The U Files # 35: Departure Of A Disappointment

The Mets took their first active step in a different direction Tuesday, for the first time in years trading away a veteran for prospects. It was Jim Duquette's first trade as Mets General Manager, and it was a good one. The win-now approach that got the Mets as far as the World Series was the Mets undoing in the end; and it is Duquette's job to repair the damage, and rebuild the team into a contender.

Trading Roberto Alomar to the Chicago White Sox for a package including Royce Ring is a fine first step.

Alomar, who had established Hall of Fame credentials before his surprise trade to the Mets, turned out to be something the Mets would love to forget. Whatever the cause, Alomar was as big a disappointment for the Mets as any big-ticket acquisition in the team's history. A career .306/.377/.455 hitter before the trade, he hit .265/.333/.370 for the Mets.

The former All Star is in the last year of his contract, and would be gone next year regardless. However, this was the Mets only chance to get something in return. Alomar certainly would not be rated a type A free agent, and any potential draft picks would not be first round picks. More significantly, in order to collect draft picks, the Mets would have had to offer Alomar arbitration, which he would have accepted. A team can offer no less than a 20 percent pay cut in arbitration, and the sum Alomar would receive would be greater than his worth on the free agent market. So, Duquette worked the phones hard, trying to convince his fellow GMs that Alomar simply needed a change of scenery.

It is a very good sign that the Mets agreed to pay the full remainder of Alomar's contract. In today's market, had the Mets not paid the contract, any Alomar trade would be no more than a salary dump; the Mets would get crap in return. By agreeing to pay the money, the Mets ensured the best possible return for Alomar. It would be best if the Mets are willing to do the same for the rest of the contracts that could be traded away.

The centerpiece of the package the Mets received is closer prospect Royce Rolls, a 22 year old lefthander at AA. Minor League relievers don't have a great track record - most of the better relief pitchers are converted starters. However, Ring looks to be the exception. Regarded as one of the best closer prospects in the minors, Ring is pitching extremely well at AA in just one year after being drafted.

The 6-1, 215 lb pitcher has an ERA of 2.52 this year, having struck out 44 batters and walking 14 in 35.2 innings. Already he has perfected his entrance: At San Diego State University he was known for entering the game Trevor Hoffman style - with hard rock blaring loudly, in this case Metallica's Sad But True. Ring has three quality pitches: a fastball that tops out at 94 MPH, a sharp slider and a deceptive change up. His demeanor has been compared to Randy Myers.

Edwin Almonte is a relief pitcher at AAA, has an ERA of 6.88 and 24 strikeouts in 34 innings. He has put up quality numbers in prior years, but at 26 he is old for a prospect. Infielder Andrew Salvo has no value whatsoever. He is hitting .235 in A ball, and he is nothing more than a throw in to fill space in the Mets minor leagues.

Ring becomes one of three relief pitchers at the higher levels of the Mets farm. Orber Moreno and Tyler Yates are both right handed. The three could form the core of a young bullpen for the Mets, which at the very least would spare the Mets to sign aging middle relievers to too expensive contracts. As an extra benefit, it allows the Mets more flexibility in entertaining offers for Armando Benitez.

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