With another off-season almost upon us, Omar Minaya will soon embark on his latest quest to improve the Mets. Minaya (left) has been the general manger of the team since September 2004. And in that time, he’s made some spectacularly bad moves that have had a severe impact on the club, both financially and on the field. Many of those had ripple effects that forced other bad deals. While hindsight is a great thing, these are moves that raised eyebrows when they were made, or at least should have. To be fair, he’s made plenty of good moves. Sure, we can talk about those, but where’s the fun it that? So here they are — the worst moves by Omar Minaya (so far):
12/9/05-Signed 87-year-old Julio Franco to two-year , $2.2 million contract
Okay, so he wasn’t 87. But he was close. You could perhaps argue for a one-year deal for a player of that age (actually, he was 47) who kept himself in incredible shape. But two years? He was a fairly productive player in ’06. Of course, he was done by the second year, and the Mets cut him mid-season.
7/31/06-Traded Xavier Nady to Pittsburgh for Oliver Perez and Roberto Hernandez
This was a panic move, following Duaner Sanchez’s late-night-food-run taxi accident in Miami the night before. Sanchez was pitching lights-out up until the crash, so there was no way Minaya was truly going to replace him. But trading a solid player in Nady for Hernandez, who left the Mets as a free agent after the ’05 season and who obviously didn’t want to play for them, was just dumb. Dealing the right handed hitting Nady left the Mets, a predominantly left handed hitting lineup, vulnerable to left handed pitching. And we won’t even mention that the trade ushered in the Oliver Perez era in Flushing. More on him later.
11/15/06-Traded Heath Bell and Royce Ring to San Diego for Ben Johnson and Jon Adkins
Minaya set out to rebuild the bullpen after the 2006 season. Every move failed. This one was just incomprehensible. He sent two relievers away who showed some promise for a backup outfielder and a pitcher who went on to appear in just one game for the Mets. In contrast, Bell went on to be an All-Star closer.
11/20/06-Signed Moises Alou to one-year, $7.5 million contract plus team option
There’s no doubting Alou (left) is a great hitter when he’s healthy, which he never is. So why count on a 40-year-old player who had health problems even when he was in his 20s and 30s? Of course, Alou went down with a quadriceps strain, and missed two and a half months. He did hit .341 in 2007, but the Mets got only 87 games out of Alou – not enough for $7.5 million. The option? More on that later.
11/20/06-Traded Matt Lindstrom and Henry Owens to Florida for Jason Vargas and Adam Bostick
Another bullpen move that failed. Lindstrom was the closer for the Marlins earlier this season before battling injuries. Vargas started two games for the Mets in ’07 and left behind a 12.19 ERA. Adam who?
11/30/06-Let Chad Bradford leave via free agency
Bradford pitched extremely well in middle relief for the Mets in ’06. So what does Minaya do? – he lets him walk. Minaya chose not to match Baltimore’s offer of 3 years, $10.5 million for the submariner. That’s certainly a lot of money for a middle reliever, but the Mets spent almost that exact amount to replace him. More on that later.
12/6/06-Traded Brian Bannister to Kansas City for Ambiorix Burgos
Bannister showed promise in his one injury-shortened season in 2006, when he was just 25-years-old. They gave up on him in order to acquire Burgos, a hard thrower who pitched one so-so season for the Mets, but had off-field problems that included assaulting his girlfriend and a hit-and-run that left two women dead. Bannister, who would have fit in nicely at the back of the Mets rotation, went on to become a serviceable starter for the Royals.
12/8/06-Re-signed Guillermo Mota to two-year, $5 million contract
Minaya got Mota (left) late in the 2006 season, and he proved to be the lights-out replacement for Sanchez. Mota was brilliant – 3-0, 1.00 ERA in 18 games, after pitching terribly in Cleveland. After the season, we found out how Mota rebounded – he tested positive for steroids. So what does Minaya do with this information? He signs Mota to a two-year, $5 million contract. After serving his 50 game suspension to start the 2007 season, the presumably steroid-free Mota reverted to form, posting a 5.76 ERA, and incurring the wrath of Mets fans reserved for such favorites as Bobby Bonilla and Doug Sisk.
12/11/06-Let Darren Oliver leave via free agency
Just like Bradford, Oliver pitched well in his one season with the Mets. And just like Bradford, Minaya let him walk after showing no apparent interest in re-signing him. Oliver signed with the Angels for a reasonable $1.75 million, and is now in his third season as a key component in the bullpen for the AL West champs.
1/16/07-Signed Scott Schoeneweis to 3-year, $10.8 million contract
The Bradford replacement. Schoeneweis is a lefty, but as a submariner, the right-handed Bradford is actually more effective against lefties than righties. And he was certainly more effective than Schoeneweis. Minaya spent $10.8 million for Schoeneweis, who was terrible in ’07, and rivaled Mota as most hated Met. Schoeneweis was better in ’08, but was sent to Arizona to spend the final year of his ill-fated contract. By the way, the Mets paid $1.6 million of his $3.6 million 2009 salary.
10/31/07-Picked up Moises Alou $7.5 million option
So what do you do when you have a $7.5 million option on a now 41-year-old player who is always hurt, and who only played in 87 games the previous year because of injury? Why, you pick up that option, of course. At the time, Minaya said, “I don’t want to use a no-brainer, but we felt it was a wise decision.” His nemesis Adam Rubin of the New York Daily News did use the term “no-brainer” to describe the move. Really? You should be glad you don’t have their brains! Alou, shock of shocks, spent most of 2008 on the disabled list, racking up a whopping total of 54 at bats in 15 games. He did hit .347, however. I did say there’s no doubting he’s a great hitter, if not for that pesky health thing.
11/19/07-Re-signed Luis Castillo to four-year, $24 million contract
When Minaya traded for Castillo midway through the 2007 season, it was hailed as a great move that solidified the infield. And indeed, it was. But Castillo needed surgery on both knees in the off-season, so perhaps a short-term deal, or no deal at all, was in order. But not out Omar. He handed Castillo a four-year deal for $6 million per year. Now be honest – who at the time really thought Castillo would be manning second base through 2011? After a terrible 2008 with predictable post-surgery knee issues that limited him to 87 games, Castillo is having a good 2009, the dropped pop-up against the Yankees notwithstanding (left). But the contract made it impossible to sign Orlando Hudson, who would have been a perfect fit for the Mets both on the field and in the clubhouse.
2/2/09-Re-signed Oliver Perez to three-year, $36 million contract
This may go down not only as Minaya’s worst move, not only the Mets’ all time worst move, but he worst free agent signing in MLB history. And that says something. After watching him for three and a half seasons, Minaya should have known better than anyone else what Perez (below) brings – unbelievable stuff one night, a nightmare the next. Yet he still paid him like an ace. What was Minaya thinking? Perez responded to the big contract by going 3-4 with a 6.82 ERA in just 14 starts in 2009. And there’s no reason to think the next two years will be any different.
Incidentally, Minaya is criticized, unfairly in my view, for not signing Derek Lowe, his first choice, instead of Perez. There are two issues here – one, at 36-years-old, Minaya was right not to want to give Lowe a four year deal. And while Lowe is a fine pitcher, he’s not a $15 million a year pitcher. It was a contract Minaya was smart not to match. Second, Minaya was never going to be given the chance to match it. Lowe and Perez are both represented by Scott Boras. And Boras knew damn well that except for the Mets, there was no market for Perez. So if Lowe signed with the Mets, his other client was screwed. So Boras steered Lowe to the Braves, and in the process forced the Mets to re-sign Perez. At that point, Minaya should have either walked away and looked to other pitchers, or given Perez a shorter, cheaper deal. He would have taken it – he had no other place to go. Instead, we’re stuck with him for another two years.
And it appears we are stuck with Minaya for many more years to come as well. Following the ’08 season after the second straight September collapse, the Wilpons inexplicably gave Minaya a three-year contract extension through 2012. And the Madoff-scammed Wilpons are loath to eat the roughly $1 million per year Minaya is owed. On the bright side, given Minaya’s track record, we’ll have more bad moves to add to this list.
Photos Courtesy NY Daily News