Not sure what to think about the Milledge deal

I’m confused by this deal. Two things are obvious, or seem so:

1.) Johnny Estrada will be flipped elsewhere.
2.) The Mets aren’t getting Johan Santana.

Brian Schneider will team with Ramon Castro, perhaps as something close to a straight platoon, since they bat left and right, respectively. And since the Mets just signed Castro to a two-year deal, Estrada is the one out. He can also be non-tendered and become a free agent, which makes the deal to get him basically a Guillermo Mota contract dump. Nothing wrong with that, either.

As for Santana, I don’t see how the Mets could land him if, as reports have said, the Twins aren’t wild about the Mets’ pitching prospects and now they’ve dealt one of their younger outfielders. Would Omar Minaya trade Carlos Gomez away now that Milledge is gone? I doubt it. It looks like Church and Gomez will team up to be the right-field platoon … and then both will start the 40 games Moises Alou misses.

This does balance out the Mets, as Marty Noble points out, though Bill Ladson’s source may be misguided if he thinks Church will be the everyday right fielder. I’m not so sure of that. Shawn Green is definitely gone now. Church is effectively Green, minus four years. In 14 more games, Church hit five more homers, drove in 24 more runs and hit .019 points lower (.291 to .272), which really isn’t too bad. Church is a better defender, too.

It makes for an interesting dynamic in D.C. It’s clear Milledge has talent at the plate, and his defensive shortcomings were one reason the Mets were willing to deal him. But he’s also had attitude issues, and so putting him on a team with Wily Mo Pena and, perhaps more importantly, Dmitri Young will be interesting. To his credit, though, Young had a stellar season under the radar, causing no problems on or off the field. He really didn’t have a history as a malcontent, but in the sports and entertainment worlds these days, one bad year can make or break your reputation. Plus, it’s not a bad outfield — on paper — with Pena, Milledge and Austin Kearns around in right.

So now do the Nats go with Jesus Flores as their catcher (whom they plucked from the Mets in the Rule V draft in December 2006)? He was a very limited backup last year because the Nats had to keep him on the 25-man roster or offer him back to the Mets. I’m not even sure he reached Double-A in the Mets’ system, so he could be ticketed for the minors for more seasoning. The options on the free-agent market are slim. There seem to be only three who would be worthy of regular (at least four or five games a week) No. 1 duty: Michael Barrett and perhaps Rod Barajas and Paul Lo Duca. But Lo Duca wants, I believe, a ridiculous four-year deal and has also said he wants to go to a team “committed to winning.” I don’t doubt that the Nats are committed to winning, but I’m sure Lo Duca really means “on the verge of winning.” The Nats could be in that position by the end of a hypothetical four-year deal for Lo Duca, but unless their pitching takes immense leaps and bounds forward this year and next, that’s unlikely.

I don’t see this deal quite as one-sided as Keith Law does, in part because he’s going on potential. Yes, Milledge has the potential to be the best player in the deal, but he’s not. Yet. At the moment, it’s an even trade that helps both teams. We’ll wait to see how well Milledge develops before truly evaluating it. Ever since the Scott Kazmir deal, Mets fans are ready to leap off the ledge when a prospect is discussed in trade talks, but they’re not all going to turn into stars. Alex Escobar was once the top prospect in the Mets system and seen as a five-tool guy, and his career hasn’t gone anywhere.

Milledge’s will go somewhere, but until it does, you can’t kill the Mets for dealing from a position of strength (and outfield is probably their strongest area throughout the system) to fill two key — and starting — needs. Teams these days are holding onto their prospects because they’re cheaper than free agents and established stars, not because they’re becoming gun-shy. Boston gave up some pretty solid players in Anibal Sanchez and Hanley Ramirez to land Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell, and they may do it again to land Santana. The Yankees won’t discuss Joba Chamberlain, but that’s really as simple a decision as it was to designate Derek Jeter the shortstop of the future from 1995 on. But if Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes remain to form the top three of the Yankees rotation in the new stadium in 2009, only then will there truly be a new way of thinking when it comes to dealing prospects.

Because the Mets are one of those teams where money isn’t as much of an issue, they may be better off signing a marginal free-agent pitcher instead of betting the farm (system) on a trade. The Twins have better offers from the Red Sox and Yankees for Santana, and the loser of that sweepstakes (which could be both teams, should Minnesota back down) could still use the package for Oakland’s Dan Haren. The O’s will probably hold any team hostage before dealing Erik Bedard (the way the Marlins are in regards to Miguel Cabrera), so as a Mets fan, I’d rather see the team hold onto Gomez, Fernando Martinez, Mike Pelfrey, Phil Humber, Aaron Heilman, et. al. and take a chance on a Bartolo Colon, Carlos Silva or Livan Hernandez. Silva will cost a bit, but Colon should come cheaply with an incentive-laded contract that will pay him more if he stays healthy and pitches more. Hernandez would fill nicely Tom Glavine’s 200 innings and should come at a rather reasonable price — that is, cheaper than Silva.

One comment on “Not sure what to think about the Milledge deal

  1. I think Ryan Church is a very underrated player. Now that he’s on the Mets, he will be on a lot of “sleeper” lists next spring. The Nats kept jerking him around and his numbers suffered. He’ll be a nice fit for the Mets.

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