Winter Meetings: Where We Were, Where We’re Going?

The 2009 MLB Winter Meetings are now underway in Indianapolis, and will provide fans with either much joy or just as much angst. Last year’s Winter Meetings certainly fit that bill.

In 2008, we suffered through another miserable bullpen, and it seemed like money would be no object to revamp it in the off season. GM Omar Minaya was under the gun to retool the bullpen and deliver a winner. This year, the details of need are different, but the gist is the same. Minaya will under even more pressure to deliver a winner after suffereing though a ridiculous number of injuries and a barren farm system.

The Winter Meetings were in Las Vegas a year ago, and we were witness to a very interesting turn of events:

Hot and Cold

The 2008 Winter meetings were home to two huge deals for the team, which would turn out to have strong and opposite results. The Mets signed Francisco Rodriguez for 3 years/ $37 million; much less than the 5/$75 mil he was anticipating after setting the single-season saves record. Not bad considering that the Mets were the one team that Frankie knew had the money he wanted, and the Mets were looking for the best of the bunch.

The following day, The Mets, Mariners, and Indians swung a three way trade that had All-Star closer J.J. Putz coming to Flushing. Among the notable players the Mets dealt were Aaron Heilman, Mike Carp, and Endy Chavez to Seattle; and Joe Smith to Cleveland. In two fell swoops, it looked like Citi field would be home to the best back-end of the bullpen in the National League.

Or so we thought…

That’s What You Get For Waking Up In Vegas

The Putz deal would go on to be one of the worst trades by the organization this decade. Putz would get injured in May and miss the rest of the season with a bone spur. And ironically, Billy Wagner ends up coming back from Tommy John Surgery, and Putz would never return from his bone spur.

As for the players we gave away, Heilman was later dealt to Chicago, where he was far from inspiring. Endy Chavez suffered a terrible knee injury and missed the rest of the season, and will miss part of this season. Joe Smith only pitched 34 innings due to rotator cuff injury. Mike Carp actually had a good run after he was called up by the M’s, though he is blocked at 1B. We also got Sean Green and Jeremy Reed, but with Reed a non-tender candidate, it looks like the inconsistent reliever Green may be the only thing we have to show for this “blockbuster.”

But this year…

Shut Up and Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Simply put, Omar Minaya’s best deal was his own, as it forced the Wilpons to keep him rather than eat his contract. This was one year he’s like to forget.  Fans can complain in blogs, radio call-ins, or the Mets Merized Chatroom all they want, but the only way to put pressure is to stop paying for the team. The Wilpons have a new stadium that they need to fill, and people will not show up to watch a AAA team, injuries or not. The front office traveled the talk show circuit in October saying that money will be no object. Well, show us. Last year, we fixed the bullpen (or at least it looked that way), but this year we have more holes to fill.

How can they make moves for fans and quality players?

If You Want Me, You’re Gonna Have To Break The Bank

The Mets, according to random rumors, are not expected to be big players in the meetings. Other fan comments (you know, the ones that start with “If I were the GM…”) seem to choose between one big move or a few smaller ones. It may be unlikely that we see any of the second-tier starters go early, as pitchers like Marquis, Harden, etc. will wait to see what John Lackey gets.

Omar Minaya made a statement supporting the likelihood of more trades than signings. Tom Terrific pointed out in his column yesterday that money is the big factor in deals, and it’s true.  But as Joe D. will point out, value is everything, as you can’t just go pumping money into a three year deal for Oliver Perez (wait…). Most likely candidate to be signed looks like Bengie Molina, the only haggle will be how many years. How much will that leave for a #2 starter and a power hitter?

I wish a Katy Perry lyric had the answer to that.

Till Next Time