It's hard to believe in a pitching rotation that is full of "ifs." Let's face it, Mike Pelfrey and Oliver Perez are not the pitchers the Mets hoped they'd be, at least the same pitchers they were when Rick Peterson was the pitching coach. And the bullpen, aside from Pedro Feliciano and Frankie Rodriguez, is nothing to brag about either. All the talk about the Mets' depleted Minor League system has me worrying about the decisions the organization makes.
I guess my question is, where is the light at the end of the tunnel for this team, and how long do you think it'll be before they are a postseason contender again? As of right now, they're a worse team than the one that couldn't get it done in '06, and the rest of the division seems to be getting better and better.
-- Justin L., Vernon, N.J.
Where to begin? Halladay and Carpenter hardly are No. 2 starters; they're No. 1 guys. And you have the wrong impression -- neither is eligible for free agency. Gonzalez is likewise not eligible for free agency.
The Mets consider Perez's performance following Dan Warthen's replacing Peterson June 17, 2008, the most consistent work he's done since he was acquired in 2006. Perez had 13 successive starts in which he pitched at least six innings and produced a 2.45 ERA (84 2/3 innings). You can blame all of Perez's inadequate 2009 in Perez himself, not Warthen.
Moreover, Pelfrey won 10 of 14 decisions and reduced his ERA by .90 in the 19 starts that immediately followed Peterson's dismissal. And the Mets' winning percentage in his starts in 2009, .484, was 64 points higher than their percentage in the 131 games he didn't start.
The light you're searching for at the end of the tunnel is faint at this point, before the planned renovation has begun. And with the needs being what they are, I'm not sure light will become significantly brighter in the short term. The Mets have identified their primary need as power and run production, followed by starting pitching and a catcher. They'd be more comfortable if Pelfrey, Perez and John Maine were the Nos. 3, 4 and 5 starters behind Johan Santana and a genuine No. 2 starter. Believe me, they'd be quite pleased with Halladay. But what do they have that's expendable to entice the Blue Jays?
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And were they to trade for Halladay somehow, what would be left to use in a deal for power?
I think a package of Maine and Fernando Martinez would be good for a trade for a starting pitcher. They both would be low risk, possibly high reward for any team. The Mets seem likely not to want Maine back, and with the likelihood of the Mets signing a power-hitting left fielder this offseason, there seems to be no place for Martinez in their immediate future. Thoughts?
-- Will B., Burlington, N.J.
I'm not sure the Mets want Maine gone, which is not to say they wouldn't include him in a trade that would import a No. 2 starter or a power hitter. The same can be said for Martinez, whose value has diminished since the days other clubs were inquiring about him. Neither player has the value he had in the 2006-07 offseason. I'm not sure what you mean by "low risk, possibly high reward." The risk in a trade can't be calculated until the player the Mets would receive in return is determined.
But I sense the sort of package you describe is what the Mets will have to trade to upgrade their rotation -- deal a starter and position player who doesn't figure prominently in the plans for 2010, bring in a No. 2 starter and allow Jon Niese, Fernando Nieve, Nelson Figueroa and Pat Misch (if they're all back) to compete for the No. 5 position in the rotation.
Do you think Mets fans will see Josh Thole in the lineup for 2010? I know his catching skills are not very good and the Mets are looking at free agents, but I think that he would be a valuable No. 2 hitter to bat behind Jose Reyes. Although he is not very good defensively, he is a great contact hitter. What are your thoughts?
-- Robert M., Chester, N.J.
Thole is likely to play less at the big league level in 2010 than he did in 2009. The Mets promoted him to have a chance to evaluate him in a season going nowhere. Now they know he needs to make dramatic improvement in his receiving skills before he can be considered for regular big league duty. Thole's offensive skills are nowhere close to what they would have to be for the club to consider compromising its defense at such a critical position.
He is not a great contact hitter. He's a 23-year-old catcher with no Triple-A experience who, given his power, must put the ball in play. His stance undermines his power and thereby limits his ability to drive in runs. That said, should he make consistent contact and hit some doubles, he will enhance his chances of a promotion in 2011.
I would have liked to have read your ideas on the World Series so far. I know you favored the Phillies. Do you still? And are you surprised by what's happened so far?
-- Myles T., Philadelphia, Pa.
Mildly surprised at best. My sense of this Series is that Yankees vs. Phillies is the most compelling matchup the big leagues could have provided this year. That isn't always the case, champion doesn't always connote best. This year it does. Moreover, the games have been sensational.
We have two dynamic teams and dynamic position players on each roster -- Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth opposite Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. And look what Jorge Posada, Johnny Damon and Pedro Feliz have done.
Cole Hamels, Shane Victorino, Robinson Cano and the Yankees setup relief haven't been what might have been expected. And Mariano Rivera has been everything the most pie-in-the-sky Yankees fan could have wanted -- merely magnificent. What a pleasure it is to watch him.
I'm not crazy about A.J. Burnett on short rest. His presence on the mound in Game 5 begs the question, 'Who starts Game 6 for the Yankees?' If the Yankees hit enough in Game 5 to hurt Cliff Lee -- how likely is that? -- another starter might get by. I believe the Phillies are mean enough to pull off victories in Game 5 and in Game 6. What then? I don't see any team other than possibly the Angels coming from three games down to beat the Yankees. But the Phillies can. It's not likely after their meltdown in Game 4. But this team might be fueled by its own failure and the unlikelihood of what it's trying to accomplish.
I think this has been a dazzling Series as good as any since 1975. Johnny Damon's Daring Dash -- and don't overlook his pop-up slide -- made for a stunning ad-lib. It rivals Derek Jeter's flip against the A's, and the catches by Sandy Amoros, Endy Chavez and Ron Swoboda. I can't get enough of this Series -- Rivera's impact, Werth's continued emergence and Tim McCarver's analysis. Let it go seven games.
Would the Mets trade Frankie Rodriguez for Albert Pujols? Would the Cardinals do it?
-- Jarod L., Raleigh, N.C.
Some folks will say this letter warrants no response. It is preposterous to think the Cardinals would trade Pujols straight up for any player. He is a terrific first baseman who happens to be the best hitter in the game, a player who is likely to play 150 games and who could win the Triple Crown and surprise no one in doing so. And you wonder whether the Cardinals would accept a pitcher who might appear in 70 games and pitch 70 innings.
Let's deal here with possibilities, not fantasies and pipe dreams. If you want to propose a deal, think of it from the points of view for both clubs before you begin typing. That sort of screening will save time on both ends and allow more legitimate questions to be answered.
And while I'm at it, e-mails typed in internet shorthand, all upper case or lower case letters and without punctuation are not as likely to be used as those with legitimate content presented so that it would receive an acceptable mark in grade school.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.