Some Mail From the Nationals Mailbag
Let's take a look at the Washington Nationals mailbag.
What are the Nationals looking to do with Nick Johnson? Will he be the everyday first baseman? -- Jeff, Arlington, Va.
That's hard to say. It depends on the outfield situation. If the Nationals put Brad Wilkerson in left field, Endy Chavez in center and Jose Guillen in right, then Johnson will be the everyday first baseman. But keep in mind that manager Frank Robinson loves outfielder Terrmel Sledge. He often refers to Sledge as a "complete player." If Sledge plays left, then Wilkerson most likely will go to first base. Robinson also was concerned by Johnson's problems with the bat last year. Robinson was especially alarmed by Johnson's high strikeout total when he was healthy.
Nick also just avoided arbitration at this point by signing a one year $1.45 million deal. That does not mean he'll still be there on opening day, he could still be moved.
Guillen starting + Wilkerson starting + Endy Chavez making less money + Sledge making less money = Nick Johnson getting a one way ticket out of town.
Throw into the mix the fact that Bowden is still interested in bringing Sammy Sosa to the nations capital. If Delgado falls through it really looks like Nick Johnson would be there for the taking with the Nationals looks for some pitching in return should Minaya think he is a good fit.
The Mets are probably already the favorites in a down-cycled NL East. After 13 years, I'm loath to pick against the Braves in the division, but I just don't see how the current Atlanta roster wins the flag. The Phillies will be contenders, but the rotation and bottom half of the lineup concern me.
Florida should potentially be taken seriously, but they need to add an impact left-handed bat in the worst way (more on that in a moment). In other words, this is eminently winnable division for the Mets, but they're missing a few pieces. Here's how they need to play it the rest of the winter.
He suggestions on how the Mets should finish out the off season?
You might glance at Delgado's numbers from a year ago and assume he's no longer a superstar-caliber player. You'd be wrong. A hip injury dampened his numbers in the first half, and after the break he hit a robust .305 AVG/.408 OBP/.625 — vintage Delgado. And that's exactly what the Mets need: another fulcrum in the lineup.
Cameron isn't particularly happy about a move to right field, but I do believe he can be sold on the idea of playing for a team that, provided Delgado is added, can win the World Series. Minaya and manager Willie Randolph are widely regarded as "player" guys; put those skills to use in mollifying Cameron.
(this guy is more optimistic than I am)
Worry about the bullpen later:
The middle-relief corps is a source of concern, but signing Delgado and resisting the urge to jettison Cameron are far more critical. The Mets have a pair of quality minor league lefty relievers in Blake McGinley and Royce Ring who are almost ready to pitch at the highest level.
See if the progress Mike DeJean showed after being acquired is genuine. Determine whether Dae Sung Koo is capable of handling a high-leverage relief role stateside. If those things fail, then explore some trade options. However, focus on the real needs first.
This guy must be a Mets fan. I've never seen such praise from a non-Met fan.
As things stand now, the Mets are a team that will contend for the NL East title. Take the steps detailed above, and they'll be on the short-list of teams good enough to win the World Series. Which is it going to be, Mr. Minaya?
Nice article. Nice job.
Reyes is batting .414 with a home run, four runs batted in and three stolen bases in 29 at-bats since the playoffs began, an impressive postseason clip that is second only to Major League veteran Julio Franco's .471 average in the league.
Manny Aybar is looking sharp too.
Aybar is 1-0 with a 1.54 ERA in two games, including a six-inning, one-hit performance against Reyes' Gigantes earlier this month. Aybar has struck out 13 and walked only five over 11 2/3 innings.
Yusmeiro Petit is did pretty well as well in his winter leaguge. He's gone 4-3, with a 2.15 ERA, 50 innings, 43 hits allowed, 8 walk, and 53 K's. For a 20 year old it is very impressive when you put it up against Major Leaguer Tony Armas Jr's stats. Armas went 1.29 in five regular season starts with a 1.64 ERA in the playoffs. This kid is good.
Cameron is still owed $12.5 million on his contract ($6 million apiece in 2005 and 2006 and a $500,000 buyout in 2007), although $2 million of that is deferred. While Oakland's payroll could absorb Cameron's 2006 dollars, the Mets might have to make a 2005 salary wash between Cameron and Byrnes, the official said. Essentially, the deal could be Cameron and $4 million for Byrnes.
Keep in mind that the A's have long been admirers of Cameron. Last off season, the A's actually offered the then-free agent a four-year contract in the vicinity of $24 million, a higher bid than the Mets' winning one. Oakland GM Billy Beane also told The Post last February that in his club's estimation, Cameron was "the best defensive player in baseball."
It's unclear whether a deal with Oakland would involve other players besides Cameron and Byrnes, but other A's who have tradable contracts include first baseman Scott Hattenberg and reliever Chad Bradford. The Mets have needs at both of those positions, making it feasible that either player also could be included.
Byrnes is expected to stay out of arbitration by signing a one year, $2 million deal.
If they really get desperate, the Marlins could make a few additional concessions:
While a new stadium isn't scheduled to open until 2008 at the earliest, they could promise to call it "The House That Delgado Built" even though he might never get to play there.
God Bless America would no longer be played at Pro Player, er, Dolphins, er, Carlos Stadium for the seventh-inning stretch. Delgado caused a stir last season when he regularly refused to stand for the song as a protest against the war in Iraq.
New stretch-time selection: This Land Is Your Land.
Even though they refused to grant no-trade protection to such stalwarts as Mike Lowell, Jeff Conine and Luis Castillo, and have a stated club policy against such clauses, the Marlins could make an exception for Delgado, who figures to insist on such treatment.
They could also bring in the distant outfield fence in right-center. Over the last three seasons, left-handed hitters have accounted for a majors-worst 96 homers at the erstwhile Pro.
Greg Cote even has his sales pitch and went as far to start his own rumor.
Oppositely, Mets owner Fred Wilpon has yet to meet with you, right? There is a rumor Wilpon is upset over that whole God Bless America thing and also thinks you are overrated and over the hill.
I started that rumor.
Just trying to do my part.
Oh, in case you still think it think it is some crule trick, the Mets really did sign Carlos Beltran.