A blog dedicated to the New York Mets with some other baseball thrown in.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Warming Up To Weaver: Part II

From ESPN Rumor Mill:

Weaver beyond Reds' means
Feb 1 - Reds interim GM Brad Kullman and agent Scott Boras were discussing the contract status of Cincinnati shortstop Felipe Lopez earlier this week when the conversation briefly turned to another Boras client, free-agent pitcher Jeff Weaver.

Although the Reds could have interest in Weaver on a reasonably-priced one-year deal, they've been given indications that Weaver is well beyond their price range. "I don't see it happening at this point," Kullman told ESPN.com Insider Jerry Crasnick.

The Reds have been mentioned as a potential Weaver suitor under the theory that new owner Robert Castellini might want to make a splash with a quick high-profile signing. But Weaver gave up 35 homers for the Dodgers in 2005, and the Reds have their doubts that his repertoire will translate well to the Great American Ball Park.

Weaver's destination remains a mystery to major-league executives. He declined the Dodgers' offer of salary arbitration, which would have allowed him to return to Los Angeles on a one-year deal in 2006.

Ok, so let's review.

Cleveland is mostly likely out since that idea was predicated in the idea that Austin Kearns would be brought in for Jake Westbrook.

Cincinnati is out simply due to price tag, but who knows if that will change if nothing else materializes.

LA Angels are a possible fit since they lost Byrd and Washburn and will have to rely on some guys. A one year deal for them will make sense to buy their young guns some more time.

Philadelphia needs pitching and would make sense, but they have not been vocal about pursuing him or any high priced free agent pitcher really.

Washington might be interested and would be a fit, but Washington has not been connected to Weaver.

San Francisco could be a fit too, but have not been connected in any way to Weaver.

What we really have here is nothing. Weaver has lukewarm interest and only four possible fits as I see it. The more I think about it, the more I think Omar should move and where else for Weaver to have a big year in a pitcher's park? There are plenty of people that want to see how this team comes together, but that means if it doesn't work out, then it costs the Mets more talent than they have to give up. Re: Lastings Milledge. Who else could they get someone of value for? Carlos Gomez? Let's look at their top ten.

1. Lastings Milledge
2. Mike Pelfrey (not going anywhere)
3. Phil Humber (obviously has no value)
4. Carlos Gomez (as much as I like him, he does not carry much weight yet and he'll only be in high A-ball and at least three years away)
5. Fernando Martinez (not going anywhere and does not have any value at this point)
6. Anderson Hernandez (might have some value, but not enough to bring back a difference maker)
7. Brian Bannister (not much value, he can be a addition to a deal, but not a centerpiece)
8. Alay Soler (will not be commanding much value)
9. Deolis Guerra (does not have any value at this point)
10. Jon Niese (does not have any value at this point)

The best I can see that does not include Lastings a is a Brian Bannister and Anderson Hernandez package. Realistically, that will not bring back something much better than Bannister or Soler will be able to reasonably replicate. They are not bringing back and ace and might bring back someone of Weaver's stature. Take care of any potential problems now or it might seriously cost later. For those who want to wait to see how this rotation shakes out and upgrade as the year progresses if needed must have faith in Nady or Diaz being able fetch something of value because I only see Milledge as anything that will help this team get something back of value that will help them win. We know that Victor Zambrano is not an answer to any potential problems and the Mets are running dangerously thin should Glavine or Pedro not be around. Two words. Get Weaver. If he truly will be looking to settle for a one year deal and try his luck next year, there is no reason not to.

Add into the equation this rumor pointed out by John in the comment section:

Mets Interested In Wells?

Spoke with my Mets guy this morning. He had plenty of info to pass along.

First, he said that any recent rumors going around are "bogus." Plenty of other websites have added to that sentiment.

He also mentioned that Minaya wants to add a starter. That's fairly well known, but he also said that the Mets may try to make a move on David Wells if nothing better comes along before spring training. It's the first I'd heard of that.

He said the Mets are convinced that Anderson Hernandez is the answer at second base for 2006, and that Jeff Keppinger could be moved for pitching if he has a good spring. No doubt the Mets would love to dump Kaz Matsui if someone would take even half his salary.

As baseless as this sounds simply because the Mets manage to get older and more brittle, it underlies the idea that Omar is not satisfied with this rotation. Given the present options and we are talking about Weaver, Josh Fogg, Wells, and whoever else is on the block, Weaver is the best option. Of course Jake Westbrook has been bandied around and Jose Contreras has been too, but the Mets don't have the prospect to pull a trade for a top starter. Cleveland would part with Westbrook for Kearns, but presumably not a chance for Diaz or Nady alone.

This could be a simple solution.

* * *

  • Poor, poor Kaz.

    Faithful New York Yankee Hideki Matsui is skipping the World Baseball Classic. Ditto Tadahito Iguchi, the second baseman who says he can't afford the time off, not with the White Sox intent on getting back to the World Series.

    Yet the greatest Japanese star of them all, Ichiro Suzuki, has told Sadaharu Oh -- Japan's manager -- to count him in.

    Huh, no mention of Kaz? I guess no one cares. He is not on their 54 player roster and apparently it's not even worth mentioning despite the fact he was supposed to be right up there with the other Matsui and a notch down from Ichiro. How about he comes out of the box showing people he can actually play the game?

  • Dan can rant with the best of them. Go check him out.

  • It's no secret that us here at The Metropolitans thinks that Anderson Hernandez needs another year in the minors. Of course, that is based on eighteen possibly meaningless at-bats, but nevertheless, his swing did not look like big league quality. When you see players like Mike Jacobs come up and take some you hacks, you just see it. You just see that this kid has some skillzzzz and is adept with the bat. That being said, I'm not a baseball scout and talk out of my ass most of the time. Despite what I think Anderson Hernandez is lighting up his winter league. Last night in his first game playing for Licey in the Caribbean World Series, he went 4 for 6 with a single and a run scored, a triple and a run scored, a bunt single, and the go ahead run on a single in the top of the 11th. In the 11th, he also stole a heads up base and caught the Puerto Rican team sleeping and no one was on the bag or even near it. I'm not against him, but have Victor Diaz, Jose Reyes, and Anderson Hernandez in the same lineup is potentially devastating to the offense. It is not impossible for them all to have a .300 OBP or below. All of their OBP are products of their batting average and though Diaz walked a lot last year, that was largely because he was being pitched around. His walk total in 2005 was nice, but his 30 walks in 89 games seems like an anomaly when compared with his 31 walks in 141 games at AAA in 2004. He could have turned a corner, but he would need to prove it batting higher in the lineup. As with Hernandez, his walk totals weren't putrid, but as with Reyes, if you have marginal plate discipline and head into the bigs, you will not walk much. At leasta not at first. You just do not get handed a free pass like you would in the minors. It's a problem for the Mets because they all have talent, but three of them in the same lineup could be detrimental. On base percentage is not god, but it sure is tied into scoring runs pretty heavily.

    So if you want to watch the games on TV for the Caribbean World Series, you can check them out on YES. Normally I wouldn't condone tuning into YES for any reason, but you get to see some Met players and other interesting players. Thanks to CWebb for pointing that out.
  • Thursday, February 02, 2006

    Loyal To a Fault

    "Are you kidding?" said our industry source. "Not even Omar is that crazy. Vidro has no value, [Livan] just had surgery and last I looked Milledge is one of the top prospects in baseball.

    "There is absolutely no basis for this rumor at all. That is, unless the Nats and Red Sox called the Mets, proposed it, and [Omar] hung up laughing so hard he hurt himself and was physically unable to say no."

    Our source went on to reiterate that "Milledge is not going anywhere unless it's for Zito and only if they give the Mets a 72-hour window and if it's done before the season starts.

    "Minaya will not deal Milledge in any deadline deals...he's been pretty adamant about that, so if he survives spring training, he'll be a Met."

    Omar stands by his guys. He loves his old players and will try and give them the opportunity to succeed over and over again. Endy Chavez has not only been thrown into the mix, but given a Major League contract. The team already had four outfielders on the Major League roster and one guy in Tike Redman, who figured to compete as the backup centerfielder that could be a defensive replacement/platoon guy and as a left-handed bat off the bench. Endy Chavez represents the same type of player as Tike Redman, but will cost money if cut from the team and is needlessly taking up a spot on the 40 man roster. The redundancy is certainly perplexing, but would have been acceptable if the best man would be able to win the job.

    Omar is sometimes almost loyal to a fault. Maybe he feels he knows his old players better and their abilities since he is so familiar with them, but for whatever reason he tends to lean towards them. It is not only not out of the realm of possibilities that Redman out performs Chavez this spring and does not make the team, but highly likely. Just like Heath Bell is set to be a causality solely because he has options while less talented players head north simply because they got Major League contracts.

    As it relates to this rumor that has apparently been shot down, it is tough to feel safe whenever rumors include his old guys. Mark Healy did a good job shooting down the rumor that was posted on Metsgeek.com by Rich from a Red Sox website and then relayed by Ryan McConnell at Always Amazin'. Normally I would not pay any mind, but we know a few things about Omar so far. We know that Omar wants to strengthen the middle and we know that he loves his old guys. As crazy as the trade sounds, it still worries the shit out of me simply because after Milledge, the Mets have absolutely nothing to get a deal done. For the same reason they had to deal Kazmir due to lack of depth they would have to deal Milledge just to get a deal for a marginal package of players. Of course we all know it sounds silly, but who isn't sweating just a bit?

    * * *

  • When the entire ordeal with Cablevision and the Yes Network (I don't care what it stands for, it's the dumbest TV station name) was going down, I wrote "No to Yes!" on every check that I wrote to Cablevsion. Now, the Mets say no to Yes.

    As it turns out, SNY is not likely to resemble YES much at all. "SNY has a very different goal," says Richard Sandomir, media critic for The New York Times. "It doesn't want to be known purely as the Mets channel, or a homer station."

    You mean we will not get treated to Mets-ographies and Met propaganda? You mean we will not be made to believe that the Mets are the only organization in existence? We will be able to actually see scores and highlights from around the league and just not whatever team has anything to do with the Mets? Fucking swell.

    Of course I hope to see some Minor League games and some Met related content outside of the actually pre-game and broadcasts, but there is a happy medium and hopefully they achieve that.

  • The Red Sox might use their surplus of starting pitching to make a deal to improve the team.

    With the surplus of arms -- and mindful that Nixon is eligible for free agency after the season -- Epstein could conceivably package a pitcher and infielder for outfield prospects or use a pitcher plus Nixon in an even bigger deal.

  • Carlos Delgado is excited to play Cubs in the World Baseball Classic.

    "I'm not anxious to see them play good," Delgado said. "It will be interesting. They are fundamentally sound and know how to play the game. Non-professionally, Cuba is one of the best teams in the world."

    Cuba being exclude was problem for me. Yes, they have an oppressive regime, but Venezuela does not have any civil unrest? The US does not deal with any other countries that are oppressive and have been under scrutiny for human rights violations? Baseball should not have to do with politics. It should only worry about the game and excluding Cuba would be ridiculous. It is a shame that Cuba will not be utilizing their Major League players of Cuban descent, but I think that is understandable given the circumstances. Cuba being allowed to play was the right thing to do in the end.

    What's the over/under on the numbers players that defect?

    If you are interested, Baseball America scouted the Cuban team today. The team might even feature a sixteen year old player which is just nuts considering the level of talent on some of the other teams.

    The most intriguing youngster is 16-year-old Dayan Viciedo, MVP of the World Junior Championships last fall. In Serie Nacional, the 5-foot-10, 195-pounder made the all-star team while playing for Villa Clara. While Viciedo is far from a lock to make the team, his appearance on the provisional roster stamps him as one of Cuba’s brightest young talents.
  • Wednesday, February 01, 2006

    Warming Up To Weaver

    As of now, Victor Zambrano is not bad for fifth starter. He'll shit the bed some games and he go through stretches where he will give you quality game after quality game.
    DATE        IP   BB   SO   DEC   ERA
    April 26.1 17 23 1-3 5.81
    May 23 17 14 1-2 3.52
    June 32.2 13 20 2-1 2.48
    July 34.2 10 17 1-3 3.63
    August 29.1 9 14 2-1 5.22
    September 14.2 8 16 0-1 3.07
    October 5.2 3 8 0-1 9.53
    For three consecutive months, Zambrano put up some pretty solid numbers. However, if Victor Zambrano does not have to be your fifth starter, he shouldn't be. I do not buy the entire 'he's your fifth starter argument' and you shouldn't expect much from that spot anyway. Though Zambrano was solid over a long period of time, he was wildly inconsistent over a long period of time too which subsequently led to him losing his starting job.
    Date    Opp. Result  ER   H ER HR  W SO   ERA
    Jul 22 LAD L 6-5 4.2 10 6 1 0 1 12.86
    Jul 27 @COL W 9-3 7 5 2 0 3 5 2.57
    Aug 2 MIL W 9-8 1.1 7 6 4 0 2 49.09
    Aug 7 CHC W 6-1 8 5 1 0 2 1 1.13
    Aug 12 @LAD L 7-6 6 6 5 0 4 5 7.50
    Aug 18 PIT L 5-0 6 6 4 1 1 3 6.00
    Aug 23 @ARI W 14-1 8 6 1 0 2 3 1.13
    Sep 2 @FLA L 4-2 5 12 4 0 1 3 7.20
    That would be eight seriously inconsistent starts. Should the Mets just settle for that out of the fifth with what they are going to try and accomplish this year? Of course, there is the little problem of a roster crunch. Billy Wagner, Duaner Sanchez, Jorge Julio, Yusaku Iriki, and Chad Bradford are already slated to make the bullpen and with the Mets presumably taking a seven man bullpen to keep a LOOGY in the mix, Victor Zambrano would take the last spot in the bullpen at $3,000,000 and therefore push a more deserving player who can probably serve the team better in that role.

    Regardless of all that, the goal should be to field the best team. Would there be any takers for a cheap starter like Victor Zambrano? There was not much interest so far, but you never know what can happen towards the start of the season when teams have a clearer picture of who will contribute. In terms of fielding the best team, I'm warming up to Jeff Weaver. Weaver might be an addition that could take this team to the next level. Andrew already went over this at Metsgeek.com back on January 16th.

    Back then, I was against the deal. Now, I'm not so sure he wouldn't be the guy to help put this team over the top. Yes, he is not what the Mets need in terms of probably needing one power arm to round out the rotation, but the biggest thing I'm warming up to his ability to eat innings. The only year he failed to get at least 200 innings since 2000 was when he got bumped from the rotation in his only full year with the Yankees. Since 2000, he has put up 200, 229.1, 200.2, 159.1, 220, and 224. In a rotation that features veterans Pedro Martinez, Steve Trachsel, and Tom Glavine and a first year Major League starter in Aaron Heilman, it might not hurt to hedge your bets and save your bullpen with a guy that can eat 220 innings.

    The way it stands right now, the Mets payroll is approximately $100.5 million and Omar presumably has some wiggle room. Taking a queue from Kevin Millwood last season, it stands to reason Weaver might be had for $8 or $9 million since there are only two weeks before pitchers and catchers report and he has nothing going on. The only team that has really been tied to Jeff is the Indians, and that is more dependent on whether Jake Westbrook is dealt. If Westbrook stays, there is one less suitor for Jeff Weaver. Who else is in the market for him? No one I can tell. Anyone interested will be looking for a one year deal and Mets should jump in on that even if it means cutting one of their guaranteed contracts like Iriki in the bullpen or trading Zambrano for nothing in salary dump to anyone that would take him even if they have to kick in half the money.

    I doubt Omar makes that move, but with Weaver turning 30 next season, he will be able to fetch a three year deal if he has a strong season this year and the Mets could even piggy back off that and offer him arbitration. Imagine that, the Mets getting a compensation pick? Unfathomable. There is no doubt he adds a lot to the rotation and though he is not the ace they need, he adds more stability and that is something to hang you hat on at the end of the day especially when it comes down to playing some September ball and trying make the playoffs.

    * * *

  • Hair cut? Check. Cleanly shaven face? Check. $52 million contract? Check. Frosted hair? Check.

    "Manny really wants out of Boston, just so he can relax and chill," Damon told Kay. "If he played for the Mets, he probably wouldn't be able to chill much. But I think the Yankees would be a perfect fit for him, as well as for David Ortiz."

    Wait. He'll be able to 'chill' with the Yankees, but not with the Mets? Yeah, the Bronx is really a conducive atmosphere to flying under the radar. Jackass.

  • Andy Pettite back to the Yanks? Does anyone care? I do. I hope he does because I think he would be a disaster at a very high price tag.

  • Should Roberto Clemente's number be retired a la Jackie Robinson's number 42? I think he should be celebrated, but I'm not one for retiring the numbers of every person that had an immense effect on the game. Will it be Australians calling for Craig Shipley's number to be retired next? I understand Shipley did not exactly transcend the game like Clemente, but you get the idea.

    "He's been great for Australian baseball," Deeble said of Shipley. "He doesn't get the credit he deserves, and I say that to young kids that sign, he's the reason they've had an opportunity. He's the reason there are 30 scouts out here in Australia. He started this whole thing by getting to the big leagues and staying there for the amount of time that he did. That gave Graeme Lloyd the chance, it gave Nilsson the chance. He put Australia on the map."

    Of course the importance of these players can't be understated, but isn't Cooperstown supposed to take care of these types of things?

  • No pressure Francisco.

    Some scouts say Liriano's stuff is better than that of Twins teammate Johan Santana, the 2004 American League Cy Young Award winner. They say Liriano throws harder, has a better slider and owns a changeup that is equal in quality.
  • Tuesday, January 31, 2006

    The Other Side

    During the seasons I sometimes peruse other team's MLB sights to see how certain trades or other goings ons are viewed, spun, and rationalized. I did not do that in this case since Marty Noble's Met question was on the Best of the Mailbags and it showed up on SportsSpyer for the Mets, but you get the idea.

    Was acquiring Kris Benson really worth giving up a power setup man like Jorge Julio? I think there are other starters around who could fit better into the O's rotation.
    -- Sebastian J., Berlin, Germany

    This was a trade that virtually everybody agreed on in the baseball industry, which is a pretty rare phenomenon.

    At this point I thought he was going to say everyone thought the deal was good in both directions, but not so much.

    The general consensus was that Baltimore did well to acquire Benson in exchange for Julio and John Maine, and the thinking turned on one theme. The Orioles know what they're going to get from Benson, and they were never sure what Julio might do next.

    Even the reliever's biggest backers -- this reporter included -- would be hard pressed to predict what he'll do this year. Julio's ERA has risen in three consecutive seasons, and he didn't really have a defined role in the bullpen. In fact, one witty observer characterized his career arc as going from "closer to setup to mop-up."

    Also, the Orioles needed a starter much more than they needed another relief arm. Benson brings some consistency to the top of Baltimore's rotation, a trait that was sorely lacking in recent years. Rodrigo Lopez may be steady, but the staff's other three starters -- Daniel Cabrera, Erik Bedard and Bruce Chen -- have had volatile careers thus far.

    The Orioles think they can get 30 starts and 200 innings from Benson, and if they do, this deal is a success no matter what Julio does for the Mets. And if new pitching coach Leo Mazzone can fine-tune Benson's stuff, this trade has the potential to be a serious difference-maker for Baltimore, both for this year and extending into the future. -- Spencer Fordin

    However, the real point of this and one that I never thought of was the opportunity Kris Benson has in regards to working with Leo Mazzone. Moving from the NL East and pitching in spacious Shea to the offensively charged AL East in and pitching in a bandbox is certainly going to be a real testament to whether or not Leo Mazzone is actually the greatest pitching guru in the universe. Although I think we all already think he is, if he takes Benson and spits out the same numbers or better in his new situation, I think Rick Peterson should get a tattoo of Leo's face on his ass.

    Speaking of Rick Peterson, if you don't read Metrsadamus' site, then you might not have caught his speculation that Rick Peterson may in fact be Lou Gram of Foreigner.

    * * *

  • Clemens is still undecided about returning and still, no one cares.

  • Beltran and Delgado hitting homers with an aluminum bat? That is scandalous.

  • Ouch. Anna looks like a mess here.

    Well it looks like she is about to become an 'athlete'.

    "I'm still a young little poker player. I've got a long ways to go," Benson said. "It is a thrill to me. They call it a sport now, so it's kind of cool for me to come in and be my own type of an athlete.

    "I'm hoping to really amass an empire with this poker. I love to give money away to charities, to change people's lives."

    As much as I like poker, calling poker players athletes is a bit of a stretch. They are as much athletes as mathletes. I'm not buying it.
  • Monday, January 30, 2006

    NYYfans.com Can Suck It

    As per NYYfans.com, this is the following organizational rankings in M.L.B for 2006 in terms of their Minor League system.

    1. Dodgers
    2. Marlins
    3. Angels
    4. D-Backs
    5. Brewers
    6. Twins
    7. Red Sox
    8. Braves
    9. Rockies
    10. D-Rays
    11. Indians
    12. White Sox
    13. Orioles
    14. Tigers
    15. Cubs
    16. Rangers
    17. Yankees
    18. Giants
    19. Pirates
    20. Astros
    21. Cardinals
    22. Phillies
    23. Royals
    24. Nationals
    25. Blue Jays
    26. Athletics
    27. Mariners
    28. Padres
    29. Reds
    30. Mets

    While I know their system blows when compared to others, they have two players more highly regarded than anyone in the Reds, Padres, Mariners, Athletics, Blue Jays, and Nationals system. I realize they obviously may not have as much depth, they have a lot of intriguing players. However, the fact they have two A++++ prospects that trump any of the other teams' top two prospects, that alone should bump them up. After all, when you look at a system that has two potential stars of Milledge's and Pelfrey's stature, are you really going to split hairs about how many more future utility players or more future middle relievers they have?

    * * *

  • In case, like me, you missed this story in Ask BA the other day:
      In 1966, the Braves made Tom Seaver their first-round draft pick out of the University of Southern California. For some reason, the commissioner voided Atlanta's rights to him and opened bidding to other teams. Three teams anted up and their names were thrown into a hat. The commissioner picked the Mets and the rest, as they say, is history. What were the crazy circumstances that went into this decision?

      Paul R. Raybold
      Seminole, Fla.
    Seaver, who had turned down the Dodgers as a 10th-round pick in 1965, was selected by the Braves as the 20th and final pick of the first round of the secondary phase of the January 1966 draft. That February, he signed with Atlanta for $40,000.

    However, Seaver wasn't eligible to sign because Southern California already had begun its college season. Commissioner Spike Eckert voided the contract, fined the Braves $500 and barred them from signing Seaver for three years. Though Seaver never received any money from Atlanta, he had signed a pro contract, costing him his NCAA eligibility.

    Eckert ruled that Seaver had signed a contract in good faith and that it was the Braves' fault that it had to be invalidated. As a result, Eckert set up a special draft for him. Any team willing to at least match the $40,000 bonus could enter a drawing for his draft rights.

    The Indians, Mets and Phillies were the only clubs to do so, and Eckert picked a slip of paper that said "Mets" out of a hat on April 2. Seaver signed with New York the next day for $51,000 and launched a Hall of Fame career by winning the National League rookie of the year award in 1967.

  • Interesting tidbit indeed.

  • Potheads everywhere are crying. In case you stick your head in a hole in the ground for the entire day, you probably heard this. However, if you are here, you probably don't care much for creditable news or actual information and you probably did miss it.

    Nice touch with the terrorist looking guys standing guard.

    Drug smugglers have dug one of the longest, most sophisticated tunnels discovered in recent years along the Mexican border, and the American and Mexican authorities have hauled nearly two tons of marijuana out of it since they entered it on Wednesday, officials said.

    Ok two tons of ganja. That has to be worth at least $45.

  • Justin Verlander is good. Back in 2004, Rick Peterson said "Get Verlander. If you can't get him, get Humber." Well that might not have been an EXACT quote and Verlander never made it down to the Mets and got swiped in the second spot while the Mets took Humber with the third pick. Of course Humber's future is still bright despite the Tommy John surgery, but he has been thrown off track. Here is what Baseball America had to say about Verlander for those of you who not have a BA subscription. Here's a hint though, they like him.

    Background: Verlander was considered a possible top-five-round talent out of high school, but his commitment to Old Dominion, strong grades and raw arm prompted him to pass through the 2001 draft untouched, much to his disappointment. He went to Old Dominion and became the No. 1 starter instantly. While his college career included several highs, such as pitching for Team USA in 2003 and setting school and Colonial Athletic Association strikeout records, he posted a modest 21-18 record and all three Monarchs teams he played for posted losing records. The Padres considered Verlander with the No. 1 overall pick in 2004 but he wasn’t in their final trio of choices, leaving him available for the Tigers at No. 2. Negotiations broke off in October before his father stepped in, called the Tigers and got the contract settled. Verlander signed for a $3.12 million bonus and $4.5 million guaranteed major league contract. His late signing delayed his pro debut until 2005, when he was spectacular. Verlander led the minors in ERA (giving up only one run in 33 innings at Double-A Erie), started the Futures Game in Comerica Park and made his major league debut at Jacobs Field on Independence Day.

    Strengths: Verlander has one of the best arms in the minors and features both the best fastball and curveball in the organization. Tall, lithe and athletic, he generates tremendous arm speed that gives him an electric fastball with both above-average velocity and life. His heater sits at 93-96 mph and touches 99. He commanded his fastball--and all of his pitches, for that matter--much better as a pro than he had in college. Most scouts had noticed that as an amateur, Verlander landed on a stiff front leg, cutting off his follow-through and leading to a tendency to leave his pitches up in the strike zone. The Tigers deemed this flaw correctable, but what impressed them most was how quickly Verlander took to his new delivery. He rarely if ever reverted to his old form. Verlander’s curveball is a true knee-buckler, a power breaker with excellent depth and late bite down in the zone. He has excellent arm speed on his late-moving changeup, which also improved with his new delivery and ranks among the best in the organization.

    Weaknesses: Stuff-wise, Verlander has none. His changeup helped him shackle lefthanded hitters in the minors (.175 average, no homers in 171 at-bats). He didn’t have that kind of success in his first two big league starts against the Indians and Twins, as lefties went 10-for-30 against him and drew four walks. The Tigers attribute much of that to nerves and inexperience, though. Verlander did recover from a three-run first inning in his first big league game to later retire 12 of 13 batters. As an amateur, he had the reputation of responding to adversity by trying to throw harder, and opponents thought he could be easily rattled. Neither was evident in his first pro season, however.

    The Future: The Tigers already have one power righty in their big league rotation in Jeremy Bonderman, who is just four months older than Verlander. He should join Bonderman in the rotation in 2006, if not out of spring training then shortly thereafter. If Verlander learns the nuances of pitching to go with his electric stuff, he could supplant Bonderman as Detroit’s No. 1 starter.

  • Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled pepper; A peck of pickled pepper Peter Piper picked; If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled pepper, where's the peck of pickled pepper Peter Piper picked? Oh, and Piazza signed with the Padres.

    The longtime Mets catcher signed a one-year, $2-million contract with the defending National League West champions Sunday, with an $8-million mutual option for 2007, according to an official familiar with the situation.

    What's the chance of that option being picked up?

  • Q&A with Rick Peterson at NYSportsdaily.com.

    NYSD: Do you think the organization’s faith in Victor Zambrano is justified?

    RP: In the middle of the season last year, there was a stretch where he was our best pitcher. He certainly has the ability, but it’s about him going through the full season and it’s a marathon.

    NYSD: What do you like most about Zambrano as a pitcher?

    RP: If he focuses and takes it one pitch at a time, he’s a dominant pitcher. It’s a matter of focus with him. There are times he is in there throwing pitch after pitch after pitch and something happens that causes him to lose focus.

  • Ken Rosenthal gives Anderson Hernandez some ink.

    A pair of switch-hitting middle-infield prospects — the Angels' Erick Aybar and Mets' Anderson Hernandez — made a strong impression while playing for Licey, champion of the Dominican winter league.

    "They're both live-bodied guys," one scout says. "The more you watch them play, the more you see all the things they can do. Both have a chance to be pretty good big-league players."

  • Bill Madden is critical of some of Omar's moves.

    While it would be hard to argue Minaya hasn't improved the Mets significantly this winter with the free agent signing of Billy Wagner and the acquisitions of Carlos Delgado and Paul LoDuca for far-away prospects, his overall trading record is dubious.

    Dubious indeed Bill, dubious indeed.

  • Rest easy. Rest easy.

    Sammy Sosa: Not the Mets, insisted Minaya, his special relationship with Sosa notwithstanding. "We're committed to [Victor] Diaz and [Xavier] Nady," Minaya said Friday. "It's only fair to give these guys an opportunity. If we bring Sammy in, we take away their opportunity."

    I think we all knew he was not coming no how, no way, but it is still nice to read.

  • Jorge gets $2,525,000 and a one year contract from the Mets.

  • Now playing for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, Jose Reyes.

  • Ummm...but he's American. He was born here.

    "Alex is American because he was born in the United States, but after what Mike Piazza - a future Hall of Famer - did, who will be playing for Italy, and Nomar Garciaparra, who will be playing for Mexico, he had an excuse to do the same with the Dominican Republic," said Martinez, who intends to pitch for his native Dominican Republic. Martinez's statements were spoken to the Dominican-based television network Color Vision. ESPN.com first reported of the interview here.

    "Now Alex must prepare for the nasty comments that will arise in the Bronx, where almost half of the citizens are Latino and purely Dominican," Martinez said. "In fact, when Alex gets [to the Dominican Republic] it's possible that not even the reporters will be here to welcome him."

    I'm not a fan of anyone playing for a country they weren't born in and A-Rod made the right decision.