The U Files #12: The Case of The Rampant Rumors

Rumors are the lifeblood of the offseason. With no baseball, fans delight in speculating on who'll end up where. The Mets are a mess, and management wants to fix the team over the offseason. So, the Mets are the subject of several rumors aimed at finding the best patch. The Mets are among the teams in the Glavine chase, and are holding a trade for Denny Neagle as a backup option.

Tom Glavine has been one of the better lefty pitchers in baseball, but he's entering his last years. Pitching his entire career with the Atlanta Braves, he's amassed a career record of 242 wins and 143 losses, his ERA at 3.37. Though he will turn 37 years old on March 25 of next year, he wants a four-year deal. He feels this would ensure that he reaches the 300 win mark. Both the Phillies and the Mets have obliged by adding an option for a fourth year to their original three-year offers. The Phillies' offer totals $1.5 million more than the Mets'.

Whoever winds up with Glavine must beware: he is an aging finesse pitcher. Pitchers, particularly those who aren't strikeout pitchers, tend to fall off quickly as they reach where Glavine is going. If history means anything, Glavine is certain to suffer a major drop-off at some point in his next contract.

Even beyond the issue of productivity, the Mets must consider whether such a big name signing is appropriate for a team in its position. Unless there is some miracle, this deal seems to have more public relations value than meaning to the team. This sorry bunch simply isn't prepared to win anytime soon, with Glavine or without. The Mets are desperate to regain some measure of credibility, and they haven't questioned whether the never-ending quest for credibility will perpetuate a pattern of mediocrity. The Mets' high command hasn't the courage to do the right thing.

Should Glavine somehow fail to be wooed by the stink surrounding the Mets, the Mets are prepared to work a deal for Denny Neagle. As this writer knows enough baseball to know what Neagle is, the immediate reaction to the idea of Neagle is a heartfelt "ugh". He managed to work a few years in Atlanta where he deserved some respect, but that time is past. The only thing to expect of Neagle is to fill space at the back of the rotation.

The original rumor figured a deal of Jeromy Burnitz or Rey Ordonez for Neagle. The Rockies don't have much interest in Ordonez. Neagle is due $37 million over the next three years. Whatever he provides certainly won't be worth that cost. Burnitz has one year left at $11.5 million, and replacing a bad contract with a longer bad contract is never wise. If the Mets can bear one more year of Burnitz, they'll be rid of his contract.

A more interesting proposal was reported in the Daily News, a three-way trade involving the Yankees. The Yankees would deal Raul Mondesi and Rondell White and receive no players. The Mets would give up Burnitz or Ordonez and receive Neagle. The three teams would split the cost of Neagle. The Mets would be left with Neagle at $3.3 million per year, and he'd actually be palatable as a cheap fifth starter. The deal is as unusual as it is creative. The Mets and Yankees generally aren't too interested in helping out the other, and the Rockies would be taking on a huge portion of 2003 salary, adding to an already full outfield. The teams involved have since stated that no such deal has been discussed.

Another concern for the Mets has been the expulsion of Rey Ordonez. Management has tired of the useless shortstop, charging that Ordonez is a cancer in the clubhouse. It doesn't help that Saint Rey called Mets fans "stupid" for booing.

Ordonez has but one year left on his contract, and any replacement would only be holding the spot warm for super-prospect Jose Reyes. Thus it makes no practical difference who the shortstop of the 2003 Mets is.

Whatever the Mets do probably can't restore the team to a legitimate contender.

The Mets have stuck to the delusion that they can contend if they wish hard enough. Moves such as the above won't do the Mets much good; the team needs a fresh start more than a facelift.

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