but following his release and signing with the Nationals he was a very effective reliever, while Heredia made three appearances and then went on the disabled list for the rest of the year.

The Meh:

  • Vance Wilson for Anderon Hernandez: Neither player made very many appearances for their new team and neither were very effective in those appearances.
  • Jason Phillips for Kaz Ishii: Phillips posted a -0.9 WAR and Ishii posted a -0.2 WAR. So I guess technically the Mets got the lesser of two evils.

Grade: C+

Omar didn’t make any crippling trades, but also only made the Mets insignificantly better. Essentially a push.

Minor Free Agents

The Good:

  • (Declining) Al Leiter: Leiter jumped over to the Marlins on a one-year $8 million dollar deal and turned into a complete bust. He was DFA in the middle of the year and picked up by the Yankees. Leiter wound up finishing the year 7-12 with a 6.13 ERA.
  • Juan Padilla: Had an outstanding year in 2005 while playing for the league minimum, unfortunately he needed Tommy John surgery and never rebounded.
  • Ramon Castro: Omar took a shot on the former top prospect who had some off the field issues, wasn’t expected to even make the team, and then he went on to become the Mets long time backup catcher.
  • Marlon Anderson: Did a terrific job to hit over .300 as a pinch hitter. Anytime you can get that kind of production off the bench you take it.
  • Miguel Cairo: If you go solely by the numbers his season was subpar. However, Cairo does so many things well for a ballclub that cannot be judged on a scoresheet.
  • Dae-Sung Koo: Although he walked too many, he was a respectable lefty reliever and will forever be immortalized for the only hit and run scored in his career.
  • Roberto Hernandez: No one expected anything from Hernandez and he went on to have one of the best years of his career at 40-years-old. Biggest shock/bargain of the season.

The Bad:

  • Mike DeJean: The Mets tossed a million dollars his way and released him by June because of ineffectiveness.

The Meh:

  • Kris Benson: His career with Mets only lasted through 2005, but the Mets were the recipients of Benson’s most effective seasons. If the Mets held onto beyond 2005, there is a great chance I would have in “the bad” section which made me unsure where to place this signing.
  • Chris Woodward: His 2005 was very good, his 2006 not so good. Could say he earned every penny by being an average super utility man.

Grade: A-

2005 was a terrific year for Omar in finding role players. As the saying goes, you are only as strong as your weakest link so the ability to find contributing guys off the bench and in the bullpen cannot be overstated.

Blockbuster Moves

Pedro Martinez: This one is so hard for me too grade objectively. Pedro is my favorite player of all-time and from the minute he agreed to a deal he could do no wrong in my eyes.

Martinez delivered in 2005 and was one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. He carried that success over into 2006 and it wasn’t until that flukey incident against the Marlins when he was asked to go change his shirt because “his sleeves were too shiny” that he slipped in the dugout and injured his hip, which contributed to a series of injuries and Martinez making just 45 starts over the next two and a half years.

Statistically speaking Martinez only earned $33.3 million of the $53 million based on sabermetrics. He had shoulder injuries before signing the contract and the Mets best competition for his services was a three-year $40.5 million offer from the Red Sox so they did overpay a little for him. For those reasons I cannot give Omar anything above a B for this signing.

As much as fans like to refute this idea, the signing of Pedro did have an affect on the culture of the Mets. When Beltran signed with the Mets there were reports that Pedro coming to the Mets (along with $117 million) influenced Beltran to go to the Mets and it increased the Mets’ presence with international free agent in the Dominican Republic. Anyone who was a Mets fan at this time cannot deny the excitement Martinez brought back to the franchise after a few down years the 2000 Subway Series. Mike Steffanos noted following the 2005 season, “Martinez proved to be worth every penny, putting fannies in the seats and creating a buzz every time he took the hill.” That cannot be stated enough.

He was a bit of a disappointment and his health could have had an effected on the outcome on a few heartbreaking memories from this era, but I just can’t bring myself to call the signing of Pedro a complete bust.

Over the four-year contract Martinez went 32–23 in 79 starts, with a 3.88 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP.

Grade: C+

Carlos Beltran: Things got off to a rocky start with Beltran in a Mets uniform. The reports said that he “allegedly” offered himself to the Yankees for a discount and settled for the Mets, which obviously did not sit well with fans. He then added on to the disdain with a mediocre season after being awarded all that money and it left a sour taste the mouth of the fans.

Beltran responded with one of the all-time great Mets seasons in 2006 that helped carry them all the way to the NLCS. Unfortunately Beltran will be remembered by all Mets fans for that flinch and freeze on an Adam Wainright curveball to end the season. It was a legacy defining moment, but outside of that moment Beltran’s Mets career was a success.

By the numbers he was worth $127.4 million so the Mets got their money’s worth out of him, despite Beltran battling with chronic injuries for the better part of two years. Ed Leyro did a marvelous job proving that Beltran was one of the best players in the history 0f the Mets franchise. Definitely worth the read to understand how great of a signing this was.

Beltran batted .280/.369/.500 with 149 homeruns, 550 RBIs, and 100 stolen bases over the seven years with the Mets, while earning five All-Star appearances, three Gold Gloves, and two Silver Sluggers.

Grade: A-

Summary/Overall

The Mets improved by 12 games in 2005 to finish with a record over .500 at 83-79. They finished 3rd in the NL East and were just six games back of the Wild Card. It was a dramatic turn around from 21 games back of the wild card in 2004.

Opening Day Lineup: Jose Reyes (SS), Kaz Matsui (2B), Carlos Beltran (CF), Mike Piazza (C), Cliff Floyd (LF), Doug Mientkiewicz (1B), David Wright (3B), Eric Valent (RF), and had Pedro Martinez on the mound.

List of Pitchers to Make a Start on the Team: Tom Glavine (33), Pedro Martinez (31), Kris Benson (28), Victor Zambrano (27), Kaz Ishii (16), Jae Seo (14), Aaron Heilman (7), Steve Trachsel (6).

List of Pitchers to Make a Relief Appearance (min. 5): Roberto Hernandez (67), Braden Looper (60), Aaron Heilman (46), Heath Bell (42), Dae-Sung Koo (33), Mike DeJean (28), Juan Padilla (24), Manny Aybar (22), Danny Graves (20), Royce Ring (15), Shingo Takatsu (9), Tim Hamulack (6), Mike Matthews (6).

Offensive Leaders (min. 150 at-bats): AVG - D. Wright (.306); SLG - D. Wright (.523), OBP - D. Wright (.388), HR - C. Floyd (34), RBI - D. Wright (102), SB - J. Reyes (60), R - D. Wright & J. Reyes (99).

Pitching Leaders (min 50 IP): IP - P. Martinez (217.0), ERA - R. Hernandez (2.58), W -P. Martinez (15), L - T. Glavine (13), SV -  B. Looper (28), SO - P. Martinez (208), CG - P. Martinez (4), SHO – P. Martinez, T. Glavine, & A. Heilman (1).

While Willie Randolph wore out his welcome fast, I don’t think he was necessarily a terrible manager and if there was one mistake I think Omar made with the coaching staff it was keeping Rick Peterson around. I am sorry, but I think he did more harm than good when he was trying to “fix” young pitchers.

Thinking back to my time as a fan during 2005, I was extremely excited by the future of the team. Omar did a terrific job during his first off-season to bring in marquee names to compliment the young, upcoming players already on the roster who were ready breakout. It was perfect timing to try and start something bigger.

The starting pitching was a major issue in 2004 and he went out and brought in a first ballot Hall of Fame pitcher who served as a Cy Young candidate in 2005.

Seeing the moves he made I think he deserves more credit for the Mets’ success in 2005 than I originally thought he would.

Grade: B+

It was a great off-season for the Mets franchise.

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