(Long Island, NY) The recent baseball meetings in Orlando had a few moments of excitement around the baseball map. Jason Schmidt signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Gil Meche with the Kansas City Royals, Mike Piazza headed to Oakland, and Freddy Garcia being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies to name a few. But as far as our local teams went, the only real ‘splash’ was Andy Pettitte coming back to the Bronx. Minor deals excluded, the Mets are still on the clock as far as making headlines go.
Mets General Manager Omar Minaya has been coy when inquired about the progress with free agent left-handed starting pitcher Barry Zito, soon to be formerly of the Athletics. Reports state that the Texas Rangers are throwing a deal on the table for six years at $100 million. The Mets do not want to go that high in years or dollars, and will try to get him with a four or five year offer in the $75-$80 million dollar range. The Ballpark at Arlington is not exactly a pitcher’s paradise, although Zito’s careers numbers there would state otherwise, which have him 10 games over .500. But the big picture would tell him that Shea Stadium would be better for him in the long run, and to be reunited with his old Oakland pitching coach, Rick Peterson, should also be a lure. The Mets are going to be a contender, and the Rangers seem to be doing whatever they can this off-season to prove that, as well. They have been giving the impression of being a big player so far, re-signing starter Vincente Padilla and inking center-fielder Kenny Lofton, and they plan on visiting with closer Eric Gagne and starter Mark Mulder. They also previously signed outfielder/DH Frank Catalanotto, a Long Island native who left the Toronto Blue Jays as a free agent.
The Mets have re-signed Tom Glavine and Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez since the season ended. But they both are over the age of 40 and should not be counted on as number one starter material. Pedro Martinez will be out until the All-Star break or later, recovering from shoulder surgery. So he will be viewed as a trading deadline pick-up rather than a counted on arm in the rotation. Some of the young arms from last season will get a long look in spring training, pending they are not moved in a deal. Oliver Perez, John Maine and Mike Pelfrey are the big three. Perez and Maine proved that they can get the job done in the playoffs, but both are back end of the rotation guys. Pelfrey showed flashes in his big league debut, but may need more seasoning down on the farm before he can be counted on to get the ball every four days.
Adding a veteran arm such as Zito will make a big difference. The Mets’ brass is saying that they do not view him as a number one starter. But this may be a bargaining ploy to try to keep the contract talks from exploding with dollars. When pitchers such as Ted Lilly and Meche can sign deals in the upwards of over $10 million dollars annually, expect Zito to top that wherever he ends up.