With all the talk about injuries sending the Mets into a free fall early in the 2009 season, it was also fairly obvious that aside from Johan Santana, there was not one pitcher the Mets could not rely on and that sealed the Mets fate. Given that obvious deficiency, the question remains how do you fix it? The first step will be finding a solid #2 starter to give the team a 1-2 punch at the head of the rotation.
Only 2 pitchers available fit that criteria with Roy Halladay and John Lackey both on Omar's radar but the competition for both will be very intense. Halladay would be the best fit but it remains to be seen if he would accept a trade to Flushing as reports have surfaced that the talented Blue Jay rightie will only accept a deal to the Phils, Dodgers, Yankees, or Red Sox. And even if the Mets overcome that obstacle, the question of whether the Mets could assemble an acceptable package is dubious at best.
Any deal for Halladay would have to include Ike Davis and 2 pitchers at the very least and right now it would appear the Dodgers, Phils, and Red Sox would be able to put together better packages than the Mets. The Dodgers have the most need as they have lost 2 straight years in the NLCS because they did not possess a reliable ace-let alone 2.
I would not necessarily count the Mets out here because we all said the same things we are saying 2 years ago when Johan Santana was made available and Omar was very patient and then acted quickly when the time was right. This situation is a bit trickier because my feeling is the Red Sox may be willing to go the extra yard this time around because it is their turn in the "anything you can do I can do better" contest with the Yankees.
That brings us to John Lackey who certainly qualifies as a #2 but because of the lack of quality arms in the free agent pool, he will cost AJ Burnett-type money and that may prove to be too high a price for the Mets. Still, they will be in the conversation and if Halladay goes to the Red Sox, the Mets do have the financial might to outbid the Dodgers for Lackey. That makes me think Lackey is a better possibility than Halladay.
Even if the Mets get one of these power arms, they might need another hurler in the #3 spot so that Oliver Perez and Mike Pelfrey are slotted in a more appropriate 4th and 5th starter spots. Jason Marquis and Joel Pinhiero have both told friends they would love to come to the Mets and both are coming off big seasons but I might think about something more riskier than could potentially more rewarding.
Ben Sheets and Rich Harden are both pitchers I would offer 2 year incentive-laden contracts in the hope they could rebound off injuries. If they stay healthy, they could be steals for Omar Minaya. Now, you have to have some courage to pull this off because coming off a 2009 season in which every day provided us with a different Met injury update, the public outcry after a signing of this type will be loud and clear. But that should not deter Omar from taking the plunge on one of these pitchers.
These moves would give the Mets a starting rotation of: Santana. Lackey, Harden/Sheets, Pelfrey, and Perez. It will involve a long term committment to Lackey and a follow up bold step but it could potentially re-tool the starting rotation enough to seriously contend in the NL East.
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