Rounding Out The Bench
As I've stated before in the comments section of my site, bringing back Al Leiter has more ramifications than just spending a rotation spot on him when it is debatable when other options were possibly better. It forces Willie Randolph to go with a seven man bullpen to keep his arms fresh. Every five days there is a strong bet the bullpen will need to shoulder four innings like clockwork should he return. I like having a seven man bullpen for obvious reasons, but this is not the American Leagues and it is not an optimal use of roster spots. The runoff from the seven man bullpen then leaks over to the bench because they have one less person to have riding the pine. With the Mets already carrying two backup catchers, they are for the most part running short on the bench already and with McEwing occupying one of the other spots, they are really running short on capable bats that can send one out of the park in late innings off the bench. Right now, Eric Valent is the only lefty and the only go to guy if the Mets need a long ball late in the game.
The bench currently looks like this:
There is not much to fill at point, but there are two other spots to get guys who can backup the infield positions and another outfielder, one of whom should be a left handed bat. If the Mets can rid themselves of either Wilson or Phillips, then it certainly clears part of the problem and makes the seventh reliever a little less problematic. A strong bench will only help a team that has been injury prone to say the least over the past few years. As for McEwing, I do not mind a utility guy that can play every single position if he is the 25th guy and not relied upon as heavily like he has been over the years. Unless Phillips gets shipped to Oakland, I think the Mets are going to head back into 2005 with two catchers due to Piazza's recent injury bug over the last two seasons. To optimize the remaining spots, I think Rich Aurilla and David Delluci would be good fits. Both guys could hit the occasional homerun off the bench or start in place of a regular while holding down the fort and may actually be productive for an extended period of time. Aurilla can and has played all infield positions and will provide the exact type of infield flexibility off the bench the Mets would need. He is 33 and at this point does not look like a good candidate to land a starting job elsewhere so he should be cheap and willing with to join the Mets since he stands to see a lot of playing time as the regulars drop like flies.
As for Delluci, he had a solid 17 homeruns for the Rangers and is a Gabe Kapler type of guy to have in the clubhouse. He is a good teammate with a good attitude. The fact that he is a lefty also helps balance the bench out. That would leave two left handed backup outfielders, but I'm OK with that since you can plug McEwing out there too. Delluci can also take a walk as outline by his OBP% being .100 points higher than his average in 2004.
I know not many people are going to like the idea of Aurilla, but adding Delluci and Aurilla gives the Mets the ability to cover the field adequately in case of injury while giving them some marginal pop off the bench that they were lacking in 2004 outside of Valent. It does not hurt that they are two veteran guys that should be able to give you a good at bat late in the game when called upon to pinch hit a-la Todd Zeile.
I have no idea if Willie Randolph will carry a seven man bullpen even if Leiter does not return. If he does not carry a seven man pen, it would be good if the Mets can ink Jose Hernandez to backup on the infield as well and he is someone that you have as the homerun threat off the bench. Carrying Hernandez also allows the Mets to use McEwing as the 25th man and used exclusively in emergency type situations. McEwing has averaged over 200 at bats per season as a Met, and as much as I like him for his versatility and his style of play, that is too much. As for Keppinger and Garcia, whom people may complain about being left off my bench for 2005, I have some other plans for them. For 2006 the Mets need to start grooming Danny Garcia to be a younger and actually effective Joe McEwing type and Jeff Keppinger to be a utility infielder and they will be valuable and cheap in those roles in the coming years. Of course, I wouldn't mind Keppinger or Garica on the bench instead of Hernandez, but they are a bit lacking in the homerun category and think they need to refine the skills at other positions at Norfolk. The bench I proposed would not knock anyone's socks off, but it would be slightly upgraded from 2005 and certainly get the job done.
C/1B - Phillips
1B/OF - Valent
UT - McEwing
INF - Aurilla
OF - Delluci
INF - Hernandez (if they go with a six man pen)
UPDATE: It has been pointed out to me that I have the counting skills of 6 month old child. My proposed bench would leave the Mets with 26 on their active roster, so below is how should shake out.
Add Delluci and either Hernandez or Aurilla, whoever is cheaper.
My apoligies for not actually counting up the heads on the roster.
No one is safe....no one. You listening Fred and Jeff? You may be next.
Some people think that Mets are leaving the door open for the Yankee to woo AL. I say he fits better on an American League team that carries a larger bullpen and could rely on him as a good fifth starter. The Mets however to not have that luxury and could find a better fit.
Sexson averaged 39.6 homers a year and 117 RBIs with Milwaukee from 2001-03. He had nine homers and 23 RBIs in 90 at-bats for the Diamondbacks. He's also a solid defensive first baseman, something the Mets have been lacking since John Olerud left.
Omar has interest in Pedro, Matt (who's agent says he has been contacted by 12 to 14 teams, none of whom are the Mets), and Carl. Before everyone gets their panties in a bundle on Pedro, he may not be a horrible idea. Certainly an idea that is better than bringing in Sammy. Pedro notched the 2nd most innings he had in his career in 2004 while averagee 200 innings per year over the past three years. He has only given up 148 walks, while posting a 10.3 k/9 innings, a 4.54 K/BB ratio, and 7.22 h/9 over the past three years while posting a 2.84 ERA. Yes he posted a career high in ERA in 2004, but his numbers are still solid aside from that. Stick him in Shea and with a pitcher batting ninth, you could have some Roger Clemens type numbers from El Diva.
Now, don't take that like it is my first choice for him to be a Met, but if Omar inks Pedro, you will not hear me complain.
Zambrano, who had a flexor muscle strain that limited him to three Mets outings, began throwing off a mound during the instructional league. He should be healthy by spring training, but didn't face batters during his Florida rehabilitation. The Mets instead shut Zambrano down because of a lingering ankle injury.
The Mets don't have a high-caliber internal candidate to fill out the rotation without Leiter, though Minaya mentioned they are prepared to use Jae Seo, Aaron Heilman or whoever else emerges during spring training. Cuban defector Alay Soler was let go by his winter league team after compiling an 0-2 record and 5.28 ERA in five appearances. First-round pick Philip Humber remains unsigned, though an ultimatum may be coming soon to move that process along.
On Zambrano, I'll believe it when I see him this spring
On Alay Soler, he was out of baseball for a while, so he gets a pass. But released by a winter league team? Isn't he supposed to be close to MLB ready?
On Humber, please someone issue an ultimatum so we can get this done. Sign Phil already.
In a galaxy not so far away, a young pitcher who was widely regarded as a budding start signed with the New York Yankees, AKA the Evil Empire. He was so happy to ink a four year deal that would keep him in the Bronx. Javier had pitched no less than 217 innings in the previous four years before coming to the Yankees while registering a sub 4.00 ERA in the last three. Javier also notched a career high in K's in 2003 with 241. His contract paid him 8.5 mil in 04 and will pay 10.5 mil for 05, 11.5 mil for 06, and 12.5 mil in 07. Now? The Yankees have been decided to rid themselves of him and send him to the team that owned the worst record in the majors last year.
To Pavano, Clement, Milton, etc...this could be you. Things like this make me wonder why people sign with the Yankees. If this deal is done, there is still a lot of money on the table that the D-Backs won't pay. With $34.5 million due over the next three years and the D-Backs knowing that they have the Yankees bent over a barrel, I cannot see them assuming all of it or even 80% of it. Taking on Randy Johnson’s salary, while paying part of Vazquez's salary, and picking up another starter like Milton or Leiber could take them out of the Beltran sweepstakes.
UPDATE: I was trying to link to this picture yesterday and I just realized that it did not work. So here it is again.