Minaya pleased with progress

For the Mets, the true impact of this year's Winter Meetings may not be known until at least a couple of weeks have passed. That's because general manager Omar Minaya believes his groundwork set will pay dividends in the very near future.

While Minaya was among the more visible executives at the meetings, often popping up in the lobby of Walt Disney World's Dolphin Hotel, the Mets were limited to just one move during the week – dealing pitcher Brian Bannister to the Kansas City Royals for reliever Ambiorix Burgos.

What may be perceived by some as a lack of activity doesn't worry Minaya, who spent much of the time conversing with agents and rival general managers.

"A lot of things that happened here [at the Winter Meetings], I think you're going to see [the results] in the next two weeks," Minaya said Thursday. "[There will be] a wave of moves.

"In my experiences, it's a domino effect once guys start getting off the board. All the back-and-forth goes out the window and people say, 'Hey, let's get a deal done.' The agents don't want to get shut out, and the teams don't want to get shut out."

The Mets' bounty from the meetings, the 22-year-old Burgos, represents a power arm for the middle innings, one that is just months removed from serving as the Royals' closer (with admittedly mixed results).

Minaya said Burgos' high ceiling and velocity – Mets scouting reports clocked the right-hander at speeds up to 100 mph – were the kickers in getting a deal done, which materialized Tuesday as Royals general manager Dayton Moore shopped Burgos around the league.

But when the Mets departed Florida on Thursday, they left just a few hours before announcing that the team would re-sign reliever Guillermo Mota to a two-year, $5 million deal, further bolstering their bullpen in a week that was built around the pursuit of pitching.

"I feel that the bullpen was one of the keys to our success last year," Minaya said in a statement. "Adding Guillermo Mota strengthens our bullpen with another quality arm."

Those moves could open the Mets up to granting Aaron Heilman's wish of becoming a starting pitcher again, albeit with a new organization.

The Mets expect Duaner Sanchez to return fully from surgery on his separated right shoulder, and with Mota joining the club in late May, the Mets will have restocked after losing both Chad Bradford and Roberto Hernandez to free-agent deals with the Baltimore Orioles and Cleveland Indians, respectively.

Many expected the Mets to make noise concerning the state of their starting pitching. Though they did sit down for an introductory meeting with agent Scott Boras regarding free agent Barry Zito – chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon flew down from New York to indicate the team's serious interest – Minaya also used the meetings to see what would be available on the trade front.

"We were able to flush out some things [and] get a better idea where we are as far as signing pitching," Minaya said.

Outfielder Lastings Milledge is finally available after two Winter Meetings where that was not the case, although his return value has been tempered.

The Oakland Athletics suggested Milledge could net the Mets Joe Blanton, though New York preferred both Dan Haren and Rich Harden; the Chicago White Sox balked at the Mets' pitch of Milledge for left-hander Mark Buerhle, and without pitching prospects Mike Pelfrey and Philip Humber in the picture, instead dealt Freddy Garcia to the Philadelphia Phillies late Wednesday.

That leaves the Mets continuing to search for starting pitching, even as Minaya and assistant John Ricco tour the Dominican Republic on a scouting excursion that runs through next Tuesday (Minaya said he was especially interested in seeing young prospects Francisco Pena and Fernando Martinez, for whom scouts have been filing glowing reports).

Minaya shot down a newspaper report that pinned Zito as heading to New York to meet the Mets shortly, as he already has done with the Texas Rangers, another serious suitor.

That aside, the Mets have been suspiciously tempered regarding their interest in Zito, which leads some to believe they are carefully not fueling Boras' famously aggressive tactics while plotting just how far they'll open the checkbook.

Then again, Minaya was similarly tight-lipped regarding a meeting with the agent for Mark Mulder, Gregg Clifton, who revealed that fellow client Tom Glavine would act as the Mets' official recruiter for Mulder.

The Mets also accomplished some minor moves in the four days at Disney World. Manager Willie Randolph settled on Howard Johnson as his new first base coach, shifting Sandy Alomar to third base as a replacement for the departed Manny Acta.

The Mets also lost two players and gained one in Thursday's Rule 5 draft. Jesus Flores, considered by some to be the organization's top catching prospect, went to the Washington Nationals in the Major League phase, leaving the 16-year-old Pena and Class-A backstops Drew Butera and Sean McCraw as the organization's top catching prospects.

In the Minor League phase, New York selected left-hander Ricardo Morales from the Nationals' Double-A roster and lost right-hander Moises Robles to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

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