Minaya's first move of the winter was one that, as the GM repeatedly stressed on a conference call Nov. 18, would aid the Mets' flexibility heading into the winter.
The weeks to come would prove just how financially helpful moving Cameron to the Padres would be, freeing up $6 million from the team's 2006 budget.
Trading Cameron had become high on Minaya's to-do list anyway, as the outfielder voiced discomfort with playing right field – especially following the Aug. 11 collision with Carlos Beltran in San Diego.
Ironically, the very stadium where Cameron's 2005 season ended will be the stage for 81 games of his 2006; in return, the Mets acquire Nady (.261, 13 HR, 43 RBI), a promising 27-year-old whom Mets insiders believe just needs a chance to showcase his skills.
As currently constituted, Nady – who was rumored to be a chip in a possible trade with Florida that fell through – figures as the Mets' primary right fielder, with Victor Diaz's status yet unknown.
Of course, the Mets could always go get Manny Ramirez after all, making this debate null and void. But that still appears to be a severe long-shot, especially if top prospect Lastings Milledge isn't in play.
It was a perfectly legitimate second course of action – the Mets had considered signing free agents Julio Franco or Kevin Millar as a right-handed first baseman to platoon with Jacobs, a hot young hitter who slugged 11 home runs in 100 at-bats at the end of the 2005 season.
It might have worked, or Jacobs might have become lumped in with the likes of Kevin Maas or Kelvin Torve. We'll never know, because the Marlins' fire-sale suddenly freed up the object of Minaya's Winter 2004-05 affection, Delgado.
Though much of Delgado's introductory press conference at Shea Stadium focused upon his stance regarding 'God Bless America,' much of the season figures to hone in on Delgado's production.
The Mets have scarcely had a pure slugger like Delgado throughout their history, and if Delgado can equal his production from 2005 (.301, 33 HR, 115 RBI), the Mets should finally have a power bat in the heart of their order to protect players like Cliff Floyd and David Wright.
A possible future Hall-of-Famer, Delgado did indeed come with a high price tag, but one the Mets were willing to pay. COO Jeff Wilpon noted that the club decided it would rather try and win now than wait for minor leaguers to produce, a philosophy that has followed the Mets into this winter.
Jacobs, top pitching prospect Yusmeiro Petit and infielder Grant Psomas made up the Mets' most significant bounty of prospects to date.
Jacobs and Petit ranked within the Mets' Top 10 prospects, while Inside Pitch ranked Psomas – a solid clubhouse leader on the Mets' A-ball clubs – 27th in the system. Petit could be in the Marlins' rotation as early as April, though he hasn't mastered Triple-A and wouldn't have had that chance in New York.
|11/28/05||OF Tike Redman from Pittsburgh Pirates.||Acquired for cash.|
Could this mean the end of the Gerald Williams era at Shea? Let's hope so. The price for Redman – designated for assignment by the Pirates after hitting .251 with two doubles and 26 RBI in 135 games - was insignificant, though he could be a nice complementary piece off of the Mets' bench.
Strictly a fourth or fifth outfielder in the Mets' plans, Redman has speed and could be a designated pinch-runner.
Unfortunately, Redman's younger brother Prentice has left the organization, signing a minor league deal with the Cardinals after splitting his year between Double-A and Triple-A.
|11/29/05||LHP Billy Wagner (free agent).||Four years, $43 million.|
The Mets courted B.J. Ryan, but appeared more serious about Wagner from the get-go – those media pictures of Wagner in street clothes in front of the Mets/Banco Popular logos prior to the signing weren't just a silly coincidence.
Wagner needed a little cajoling to accept the Big Apple, but a tour of Westchester and tickets to a Broadway show (coupled with the Mets' offer to make Wagner baseball's highest-paid annually closer) helped ease any worries of the down-home country boy fireballer.
Filling the shoes of Braden Looper shouldn't be a tough task for Wagner, who was 4-3 with a 1.51 ERA and 38 saves in 75 games for the Phillies last season.
Wagner said the Mets' offer of a no-trade clause was the clinching factor in getting the lefty to spurn the Phillies and cancel a conference call with the Red Sox, but insiders say Mets fans might never know how close Wagner was to accepting a deal with the Braves. Minaya's personal visit to Wagner's home/apalca farm in Virginia might have been the tipping point.
|12/5/05||C Paul Lo Duca from Florida Marlins.||RHP Gaby Hernandez|
Player to be named
The Mets did offer near-identical deals to free agents Ramon Hernandez and Bengie Molina, but they were thought to be more of the introductory, 'here it is but don't accept it' variety. In the end, it turned out the Mets weren't madly in love with either catcher after all, as some reports painted it.
Though some fans have bemoaned the loss of Hernandez, a 19-year-old stud who figured as the Mets' second-highest pitching prospect (behind Brian Bannister) after dealing Petit to the Marlins, the fact remains that the 33-year-old Lo Duca gives the Mets a proven veteran presence behind the plate – one of the club's priorities after parting ways with Mike Piazza.
Lo Duca won't give the Mets exceptional throwing, nor will he give them Piazza-esque power – he hit just six homers last season for Florida. What he does give them, however, is a player who's been through the grinder before and has earned raves handling a pitching staff.
Minaya seemed especially impressed with Lo Duca's ability to meet ball with bat, with just 31 strikeouts in 496 plate appearances last year. That, Minaya told reporters Monday at the Winter Meetings in Dallas, could even make Lo Duca the Mets' No. 2 hitter in 2006, although Beltran would still appear to be the best bet for that spot.
With the identity of the player to be named held back until the Rule V Draft, it is important to remember that Hernandez, while promising (he throws a fastball that tops out at 95 MPH and fired a no-hitter against the South Atlantic League's West Virginia Power in June), is still unproven.
Here's an analogy: at age 19, Dwight Gooden was on the mound at Shea Stadium. Dealing Gooden in 1984 would have been a flaming disaster. Trading Hernandez in 2005-06 isn't even close to the same plane.
Contact Bryan Hoch at email@example.com.