Monday, March 10, 2008

Wanted: Offense

In 2004, the Mets made a trade that was monumentally stupid when they dealt Scott Kazmir to Tampa Bay for Victor Zambrano. That's a rather obvious statement in and of itself. But consider this: At the time the deal was made, Jim Duquette professed a need for pitching. Then-Manager Art Howe was quoted as saying, "You know me, I can never have too much pitching."

At the time, the Mets had the third-best pitching staff in the National League. The problem was an impotent offense that could barely plate runs on a regular basis, anchored by players like Kaz Matsui, Eric Valent and Jason Phillips playing major roles. And with their great new pitchers, the Mets went out and proceeded to lose games 2-1 instead of 3-1.

The case could be made that had Kazmir been dealt for a big outfield bat, or even a passable outfield bat, that helped the Mets stay alive in a race they were probably going to lose anyway, it might have been a better deal. I'm not saying that it would have been, I'm just making this argument.

Right now, the Mets are in a similar position. With a major chunk of the offense either inactive or hurting, the Mets really could use another bat. I think this has been addressed more than once, by more than a few people.

Right now, Moises Alou, who we knew would be injured at some point, will be out at least until May with a hernia. Carlos Beltran hasn't played after offseason knee surgery has hampered his quads. Carlos Delgado has been ailing, and even then we don't know what we have with him. Marlon Anderson and Ryan Church have returned from injuries resulting from last weekend's collision. Endy Chavez has also been battling hamstring problems.

This outfield is in a bit of flux right now. Fortunately, it's still March, the games don't count, and there's still time for things to fall into place. But should these problems re-surface during the season, the Mets could find themselves in a bit of trouble. While the Bullpen certainly has garnered a bit of concern (although the emergence of former-prospect Nelson Figueroa has added another arm to the mix I discussed last week), right now, you can't feel too comfortable about the offense, outside of Wright, and the renewed Reyes, and operating under the assumption that Beltran will come around.

How bad is it?

Last Friday, Buster Olney on ESPN actually made a rather convincing argument advocating the signing of Barry Bonds. This blog (ESPN Insider or a friend with Insider who can e-mail it to you required) by Olney, who is always well-thought out, basically states that Bonds will only cost the Mets money, would provide plenty of offense in Alou's stead, and either way, the left fielder would be replaced by Endy Chavez for defense in the late innings.

It's a convincing argument. I wish I could acquire whatever Olney is smoking.

Bringing in the absolute unadulterated Circus that is Barry Bonds would probably make everyone on the team nuts. Bonds is already under indictment and could likely go to jail by season's end. Minaya would probably be excoriated by everybody in New York, filleted by the media, and chuckled at by Yankee fans. He'd hit, yes, but it's nowhere near worth a) what the Mets would have to pay him and b) the headache. And after the Mets dispatched such "troublemakers" like Milledge and LoDuca, what message would this be sending?

Fortunately, the Mets have deemed this report as ridiculous. At least that's what they're telling people.

There are, in the opinion of many, more palatable options, players who can come in and fill roles. A righty bat who could play left when Alou is hurt, play right and spell, or perhaps platoon with Church, or even play first if Delgado falters. But a deal clearly would have to be with someone looking for some excess bullpen help. It's no surprise that Jorge Sosa and Scott Schoeneweis are being shopped around. The Mets can't afford to deal any prospects, certainly after the Santana trade. But there are players who can be had for this price, one would assume. Xavier Nady is the first such player who comes to mind, someone who has already played here and played well, before being forced into another such reactionary deadline deal in '06 (albeit one that has had much better results). Marcus Thames has also been bandied about as an option coming over from Detroit. A third option is Jay Payton on Baltimore, although he'd be acquired as a part-time player, and he has, in the past, complained about a lack of playing time. In camp, Angel Pagan has performed well, and Brady Clark is, well, Brady Clark. Other options might include Reed Johnson or whatever outfielder ends up on the bench on the Washingtons of the world.

Bottom line here is that something needs to be done. It's not a major deal, and it's not a reactionary deal, so hopefully, the Mets won't try to turn it into one. All this takes is a player who is a ridiculous, useless veteran on another team, who would be a perfect fit on the Mets. I'm rooting for Nady, since the Pirates can trot out an outfield of Bay, Nate McLouth and Nyjer Morgan, and Adam LaRoche at first. Nady has no real spot on that team. Let's bring this guy back. I liked him.

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