In addition, Oliver Perez and John Maine showed that they are ready to be solid rotation anchors. Even with his shaky finale, Perez finished in the National League’s top ten in wins, strikeouts and ERA. The same is true for Maine in wins and strikeouts—the ERA ranked 17th. Now each a year older, Perez will be in his second year of Rick Peterson Arm Slot School, while Maine, having gone through his first full season, has a better sense of how to avoid his second half slide.
Tom Glavine and Orlando Hernandez should also return. Glavine finished with 13 wins and a 4.45 ERA, skewed upwards by his last three starts. But he can return with a club option. A weak free agent class offers little in the way of replacements (Kenny Rogers? Kyle Lohse?), and as a result, these mediocrities will receive multiple year, very rich contracts. Glavine is a better bet. And El Duque should be good for 20 starts: spot him with Mike Pelfrey, who should get to build on his improvement in the second half of 2007 as long man and spot starter.
And the bullpen? Leave it largely intact. Billy Wagner was good for most of the season, as were Aaron Heilman (particularly in the second half, with a 2.27 ERA) and Pedro Feliciano. Adding free agent reliever David Riske, a righty who is not vulnerable to a lefty, is a must. Scott Schoeneweis returns as a specialist against lefties. If Jorge Sosa, if he’s brought back, provides a similar option against righties. Release Guillermo Mota.
Make sure you keep Omar Minaya around to make these moves. Anyone who wants to credit the Met turnaround to big-ticket signings should look at his trades that brought back El Duque, Maine, and Perez for the sum total of Xavier Nady and Kris Benson. His 2007 trades, such as Brian Bannister for Ambiorix Burgos, didn’t work out (though had Burgos stayed healthy, he’d have been the extra bullpen arm Randolph needed). But injuries, not poor judgment, were to blame for most of them.
And finally, Willie Randolph should not be made the scapegoat for the team’s late-season collapse. His bullpen management was questionable at times, but he has made it clear that he understands platoon splits at this point. He’s a New Yorker, he’s had his team in first place for the better part of two years, and he now has the managerial experience he could have used when you hired him.
Late slide notwithstanding, he’s ready for 2008. And, with some limited alterations, so are your New York Mets.