Lack of depth hurts Mets' leverage
Fellow GMs express little interest in Minaya's offers at Meetings
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Mets are all about hush-hush these days at the Winter Meetings. "Keep it quiet" is their battle cry, though they are apt to whisper it. They say little publicly and, according to one general manager, not all that much behind closed doors, perhaps because they don't want to remind other clubs how shallow their player reserve is.
So it was Tuesday that they reiterated an offer to the Orioles -- three players for one stud starter: Aaron Heilman, Carlos Gomez and Philip Humber for Erik Bedard. The Orioles declined the offer, a GM from another club said. And other GMs almost ridiculed it.
"The Mets probably didn't have enough to compete for any of the big names out there [Bedard, Johan Santana or Dan Haren] before they traded [Lastings] Milledge," a National League GM said late Tuesday.
"Now it's almost like they're grasping at straws. They're just too thin. Give [Mets GM] Omar [Minaya] credit for trying, but it doesn't look like they can be taken seriously."
A person familiar with the Orioles said the Mets' offer was made weeks ago and proposed again on Tuesday morning. Minaya declined to confirm that he even had spoken the Orioles.
Other GMs and former GMs attending the Meetings or monitoring development here thought the Mets were lacking the personnel to pull off a "difference-maker" deal. Their general feeling is that the players the Mets have made available aren't comparable to what other clubs have made available and that the Mets' talent doesn't run particularly deep -- perhaps only five or six players deep, with Milledge having been traded to the Nationals on Friday.
The Tigers, meanwhile, appeared on Tuesday night to be on the verge of dealing six young players to the Marlins for third baseman Miguel Cabrera and left-hander Dontrelle Willis.
"The Mets really couldn't match that package," one GM said.
Moreover, people familiar with the Mets' maneuvering here said the club was unaware Willis had been made available. He might have been a pretty good get for the Mets, though not on the same level of Bedard, Santana or Haren.
There was some indication late Tuesday that the Mets were planning to reshape the proposal they had presented to the Orioles for Bedard, though without necessarily adding to it in terms of quantity of players. Chances are, the reshaped offer would involve either of two right-handed pitchers -- Mike Pelfrey or Kevin Mulvey -- in place of Humber. The Mets have indicated a reluctance to deal Pelfrey and Mulvey in the same package or Gomez and fellow outfielder Fernando Martinez in the same package.
This is where the lack of significant progress made by Pelfrey and Humber last season undermines the Mets a second time. The club had anticipated 12, maybe 14 victories combined from the two. Instead, the three victories Pelfrey produced in September stood alone. Pelfrey lost eight games. Humber had no decisions.
"Gomez is the only prospect they've made available who excites you," one GM said. "And he still needs some time."
Heilman's name has surfaced in this scenario and few others. His value to the Mets is unquestioned, particularly by closer Billy Wagner, who last month stressed the need for his work: "Without Aaron, we [relievers] don't even exist. No way you can trade him."
Heilman and Duaner Sanchez are the only relievers who consistently pitched in the eighth inning during the Mets' last two seasons, Sanchez before he injured his shoulder in a taxi accident on July 31, 2006, and Humber since then.
As encouraged as the club is about the progress Sanchez has made since he resumed throwing in Port St. Lucie, Fla., in the past two weeks, it can hardly rely on him to be the pitcher he was before the injury. Without Heilman and with Jorge Sosa, Pedro Feliciano, Scott Schoeneweis and Joe Smith, the Mets would be forced to "ham and egg it," as Dallas Green used to say, to span the innings between the starter and Wagner.
Minaya indicated on Tuesday that the caliber of reliever the Mets would need to replace Heilman "isn't out there."
So where do the Mets turn? They don't appear to be likely trade partners for any club with available pitching, and a trade might create a hole in their bullpen or their future. The free-agent market is thin. And Minaya was back to reminding people that John Maine and Oliver Perez won 15 games each last season and that Pedro Martinez will be available beginning in April next season.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.