NEW YORK -- The Mets restored some depth to their bullpen -- in a time-release manner -- and may have positioned themselves for another trade on Thursday when they re-signed free agent reliever Guillermo Mota. The signing -- a two-year, $5 million contract -- and the acquisition on Wednesday of Ambiorix Burgos in a trade with the Royals may make the club more inclined to include Aaron Heilman in a trade that would import a starting pitcher."The bullpen was one of the keys to our success last year," Mets general manager Omar Minaya said in a statement. "Adding Guillermo Mota strengthens our bullpen with another quality arm." The club didn't address the possibility of dealing Heilman in the statement. It dealt primarily with the 50-game suspension the 33-year-old right-handed reliever must serve before he resumes his Mets career. Mota violated Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program last season. Since the end of the 2005 season, Heilman has been coveted by a number of clubs talking trade with the Mets. The club has been steadfast in its refusal to deal him because of how well he has performed in the bullpen sequences manager Willie Randolph has developed in his two seasons. Heilman's contributions were particularly critical last summer after Duaner Sanchez became baseball-incapacitated because of a shoulder injury sustained in a July 31 accident. Mota, like Heilman, is armed with a changeup and can provide the same kind of relief, perhaps making Heilman more expendable. But with Mota banned for 50 games and Sanchez not yet a certainty for Opening Day, dealing Heilman may be too great a risk. It was Mota's public posture after testing positive that impressed the Mets and -- it seemed -- made them more intent on re-signing him.
"Guillermo took responsibility for his actions and expressed extreme remorse for his mistake," Minaya said. "He handled himself in a stand-up manner."Mota had issued the following statement upon the imposition of the discipline: "I have no one to blame but myself. I take full responsibility for my actions and accept MLB's suspension. I used extremely poor judgment and deserve to be held accountable. "To my teammates and the entire Mets organization, I am sorry. I truly regret what I did and hope that you can forgive me. To baseball fans everywhere, I understand that you are disappointed in me, and I don't blame you. I feel terrible and I promise this is the first and last time that this will happen. I am determined to prove to you that this was one mistake."
He produced a 3-0 record and 1.00 ERA in 18 appearances with the Mets after he was acquired from the Indians Aug. 20. He struck out 19 and allowed merely 15 baserunners in 18 innings. His changeup was effective and gave the Mets a late-inning alternative to Heilman.It was the changeup Mota didn't throw on an 0-2 pitch to Scott Spiezio of the Cardinals in the seventh inning of Game 2 of the National League Championship Series that undermined the Mets' postseason chances. Rather than throw the changeup catcher Paul Lo Duca had signaled, Mota threw a fastball that Spiezio hit for a two-run, score-tying triple. Mota ranks fourth in innings, 384, among Major League relievers since 2002. Only Scot Shields, Mike Timlin and David Weathers have pitched more. He produced a 2-0 record and 2.42 ERA in 22 1/3 innings with the Indians and Mets after the All-Star break last season. Overall, he had a 1-3 record and 6.21 ERA in 34 games and 37 2/3 innings with the Indians in 2006. MLB has not disclosed when he tested positive.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.