August 19, 2008
BASEBALL: No Closer To Winning
While the Mets have been going pretty well of late, it's still quite clear that they just can't close out games without Billy Wagner, so the news that an MRI of Wagner's elbow shows inflammation that could put him out for the season is dire indeed. The acquisition of Luis Ayala over the weekend (for Anderson Hernandez, batting .203/.262/.307 at AAA) seems more like hope than strategy:
The Mets are hoping they can fix Ayala in much the same way they repaired Guillermo Mota in 2006. Their scouts have determined Ayala has regained most of the velocity he lost in '06 when he underwent reconstructive surgery on his right elbow, but they also believe he has lost the sink that made an effective reliever with the Expos in 2003 and '04.
They believe an adjustment in the angle of his arm will help him regain the sink.
Leaving aside Mota's substantial role in losing the NLCS that year, you can't just extrapolate from Rick Peterson's modest success with a struggling Mota that the current Mets brain trust can do the same for Ayala just because he's been bad. And make no mistake: Ayala's long been an excellent pitcher, but he's been horrid this year to the tune of a 5.77 ERA and crummy peripheral stats to match.
Obviously, my previous optimism about Aaron Heilman was misguided. But Duaner Sanchez hasn't shown any consistency either, and really nobody else is a credible candidate (Feliciano's really a specialist - righties are batting .322/.412/.517 against him and .318/.413/.500 against Schoenweis, while lefties are batting .318/.434/.455 against Joe Smith). And I continue to think, as I did before they called him up, that Eddie Kunz' AA numbers don't suggest a guy who is big league ready, and it's dicey to take a starting pitching prospect like Jon Niese and toss him into a MLB closer job. The only starter they could spare now is Pedro, who probably could not really transition well to working multiple days in a row (El Duque maybe, but he probably won't be ready to pitch until 2009, if ever). I'd suggest a deal (Huston Street?), but not only is it past the deadline but the acquisition of Ayala suggests that the Mets tried already and that was the best they could do.
Well, it does prove that the long term experiment with many relievers is failing. Not just for the Mets; most teams have terrible bullpens. I think the trend of starting pitchers innings decreasing will change, and their workload will again increase.
As Earl Weaver said, when he answered why he preferred a 4 man rotation to a 5, "It's easier to find 4 pitchers than 5."
Grrr. It irritated me at the time, and it bothers me even more today, that the Mets had no interest in Chad Bradford back before the Orioles put him on waivers to be gobbled up by the Rays. I don't care that the Pen has another underarmed delivery pitcher; Bradford can pitch. And he obviously was available.
Looking around elsewhere for a possible solution, Ayala might well have been the best available as you mention. I don't follow West Coast baseball so closely, but there's J.J. Putz, back from a strained elbow and closing for a team that rarely has a lead to protect. He is due to make $4+ next year, which might mean he could be had. Putz is not dazzling anybody with his numbers; does anyone have an idea of how he is throwing?
If it's Houston Street you want, it is unlikely that Billy Beane will part with him unless there are some gems in the farm system that interest him. Listening to Crank and the rest of you East Coast guys, it is my impression that the Mets' farm system is somewhat depleted at this time. The A's are a team of the future, so trades must result in viable prospects.
As far as being past 7/31, I've heard more than once that any deal can be made as long as it's before 9/1, so the desired player will be on the post-season roster. So, do the Mets have anyone the farm that is can't miss?
NRA, you nailed one of the two major points. If the Mets can't get someone before the rosters grow, he can't be on a post season roster. Of course, an argument against that is at lease he gets you there. After that, you don't need a 5 man rotation, so you deal from there.
The second point is the waiver order. No way will the Phils let the Mets claim someone they need; and right now they claim first.
As it now stands, the Phillies would probably entertain offers for Lidge if it would put a bat or two in the line up:P
Where have you gone, Aaron Rowand?