Minaya to move at own pace at Meetings
No quick answers, but GM hopes to find them in Indianapolis
NEW YORK -- The Winter Meetings aren't what they used to be in length, purpose and impact -- or, for that matter, fun. But then, even nostalgia isn't what it used to be. Oh, for the days when Frank Lane would refurbish his Indians on a whim. And what we all would do for a general manager so impulsive and unguarded as Bill Veeck, who set up shop in the lobby of the headquarters hotel and did his dealing in the light of day and at full volume.
And who can forget how the cynical members of the media rose as one in the 1990 convention to applaud Padres general manager Joe McIlvaine after his club and the Blue Jays announced the tsunami deal of Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez for Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar, an exchange unencumbered by contract status and medical reports.
Mets general manager Omar Minaya would have reveled in those free-swinging days when the Meetings lasted a week (McIlvaine always stayed one extra day, just in case). Minaya, the man in charge of making us forget the 2009 season and a man with some Texas in his resume, would have enjoyed the gunslinger approach that existed back then when Trader Jack McKeon all but vowed to make a deal each day for a week.
The Meetings aren't that way no more. Caution comes before the need for a shortstop, payroll considerations take precedence over a lack of power in the outfield. For those reasons and others, Minaya will be one of 30 general managers moving tentatively next week when Indianapolis serves as the headquarters for Major League Baseball.
Minaya will arrive Sunday evening needing, at the very least, power, pitching and a catcher to renovate the Mets' roster. And no one should be stunned, worried or critical if he returns on Thursday without any of the three, because this misnamed convention -- the Winter Meetings happen in autumn -- is more likely to move at the speed of Bengie Molina than at the speed of Carl Crawford. The Mets shouldn't be expected to serve as an accelerant.
One day after the team's inglorious 2009 season ended, COO Jeff Wilpon said the Wilpon treasury would provide Minaya with whatever he needed. But he also cautioned that this year's repairs probably wouldn't be accomplished as swiftly as those made last December, when the acquisitions of Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz were executed in roughly the same time required for a complete game by Steve Trachsel.
To this point and time, eight free-agent filings and the release of Ken Takahashi have done more than Minaya to disassociate the 2009 Mets from 70-92, fourth place and 23 games behind in the National League East. The addition of Shawn Bowman to the 40-man roster last month and the signings of Alex Cora and Chris Coste on Monday have gone unnoticed by the baseball seismograph.
Therefore, the Mets are essentially where they were following the General Managers' Meetings early last month. They have been involved in conversation with 29 teams and at least that many free agents. But if the season began today, their team would bare strong resemblance to one that finished last season, though crutches, bandages and limping would be less prominent.
Their needs are these:
A power hitter, preferably one who would fill the vacancy in left field, to tame Citi Field and provide more protection for David Wright. The Mets' public is demanding one of two expensive free agents -- Matt Holliday or Jason Bay. Neither is an ideal defensive fit for spacious Citi Field. So we'll see. Mike Cameron, also a free agent, had some appeal to the club. Whether playing left field rather than his customary center field has appeal to Cameron is an issue the Mets have discussed.
A starting pitcher, left-handed or right-handed, likely to provide at least 200 innings and maintain an ERA closer to 4.00 than the 4.77 the Mets' starters produced in 2009. Those who populate Citi Field want John Lackey because he is the best starter available. Some among the Mets' decision-makers aren't sure Lackey would be worth the contract he is likely to command. The club has alternates in mind -- Randy Wolf, Jason Marquis, Joel Pineiro and Ben "High Reward-Higher Risk" Sheets, all free agents.
A regular catcher. Coste's signing doesn't preclude the club pursuing another player to do the majority of the catching. The field is Kent Tekulve-thin. Molina has 35 years of squatting in his 55-year-old legs. But he can hit. Rod Barajas has more power but less appeal to the Mets. And Yorvit Torrealba isn't likely. One person in the Mets' hierarchy said trading for a catcher is more likely than signing any of the three free agents.
A setup reliever. Even if the Mets were to bring back free agent Putz, they might want more reinforcements for the pre-K-Rod role.
While Minaya and his lieutenants are in the land of Reggie Miller, Michael Jackson and the 500, they aren't expected to give much thought to Carlos Delgado, who has a seemingly slim chance of playing first base in Queens come April. Delgado is supposed to play in winter ball in Puerto Rico beginning Dec. 15 in an audition/proving ground.
The club wants to see how his surgically repaired hip affects his movement at first base and his swing. The possibility of Delgado returning and displacing Daniel Murphy is another reason the club may move slowly during the convention.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.