I started out my previous column by admitting how wrong I was about where John Lackey would end up and how much money he would get. I noted that I’ve been wrong before, and I’ll be wrong again. Well, I’m about to make another prediction that I hope turns out to be right — Omar Minaya is working on something big. And I don’t mean just Jason Bay.
Let me point out I have no knowledge of anything (wait, that didn’t come out right). What I mean is, I have not read any reports about a blockbuster involving the Mets, and of course I have no inside information. But I just get the feeling something is happening.
Or maybe it’s just wishful thinking. Minaya is not only trying to make the Mets better, he’s trying to save his job. He knows (or at least I hope he knows) that he can’t go into the season with this roster. It’s the same roster that lost 92 games last year. Hell, it’s virtually the same roster that collapsed in 2007 and 2008. He’s got to do something, and it’s got to be big, to counteract the Phillies acquisition of Roy Halladay, as well as the perception that the Mets are cheap and won’t do what it takes to win.
Just signing Bay, Bengie Molina, and two of those increasingly unappealing second-tier free agent pitchers is not enough. They need to make a splash. And I have a proposal. How about sending Luis Castillo, Mike Pelfrey, Bobby Parnell and a couple of high-level prospects to the Reds for Brandon Phillips and Bronson Arroyo?
Why would the Reds trade perhaps their best player and a solid 2nd starter? One word — money. The Reds had a $73 million dollar payroll last season, and reports are that they want to stay steady or reduce it. The Reds have ten players under contract for 2010 at $67 million. That means the remaining 15 would have to total $6 million. It’s not going to happen. Plus, they have some good young players who will be making big bucks over the next few years — Edinson Volquez, Johnny Cueto, Joey Votto, Jay Bruce — and the Reds need to save for the future.
Arroyo (left) will make $12.25 milion in 2010, with an $11 million team option or a $2 million buyout for 2011. Phillips will earn nearly $7 million next year, $11 million the next, then a $12 option or a $1 million buyout for 2012. That a guaranteed $33.25 million for the two players. It’s money the Reds would like to save, and money the Mets can afford to spend.
The Reds would have to take back at least one lousy contract — that’s where Castillo and his $12 million come in. Combined with the small salaries they would take on from the other players, that still leaves the Reds with a $20 million savings. As far as those other players, Pelfrey is a proven starter (although he took a big step backwards last season) who would do well in Cincinnati. Pelfrey keeps his sinkerball down, just what the bandbox that is Great American Ballpark calls for. Arroyo, in contrast, is a flyball pitcher who would fare very well in cavernous Citi Field (by the way, I also like Aaron Harang, who makes around the same amount of money as Arroyo, but I prefer Arroyo). The Reds would want at least one more major leaguer in return, hence Parnell, who is one of the few desirable young guys the Mets have, and a couple of high level prospects.
So that’s the trade. It’s not one of those deals fans propose on message boards where the Mets trade their crap for other team’s gold (how many times have I read “Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo and low level prospects for Adrian Gonzalez?”). The Mets are actually giving up quality in Pelfrey, Parnell and good prospects. In return, the Mets get two very good players their current team can no longer afford. It’s win-win for both teams. I doubt Minaya is working on this exact deal, but he’s got to be working on something big. Doesn’t he?