So, as I mentioned in this morning's Rockpile, Russ and I were asked by Take the 7 Train's Jessica Bader some info about the Rockies. I tried not to reveal too many state secrets, while of course, trying to root out some crucial info on the enemy:
1. Johan Santana has an ERA+ of 120, while Carlos Gomez has an OPS+ of 111 for the Twins with solid defense and 16 SB's thus far. If that was all there was to this trade, it would look like a fairly even exchange. However, there's a lot more going on there. Santana was supposed to steamroll through the National League this season, compete for the Cy Young and bring World Series glory back to Flushing. He was given a huge contract by the Mets to do so. He could be only the fourth best starter in his division at this point with Hamels, Hudson and Jurrgens pitching great for your rivals. Are you satisfied with the trade so far, or are you just a little bit worried that this isn't going to wind up being all that it was cracked up to be?
Santana has been a significantly better pitcher in the second half over the course of his career - his lifetime ERA is right around 4 in April and May, 3.67 in July, and 2.75 or lower in the other three months of the season - so while he has merely been very good to this point, I'll take it. The Mets did give up a significant amount of talent (three pitching prospects in addition to Gomez) and money to get Santana, but that's the price that must be paid for a pitcher of his caliber. Of course, there's an element of worry involved any time a pitcher is given a six-year deal, but I don't think Santana's going to go all Barry Zito on us. If I may say a bit about Gomez, I'm happy to see that he's doing so well in Minnesota, but I can't help but think that the Twins might have gotten more out of him in the long term if they had sent him to AAA at the start of the season to work on his plate discipline, which is what I would have wanted the Mets to do had they held onto him.
2. While I'm on the rotation... uh, yeah... Santana and Maine then pray for rain?
Oliver Perez is one of the more frustrating pitchers to watch in all of baseball. He has good velocity for a lefty and a filthy slider, when he's on he can be dominant, and he'll strike out about a batter an inning. The problem is that he's generally either lights-out or unable to find the strike zone, and while there's an argument to be made that a pitcher who alternates really good starts with really bad ones may be more valuable than one who is consistently mediocre, it doesn't make those five-walk outings any easier to take. In many ways, he's the NL East twin of Giants starter Jonathan Sanchez, who is to my fantasy team what Perez is to my real team.
Mike Pelfrey has a good fastball - 92 mph with the sort of movement that generates a lot of groundballs - but until/unless he consistently has command of his slider and changeup, he's going to be a pitcher who doesn't strike out enough batters and walks too many. He's still young, and there's an argument to be made that he was rushed to the majors, but eventually he's going to have to start producing better results.
Pedro Martinez was impressive in his return from shoulder surgery last September, but he injured his hamstring in his first start this year. The Mets have been very cautious with the pace of his rehab (I get the feeling that a pitcher other than Pedro would have been back with the team a couple of weeks ago), and the latest timetable for his return is the first week of June. I tend to be optimistic where Pedro is concerned, and if he can give the Mets anything resembling his outings from last year (when he struck out 25% of the batters he faced) I think it will be a pretty big boost for the team. I'm significantly less optimistic where Orlando Hernandez is concerned - the Mets tried to change his pitching motion this spring with poor results, and quite frankly I'll be very surprised if El Duque ever pitches in another major league game. Perez (a Boras client), Martinez, and Hernandez are all free agents at the end of the year, which undoubtedly added a sense of urgency to the pursuit of Santana.
3. Five of your projected starters in the lineup are on the wrong side of thirty, and the four not named Carlos Beltran are showing it, either by declining performance or frequent stints on the DL. Is there any sort of succession plan in place other than just trying to outspend Boston and the other New York team for free agents as they become available?
The farm system is in pretty bad shape right now, and that was the case even before the Mets gave up four of their top five prospects in the Santana trade. The team gave up its first-round draft pick in each of the past two years because of Type A free agent signings, and the reluctance to go above slot (which is infuriatingly shortsighted for a big-market team that has no problem with giving $25 million to Luis Castillo) has prevented them from taking advantage of the high-ceiling talent that fell due to signability concerns. The top prospect in the system, 19-year-old outfielder Fernando Martinez, could conceivably be ready to replace Moises Alou as soon as next year; the problem is that he's almost as injury-prone as Alou. A strong year from one of Mike Carp, Nick Evans, or Dan Murphy could give the team a replacement for Carlos Delgado that doesn't involve getting into the Mark Teixeira bidding war, but that's far from a certainty. The Mets have invested heavily in Latin America and have some interesting talent in the low minors, but they're going to have to get something more than college relievers from this year's draft if they're serious about re-seeding the farm. They do have two first-rounders and a sandwich pick, but all signs suggest that they will continue to be one of the only big-market teams that adheres to the slot recommendations.
[Note by Rox Girl, 05/24/08 12:30 PM EDT ] Evans is going to be called up for today's game and take the roster spot of the injured Marlon Anderson. As you can tell from his splits, he's been murder against lefties this year in a notorious pitcher's park in AA. Francis better be careful.
4. Are you excited for the new digs next season?
I'm excited about Citi Field - it looks like it will be a beautiful place to see a ballgame, and I've enjoyed the fan-friendly experience at parks such as Camden Yards and Citizens Bank Park. That being said, while I know that Shea Stadium has its shortcomings with regard to aesthetics and amenities and that it's a relic of a bygone era when symmetrical multi-purpose stadiums were all the rage, I have a lot of memories from the games I've attended there over the years and I'll be sad when it's gone. It may be a concrete cookie-cutter, but it's my concrete cookie-cutter and I'm going to miss it even as I enjoy the comfortable seats and good views and architectural quirks of the new ballpark.
Thank you to Jessica for taking the time to answer!