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Second Guessing Mr. Minaya

Like a good self-help meeting, this entry starts with one's weakness:

My name is Cameron Smith, and I love Omar Minaya.

That's why it hurts so much to admit this: I think Minaya missed the boat when he picked up Carlos Delgado's option. I think he missed a golden opportunity to add one of the best slugging switch-hitters in the game, who also happens to be a first baseman; he missed a dead-on shot at Mark Teixeira.

The relationship between Mr. Minaya and myself is best categorized as "visionary" and "admirer from afar", an unofficial subcategory under the "it's complicated" status on facebook and myspace. I became a founding member of the "Omar Minaya Platonic Appreciation Society" back in 2002, when his wheeling and dealing north of the border kept an utterly overmatched Montreal Expos team in contention for the NL East crown through most of the summer. Despite playing in front of empty seats in cavernous and dilapidated Olympic Stadium, Minaya had the pluck to add payroll and stars, bringing in both Bartolo Colon and Cliff Floyd for a playoff push.

Of course, it didn't work -- little outside of Youppi did for baseball in Montreal -- but the attempt itself was inspired. So inspired, in fact, that when the Expos started exploring plans for a move to their current incarnation over at Navy Yard, Minaya used his success as a platform to vault into running the front office of the Mets, where he had been an assistant to Steve Phillips.

Minaya's tenure in New York started with another dash of inspired moves, overpaying for instant credibility by bringing in Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran in a single offseason. Overnight, the Mets were transformed from overwhelmed purveyors of desperation deadline-day deals -- Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano anyone? -- to division contenders.

Minaya's aggressive pursuit didn't stop there. The Mets need another pitcher? Why not just add Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez. The Mets suffer an epic collapse? No worries, just trade for Johan Santana, the best left-handed pitcher in the game.

Everything was going so well for Minaya and me (sounds like a horrible ABC after school special, doesn't it?) until this year. When the Mets were floundering at the trade deadline, Minaya did ... nothing. Nothing at all. Instead, he tried to get by without significant additions to the bullpen or the lineup, opting to stay the course with struggling set-up men -- who then couldn't transition to closer when Billy Wagner went down with a season-ending injury -- and an outfield platoon that included rookies and a post-concussion riddled Ryan Church rather than a tested veteran. Minaya could have added former Mets slugger Xavier Nady, who would have seamlessly transitioned back to Shea Stadium, or made a splash by grabbing Ken Griffey Jr. Instead, he watched his team's playoff chances collapse under the collective weight of overbearing expectations and an overwhelmed and exhausted bullpen.

With that in mind, the Mets will certainly gear up for 2009 by making a big splash right? Well, maybe they will. What they won't be doing, however, is adding more power at a corner positions. That became certain when Minaya picked up Carlos Delgado's $12 million option for 2009.

That's right, $12 million for a power-hitting first baseman who had three spectacular months in the past two seasons. Make no mistake, the .308 with 24 homers and 80 RBI he put up after last June 27 was something else, but it doesn't make up for his season-long slump in 2007 and the first three months of 2008.

If the Mets only had $12 million to work with, Delgado would probably be a solid choice. But that's precisely what makes Minaya's decision so bizarre; the Mets have so much more than $12 million to work with.

Here are just some of the salaries that are coming off the Mets' books this winter:

Pedro Martinez -- $11.8 million
Moises Alou -- $7.5 million
Orlando Hernandez -- $7 million
Marlon Anderson -- $1.05 million

That's a whopping $26.35 million right there, more than Teixeira will command per season. Sure, he'll be shooting for $20 million per and up -- Teixeira made $12.5 million in 2008 -- but given the market, there may only be 2-3 teams bidding hard to get him.

When you do the math, the Mets seem to be a great fit to splurge on Teixeira. Add the $12 million they would have saved by not picking up Delgado's option, and they would have had $38.35 million to play around with. That could be close to two years of Teixeira's services.

So why aren't the Mets spending it? Are they saving up all their resources for a surprise run at CC Sabathia? Maybe. Does Minaya already have his eye on another primo free agent or trade prospect on the market, perhaps some combination of Juan Rivera, Francisco Rodriguez and Ben Sheets? Is he finally going to overspend for Manny Ramirez after flirting with him at every trade deadline and offseason meeting in recent years?

Any of those options are possible. If he pulls the trigger we may see what his plan really is. The bigger issue is that Minaya hasn't been pulling the trigger at all recently, which makes one wonder whether he's starting to lose his inner riverboat gambler, the part of Minaya that just went for it at all costs, whether people thought he should or not.

Then again, maybe that's a lucky development for me. My name is Cameron Smith, and I'm starting to think Omar Minaya is just another general manager after all.

By Cameron Smith  |  November 3, 2008; 12:35 PM ET
Categories:  Mets  
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On the other hand, in addition to the Expos not making it to the postseason after the Colon trade, they'd lost three promising young talents from the farm in Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips, and Grady Sizemore.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | November 4, 2008 9:01 AM | Report abuse

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