As fans, we know very little about what's going on in the general manager's office. Beat reporters, pundits and rumormongers get what they can, but what they get isn't a tick-tock of phone records and meetings. It's a mix of honest-to-goodness facts, negotiating ploys, trial balloons, competing agendas, axes being ground, recycled tales, rumors and fantasies. Which isn't to disparage sportswriters — that's what you get when you're talking to lots of people who shouldn't be talking to you about fluid situations in which different people want different things to happen. And even the stuff you can trust is just a small part of what's actually going on. We never even find out about the vast majority of the exploratory calls, semi-serious proposals that may become serious-serious, back-up plans, or anything else.
Which is a roundabout way of saying it's silly to assume that the Mets, having patched up their bullpen, are done and will try to get by with the likes of Alex Cora and Freddy Garcia while large holes still remain at second base, in the outfield corners and in the rotation. First of all, it's a long way to April — remember at this time last year, Johan Santana was a Twin. (And the Mets were a bunch of September choke artists. Anyway.) Second of all, we have no idea what Omar Minaya and Co. are up to out at CitiField, besides making bag-on-head-quality sleeve patches. We don't know if the disconnect between Jeff Wilpon and Omar over Manny Ramirez (as reported by old Faith and Fear pal Danielle Sessa) is exactly what it seems to be, the stuff of misunderstanding, or part of a larger plan. We don't know how many teams Scott Boras really has calling about the services of Oliver Perez. We don't know how many years the Mets might give O.P. We don't know what's going on between the Mets and Ben Sheets. And there are other things going on about which we don't know enough to even lament not knowing more.
(By the way, though, I do know that giving Derek Lowe $15 million a year until he's 40 would have been nuts.)
Whatever's going on, I sure hope Omar is out there kicking tires.
The guy I can't get out of my head is Jake Peavy, the soon-to-be 28-year-old who's about the only thing the San Diego Padres have going for them. Sure, he plays in West Kamchatka, but even we've heard of him. Evil fastball and slider, pretty fair change-up and curve. Some injuries in his past, but nothing that's a Sheets-level flashing red light. Peavy's under contract through 2012 with a deal that escalates from $11 million this year to $17 million three years hence, with a $22 million option ($4 buyout) for 2013. By my thinking, he's worth that money.
The Padres need to cut payroll because of their owner's bitter, wallet-ravaging divorce. They need to rebuild, and Peavy's their best chance to do so in a hurry. They tried to trade their ace to the Braves, which didn't work. They may trade him to the Cubs, who have been stockpiling pieces but are in the midst of an ownership transition and don't have their house in order quite yet.
Before it imploded, the Braves' deal was going to send shortstop Yunel Escobar and outfielder Gorkys Hernandez west, along with either Charlie Morton or Jo-Jo Reyes (both pitchers) and either Blaine Boyer or one of two minor-league lefties. That's a pretty good prospect haul — just as the Cubs' offer would supposedly include pitcher Garrett Olson, stud prospect third-baseman Josh Vitters, and various pitchers from a pool including Kevin Hart and Sean Marshall.
It seems to me that the Mets could provide something comparable. How about Wilmer Flores, Nick Evans, Bobby Parnell and Brad Holt? That would be a blue-chip shortstop/third baseman, a guy who could play first or left in the bigs now, and two young pitchers with upside. Or how about Fernando Martinez, Reese Havens, Parnell and Dillon Gee? Or how about some combination of the two — pick F-Mart or Flores and we'll discuss the other pieces. You can argue whether or not those packages are comparable to what the Braves almost gave up and the Cubs might give up, but they're real value.
Why not try? Wouldn't Johan/Peavy/Maine/Pelfrey/Whoever make you feel pretty good about 2009?
I don't mean to disparage Oliver, or Randy Wolf, or Ben Sheets, or even Andy Pettitte — who'd be fine with me on a short-term deal, pinstripes and all. Except to say that the problem with Oliver or any of those guys is you're looking at more sixth-inning appearances by the bullpen, which was a big factor in the last two Met teams bleeding out catastrophically in September. (Which I guess is disparaging them after all, so never mind.)
As for the excuses, I'm not buying them.
Peavy won't come to New York. Pshaw — I get that he's a huntin'-and-fishin' guy, but for the money he'll make by the time he's done, Jake Peavy could bag deer from a low-flying Gulfstream. Besides, like it mattered that CC Sabathia was a big West Coast guy when Steinbrenner and Steinbrenner appeared in front of his house in the cab of a dumptruck full of money. (And didn't Mark Teixeira yearn to return to Maryland?) In New York Peavy would keep earning gobs of money with a change to earn googolglobs of money when he's still relatively young, and he'd have a shot at October. These two factors are the ones that motivate (in various proportions) most any athlete you've ever cheered or booed, and Greg's said everything else I needed to know on this score.
We'd be stripping the farm system bare. C'mon. I'm a sucker for prospects, but they're relentlessly overhyped here, and we're talking about Jake Peavy, a Cy Young winner in his prime — not, say, a converted infielder with a bad elbow who doesn't know how to pitch. Peavy is great today, and young enough to be great for a fair number of tomorrows. That's worth a good chunk of Met maybes and hopefullys.
There's no payroll flexibility. You make exceptions for the right players. Jake Peavy seems like one of them to me. (So would Manny Ramirez, for the right number of years. But that's another post.) Peavy would need to be compensated for his 10-5 rights resetting, but another no-trade and making that option guaranteed would probably do it.
It's not a big enough package. The Mets got Santana (going into his walk year, granted) for a fleet outfielder with potential and a trio of arms that were at best promising. What I've proposed is a better deal than that in terms of promise and big-league-ready personnel.
And remember a year ago. Who among us thought Santana wasn't going to the Yankees or the Red Sox? Why not Jake Peavy? Why not at least try? Sometimes you kick the tires and the dealer decides to come down a bit and throw in whitewalls. Sometimes you keep calling folks and they call you back. Sometimes good things happen.