Santana — we haven't got!
Dan Haren — we haven't got!
The D-Train — we haven't got!
What've we got?
Good question. If we eliminate heart — and based on the events of September 14-30, you'd kind of have to until further notice — we've got OK starting pitching, maybe even more than adequate starting pitching. We've got Pedro, more formidable and less of a question mark than we could have envisioned during his layoff; John Maine and Oliver Perez, who entered 2007 as maybes and go to 2008 as definitelys if not perfects; El Mysterioso Duque, who will likely have a fine two-thirds of a season; the Pelfrey-Humber Experience…or inexperience, if you will. One of them is bound to be pretty good if draft position and scouting reports ever mean or meant anything.
There's Mulvey down there somewhere until we are told that, oh no, he isn't actually much of a pitcher. There's Heilman, who could probably give it a go if asked — and by give it a go, I'm thinking run over his grandmother and grab the ball if told he gets to throw it in the first inning. There's some Japanese expatriate the organization is high on, isn't there? Or am I thinking of Yusaku Iriki, the guy who was suspended (and deported for all I know)? And yes, there's Livan Hernandez, destined to be a Met starter eventually, given his wear, his tear and his stubborn mediocrity, though the dude can hit.
Could be worse. Could be better. What else is new?
As of now, we don't have whoever it is we were supposed to be spending our Citi bonus on. Fearless forecaster that I am, I'll go out on a limb and predict either we will or we will not have that guy by Opening Day. We'll trade for one of those aces or acelike pitchers or get by with what we've got and the likes of Livan. Give me maybe three extra outs per start from Maine and Perez, something resembling staying power from Pelfrey/Humber and enough innings from one Hernandez to make up for the presumed partial absence of the other, plus a full season of Pedro, and I'm not going to sweat the rotation in advance of it actually decomposing.
Call me a wildly wide-eyed optimist, but I don't think our starting pitching is so horrendous that it requires the undignified lengths to which we've collectively been willing to throw prospects and stars at the feet of those who hold the contracts of other pitchers. The process reeks of desperation, as if the Mets are post-divorce Kirk Van Houten trying to score a phone number.
Let's trade Carlos Gomez.
Let's trade Carlos Gomez and Fernando Martinez.
Let's trade Gomez and Martinez and Pelfrey.
Let's trade Gomez and Martinez and Pelfrey and Humber.
Let's trade Gomez and Martinez and Pelfrey and Humber and Mulvey.
And we'll throw in Aaron Heilman!
And Carlos Beltran!
And Jose Reyes!
I've never been all that protective of prospects. Shoot, I didn't think Kazmir for Zambrano was the end of the world at the time. I had seen way too many Mets prospects not pan out for about thirty years to automatically throw myself on that kind of trade proposal like it was a live grenade. But the rush this winter to hypothetically include in trade talks everybody we've ever heard of…well, forget for a moment that almost every package that has been pitched for pitchers like Santana, Haren and Bedard has been returned to sender. It's the general willingness to just give up so quickly on anybody who might grow into the job, who might rise to the occasion, who might mature as a Met and not cost a zillion dollars and half the farm system that's added yet another dispiriting overtone to this offseason.
Whatever happened to patience? To reserving judgment? To that word at the top of the page, faith? I don't think it's Pollyannaish to hope the Mets will try to improve from without while not automatically throwing in the towel on what they've got within. They've already done it once this winter by sending Lastings Milledge down I-95. Do they have to do it again and again? Do we have to be nothing more than an agglomeration of wealthy rented strangers?
And that's just the prospects. What has also poisoned the atmosphere by my reckoning is the willingness, stated by many, to trade away just about anybody who isn't David Wright (and just wait a couple of weeks). Heilman? OK, not untouchable, but you better have a dependable replacement in mind for his innings. Beltran? I can't believe how often I've heard his name floated. Does anyone remember that one of the 119 million reasons he left Houston was the Astros' refusal to give him a full no-trade? And that the Mets gave him just that? Why exactly would Beltran waive it, other than to not hear himself come up in absurd rumors?
As for Reyes as a possible chip, even for Santana…that Jose would even be mentioned shows mental illness runs rampant in our streets. What is it about the Mets that inspires those who are theoretically looking out for their best interests to suggest trading their starting shortstop, leadoff hitter and, unless you've got Hanley Ramirez in your back pocket, immediately irreplaceable cog? Did you notice that when the Twins were entertaining offers from top American League teams that those clubs' fans (as far as I heard) weren't offering up their marquee starting position players?
Why the hell should we? What is wrong with us? What's in the water that makes anybody think it's a good idea to give up 24-year-old extraordinarily recent franchise pillar Jose Reyes, lousy September notwithstanding, for a pitcher who will pitch once every five days? Why do Mets fans (some; not all; enough) race to the edge of the cliff without being pushed?
Then there was the alleged Dontrelle & Pudge deal that was allegedly kiboshed because the Tigers insisted Rodriguez would have to go with Willis, and Rodriguez would, in turn, insist on an extension on his already lucrative contract. I heard Joe Benigno rail at the Mets for not grabbing at this alleged straw. Granted, Benigno's a weather vane with three hours to fill, but I've found his “JUST DO IT!” philosophy fairly common among Mets fans of late. Thus, let's say the Mets gave up whatever it was that would get them Willis and Rodriguez, thereby acceding to the catcher's demands for more years and presumably way more money. The Mets would be into Pudge for more than $30 million into the 2010s, I'm guessing. He's been a wonderful player, but he's 36 and he's a catcher. Even if he's an exceptional catcher, he'd be an albatross waiting to happen. Think that would go over big ten minutes after his inevitable decline kicked in?
I admit I'm wading onto hypothetical shores here, complaining about a trade that didn't and probably isn't going to happen, but I believe this kind of talk is just one more indicator over how screwed up our thinking has become. We're not worthy! We're not worthy! Take everybody we have and give us whoever you deem necessary! There's one Johan Santana. He merits intense consideration in terms of barter. Everybody else…be very, very careful, because whatever the benefits of getting a Dan Haren (whom I have to admit I confuse with Rich Harden) or Erik Bedard or Dontrelle Willis, somebody's gotta play short this year and left and right next year and pitch on all the other days every year. I think this radical brand of strategizing is called building and maintaining a ballclub.