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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Paying Homage to the Mets

The Mets made a great deal trading 3 pitching prospects and outfield prospect Carlos Gomez to the Twins for Johan Santana. That trade instantly makes them not only the favorite in the NL East, but also the favorite in the National League. Here are a few things to consider:

1. According to ESPN's Steve Phillips, while the three pitchers in the deal were among the Mets' top-10 prospects, none are potential #1 starters.

2. According to SportsProf's best man (a former minor-league pitcher), 2/3 of the players teams sign are pitchers, and they tend to either flame out or get hurt. You'll recall that the Mets had a trio of Jason Isringhausen, Bill Pulsipher and Paul Wilson over a decade ago, and Met fans raved that the Mets were set up for a long time. Well, Izzy flourished as a closer --in St. Louis, while Wilson blew out his arm and Pulsipher never got settled in. It's hard to say that the three pitching prospects involved in the trade will pan out, but if one turns into another Francisco Liriano (whom the Giants dealt to the Twins along with Joe Nathan and Boof Bonser for A.J. Pierzynski), then the deal could end up being an excellent one.

3. In addition, #1 starting pitchers are scarce. The Mets had a chance to get one, and they did, and you know that the Yankees and Red Sox are breathing easier because the other team didn't get Santana. The addition of Santana could take the gloom off the collapse of '07, and that gloom could have dominated the spring training conversation had the Mets not made a deal of this magnitude.

4. The Mets barely lost the NL East to the Phillies, and if you figure that Santana goes something like 19-7, that's a net of 12 wins and, voila, the Mets win the East. That's simple math, to be sure, but it's great addition for the Mets and bad news for the Phillies and Braves.

5. One colleague e-mailed that the addition of Santana only will make the Mets' potential collapse in '08 all the more dramatic. We'll see.

6. Then again, how many W's of Santana's will the Mets' once-upon-a-time (read: beginning of '07) bullpen blow? How will the Met faithful hold up (especial the cardiac cases) when Billy Wagner comes in and tries to save the game? (Then again, how will the Phillies' faithful hold up when trying to witness Brad Lidge try to resurrect his career by trying to save wins for Cole Hamels)?

7. Of course, there are the games to play. Lost in the news was the Phils' signing of 3B Pedro Feliz, someone who definitely didn't walk off the island, so to speak. Feliz is a defensive improvement over the platoon of Wes Helms and Greg Dobbs, and he'll hit 20+ homers for the Phils, but he has a .288 on-base percentage for his career, perhaps the lowest in the league. That's like saying a member of MENSA has a 5 7/8 hat size. Put differently (or into more explainable English), the Phillies' fans will love it when Feliz adds an HR to the party, but will groan mightily when his lack of plate discipline kills a rally or fails to start one. He's an expensive upgrade to a weak platoon, but he'll disappoint at the plate (unless, of course, those hitting magicians, Charlie Manuel and Milt Thompson, can teach him some more patience at the plate).

8. Am I anointing the Mets the NL champions? Hardly. Am I throwing in the towel for the Phillies? Absolutely not. Will it be a great battle in '08? Count on it. The Mets have something to prove (that their collapse was a freak), and the Phillies need to build on their wild-card berth. It should be a great race in 2008.

All that said, this Phillies' fan tips his cap for the Mets for being decisive and spending the big bucks to get the job done. He also hopes that the very long-term deal the Mets will sign with Santana (perhaps 7 years at $150 million) is no more successful than the ones that they signed Tommy Glavine and Billy Wagner to (for the uninitiated, the Mets overspent there -- Glavine was a .500 pitcher, and Wagner faded more quickly than people expected). A six- or seven-year deal for a pitcher is a big bet, although I do think that the risk is better with Santana than the one the Giants took with Barry Zito.

Pitchers and catchers report in a few weeks.


Blogger Joe said...

Explain to me how Billy Wagner has flamed out? Here are his stats the last 3 years: '07: 2.63 34 svs, '06 2.24 40 svs, and 1.51 28 svs. Not to mention we had Armando Benitez and Branden Looper as our closers before him. Does he save every game, no. Does he make things exciting once and a while? yes. But as a die-hard Mets fan he is a top 5 closer in the league in my opinion, and he was a wise signing by the Mets.

4:29 PM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Because stats for a relief pitcher can be very misleading. Wagner blew a huge game for the Phillies in his last year there that cost them a playoff berth, blew games for the Mets two years ago and blew many games for the Mets last year, including that painful one where Jayson Werth stole second and third on him. I thought he was a good signing at the time, although I thought 4 years was too long.

It used to be that there was separation in the closer ranks, but there isn't much anymore, and the jobs change hands frequently. I expect him to continue his slide this year (and, at his age, most pitchers do).

Yes, he's an improvement over Benitez and Looper, and a big one at that, but that's not saying a whole lot. The Mets have an excellent team, but their 'pen collapsed last year, and you can't count on Wagner the way you did when you signed him.

5:57 PM  

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