Mailbag: A call to arms

Mailbag: Who will start next year for the Mets?

What do the Mets plan to do about their starting pitching for next season? So far, they've acquired only Jason Vargas. Also, why are we trying to make Aaron Heilman a starter again? I don't think Vargas and Heilman will be our ticket back to the postseason. Barry Zito, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and others are still free agents. What are the Mets' plans right now?
-- Lorenzo S., Oceanside, N.Y.

What you wrote is why I think an unspoken sense of urgency exists with the Mets -- even in November. With Tom Glavine a possible departure and the Mets not pursuing Steve Trachsel, 62 starts and 44 team victories are missing. The pitchers on the 40-man roster and likely to compete for four places in the rotation along side Orlando Hernandez are Vargas, John Maine, Brian Bannister, Dave Williams, Oliver Perez, Mike Pelfrey, Philip Humber and Alay Soler. Forget Heilman. He is a reliever. With Chad Bradford still unsigned, Guillermo Mota unsigned and unavailable for the first 50 games because of a suspension and Duaner Sanchez not a sure thing, Heilman is essential to the 'pen. Moreover, the Mets remain unconvinced Heilman is suited to start.

Back to the rotation possibilities: Exclude Vargas, who never has pitched for the Mets, and the other seven combined to make merely 45 starts with the Mets last season. They combined for 16 victories. Even if Vargas' starts with the Marlins and those Perez made with the Pirates and Williams made with the Reds are included, the totals for the eight aspiring starters is 73 starts and 21 victories.

Suffice to say, the Mets need pitching.

Now that the Mets have Moises Alou, what are the chances of Cliff Floyd returning? He is a fan favorite, not to mention a great ballplayer.
-- Beth B., Old Tappan, N.J.

Floyd's time as a Met is complete. His value to the Mets was and would be as an everyday player. His swing is too big to remain effective in limited duty. And the Mets believed Alou, a right-handed hitter, was a better fit than Floyd, a left-handed hitter. Here's a way to look at it. The Mets' corner outfielders when the 2006 season began were Floyd in left and Xavier Nady in right. They probably are better off now with Alou in left and Shawn Green in right -- so long as Alou is healthy.

Floyd started slowly last season, and, really, never got going. His second half was lost to injury. Still, he had 26 RBIs, seven home runs, a .416 slugging percentage and a .343 on-base percentage in 242 plate appearances before the All-Star break. The figures are comparable or better than what Green produced in comparable opportunities -- with the Diamondbacks and Mets -- after the break: 28 RBIs, seven home runs, a .240 batting average, .347 slugging percentage and .320 on-base percentage.

But the Mets expect more from Alou than Nady provided -- remember his appendectomy and broken wrist -- before his departure July 31.

Floyd was -- is -- a fan favorite. The clubhouse will miss him, too.

With Manny Acta now the Nationals manager, do you see maybe Lee Mazzilli returning to Shea as the third-base coach?
-- Sean B., Mahopac, N.Y.

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As a coach of some sort, it certainly is possible. Willie Randolph and Mazzilli are close. Mazzilli attended the wedding of Randolph's daughter earlier this month.

I've heard Green mentioned a few times, but nothing about plans for 2007. He doesn't seem to fit into the Mets' plans for next year, so who are some reasonable candidates for right field?
-- Brad W., Oswego, N.Y.

Green fits as the right fielder as long as he's earning $9.5 million for 2007. Remember, the Mets were in position to play Kaz Matsui before he was injured in Spring Training. They weren't going to eat his $8 million. They're not going to eat $9.5 million (plus a $2 million buyout) in Green's case.

Does anyone really like the name Citi Field?
-- Jason Z., New Milford, N.J.

Would you prefer "Energy Solutions Arena," the newly-renamed home of the NBA's Utah Jazz? Citi Field is less objectionable than a lot of the new ones.

How does the Mets' decision to buy out Glavine's option for $3 million factor into the value of the contract he would sign if he decides to return and whether he would choose the Braves or Mets? If Glavine were to make it clear that he wanted to come back for one more year, obviously, we wouldn't have declined his option. So if he does wind up wanting to come back, will he take into consideration that the Mets already handed him $3 million, and go with a lesser contract?
-- Brad W., Oswego, N.Y.

The buyout provision for 2007 in Glavine's contract was established in March. It has no effect on his next contract. He and the Mets essentially have decided what he will earn if he returns. But he has yet to decide whether he wants to return.

I'd rather the Mets not sign Glavine and try for both Zito and Mark Mulder, even if means extending their payroll. Glavine is expecting $12-14 million for one or two more seasons. For that money, I'd rather see two young starters for the Mets. Besides, if the Mets are looking for a mentor for the pitching staff and their younger players, they have plenty of bodies to fill that role -- Pedro Martinez, El Duque, Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran.

We need good, proven young pitchers. I think Zito and Mulder can handle New York. They will feel right at home with pitching coach Rick Peterson and the family clubhouse the Mets have. And Randolph is, I think, a players' manager with plenty of smarts. He knows how to get the most out of his players. Look what happened with Jose Valentin last season. He started so poorly and Randolph showed confidence in Valentin by playing him until he got his groove back. What's your take on all of this?
-- Maria L., Mt. Vernon

Bringing in Mulder may not address the Mets' rotation needs for April. There's no guarantee he will be ready by then. Given that the Mets' rotation, aside from El Duque, seems like a vacuum right now, the need is for definitely able pitchers. Glavine is that, and he isn't expecting anything close to $14 million. If he decides to return, it won't be to serve as a mentor. He won 15 games last season. The team won 24 of his 32 starts. If he re-signs with the Mets, he will fill the role of No. 1 or No. 2 starter.

Your other point about Randolph is well taken. But I don't think playing in the Big Apple is an issue for either veteran pitcher. I do wonder about the wisdom of spending $70 some-odd million on a pitcher like Zito, who has nine more victories than losses in his 138 most recent starts.

I don't think the Mets should trade Lastings Milledge for Javier Vasquez or Freddy Garcia. If they sign Glavine and Zito, this would be the Mets rotation: Glavine, Zito, El Duque, Maine and Perez. If they must trade Milledge, they should do so for Dontrelle Willis and no other pitcher.
-- Stephen R., Oakton, Va.

With the corner outfielders seemingly established, and with Milledge not a likely participant, the club is more inclined to deal him. It must add proven pitchers. Just signing Zito and Glavine isn't so readily done, and it would cost more than $80 million. I still think Willis is the pitcher the Mets would trade Milledge -- and others -- for.

What ever happened to Bannister? He looked promising in the beginning of the 2006 season before his hamstring injury.
-- Griffin M., Garden City, N.Y.

He's preparing for Spring Training and a chance to reclaim the status he had in April by pitching in Mexico.

Marty Noble is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.