Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Add The Mets To The List Of Teams That Need A Starting Pitcher

  • Marlins 7-Mets 3; John Maine leaves the game in the fifth inning with shoulder pain/stiffness:
A week ago, the Mets starting rotation was relatively solid in comparison to the rest of the
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league even with the ambiguity of Pedro Martinez; now the may have to go into the market for a stopgap to give them some innings. John Maine left last night's game against the Marlins with pain/stiffness in the back of his shoulder and returned to New York for an examination and if he's out for any significant amount of time, the Mets have a problem.
The initial belief from pitching coach Dan Warthen is that it's not something serious that will cause Maine to miss more than one start, but that's hardly any comfort to the Mets who don't have any idea when they're getting Martinez back and what they're going to get out of him when he does return. So they, like most other teams, are going to scrounge around the non-contenders and teams willing to deal to try and find a starter. The Blue Jays have pulled A.J. Burnett off the market (more on this later), as the Reds have with Bronson Arroyo; that leaves the likes of Jarrod
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Washburn; Paul Byrd; Vicente Padilla; Miguel Batista; and Tim Redding. There are teams like the Astros that should be making pitchers available to re-stock the franchise, but instead are acquiring spare parts that they don't need in Randy Wolf.
I wouldn't get too excited or give up much of anything for most of the pitchers mentioned; taking their salaries should be sufficient to
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acquire them in lieu of viable prospects, but guys like Padilla, who's signed through next year with a 2010 option, wouldn't come cheap; and Redding is the type of impending free agent pitcher that the Nationals Bizarro GM Jim Bowden would ask for six top prospects after prematurely unloading the cheap, productive and versatile reliever Jon Rauch to the Diamondbacks for one. Byrd's been terrible this year, but he wouldn't cost
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much in terms of players and the change might wake him up for the rest of the season; worst case scenario, he'd eat some innings. Perhaps the Twins would want to get something for Livan Hernandez as they promote Francisco Liriano; Hernandez would be a perfect fit for the Mets.
The only hope the Mets have in this case is that Maine will only miss a start or two and they can patch something together with Triple A veterans Brian Stokes or Ruddy Lugo; they could also promote top prospect Jon Niese from Double A for a couple of starts to see if they catch lightning. Unless they're getting one of the veteran pitchers available for little or nothing, patching the problem with what they have is the best solution for now.
  • Another reason the Blue Jays should fire J.P. Ricciardi:
Now the Blue Jays are justifying keeping A.J. Burnett by implying that they're going to try to crawl back into contention and win right now after a brief hot streak has pushed them over .500. It's nonsense.
Take a look back at the Blue Jays track record under GM J.P. Ricciardi. Every year they've
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either been out of contention completely by this point, or were hovering around exactly where they are now; not in a genuine playoff race, but not bad enough to warrant a thorough housecleaning of veterans; and look where they end up. They wind up with a record of slightly above .500 or a bit better and everyone thinks that they're improving; that they're ready to take the next step and join the Yankees and Red Sox at the top of the AL East and possibly vault past one to make the playoffs; but they don't. They're a hamster on a treadmill and it's enough already. They've had this latest hot streak to push them over .500 and into
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"contention" against the fading Orioles and the Mariners. In August they play: the Rangers, Athletics, Indians, Tigers, Red Sox, Yankees, Red Sox, Rays and Yankees. Does anyone really believe that they're going to be able to keep up this "hot" streak?
Regarding Burnett, the main reason that they're not trading him is that they're not going to get much of anything for him because of that stupid contract that Ricciardi doled out in which the pitcher can either opt out at the end of this year or can activate two more years at $12 million per. If a deal could be worked out where Burnett would agree to activate the contract immediately upon being traded, then maybe the Blue Jays would get something of value for him, but why should he given the state of pitching around the big leagues? He's got 12 wins now and could wind up with 17-19 by season's end if he pitches well; he'd get a long-term deal from someone after the season if he does opt out.
The Burnett contract is eerily similar to the one that Frank Thomas received which----despite the disingenuous claims by Ricciardi----truly precipitated his release earlier this year. Thomas's contract was going to activate for next year after he reached 376 plate
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appearances and the Blue Jays used Thomas's slow start (for which he's been notorious throughout his career) and chafing at being benched as the reasons he was released. The truth is that they dumped him because they didn't want to pay him for next year and having contracts dictate how a team is run and what player decisions are made in this way is inept management.
It's one thing to dump a player because of his contract and the team situation; it's another to dump him in April as the Blue Jays did with Thomas. It's the same situation with Burnett. They're not keeping him because they think they're going to leap into contention; they're keeping him because Ricciardi is hoping against hope that the Blue Jays will win their 87-88 games and again save his job as he hides behind the "improvement" that isn't really there. You really can't blame the guy for trying this strategy because it's worked in saving his neck before; you'd think that ownership would eventually catch on and make a change, but Ricciardi, with all of his controversies, embarrassing public dustups with players and bottom-line mediocrity, is still there, so he might again survive like the reptile he's proven himself to be.

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