The U Files # 38: The Benitez Disaster

They say, "Third time's the charm." For the Mets, it was an unlucky charm. The first two deals made by Mets interim GM Jim Duquette were steps in the right direction. In the third trade, financial constraints set by Owner Fred Wilpon led to a deal in which Armando Benitez was traded to the Yankees for a return that isn't worth trading for - certainly not trading the best relief pitcher on the market for.

Mets fans can only hope the rivals in the Bronx end up with vintage Big Game Benitez, the notorious choker.

The Mets Wednesday traded closer Armando Benitez to the Team From Hell for RHP Jason Anderson, minor league RHP Anderson Garcia, and minor league RHP Ryan Bicondoa. Suffice it to say the three are better Hall of Shame candidates than Hall of Fame candidates.

The delicious irony is, the Yankees can collect two draft picks worth much more than the package they traded if Benitez is signed by another team. As Benitez will be demoted to set-up man for the TFH, he is most likely going to sign with another team. The Mets would have been better off taking the risk that Benitez would accept arbitration so that they could collect the draft picks themselves. In the process of dealing their best remaining chip, the Mets did more to advance the minor leagues of their hated rivals than they did to advance their own goals.

This is the second trade of a closer this month. Earlier, the Texas Rangers traded Ugueth Urbina to the Florida Marlins, for a knockout package centered around Adrian Gonzalez. Gonzalez, a former #1 pick overall, is a first baseman with excellent batting skills and projectible power. Rumor has it the Mets could have received the same package from the Marlins in exchange for Benitez.

The crux of the issue is, the Mets are not paying Benitez' salary. Teams do not collect prime minor league talent in trades these days unless they pick up the money. At the point the Mets are at, collecting the best possible talent is more important than saving two million dollars. Jason Anderson might turn into a decent reliever, but the Mets already have enough hard throwing arms in the minors to put together the core of a good strikeout bullpen in a few years. Anderson does not add anything to the Mets.

Personally, the only way I'd deal with the TFH is, pay the entire salary and ask for Nick Johnson. If Brian Cashman turns us down, (the TFH is loath to do anything to help the Mets) turn to the next suitor and make the deal that gets us the best talent. Reports have it the Boston Red Sox, Marlins, Kansas City Royals, and Montreal Expos had interest in Benitez.

The good news is, there is still trade bait on the Mets roster that may net us some needed hitting talent. Rumor has it the Marlins have interest in RHP David Weathers, and the Mets would be willing to pick up Weathers' salary. Graeme Lloyd, a lefty who has pitched well, is certain to have value. Steve Trachsel should have value, but it unfortunately seems the Mets would prefer to hold on to him.


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