Exclusive Interview With Star Ledger’s Mets Beat Writer Brian Costa

This past week, New York Mets beat writer, Brian Costa, of the Star Ledger was kind enough to allow me to submit to him questions regarding Mets Hot Stove rumors.

To obtain the questions I scoured the forums, as well as the chat room here at Mets Merized to try to come up with the best and most frequently asked questions regarding the team’s future.

I’m confident that this interview will give you, the fans, valuable insight on the team’s plans for the 2010 season. Enjoy!

PH: It seems that the Mets are making an effort to stock up on catchers this off-season. They have already signed Chris Coste and are rumored to be looking into Henry Blanco and Bengie Molina. That being said, where does this leave Omir Santos, who showed the potential of being a solid backup behind the plate? Could he be used as a piece in a trade to fill one of the team’s other needs?

BC: The signing of Blanco is bad news for Santos, who now appears unlikely to make the Opening Day roster. Santos would be a viable backup, but Blanco will be a better one. If the Mets pursue a trade with a team that could use an extra catcher, sure, it’s conceivable they could throw in Santos. But he would be a very small piece of any significant trade.

PH: Many have criticized Mets GM Omar Minaya over the years for unnecessarily overpaying on veteran players, such as Julio Franco and Marlon Anderson. Recently, he re-signed utility infielder, Alex Cora, to a one year deal worth $2 million dollars with a vesting option for 2011. In your opinion, for a team that is rumored to be cutting back why would Minaya commit so much money to a reserve position that could have been filled at a cheaper price?

BC: I know why the Mets wanted to re-sign Cora, but I don’t know how they arrived at $2 million, other than that’s what his base salary was last year. I agree, it’s a lot of money for a utility infielder. But I don’t think it’s going to have any bearing on whether or not they sign Matt Holliday or John Lackey or anyone else.

PH: It seems as if there are two different schools of thought amongst sports writers on how to “fix” the Mets. One theory seems to be that the team is a couple of free agent signings away from a return to the post-season, whereas the other theory feels that the team needs to rebuild entirely. What is your take on this? Do the Mets need to rebuild entirely or will one or two big-name free agents be enough for a playoff run?

BC: No, I don’t think they need to rebuild entirely. And no, I don’t think a big-name free agent or two is all this team needs. Long-term, I think they need to invest more in their farm system — the draft in particular — because that will be the foundation of whatever success they have in the next decade, especially with other teams increasingly locking up young talent early with long-term deals, which leads to weaker and older free-agent markets. But that doesn’t mean they have to give up on next year. If they address their needs in the offseason and stay reasonably healthy (remember Jose Reyes?) — all major ifs — it’s not crazy to think they could contend for a playoff spot.

PH: Roy Halladay, Matt Holliday, John Lackey, Jason Bay and Adrian Gonzalez are all names that have been thrown around a countless number of times on the Mets blogosphere. Based on your knowledge, which one of these five players do the Mets have the best chance of landing this off-season?

BC: I’m not sure they’ll land any of them, but Holliday and Lackey seem like the most realistic targets at this point.

PH: The Mets have been linked to a number of second tier pitching free agents this year, mainly Joel Pineiro, Randy Wolf and Jason Marquis. Of these three pitchers, who is the best fit for the Mets rotation?

BC: In terms of pure ability, probably Wolf, with Pineiro a close second. But a lot of it depends on how much all three are asking for. Marquis might be a better overall value than the other two, especially since he’s a local guy who would love to pitch for the Mets.

PH: Even with a solid 2009 campaign, Luis Castillo still has about $12 million left on his contract, which is turn off for many of the teams interested in acquiring him. In your opinion, will Omar Minaya be able to move the 34 year-old this winter to clear the way for someone else to take over at second base or should do you think Castillo should return?

BC: They can move him. It’s just a matter of what they’ll be able to get in return, and whether that’ll make it worth doing. It’s good when the other GM says, “Sure, we’ll take Castillo.” Not so good when he continues, “if you’ll take Milton Bradley.” My guess is they’ll find a way to move him and sign Hudson.

PH: Around this time last off-season, the Mets acquired J.J. Putz. Clearly things did not work out the way the team would have liked with him last year. Have you heard if the Mets are keeping in contact with the pitcher’s agent or will the team look elsewhere to fill the setup role?

BC: The Mets haven’t talked to his agent lately, and I expect Putz to sign elsewhere. The bullpen isn’t a priority for the Mets right now. They’ll address their other needs first. Plus, Putz would prefer to be a closer — and if not, then to sign for more money than the Mets are likely to offer.

PH: This isn’t really a hot stove question, but pitcher Dillon Gee turned heads last Spring and had a decent year in Buffalo before being shut down with an injury. Do you have an update on his health and whether or not he will be ready to go for Spring Training this year?

BC: Gee, as you know, is rehabbing from labrum surgery. He is expected to be ready for spring training.

Once again thank you to Brian Costa, who took time out of his busy schedule to answer a number of questions for me. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend checking out his blog on NJ.com, as well as following him on Twitter.