I think that the Mets' weakness this year was their starting rotation. Thinking positive towards 2007, I have two questions: one, do you see the Mets signing current Yankee and potential free agent Mike Mussina? And, two, why not get rid of Cliff Floyd, forget about Alfonso Soriano and just let Endy Chavez and Jose Valentin be the regular left fielder and second baseman? That would leave the Mets more money to acquire a couple of good, reliable starting pitchers. Is that such a bad idea? -- Jason R., St. Petersburg, Fla.
I don't know that anyone here has characterized your plan a bad idea -- yet. First of all, if you've heard something about the Mets and Mussina, you and the person who suggested it probably are alone. Second, the Mets don't have to "get rid of Cliff Floyd." He has filed for free agency. They retain some rights to him for now, but he no longer is on their roster and, after the filing period ends, any club may sign him.
Now, acquiring Soriano is not necessarily high on the Mets' to-do list. He's expensive, considered selfish and defensively flawed at second base. That said, he is a remarkably gifted player. And so is Stephon Marbury.
The Mets consider second base and left field as vacancies in their regular lineup, with Valentin having filed for free agency and even with Chavez available. The Mets fretted last summer about Valentin's ability to maintain the rate of production he established earlier in the season. They wondered about his 36-year-old legs. His late-season offensive shortfall -- he batted .183 in 109 at-bats, regular season and postseason, after Aug. 31 -- says their concerns were not misplaced.
As valuable as Valentin was in 2006 -- and his contributions were quite significant -- the Mets would rather become younger at the position than one year older, particularly because that one year would make a middle infielder 37 years old.
In the case of Chavez, consider the possibility of diminishing returns. If he were to play twice as often in 2007, his production wouldn't necessarily double. It is quite unlikely it would. While Chavez is a sensational No. 4 outfielder whose value decreases with regular duty, the Mets would rather he be available to pinch-hit, pinch-run, provide late-inning defense and spell regulars during the dog days than to play every day.
Outfielders suited for regular duty are available -- Soriano, Carlos Lee, et al -- at great expense, no doubt. Fourth outfielders of Chavez's quality are abundant. With Floyd likely to be gone, and with Valentin's successor at second base not necessarily likely to provide the same type and degree of offense Valentin provided (and with right fielder Shawn Green not likely to provide typical, corner-outfield offense), the Mets probably will need more offense from Floyd's replacement than Chavez would be likely to provide.
The Mets need to find someone to replace Floyd in the batting-order sequence -- assuming manager Willie Randolph tries to maintain the batting order sequence that proved so effective in 2006 -- and that means they need a No. 6 batter to protect David Wright. Ideally, he would bat left-handed, as Floyd did, but that isn't essential. Lee would be a significant deterrent to pitching around Wright.
All that said, the Mets need a reliable starting pitcher who could make 30 starts, a run producer and a second baseman.
That's a much better idea.
What are the chances of the Mets acquiring Ronnie Belliard? I heard he chose free agency. The Mets can use a player like him as their second baseman. Belliard has a good bat and is a spectacular defensive talent. -- Jordan R., New York
I can't say Belliard is a spectacular defensive player. But he appears to be at least a make-the-routine-play, turn-the-double-play second baseman with modest offensive skills the Mets can carry if they make a significant upgrade in left. Anderson Hernandez seemingly is a better defensive player with less offensive skill than Belliard. Second basemen rarely are spectacular. They are, more typically, in one of two categories -- reliable or unreliable.
Randolph was as sound a second baseman as I ever saw on a regular basis. What made him special was that he was sound every inning, every day. He hung in on and turned double plays, he ran into the outfield for popups, made strong relays and achieved outs on plays when his tag was the difference.
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But the best second basemen don't often get opportunities to make nearly as many eye-popping plays as shortstops. There are few long throws, fewer opportunities to demonstrate athleticism. It's the nature of the position.
That said, Hernandez has the making of spectacular second baseman. A converted shortstop, he throws his body around the field as Rey Ordonez did at shortstop. He made three plays in his brief tenure as the Mets' regular that belong in a 15-play team highlight array.
But a bottom-of-the-order sequence of Green, Hernandez and the pitcher would constitute a signifcant difference from the sequence -- Xavier Nady, the 2006 version of Valentin and the pitcher -- to which the Mets became accustomed in the first half of last season.
Obviously, Soriano would change the dynamic high and low in the order, but also defensively.
Do you agree Chavez would be a solid left fielder as a starter next year? He has a great arm and adds speed to the bottom of the lineup. He bunts and hustles everything out. -- Jarett X., Levittown, N.Y.
Do you think Chavez would do a great job in left field? I think he will be a great left fielder. His hitting will improve over time. He's got great speed, and he can steal a few bases. As for pitching, how is Victor Zambrano doing? Will he be back for the start of the 2007 season? -- Jim E., Boca Raton, Fla.
Jarett and Jim, see the response to the first e-mail in this mailbag, as it pertains to Chavez.
Now, as far as Zambrano is concerned, why bother? He remains a project -- a double project now that he is rehabbing his elbow. If a club is going to tolerate a pitcher of tremendously uneven performance, it would prefer a "project" with an age less than Zambrano's 31.
His rehab has gone well, the club has said. But when is the last time a pitcher's full recovery from Tommy John ligament replacement surgery happened without a hiccup or two? Moreover, if Zambrano isn't throwing without pain come March 1, what would the Mets have? A pitcher with a
blemished resume and, probably, compromised velocity and arm strength who, at his best, was the Mets pitcher most likely to pitch a no-hitter and lose it.
The Mets have Oliver Perez. He is younger, left-handed, is in good health and, it appears, stronger-willed. One project is enough for any club with postseason aspirations.
What are the odds of the Mets landing Barry Zito? He would be a great pickup for them. He's young and very talented, and Rick Peterson was his pitching coach for a few years. The Mets would be crazy not to attempt to sign him. -- Greg R., New York
Would they be crazy? Zito is young (28) and talented, you're right; so talented that in his first three big-league seasons -- all three with Peterson -- he produced a record that was 30 games better than .500 in 84 starts. That's pretty good no matter the league and how much foul territory exists in Oakland's McAfee Coliseum.
In four subsequent seasons, the last three most recent without Peterson, he has started 138 games, worked at least 213 innings and produced a record that is nine games better than .500 for teams that have averaged 92 victories.
Interpret those numbers through the prism of decisions won -- 55 in 138 starts in four seasons. Would those numbers make his acquisition a "great pickup?" I'm not sure. The price tag on him -- as a left-handed starter with postseason experience, a career record that is 39 games over .500 and a resume that includes six straight seasons of at least 213 innings and a 3.55 ERA in the offensive American League -- will be astronomical. I'm sure of that, and not because Scott Boras is his agent.
Ten months ago, when the world assumed Zito would be with the Mets by July 31, a member of the club's hierarchy said Zito already has begun the downside of his career. Not that he is no longer an effective big-league pitcher or that he couldn't add a second Cy Young Award to his resume, but that the likelihood of him being a dominating force for two or three straight seasons as he had been in 2001 and 2002 had decreased.
The interest in Zito hardly was great at the time. Whether the absence of Pedro Martinez, the pending 41st birthday of Tom Glavine and Boras' presence have made Zito more or less appealing is all but impossible to judge.
This is for sure: The Mets paid top dollar for Glavine and Martinez, spending a fortune to bring credibility to the organization and rotation. The credibility remains, even though Glavine could return to Atlanta and Martinez has spoken the word "retirement."
Zito could join the Mets, win more games than either Glavine or Martinez and not afford the club what either of the other two did. So will the Mets pay more for him -- he probably will command more -- than they did for Glavine or Martinez?
I have been hearing lots of rumors of Carlos Delgado being traded in the offseason. Can you add any truth to this, or is it simply rumor? And if there is truth to this matter, why would the Mets be looking to deal him? -- Unknown, Westchester, N.Y.
Delgado is not going anywhere. Mets general manager Omar Minaya said on Monday that Delgado and his agent, David Sloane, have informed the club that the first baseman does not plan to exercise his right to demand a trade this offseason.
What are the chances of the Mets landing Gary Matthews Jr. to play left field? This would upgrade the defense and provide some power for the bottom of the lineup. -- Bryan B., Antwerp, Belgium
Wow, an e-mail from well beyond left field. Matthews an intriguing idea because of his defense. But the Mets' offensive desire is for muscle more than average.
Is there any chance that the Mets could make a move to bring Ty Wigginton back to New York to fill the hole at second base? -- Steve K., Wilton, Conn.
I doubt it. Wigginton fit the Mets he played with from 2002 to mid-2004. The Mets require more defense of their second basemen now.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.