Today the Mets recalled Fernando Nieve from AAA Buffalo to take the place of JJ Putz who finally stopped pretending there wasn’t something wrong with his arm. Nieve has reportedly been assigned No. 38. Nieve wore No. 50 in spring training, but that number went to Sean Green once Green decided he was unworthy of comparisons to Aaron Heilman(how right he was) and swapped in No. 48.
Not to say I told you so but we smelled trouble long before this Putz-Green-Heilman deal ever got done inasmuch as “addition by subtraction” is a concept that works great in opinion columns and talk radio but rarely on the baseball field. I’m not saying that time hadn’t come to swap away Heilman (not to mention Endy Chavez, Joe Smith, Jason Vargas, Makiel Cleto,and Mike Carp) but seeing as we’re looking at a $9 million fat guy having elbow surgery, a righty specialist who’s already lost his job, and a reserve outfielder, this whole deal is looking pretty much like “subtraction by subtraction” so far.
Nieve by the way will be the third Fernando in uniform for the Mets, which has to be some kind of record.
The Mets are expected within the hour to announce their part in a three-team, multiplayer swap meet that will make former Mariners JJ Putz, Sean Green and Jeremy Reed Mets.
If I have this scored right, Aaron Heilman, Endy Chavez and prospect Mike Carp are en route to Seattle and Joe Smith is off to Cleveland, which is collecting various other jetsam from Emerald City. The prize in this deal is Putz, who presumably takes over Heilman’s role in the 8th inning and hopefully doesn’t inherit his demeanor: You know he’s every bit the closer Francisco Rodriguez is. Green is tall right-handed reliever, who’s death on righties, clobbered by lefties and a ground-ball machine a la the departed Bazooka Joe; and Reed, like Chavez when he arrived back in New York, is a faltering one-time leadoff prospect with a noodle bat but good defensive skills.
So with the roles aligned, seems it’s only a matter of having parted with Carp. ( Edited to add, also Jason Vargas and about 50 more low-level prospects too I see now, not sure where they’re off to).
As for the impact on jersey numbers, 48, 35 and 10 are set free. Putz wears No. 20, which is available if coach Howard Johnson gives the OK (he will); Green wore54 (he’ll be dressed in something lower, let’s say 35) and Reed wore 8(uncomfortably unissued now for 8 years). Put Reed in 10, Johnson in 54 and we’ll have ourselves a multiplayer uni-swap as well.
Thanks to all the contributors who kept up to date round the clock on the Rodriguez Jersey Watch — he’s apparently gone with 75 as suspected. A Met first.
So I’d be very surprised if the Mets don’t come out of Las Vegas this week having captured Francisco Rodriguez (please, don’t call him K-Rod) and insisting we’ll be all the better for it.
But let us not forget that going into the new season with a reliable closer only puts the Mets on the exact same footing they were the last three seasons, and none of them ended quite like we wanted. And none of those years began with ownership pledging an idiotic credo of “addition by subtraction,” which plays great on WFAN but seems naive and foolish at best in practice. And, inasmuch as paying top dollar for the top reliever indicates the Mets intend to “go for it” once again in 2009, my concerns — beyond what number Rodriguez might wear since No. 57 is occupied by Johan Santana — are only beginning.
There’s the need for reliable starting pitching. I’m optimistic about Pelfrey’s progress and think he can make more of it next year but until he demonstrates he can get people out via the strikeout I’m not entirely comfortable. I like Maine if he’s healthy, but who knows. I’m all for giving Niese and Jason Vargas (who also needs a new a number) a shot at the end, but I’d sure like out chances with a known quantity mixed in along with them, and preferably someone with a potential to be very good some nights if not all. Hey… How about Oliver Perez?
And can we get serious about the bench? If Jerry Hairston Jr. is out there and you intend on winning the division, you can’t prefer Marlon Anderson to him. Reports have the Mets kicking the tires on Twins scrubeenie Nick Punto, that’s a little more encouraging.
And not to sound like a complete pessimist, but I’m concerned that the everyday lineup needs plenty of improvement. I was never much of an advocate for Luis Castillo but is there anyone in that lineup you see improving significantly except for him? That is going to take some creativity to address.
So while we wish Omar luck in his pursuits out West this week let’s remember that gathering in an ace closer is only the start, and probably, the easiest card he’s got to play. It’s all that other stuff — bench, offense, rotation — that will win the day.
So disregard the nonsense about Adam Bostick and Willie Collazo and Joe Smith below — the Mets on Tuesday afternoon abruptly changed course and recalled Claudio Vargas to the big club, along with Fernando Tatis, and re-activated reliever Matt Wise while designating both Nelson Figueroa and Jorge Sosa for assignment and putting outfielder Angel Pagan onto the disabled list.
While we applaud the Mets for being brave enough to sacrifice two players whose backstory (Figueroa) and contact (Sosa) might have won them chances better performing teammates might not have been given, the real story here is how the Mets will outfit Claudio Vargas — the lefty released by the Brewers this spring — in the same No. 39 jersey that injured prospect Jason Vargas was issued this spring (Jason Vargas wore 43 in his brief appearance last year). The newly arriving Tatis meanwhile will become the 29th wearer of the 17 jersey. Wise was and still is No. 38.
Both Figueroa and Sosa appear to have vanished from the Mets plans following respective poor performances Monday. MLB.com reported that the Mets were trying to trade Sosa — they had during spring training as well — and if he goes we’ll remember him as the one spot-starter not to completely destruct in 2006. Figueroa and his luxury box full of Coney Island friends and family had a few nice starts before reminding us why he’d been without a big league job for so many years. We may see one or both back eventually — Raul Casanova, after all, cleared waivers Tuesday and he’s had as good a year as either of them.
The Mets on Thursday reassigned longshot reliever candidates Carlos Muniz and Willie Collazo to their minor league camp, and by doing so freed up numbers 32 and 36, respectively. Jason Vargas, who was assigned a different number this spring (39) than last year (43), also left to have surgery and is out for awhile, the Daily News said.
As you might not care to remember, Muniz and Collazo were among the desperate moves the Mets found themselves forced to make as a collective suck infected the bullpen last September and, along with unreliable starting pitching, too many guys getting picked off first base, lack of hustle, lack of focus, lack of brains, lack of courage, overconfidence, underconfidence, stupid decisions, and a few things that didn’t go our way, cost the Mets the division they probably should have won.
Collazo we’ll remember for the goof of spelling his name improperly on the back of his jersey. Muniz, who spent most of the year in AA, debuted in that nightmarish 10-9 loss to the Nationals mopping up for Mr. I’m-Not-Devastated, and the seemingly innocent single run Muniz loomed large when the Mets’ 6-run rally in the ninth didn’t tie the game but left them one run short. Of all the disastrous Mets games last year, and there were plenty to choose from, that one probably burned me the most.
Anyway, I found it a mild surprise but also a nice gesture that these guys were invited to camp this spring and allowed to retain the numbers they were issued despite their longshot status and the arrival of others more likely to wind up in their numbers. (What do you figure the chances are that either of them surfaces with the big club ever again?
With Orlando Hernandez still out, Jorge Sosa still effective and Mike Pelfrey still needing some work, Jason Vargas is making his Met debut this afternoon, wearing No. 43. To make room for Vargas, who was acquired over the winter from Florida in the Henry Owens deal, the Mets assigned Moises Alou 18 to the disabled list. The last No. 43 to appear for the Mets was reliever Royce Ring a year ago.
Vargas by the way is the 812th Met ever. That counter, along with other cool stuff, returns to the new new site soon.
Thanks to Matt for the tip — Mets.com has posted a new roster page, assigning numerals to the 40 men on the 40-man. Though these lists have proven unreliable in the past, they’re usually fun and sometimes surprising. Right off the bat, we’re surprised to see Damion Easley be assigned No. 3 when he’s more often associated with No. 2 (even though the latter belongs to Sandy Alomar); and Scott Schoeneweis listed in 36 rather than his customary 60. We wouldn’t be surprised to see either change before the bell rings on the new season.
Other new guys and their alleged numbers:
Jon Adkins 39
Adam Bostick 72
Ambiorix Burgos 40
Jorge Sosa 29 (goodbye, Steve Trachsel)
Jason Vargas 43
Ruben Gotay 6 (poifict!)
Carlos Gomez 61
Ben Johnson 4
David Newhan 17
Points of interest in Nonroster Inviteeland:
Aaron Sele 35
Mike DiFelice 30 (this would be his 3rd number in 3 calls for the Mets)
Ruben Sierra 19 (yes, Ruben Sierra)
Quick update on the first Met Uni Controversy of the 06 offseason: Veteran outfielder Moises Alousigned a 1-year deal today and was presented with the No. 18 jersey. That number belonged last season to Jose Valentin, who was also re-signed recently. Newsday relates that Valentin willingly surrendered the digits after learning who asked for them: “You tell him he’s got the number.”
The guess here is that Valentin resurfaces in No. 22, a number that last season belonged to Xavier Nady then to Michael Tucker.
In other news the Mets dealt Nov. 15 for outfielder Ben Johnson (No. 4) and pitcher Jon Adkins (No. 57) of the Padres: Going to Petco are relievers Heath Bell 19 and Royce Ring 43. Should Johnson make the roster, he could remain in No. 4 since it doesn’t appear Chris Woodward is coming back. The Mets further cleared their roster of homegrown relief prospects by sending a pair of hard-throwers, Henry Owens and Matt Lindstrom, to Florida for two lefty projects: Jason Vargas and Adam Bostick. Owens made a brief appearance for the Mets last season wearing No. 36; we might have smelled a deal cooking in back in September when the Mets issued that number to a backup catcher, Kelly Stinnett. Vargas, who wore No. 56 for the Marlins last season is the guy with the best chance to make something of himself though he hasn’t done so yet. Bostick has yet to crack the majors.
Also: Vetejourneyutilityman Damion Easley was added as a free agent. Easley’s been everywhere, man, but most recently in Arizona and Florida, he was wearing No. 2. That number currently belongs to coach Sandy Alomar.