Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Mets MLB Talk: Rumor Mill from Gotham Baseball, Loretta, and more

The Rumor Mill: Cross-Coastal Chatter
By Mark Healey on Monday, November 6 2006

Before the New York Mets re-joined the ranks of the “serious contenders with serious money” club two years ago, the weeks between the end of the World Series and December's Winter Meetings had become a quiet lull for most New York baseball fans.

The Yankees had pretty much targeted – and quickly signed -- which players they had interest in, and nobody, with the exception of a few internet diehards, really cared what the Mets were up to.

A lot has changed, and now baseball's a year-round sport in Gotham. So much so, stories about agents saying such-and-such team “likes'” such-and-such player (who just happens to be in the agents' employ). Regrettably, these fountains of information are the worst people to talk to right about now, as they are in “My player is great and wants to play (insert team with money here)" mode.

So, over the past week, we’ve talked with several baseball people – most notably one from the Northeast and one from the Bay Area, -- to try to get a handle on what can be expected in the coming weeks.

Bye-Bye, Bonderman?

While everyone is convinced that the Yankees are the frontrunners for Japanese right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka, and that the Mets and several other teams are mulling serious bids for his services, the sudden “availability” of Tigers right-hander Jeremy Bonderman is making many of those teams, including the Mets and Yankees, consider their options more carefully.

According to reports out of Motown, Detroit is mulling the pros and cons of dealing Bonderman, saying that the Tigers, who are seeking a first baseman with power, a young catcher to eventually succeed Pudge Rodriguez, and infield help in return for their talented hurler.

Our Northeast source said that “don’t be surprised if you hear that the Tigers are seriously considering Alex Rodriguez” instead.

One Bay Area official didn’t disagree, but also told Gotham Baseball Magazine that the Tigers are “trying to find a team that can satisfy all of their needs in one deal”, but are finding that difficult.” Reportedly, the Reds have offered Adam Dunn, Jason LaRue and Brandon Phillips, but the Tigers are not “very positive about that as a potential return for Bonderman.”

(As a side note, our CA source went out of his way to say that Dunn’s value is “plummeting”, saying that teams are not willing to trade “significant young talent” in exchange for a player “whose average goes down while his salary goes up.”)

Instead, he says that “Like other teams, who are excited about adding a 200-inning, 200 strikeout arm, the Mets and Yankees are said to trying to find a way to get those players the Tigers would want.”

The Mets do not have a potential power-hitting first base option in their system that is major-league ready, but they do have a young catcher in Jesus Flores that scouts rave about, and they have equally high-ceiling prospects in Carlos Gomez and Mike Pelfrey to consider as potential substitutes in a deal as well.

However, it’s unlikely that the Mets would deal such a large group of young talent for a pitcher (not named Dontrelle Willis, anyway) with Matsuzaka and Barry Zito available, but they “will look into the Bonderman situation before it’s done.”

If the Yankees are indeed trying to “keep” A-Rod, perhaps –- and this is speculation for those keeping score at home -- they may propose a deal of Gary Sheffield, Phil Hughes and Robbie Cano that could make it happen.

In GBM’s opinion, that would be far too much to give up, but acquiring a talent like Bonderman could make up for losing a prospect like Hughes. Given the Tigers’ interest in Sheffield, it’s not as far-fetched as it would seem. Also, the free agency of second baseman Ronnie Belliard – whose solid postseason performance helped the Cardinals win the World Series, could offset the potential trade of young Cano.

Ronnie B to Gotham?

Published reports say the Mets are interested in Mark Loretta, and while we couldn't find anyone this weekend that disagreed with that, we also hear he's not the only second baseman the Mets are looking at seriously.

Over in Flushing, though recent speculation has the Mets looking at Loretta “very seriously”, Ronnie Belliard is quickly “emerging as the front runner to play 2B for the Mets in 2007 and beyond,” said our NE source.

There's also reports that Belliard is looking for a home in New York these days, which may or may not be an indication of where the Bronx, NY native will be playing in 2007.

“Don't discount the Yankees having interest in Belliard either (even if they don’t trade Cano),” says our CA source, who says that Belliard might be “willing to play third in the Bronx” if the Yankees deal A-Rod.

In the past, any player that was interested in playing for the Mets and the Yankees didn’t have much of a decision to make, but Mets’ GM Omar Minaya and his manager Willie Randolph, have created an environment at Shea Stadium that is “more than inviting” to potential free agents and players with no-trade clauses.

Mulling Mulder and Other Stuff.

Several published reports this past weekend confirmed GBM’s report of more than a week ago that the Mets have significant interest in St. Louis left-hander Mark Mulder. Our CA source, who had informed us of this interest at the time, said that “while Mulder will listen to what the Cards have to say” he is finding a change of scenery would be “more beneficial” at this point in his career.

Some other items of interest:

- The Yankees may be forced to pay more than half of Gary Sheffield’s salary in order to get something of value for him.

- The Red Sox are finding very uninterested parties in the Mets, Orioles and Phillies as potential trading partners for Manny Ramirez.

- Pat Gillick’s “desire” to sign Alfonso Soriano isn’t quite accurate, as the Phillies are having very little luck in finding anyone that wants Pat Burrell playing for them in either league. If they can’t move Burrell, they may just add some serviceable players in secondary roles.

- The Mets may be more open to moving Aaron Heilman into the starting rotation than previously reported, but are trying to determine the market for secondary setup men. They continue to be very averse to dealing him at all, despite all of the recent rumors that describe him as a “chip”.

- Octavio Dotel, who began his career with the Mets, and tried to rush back into the big leagues after signing with the Yankees after Tommy John surgery last summer, is a reliever the team is mulling as a non-roster ST invitee.

Also, Mets like Loretta:
Mets Trade Rumors
Agent: Mets Like Loretta
November 6
New York Post: "Mark Loretta may be one of the Mets' top choices to play second base. They have shown more interest in him than any other club so far, Loretta's agent told The Post last night."

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