Target: Contention

General manager Omar Minaya is on record as saying that he will use the farm system, trades and free agency to improve the New York Mets. In the two prior TARGET articles, I've outlined players the Mets are interested in acquiring; Todd Helton, Octavio Dotel, Chad Bradford and Jermaine Dye. In this piece, the focus will be expanded to try to predict what the Opening Day roster will look like. <b>(Free Preview of Premium Content)</b>

In series of articles exclusive to NYfansonly.com., Mets Inside Pitch writer Mark Healey, who has covered the Mets' minor league system since 2001, shares his thoughts on what could be the makeup of the 2005 New York Mets.

Now that the Mets have settled on Willie Randolph as their skipper _ and after taking a few days or so to complete the coaching staff _ the rest of the fall and winter will be spent constructing the roster for next year's team.

As previously discussed, the acquisition of Helton would give the Mets the contact hitter and a No. 3-type slot presence in the batting order the offense desperately needs, as well as providing Gold Glove-caliber defense that would solidify the infield. However, while not actively shopping Helton, Rockies' GM Dan O'Dowd told the Denver Post on Oct. 31 that while the Rockies are not actively shopping Helton, "if somebody calls, we'll listen."

You can bet that Minaya will try to make a splash at this year's winter meetings and trading for Helton may be the pre-emptive move the team makes, Carlos Delgado, Richie Sexson are also free-agent options for New York, as are (if the Mets choose to upgrade the outfield) Tino Martinez, Doug Mientkiewicz and old favorite John Olreud remain possibilities.

Ultimately, the idea is to surround youngsters David Wright, Jose Reyes with as many solid, all-around young veterans as possible, without radically transforming the payroll, Helton's contract would do that, but New York won't make the deal without some sort of combination of the Rockies paying some of the freight and/or taking back a bad contract or two. Regardless, Minaya will make every effort possible to improve the offense, bench, solidify the rotation and add depth and youth to the bullpen.

BUILDING THE BRIDGE

Acquiring a closer-type pitcher to serve as Braden Looper's setup man is also a necessity, a list that Dotel tops. However free-agent Scott Williamson is also a postseason/big market-tested player the Mets will investigate as well. Former Rick Peterson pupil Chad Bradford is another player the Mets will track, as is another successful project of the team's pitching CEO, Billy Koch.

Koch, who will turn 30 in December, saved 44 games with Oakland under Peterson in 2002, went 1-2 with a 3.51 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 25 2/3 innings for the Marlins last season. He's also a native of Rockville Centre, NY, so he's isn't a stranger to the Big Apple.

Left-handed relief will also be at a premium this winter, but New York may make an interesting choice before spending any significant money on the premium southpaws, as southpaw Blake McGinley may finally get his shot to crack the big league bullpen.

Year

Team

W-L

IP

Hits

BB

K

ERA

2004

Norfolk

3-3

26.2

30

7

28

4.05

2004

Binghamton

9-2

72.2

61

15

83

3.72

2003

St. Lucie

9-1

79.1

51

20

86

1.02

2002

St. Lucie

1-1

31.2

40

13

22

5.97

2002

Capital City

1-1

35.0

19

6

53

1.80

2001

Brooklyn

5-0

46.0

30

11

59

1.96



McGinley's fastball barely hits 90 mph, but he has tremendous command of it, as well as a solid changeup and curve, which puts his K's per innings pitched numbers in impressive company. For his minor league career, McGinley has given up 2.24 walks per nine innings while striking out 10.3 batters per nine innings with a tiny career WHIP ratio (walks + hits per innings pitched) of 1.05!

"I'll do anything the organization asks," said the 26-year old McGinley, who was taken by the Mets in the 21st round of the 2001 draft. "My biggest job is getting left-handers out." Though the lefty specialist job usually goes to a veteran, giving McGinley a shot would soften the loss of Jamie Cerda a year ago.

MAGGLIO IN THE OF?

Magglio Ordonez has long been a favorite of the Mets' brain trust, and his all-around game (accomplished with very little fanfare) is exactly what the Mets need. The only problem is unlike last winter (when the Mets were actively pursuing him) Ordonez is coming off a major injury, and will be a risky proposition. Perhaps a play-for-play type contract similar to what the Mets offered Vlad Guerrerro last offseason may actually work here.

Trot Nixon is another player the Mets have long coveted, and while it's unlikely that the BoSox will shop him after the WS win (according to ESPN's Peter Gammons), with all of the moves Boston needs to make, Minaya will surely call Theo Epstien once or twice (Gabe Kapler) in the offseason.

Danny Bautista or David Dellucci are solid all-around players that will get calls from Minaya, and there is word that Cincinnati's Austin Kearns _ currently trying to make the transition to third base _ could be available in a deal.

GLENDON REDUX?

While re-signing Kris Benson during the exclusive window period is the No. 1 priority the Mets have, the team is also looking in other areas to strengthen the starting rotation. Right-hander Steve Trachsel is the team's most attractive commodity, so to acquire topflight talent, he may be the one to go. If that happens _ and is Victor Zambrano's elbow isn't ready for Opening Day, here are the avenues the Mets will probably go.

Based on former Met Glendon Rusch's solid performance down the stretch in place of Matt Clement in the Cubs' rotation, there has been renewed interest in bringing the former Met back for a second tour of duty at Shea Stadium. Based on how costly the group of Eric Milton, Odalis Perez and reliever Steve Kline figures to be, Mets will investigate cheaper options.

SHEA DADDY?

Finally, there's word that Mets will try to gauge Pedro Martinez's interest in pitching at Shea. Pedro, whose postseason performance may force the Red Sox to re-sign him, has said he "would love to pitch at Shea" and Minaya will attempt to find out if he's serious.

One thing is certain, for the money that New York will need to spend to outbid the Yankees and/or the Cubs for Carlos Beltran's services, there are a lot more holes that need to be filled, and only so much money to go around to do so. Figure the Mets to be active _ early and often _ and to be proactive going after the players they've targeted, rather than getting involved in any bidding wars.


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