Press Row: Rumor Mill kicks off

The Mets' needs, of course, include acquiring a front-line starting pitcher, a second baseman and a left fielder. Barry Zito and Jason Schmidt probably make up the best one-two pitching combination of the free agent market.

Let the rumor mill begin. The New York Post's Mark Hale reports, through an unnamed source familiar with the situation, that the Mets are not currently interested in pursuing free agents Alfonso Soriano or Zito, nor would they be piqued if Manny Ramirez were to become available.

Soriano holds appeal because he would be able to fill the Mets' choice of two of those slots, but after slugging a career-high 46 home runs with 41 steals this past year for Washington, the price tag is going to be especially high for the five-time All-Star – even more so because he is arguably the cream of what is shaping up as a rather weak free agent crop.

Mets GM Omar Minaya vaguely stated last week that the team has already itemized its priorities and its wish-list, but said he'd prefer to keep the details of those thought-sessions close to the vest.

  • We've all heard about the value of young starting pitching, but this may be the only time John Maine can say he was swapped for Carlos Beltran. The 25-year-old right-hander was added to the travel roster for next week's MLB All-Star Tour of Japan, taking the roster spot of Beltran, who asked out after continuing to suffer the ill effects of the abdominal pain that nagged him throughout the postseason.

    48-year-old Julio Franco has joined the team's coaching staff, setting the tone for his post-playing career (whenever that does happen, though Franco is adamant he will hang the spikes up when he's 50). It's a return to Japan for Franco, who played the 1995 and 1998 seasons for the Chiba Lotte Marines, batting .306 and .290 respectively.

  • Mookie Wilson had said his allegiances were split during the NLCS, with his stepson Preston Wilson pulling him over to the St. Louis Cardinals' side.

    But now that the Mets are home for October, Wilson had no qualms about popping up in the home dugout at Busch Stadium wearing a Cardinals sweatshirt and ski cap, Newsday's Mark Herrman reports.

    As a side note, it was curious the Mets cut allegiances with Wilson in 2006, a season where so much was made of the 20th anniversary of the 1986 Mets. Wilson managed the Class-A Brooklyn Cyclones in 2005 – arguably the system's most prized farm club – and was an extremely popular figure with fans.

    It would have made sense to keep Mookie in the loop in some capacity, though he was available for the 1986 ceremony in August at Shea Stadium and also helped emcee a SportsNet New York rally in October alongside 1969 Mets hero Jerry Koosman.

  • Seems we'll get a chance to see a film version of Willie Randolph. ESPN is producing an eight-hour miniseries chronicling the 1977 Yankees, to be aired next July. The New York Times details the production, with an impressive slideshow accompanying the online article.

    Contact Inside Pitch's Bryan Hoch at metsinsidepitch@aol.com.


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