Interesting article from the Journal News by Peter Abraham:
The Mets gave up one of their most productive major-league hitters and three of their top five minor-league prospects to obtain two pitchers, one who is six games under .500 for his career, the other a converted infielder who led the American League in walks, wild pitches and hit batsmen last season.
Without using the names of the players involved, it would seem Jim Duquette did the impossible on Friday and made Steve Phillips look like a genius.
At first glance, the Mets gave up too much. Left-hander Scott Kazmir was rated the organization's top prospect by Baseball America, with right-hander Matt Peterson third and catcher Justin Huber fifth.
And all Ty Wigginton did was play three positions, lead the team in hitting and drive in the second-most runs. It's easy to dismiss him as a semi-talented overachiever. But on a team loaded with injury-prone or self-centered players, Wigginton's devotion to the cause of winning stood out.
Duquette surrendered all that for Kris Benson and Victor Zambrano?
It makes little sense for a fourth-place team under .500 to make such a startling move on the eve of the trade deadline. But Duquette was looking more to 2005 than 2004.
Al Leiter will be 39 in October, and while the Mets will pick up his option for next season, he is pitching with a bad shoulder.
Tom Glavine will be 39 in March and has a style that will work into his 40s. But you can't expect 230 innings out of him.
Steve Trachsel will be 34 in October and is a nice fourth or fifth starter on a contender. But that's it.
In Benson and Zambrano, the Mets now have two 29-year-old power pitchers with relatively low mileage. The team is convinced that pitching coach Rick Peterson can uncover their potential.
Peterson said the organization centered on Benson and Zambrano weeks ago and went through a lengthy evaluation process before making the trades.
"If there was a factor we overlooked, I'm not aware of it," the pitching coach said. "Everybody had their say in this, and we all came to the same conclusion.
"I go through a process when I look at a pitcher because we have a program that certain pitchers are going to fit into. You don't order Chinese food at an Italian restaurant, right? These guys will fit."
Peterson is the key to this deal, the man who will get Duquette celebrated or fired. He watched hours of tape on Benson and Zambrano and is convinced he can fix their mechanical issues.
It's worth noting that both were forced to be aces at a young age and have received little in the way of quality coaching or peer mentoring. Benson should attach himself to Glavine and learn all he can.
In 2005, if Benson and Zambrano embrace Peterson's philosophy, the Mets will have a deep, talented rotation for 162 games. That's how the Braves won so many division titles.
"If you show up every day with a guy on the mound you are confident will give you a chance to win, it makes a big difference," Glavine said. "The benefits or having a rotation that is four deep or five deep over the course of the season are huge."
Of the prospects lost, only Kazmir is significant, and Rick Peterson is convinced his across-the-body delivery will lead to elbow problems.
Class A right-hander Yusmeiro Petit has passed Matt Peterson on the prospect list, and for all his potential, Huber hit only .271 in Class AA this season.
Wigginton would have started next season on the bench with David Wright, Kazuo Matsui, Jose Reyes and Mike Piazza assured of infield spots.
It's a gamble but a good one. It all starts with pitching, and the Mets now have the kind of rotation that wins championships.
The Duke's deals
Jim Duquette has been GM of the Mets for 13 months and in that time has pulled 15 trades involving major-league players. Here's a breakdown with analysis by Mets beat writer Peter Abraham:
July 1, 2003: 2B Roberto Alomar to the White Sox for LHP Royce Ring, RHP Edwin Almonte and INF Andrew Salvo. Analysis: Dumped Alomar's salary and attitude. Only Ring remains.
July 14, 2003: OF Jeromy Burnitz to the Dodgers for RHP Joselo Diaz, RHP Kole Strayhorn and INF Victor Diaz. Analysis: Dumped salary for good prospects.
July 16, 2003: RHP Armando Benitez to the Yankees for RHP Jason Anderson, RHP Anderson Garcia and RHP Ryan Bicondoa. Analysis: Benitez needed to go. Only Garcia is left.
July 28, 2003: LHP Graeme Lloyd to the Royals for RHP Jeremy Hill. Analysis: Lloyd is out of baseball and Hill had surgery.
July 29, 2003: INF Rey Sanchez to the Mariners for OF Kenny Kelly. Analysis: Sanchez helped the Mariners; Kelly has been released.
Jan. 1, 2004: LHP Jaime Cerda to the Royals for RHP Shawn Sedlacek. Analysis: Dumb move. Cerda is a lefty with a 2.64 ERA, and Sedlacek has been released.
March 27, 2004: OF Timo Perez to the White Sox for RHP Matt Ginter. Analysis: Perez wasn't needed, and Ginter could prove helpful.
March 28, 2004: Cash to the Indians for INF Ricky Gutierrez. Analysis: Gutierrez was a bust, but the Mets needed depth at the time.
April 3, 2004: OF Roger Cedeno to the Cardinals for C Chris Widger and INF Wilson Delgado. Analysis: Cedeno has helped the Cardinals and the Mets got nothing in return. But he had to go.
June 17, 2003: RHP David Weathers and RHP Jeremy Griffiths to the Astros for OF Richard Hidalgo. Analysis: Duquette's masterpiece. Hidalgo has been reborn as a Met.
July 20, 2004: OF Karim Garcia to the Orioles for RHP Mike DeJean. Analysis: Good deal given DeJean's work so far.
July 30, 2004: C Justin Huber to the Royals for 3B Jose Bautista. Analysis: Precursor to bigger things.
July 30, 2004: INF Ty Wigginton, Bautista and RHP Matt Peterson to the Pirates for RHP Kris Benson and 2B Jeff Keppinger. Analysis: Potentially the best move of the Duke's tenure.
July 30, 2004: LHP Scott Kazmir and RHP Joselo Diaz to the Devil Rays for RHP Victor Zambrano and RHP Bartolome Fortunato. Analysis: Riskiest trade of the bunch. Could be a boon or bust.
July 31, 2004: RHP Scott Erickson to the Rangers for a player to be named. Analysis: It's amazing somebody wanted him.
Maine has a good swing for a pitcher but on anything that moves, he has no chance. And if it's a fastball, it has to be up in the zone. Basically, the pitcher has to hit his bat. - Mike Pelfrey