The Mets post-Benson
When the Mets first got Kris Benson from the Pittsburgh Pirates, I applauded the deal thinking he’d rise to the occasion of pitching in New York. Instead, last year he pitched 10-8 with a 4.13 ERA and wasn’t overly impressive. Mets GM Omar Minaya seemed to have lost confidence in Benson and spent November and December trying to trade him.
I didn’t like the effort, mostly because I thought he had a better upside than the uneven and injury-prone Victor Zambrano. I figured, keep Benson at least one more year, trade Zambrano and upgrade through subtraction.
Instead, Minaya got his wish today with Benson going to the Orioles for reliever Jorge Julio and right-handed pitching prospect John Maine.
The Mets bullpen, which needed serious upgrading, has now done so. In addition to picking up Julio, on Wednesday they also added Yusaku Iriki, a Japanese right hander who went 6-7 with a 3.35 ERA for the Nippon Ham Fighters last season. On the other hand, when he made his desire to come to America known, no other team expressed interest. What does that tell us?
So, to review, it looks like the starting rotation will feature veteran Tom Glavine, Steve Trachsel, Zambrano, Pedro Martinez and Aaron Heilman. Heilman spent last year proving to everyone he was a better set-up man/closer than he was a starter. However, he went to the Winter Leagues and went 4-1 with a 2.27 ERA for Licey, D.R. and demanded a trade if he wasn’t going to start. This is a middling rotation with no real studs behind Martinez. Trachsel can be brilliant and Heilman is a question mark. Glavine will likely make this his farewell tour and might have something to prove. By trading away Jae Seo and Kris Benson, the Mets better pray the rotation is healthy and effective.
With Billy Wagner now closing, the set up role falls to Julio, who is said to have a 99 mph fastball and is credited with 83 saves. Still, he’s 27 and can be a pleasant surprise. Maine, at 24, may or may not make the team and if so, can also set-up. Behind them is Duaner Sanchez, just acquired from Los Angeles, Juan Padilla who I think can be terrific, and probably Heath Bell. The rest will be determined during Spring Training.
In review, we seem settled on the infield with Carlos Delgado at first, Kaz Matsui (because no one wants him) at second, Jose Reyes at short and David Wright at third. Very solid and it has me optimistic. Backing them up would be Chris Woodward and Julio Franco (almost as old as me!).
The outfield now looks to have Cliff Floyd in left, Carlos Beltran in center and Xavier Nady in right. Backing them up would be Endy Chavez and Victor Diaz.
Paul LoDuca and Ramon Castro will catch which should produce a marked upgrade at the plate.
This is a stronger, more versatile team than the 2005 edition. They will be expected to contend and anything less than a playoff spot will put management in the Hot Seat.