Thursday, April 26, 2007

Welcoming Mr. Warden


The preseason blockbuster has become an annual event in Queens.

Before the start of Season 1, the Mets worked out a sign and trade with Seattle. The Mariners received 29 year old Harry Wilfredo (24-17, 3.26 in 70 career starts) and his 5 year deal worth $42.5M in exchange for 20 year old Ted Hogan (80 HR, 279 RBI, .296 AVG) making the ML minimum.

Season 2 saw the Mets orchestrate a salary cap saver with Pittsburgh. The Pirates got 35 year old Tomas Aguilera (15-14, 40/47 SV, 3.68 in 176 career appearances) who was making $9.5M at the time, 19 year old Al Martinez (110 HR, 389 RBI, .299 AVG in 3 years of MILB service), and 29 year old Jake Payton (51-31, 3.08 in 111 career starts) making $7.0M. Pittsburgh sent the Mets 28 year old Cliff Simms (54-25, 3.31 in 104 career starts) making $10.0M.

The Red Sox and the Mets swapped players before the start of Season 3. This time the Mets moved the NL's reigning Cy Young winner, 33 year old Bosco Jefferson (44-20, 3.06 in 81 career starts) making $6.5M in the final year of his contract along with AAA shortstop, 22 year old Mark Sugawara who is known more for his glove than his bat. In return the Mets took on a couple of "project" pitchers, Sal Flyod and Julio Saenz. In their first seasons in Shea Stadium, Floyd worked 185.1 innings over 34 starts while posting a 14-7 record working to a 3.11 ERA. Saenz worked 96.1 innings over 68 appearances, posting a 6-3 record, converting 6 of 7 save opportunites and compiling a 3.74 ERA to compliment his 1.05 WHIP.

And just the other day the Mets added another MVP canidate to their lineup. In terms agreed upon during the playoffs last season, New York acquires 29 year old left fielder, Joe Warden from Detroit in exchange for 3 highly touted yet unproven prospects (Grant Leary, Karim Rodriguez and Charlie Simas). Warden figures to bat 3rd in a scary Mets lineup featuring 4 members of the exclusive "85 Club".

The big decision for the Mets caoching staff will be: what to do with their extra outfielder? Joe Warden will play left field. That much is certain. And Eugene Betemit will most likely play right field. But that leaves Billy Brown and two-time Gold Glover Courtney Kennedy vying for time in center field.

Kennedy is in the final year of his 3 year contract and so his $6.0M salary makes him an attractive rental for a team looking for defensive help in center field. Brown is still making the ML minimum and will not arbitrate until Season 6. That's about as much value as you could hope for from a guy who played all 162 games last year while batting .304 before errupting in the post-season to the tune of a .417 BA while driving in 11 runs in 8 games. Defensively, Brown would be a downgrade if the Mets were to move Kennedy especially considering that Warden is not the defensive left fielder Brown is but the added offense provided by Brown's left-handed bat in the 7th hole might be enough to sway New York to move in that direction.

The other option would be for the Mets to find a new home for Betemit and let Brown patrol right field. Betemit has one more year of arbitration but his $4.1M raise this season has the Mets wondering if they'll be able to afford his .290/20/80 at the price he'll be seeking next year. Of course, Betemit has won a Gold Glove himself and he is a fan favorite in Shea where he ranks second in career plate appearances, at bats, home runs, runs batted in, hits and walks in a Mets uniform. So management seems a bit more hesitant to move him.

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