Tag Archives: Omar Minaya

Should the New York Mets Trade for Cliff Lee?

I’ve always liked playing the role of manager more than the role of general manager, and this week has been no different. I’d much prefer to be in Jerry Manuel’s cleats than Omar Minaya’s shoes. The reason? Cliff Lee.

Lee is Seattle’s ace, a pitcher who won the Cy Young for Cleveland in 2008, got traded to the Phillies in July of last year and led them to the World Series, and was traded again this past offseason after Philadelphia acquired Roy Halladay. He is a free agent after this season.

I am having a difficult time deciding whether or not I want the Mets to trade for Lee, though. Here’s why:

They’re only prospects…
Reports are saying that a package of minor leaguers will likely be enough to get Lee. If that’s the case, then the Mets could significantly upgrade their team without giving up anyone whose absence will hurt the team in 2010.

And they may never help the team, as prospects often don’t pan out. If you have the opportunity to trade players who might amount to something for a player who’s already a star, you do it, right?

…but they are prospects.
To recognize the value of holding onto prospects, the Mets can look at their very own infield. Ike Davis (23 years old) and Ruben Tejada (20) made their major league debuts this season and have been instrumental in the team’s success, while Jose Reyes and David Wright (both 27) are also home-grown. That’s without even mentioning starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey.

Youngsters such as Jenrry Mejia, Wilmer Flores, and Josh Thole could be the next wave of players to come up through the minor leagues and excel with the Mets. It would be a shame to see promising young players traded, especially since watching home-grown players perform well is more satisfying (at least to me) than signing a free agent star.

Lee is very, very good…
After starting the season on the disabled list, Lee is 7-3 with a 2.45 ERA for a last-place Seattle team. In his 12 starts, he has the same number of walks as complete games (five). Five walks is a good outing for Oliver Perez.

Mets fans who want Lee think he can do the same thing for New York that he did for Philadelphia last season. The Mets are right in the thick of the race, but there are still questions about the rotation: Is Hisanori Takahashi better suited for the bullpen? Can R.A. Dickey maintain his impressive start? My gut tells me “yes” and “probably not,” so adding a quality starter, especially one as awesome as Lee, would be a great thing for the Mets.

…but nothing is guaranteed.
Contrary to what some fans seem to believe, adding Lee doesn’t automatically earn the Mets World Series rings. Putting Lee at the top of the rotation with Pelfrey and Johan Santana looks great on paper, but dealing away top prospects to get him puts even more pressure on the team.

What are the expectations for a Mets team that includes Lee? A playoff berth? A World Series appearance? A championship? If the Mets mortgage some of their future to acquire Lee and fail to meet these expectations, the season will be a big disappointment.

He may not be worth a rental…
World Series titles don’t grow on trees (at least not for this New York team), so say the Mets trade for Lee and win it all, but he walks after the season — would it be worth it? Probably, but that is of course the best case scenario. A more likely result is that the Mets don’t win it all, in which case they would have dealt prospects for nothing.

…but he’s probably not worth re-signing either.
Lee will turn 32 at the end of August. He’s clearly in his prime right now, as he’s been dominating batters since the 2008 season. But unless Lee is unlike all the other star pitchers who have hit the free agent market over the last 10 years, he is going to want a very large, multi-year contract.

He may be worth the money for the first couple of years of that deal, but by the end of that fourth year, when he’s 36, it’s unlikely Lee will be performing at the level of his salary. No, it’s not my money, but no team has an unlimited budget, so cash tied up with an underperforming is money that could have been used to get someone else.

This is why I’m glad I’m not Minaya. It’s unclear what the right decision is, and even after he makes up his mind, it may take a few years before we learn whether it was the smart move.

Do you think the Mets should trade for Cliff Lee? What are your feelings about dealing prospects in general? Let me know in the comments section or via e-mail at andrew@thesportsjournalists.com.

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Are New York Mets Fans Apathetic?

Worse than an upset, angry, or depressed sports fan is an apathetic sports fan. If a team angers its fanbase, well, at least the fans are feeling something. A buzz surrounding a team — even if it’s mostly negative — is still a buzz, and players, coaches, and especially owners will take that over an apathetic fanbase any day.

The New York Mets fans, I fear, are becoming apathetic. I would know; I’m one of them.

There’s no sense in rehashing the past few seasons in too much detail. The 2006 team was the most talented Mets squad in decades and reached the National League Championship Series. The 2007 and 2008 teams, however, became infamous for their poor play in September, blowing leads in both the divisional standings and in late-inning situations. Words like “collapse,” “chokers,” and arguably the worst of all, “laughingstock,” were used to describe the franchise.

Last season was the worst the team had performed, as far as won-loss record, since 2003, finishing 23 games behind the Phillies. But that was 22 games more than they had trailed at the end of the previous two seasons, so it didn’t sting nearly as much. Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran, David Wright, and Johan Santana all landed on the disabled list, some for very long stretches, so hope was lost by the All Star Break.

By my barometer, the excitement level entering this season was relatively low. Even after a six-month offseason, Mets fans were exhausted. The team’s play had taken a toll on us and it didn’t help that, despite the Mets not even participating, we were tormented during the playoffs, too: The hated Phillies won the World Series in 2008 and returned last season, only to lose to the damn Yankees.

No, life as a Mets fan couldn’t get much worse. Even if you wanted to play the old “everyone’s in first place on Opening Day” card, you had to know the Mets wouldn’t be there for long, not with Reyes and Beltran starting the season on the DL and a starting rotation with one exclamation point but four question marks.

The lack of talent extends beyond the playing field, though. Ask people in the know which team has the worst front office and I’d be shocked if a large percentage didn’t name the Mets, or least put them in their worst three. I’m afraid that Omar Minaya, the general manager who fumbled the firing of a manger in ’08 and embarrassed the organization at a press conference last season, is better suited as a talent scout or at the very most a GM for a small-market team.

Minaya has — or at least had — a knack for uncovering some diamonds in the rough. And while it’s hard to say that signing superstars like Santana, Beltran, and Francisco Rodriguez, even at huge costs, were bad ideas, as far as payrolls go, no team has done less with more than the Mets.

This begs the question: Were the Mets easier to root for when they had a smaller payroll? In 1995 the Mets had the fifth lowest payroll in baseball, according to the USA Today Salary Database. They began a steady climb from there, moving near the middle of the pack in ’97 and into the top 10 in ’98. The 2002 season was the last time the Mets were outside the top five as far as payroll.

When money is spent unwisely — as it was in the early part of the 2000’s — it’s frustrating. Players like Robbie Alomar and Mo Vaughn proved to be horrible additions. While the Mets current crop of highly-paid paid players have provided far more bang for their buck, the fact remains that since going to the World Series in 2000, the Mets have only reached the postseason once.

Having a losing team when you don’t have the big stars — as was the case in the ’90’s — is one thing, but with the way the Mets have spent the last few years, losing is far more painful. I’m not suggesting that the Mets sit on their money. But the big spending raised expectations, and since the Mets have not won, the disappointment level has been extremely high.

Citi Field, in its inaugural season, was a nice attraction for Mets fans last year, despite the dismal product on the field. But the shine of the new stadium has likely already worn off. No big name signings are going to rejuvenate this fanbase, a la the Pedro Martinez signing after the 2004 season. The same can be said for bringing in a well-known manager. Mets fans don’t want to hear any promises from the owners or any more corny slogans from the marketing department either.

We want the one thing every fanbase wants, and it’s something this current roster may not be capable of doing consistently: winning.