Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
July 31, 2004
BASEBALL: Back To Square One
The Mad Hibernian is horrified at the deals that exchanged Scott Kazmir and Justin Huber for Victor Zambrano and Ty Wigginton and Matt Peterson for Kris Benson.
On the first count, I have to agree. I'll admit I'm no expert on the minor leagues, and it's true that pitching prospects are a crapshoot, but Kazmir has consistently been projected as a potential ace, and Huber is also a highly-regarded catching prospect. This, for a 28-year-old pitcher who's walked 202 batters in 316.1 innings the past two years. Zambrano's not a star now - heck, I have him on one of my Rotisserie teams and have had him on the bench all season - and I don't see a great likelihood that he's going to become one. It's true that he's still relativley young and cheap, so the Mets haven't broken the bank for a guy who'll be gone soon, but the deal still seems all but impossible to justify other than as a panic move in support of a pennant race that's rapidly slipping away (unless, of course, it's part of a larger deal with some greater fool - which I doubt).
I'm a little less appalled at the Benson deal, in theory - I was all in favor of cashing in Wigginton while his stock was up, although I do like the guy and his competitive fire will be missed - but Benson's high upside from 1999-2000 has never returned, and he's ranged from mediocre to bad to injured the past three years since missing the 2001 season. He's basically a sore-armed has-been - while he appears to be healthier now and may yet reclaim a little more ground, the hope of improvement is just not what you cash in your chips for.
Bottom line: the Mets have suffered a major setback in their rebuilding program, they've sought immediate help in guys who won't be worth it unless they show significant mid-career improvement, they haven't fixed their biggest short-term problem (the bullpen), they're still highly unlikely to win the division and even less likely to go anywhere in October, and fan sentiment - the usual reason for deals like these - is likely to be almost unanimously against these deals.