According to NJ.com, the Dodgers are picking up about $2.05 million of Ishii's deferred payments from his 2005 salary. This season, the Mets only have to pay $1.15 million and if the Mets opt to buy out his contract after the 2005 season, which they presumably will, the Dodgers foot that bill too.
"I think he's a winner," Colborn said. "I think whoever he pitches for this year will be happy to have him. He does things in a way that's self-destructive sometimes, but he still ends up being successful. That's why I say he's a winner."
Gone are the days of a Mets GM sitting on his laurels. If Omar needs something, he goes after it. He has to be applauded for turning Phillips into a starter and only being on the hook for potentially $1.5 million Where is the risk? Don't get me wrong, I like the Gint, but him as the long man/spot starter in the pen is better than Koo and makes the bullpen stronger. Phillips was a fan favorite, but coming off the year he had, he is still a relative unknown and Omar held on to few good prospects the Mets have left. It is not given he would hit .300 again and with limited power, he is replaceable. Next season's crop of free agents is not very hot in Benito Santiago, Eli Marrero, Eddie Perez, Charles Johnson, Brad Ausmus, Mike Lieberthal (team option), or Ramon Hernandez. Hernandez is the cream of the crop and the Mets will have three in-house options in Mike Jacobs, Ramon Castro, and Joe Hietpas with an outside possibility of a one or two year contract for Mike Piazza with him retiring a Met. I'm basically 100% OK with any of the aforementioned or another one year contract with a stop gap if Ramon cannot be lured here since they will most likely bat eighth. Everyone needs to keep some perspective here and not think Phillips was any sort of catching savior. At 28, he was as good as he is going to get and viewed primarily as a backup catcher.
With Castro as the main backup, people are quick to point out his .212 batting average in 466 MLB at-bats. However, I'm not the only one who remembers Phillips hit .218 in 2004 in 362 at-bats. I do not care how unlucky he is, no one is so unlucky that a few inches a bunch of hits is going to knock you down .080 points. I like Phillips. He does not K much, he walks, he plays first, and is solid behind the plate, but Castro will be suitable for the backup role. For one, he has more power. In his MLB career, he has averaged on homer in every 26 at bats. In comparison, Phillips has hit one every 42 at-bats. Phillips strikes out much less than Castro, but Castro actually is slightly better at taking a walk. There is no doubt Castro has not lived up to what was expected from him after putting up some huge years in the minors, but he will be fine. He can work a walk and is a bat off the bench with power while providing solid defense.
The Mets in first place in the Grapefruit League and first place overall with the best winning % out of any spring team? Check. I do not care if it is spring, this team looks good. The Yankees are 7-10, Tampa Bay is 11-6, and Toronto is 10-5 so spring records mean little to nothing, but it sure beats losing.
Players they have interest in will be identified, and LaMar and his assistants will initiate at least preliminary discussions. Some probable targets include Baltimore's Jay Gibbons, Cincinnati's Wily Mo Pena, Pittsburgh's Rob Mackowiak, Washington's Terrmel Sledge, Oakland's Eric Byrnes and the Mets' Eric Valent.
We all know that if you average Valent's at-bats out to an entire season, he'd have hit 30+ homers. It does not quite work like that in real life and it is not that easy, but he is a good player an extremely solid backup. But once again, he is a backup. Would the Mets be able to pry away Danys Baez for Valent who can also closer insurance for Looper? Victor Diaz could be a power bat off the bench, spot starter, and Cliff Floyd platoon partner. He would presumably see plenty of starting time and could log a few hundred at-bats. He could probably be able to play first base in a pinch as well and with Kerry Robinson or Ron Calloway available as the last outfielder and left-handed bats off the bench. It is certainly interesting to if Omar can strengthen the team in a deal with the D-Rays, but one would have to hesitate in downgrading what could be the strongest bench the Mets have had in quite a while. A good bench could be the difference to the Mets season more than their bullpen, which I think will shake out fine in the end.