Keep an eye on these guys, if you like:
A’s: Loaiza, Street Reds: Claussen, Harang, Womack Diamondbacks: Clark Boston: R. Seanez, Mota (+ Foulke no less!) (Wells says he commits) Beckett, Lowell Padres: Peavy, Estes, Greene Tigers: Rogers, Maroth, Robertson, Bonderman, Seay, Inge, Leyland Cleveland: Sabathia Rockies: Fogg Orioles: Benson (Bottalico, Yates), Duquette, Mazzone Mets: Trachsel, Heilman (+obvious Billy Wagner), Keppinger Angels: Figgins Cardinals: David Eckstein Cubs: Eyre, Jacque Jones Brewers: Capuano Tampa Bay: Marlins: Girardi Pirates: Zach Duke, Ty Wigginton Phillies: Rowand (great fielder, does not hit under pressure, though) Dodgers: Sele White Sox: McCarthy Rangers: Benoit, Eaton, Dellucci, Durazo Royals: Runelvys Hernandez, McEwing Astros: Taveras Yankees: Chacon, Small, Wang, Proctor (as a starter), Sturtze, Mendoza, Ron Guidry (Hughes, Cox)
Last time I saw Kris Benson, he lost to Esteban Loaiza on a night I played hooky to see the game with Marc Marc at Shea. September 14, 2005. Inexplicably, the ticket price was $5. I’d have paid a lot more to see this match-up. As he so often has, Benson pitched well until Mets Dementia set in. More about that night can be found here.
Nevertheless, as I feared earlier this off-season, General Manager Omar Minaya has gone ahead and arranged to trade him for a reliever (Jorge Julio, plus a prospect). Floraine Kay suspects this may be another example of his apparent desire to hispanicize the team. The pattern is looking hard to ignore, but I withhold judgement, for now. Offered my choice of Benson, Aaron Heilman, Steve Trachsel, or Victor Zambrano, (all 4 had been rumored as trade bait for this offseason) I, too, might reach for the more promising younger player if I were managing Baltimore. Why Benson — or Heilman or Trachsel, for that matter — would be offered, I can’t quite comprehend, however.
On the other hand, maybe it was a friendly trade, at the management level at least. (Didn’t we all wake up today to the news that Mrs. Benson wasn’t happy about this?) As MLB.com’s Tom Singer points out, former Mets GM Jim Duquette is now working for Baltimore’s Mike Flanagan and, as some of us recall, had made a big trade for him with the Pirates in July of 2004. Apparently he had support from the Orioles’ new star pitching coach. According to Singer , Mazzone had been eying Benson for 3 years, over which time he had seen Benson keep Atlanta’s slugger squad to a batting average of .212. "Mazzone saw a project," Singer reports "and someone who could inject consistency into a volatile rotation that already included Rodrigo Lopez, Bruce Chen, Daniel Cabrera and Erik Bedard."
A great reliever might have been worth a trade for Benson, but I’m disappointed that the Mets seem to have picked up a pitcher whose numbers appear to be on the decline, if only temporarily. I can see wanting to hold onto Heilman to move him back into the rotation from the bullpen, where he was so successfully ghettoized last year. Ah, too familiar are these pre-season Mets Misgivings.
LA’s the place for troubled New York starting pitchers. Jae Seo joins former Yankee right-hander Jeff Weaver, who performed solidly for the Dodgers last year. The Mets get 2 righty relievers, Duaner Sanchez and Steve Schmoll.
Let’s hope the Mets don’t deal Steve Trachsel to get another right-handed reliever they have their eyes on, Duaner Baez of the Devil Rays. According to Marty Noble, it is possible that a team with more money than Tampa Bay may need a starter like Trachsel, Kris Benson, or Victor Zambrano, setting up a 3-way trade, with Baez going to the Mets and prospects from the 3rd team going to the Devil Rays. Let’s hope the Mets keep Benson, too, and Heilman while we’re at it.
Noble’s excellent article on Mets trade strategies also mentions that Jeff Keppinger may have a fighting chance at 2nd base if the Devil Rays can work Kaz Matsui (plus cash) into a deal. Go Keppy. I like his swing.
- After missing him at Comiskey and Yankee Stadium, I finally got to see Esteban Loaiza pitch live at Shea on Wed., Sept. 14. It was a long-awaited thrill, as readers of this blog will have inferred. Yes, Mom, I skipped work. Marc Marc came along, and we had fun being thrown-at by Met fans annoyed by our cheers for Loaiza and fellow ex-Yankee Nick Johnson — plastic cups, balled-up cellophane, etc. In fact, there may have been more Yankee fans at Shea that night than Met fans. You could hear them loud and clear. (Well, it was a $5 ticket night, and the Yanks were at Tampa Bay.) OK, how can you tell a true Met fan? S/he hates the Mets. Those boos bearing down on their starter Kris Benson in the FIRST INNING were from his supporters. With fans like that…. Back to baseball, I should mention that this very satisfying 6-3 win by the Nationals was framed by two unsettling errors on the part of their starting and closing pitchers. Loaiza’s 7-inning start to his 11th win was marred by an un-recorded error when he neglected to cover first base and receive the ball from Johnson, who had left the bag to field. It was strange — he just stood there, about halfway between the mound and first, just watching the batter run safely to the bag. Johnson had nowhere to throw. In the 9th, stellar closer Chad Cordero (ERA 1.84, with 46 saves, as of today) pointed hastily up to the sky to indicate that an infield popup needed catching. When it started dropping down toward him, he looked a little panicked, and, as two players converged on him, the ball dropped to the ground amid the three. He escaped unscathed, but, that was a bit unnerving. The rest of the game was great in a classic way. After the Nationals broke a first-inning 1-1 tie and pulled ahead 3-1 in the third, Loaiza lost the lead in the 4th when the Mets tied it up. This got tense. Having lost the advantage of some of his best run support this season, Loaiza looked likely to lose, but his teammates came back to score two more the next inning, and he was ahead 5-3 when he walked off the field in the 7th. I was glad Frank Robinson hadn’t taken the ball from him — those moments always come across ugly. I was hoping for a Mike Stanton sighting (3.81 lifetime, with 984 innings pitched as of yesterday) — the last time I saw him at Shea he was relieving David Cone in a Mets uniform. But Gary Majewski (2.65), who is flourishing, came in, and came through, for the eighth, and I was so pleased to see Cordero — the Eric Gagne (hurt this year, so I omit his stats) of the NL East — close it out in the ninth. Cordero trained as a closerat Cal State-Fullerton, sparing us his adjustment to the position. I wonder how prevalent the collegiate development of relievers is….