Mets' mission accomplished in Vegas
Holes remain, but Minaya's overhaul of bullpen a decisive win
LAS VEGAS -- Shortly after Thursday's Rule 5 Draft ended at the Bellagio hotel, putting an official end to baseball's Winter Meetings, Mets general manager Omar Minaya began the long walk back to his team's suite. But he had taken only a few steps when a baseball executive stopped him, offering congratulations for all that had transpired over the past four days.
Moments later, another executive stopped, offering up similar wishes. Then another. And even a fan ran over to shake Minaya's hand, gushing about the two major transactions his team had completed.
It was some time before Minaya, back in the quiet of his suite, could finally gush himself, lauding everyone who had played a role in reshaping the Mets.
"That goes to show you, there's a reason for having these Meetings," Minaya said. "The only way that happens is by bringing teams together and having dialogue."
Though only time will tell if the moves to acquire closer Francisco Rodriguez and setup man J.J. Putz, among others, will remain as shrewd as they currently look, the mood surrounding the Mets on Thursday morning was downright festive.
The Mets entered these Winter Meetings hoping to retool their bullpen, and instead, they revamped it. Minaya, who said on the eve of the Meetings that he expected "to leave with players," in fact left with four that he didn't have before. And it seems that even Minaya, one of the game's most aggressive general managers, had a difficult time believing he had landed his top two relief pitching targets in a matter of days.
"If you asked me, there was no way that I thought that I would come here and be able to get both of those guys," Minaya said. "I just didn't think that was going to happen here."
But it did happen, and the Mets are a different team because of it. They acquired a closer, Rodriguez, who is widely considered to be one of the best in the game. And they acquired another closer, Putz, who will become a setup man and K-Rod's able understudy.
The Mets completed no other moves -- they didn't find a starting pitcher, a left fielder or even a backup middle infielder -- but their Winter Meetings still seemed more complete than those of any other team. On paper, at least, their gaping hole has been transformed into a relative strength.
That's not to say that the Mets are done signing and dealing. They still need that starter, that outfielder and that infielder, and on Thursday morning, even Minaya's work in Las Vegas was not yet complete. Along with plans to meet lefty Oliver Perez's agent, Scott Boras, before skipping town, Minaya said he would call other teams throughout the day. There may still be two months remaining in the offseason, but Minaya was not prepared to delay.
And although Minaya's bullpen machinations seem complete, his priorities, on a greater scale, have not entirely changed.
"Before I start moving my dollars to offense," Minaya said, "I've got to move my dollars to pitching."
Minaya will move more dollars between now and Spring Training, just as he will move more players. But even if he does nothing else in the coming weeks, it's clear he still will have made a notable impact.
"It's fun when you feel like you've accomplished something for your fan base," Minaya said. "It's fun when you're able to do something to improve the team."
Deals done: The Mets signed K-Rod to a three-year, $37 million deal on Wednesday morning to become their closer, then completed a 12-player trade with the Mariners and Indians on Wednesday evening. That deal netted them Putz, reliever Sean Green and outfielder Jeremy Reed in exchange for Aaron Heilman, Endy Chavez, Joe Smith and four Minor Leaguers.
Rule 5 activity: More relief pitching came through the Rule 5 Draft, in which the Mets selected right-handers Darren O'Day and Rocky Cherry from the Angels and Orioles, respectively. Both players will battle for bullpen spots come Spring Training.
Goals accomplished: The team's foremost need coming into the Meetings was to shore up a bullpen that ranked 23rd in the Majors last season with a 4.25 ERA. And they filled that need as swiftly and convincingly as they could, officially acquiring two of the game's top closers within the span of four hours.
Unfinished business: The Mets still need a starting pitcher, and although Minaya said the chances of his club pursuing A.J. Burnett remain slim, he did insist that his team had a "50-50" shot at re-signing Perez. The Mets are searching for a fourth starter, not an ace, and they should sign one within the coming weeks.
GM's bottom line: "To get one closer like Frankie would have been a good winter. I think to get two guys like this is a great winter. And that being said, we're not done yet." -- Minaya
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.