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Let the Disappointments Roll

by: Bryan Zarpentine

In the past week the Mets have seen their offseason go from bad to bleak. While in St. Lucie with the handful of players participating in mini-camp, Omar Minaya watched as the last remaining options of a weak free-agent class find homes elsewhere, leaving the Mets scrambling to find anybody who could help fill their needs.

Starting pitchers Ben Sheets and Jon Garland both signed elsewhere, without so much as an offer from the Mets. With Garland, little blame can be put on the Mets front office since he had no intention of signing with an east coast team. However, in the case of Sheets, A’s general manager Billy Beane assumed that the Mets would easily outbid him for the pitcher. Instead, Minaya failed to even make an offer for a pitcher who would have given instant credibility to starting rotation and created a 1-2 tandem with Johan Santana that could rival any in baseball including the Phillies Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels. All of this has left the free agent market with no starting pitchers that can be considered an upgrade to what the Mets already have.

This week also saw the signing of former Met Xavier Nady, who may have been the best available option for a right-handed platoon at first base. Instead Omar Minaya decided to bring back Fernando Tatis, an aging player who is not a great defensive first baseman, had a knack for hitting into double plays at key moments last year, and has no where near the power and RBI capabilities as Nady. Even without signing Nady, the least the Mets could have done was give Nick Evans a chance to be a right-handed platoon with Daniel Murphy. At least then the Mets would be getting younger and giving an opportunity to a player who still has room for improvement, if only given the chance.

Also over the past week there have been signs that Orlando Hudson is fielding serious offers and preparing to sign with a team, while the Mets have yet to find a suitor for Luis Castillo or appear willing to sign Hudson regardless and relegate Castillo to a bench role. Thus, they have missed out for the second consecutive year to make a significant upgrade at second base; in a year when they needed to find a difference maker at such a key position.

In fact, the one move that Omar Minaya did make in the past week is one that is inherently hurtful to the club. While Minaya should not be criticized for wanting to sure up the outfield with Carlos Beltran injured for at least the first month of the season, the Gary Matthews Jr. for Brian Stokes trade was not a good one. It’s not that Gary Matthews Jr. is a bad player, incapable of being a 4th or 5th outfielder, because that’s not true; but there was no need to trade for such a player with the likes of Reed Johnson, Ryan Freel, Endy Chavez, and Alfredo Amazega still available on the free agent market. All of these guys are younger than Matthews Jr. and could have been signed to minor league contracts for less money than Matthews Jr. and without a two-year commitment or giving up a player in return. Regardless of whom they received in return, trading away Brian Stokes is a big blow to the bullpen. Stokes was arguably the most consistent bullpen arm the Mets had over the past two years. In his place the Mets have brought in Kelvim Escobar and Ryota Igarashi, two guys that are not guaranteed to bring the consistency Stokes has the past two years.

So now with Spring Training just around the corner, and the hot stove season coming to its conclusion, the Mets must prepare to move forward with its current roster, as the possibility of making any acquisition that could improve the team significantly appears to be bleak. Instead they must move forward, hope to stay healthy, and hope that the “maybes” and the “what ifs” pan out enough to make them a winning ball club.

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