Jan 21

Maine, Mets at salary odds again

MAINE: Meet in the middle.

MAINE: Meet in the middle.

Last spring, after negotiations failed to produce a deal, the Mets renewed John Maine as is their right. They are $800,000 apart this year.

Maine wants $3 million after going 10-8 last year in 25 starts, his year cut short by a shoulder injury that required surgery. The Mets are at $2.2 million.

Here’s a thought: Why not meet in the middle?

I can see both sides on this one. Mets: Maine won five less games and is coming off an injury. Maine: Regarded as a rotation key with big expectations.

Jan 13

Braves get Lowe. What’s next?

Sixty million over four years got it done for Derek Lowe with the Braves. The Mets were a year and $24 million short. Oliver Perez, who should feel unwanted right about now, wants four years and the Mets are at three.

Ben Sheets is still out there, injured arm and all. So are Pedro Martinez and Randy Wolf. Whatever the signing, it has been a disappointing winter for the Mets regarding their starting pitching.

The Mets entered the offseason wanting to address their bullpen, but that includes getting starters capable of eating innings. It is not unfair to attach questions to four of the five starters after Johan Santana.

Mike Pelfrey: Will he continue to progress or hit a wall, which often happens in a pitcher’s development.

John Maine: Coming off surgery.

Tim Redding: A .500 pitcher last year with a lifetime losing record. OK, for a fifth starter, but the expectations could rise.

Fifth starter: To be determined. Jon Niese will compete. Bringing back Martinez might have to be the plan.

Jan 02

An honest look at the Mets ….

Even if you look at your glass being half full, it is still half empty. In that regard let’s take a look at the Mets’ questions, position by position:

Starting rotation: Have three quality starters, with one, John Maine coming off surgery. Still need to fill four and five. The fifth could be Jon Niese, who is unproven. That’s two questions out of five slots. They have marked, in order, Derek Lowe, Oliver Perez and Randy Wolf. It would be nice if they could land two, but I’m not betting on it. There’s been little mention of re-signing Pedro Martinez, but that could be a viable option as the fifth starter.

Bullpen: A tremendous job by GM Omar Minaya to land Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz. The back end of the pen is solid. Duaner Sanchez’s health (shoulder) remains a concern, but with Putz, there should be less pressure. Pedro Feliciano is the lone situational lefty. The bullpen is greatly improved. Brian Stokes could be the long man.

Catcher: Sure, you’d like Brian Schneider to hit more, but this is not a weakness.

First base: Carlos Delgado returns, and if he hits as he did from June on, things will be fine. But, there’s always the chance he could hit as he did in 2007 and the beginning of last season. He was brought back in large part because of economics. The Mets are banking on him to continue as he did last year. Because his contract, injury history and running hot and cold the past two seasons, made him impossible to deal, his value to the Mets is in the hope of him staying hot.

Second base: The Mets would love, but won’t be able to, take a buyer for the remaining $18 million over the next three years on Luis Castillo’s contract. His value to the Mets, like Delgado’s, is in the hope of a bouncing back. Orlando Hudson’s name is on some’s wish list, but if Castillo stays, he plays.

Left field: Currently, we’re looking at a Daniel Murphy-Fernando Tatis platoon. Both overachieved last season. Things will be fine if they duplicate last season’s success, but Tatis came out of nowhere and Murphy wasn’t listed as one of the club’s top prospects. Yes, Manny Ramirez is out there, but I prefer Adam Dunn if the Mets are going to open their wallets for a slugger. Ramirez is a headache waiting to happen, although he might be on his best behavior if given a one-year deal. I like Dunn because he can buy time for Fernando Martinez and in 2010 can replace Delgado at first base.

Right field: Ryan Church wasn’t the same player after sustaining a concussion in May. If he plays like he did early last season, the Mets won’t have a problem in right.

Dec 24

It’s so, the Mets are after Lowe ….

I don’t believe the Mets would make a player decision simply in response to something the Yankees did. They know they need pitching, which, despite speculation he was headed to Boston, the Mets pressed hard for Derek Lowe.

Word is they are deep in negotiations, with the numbers three years for around $13 million a season. Could be a little steep, but considering his durability and reliability, it might not be such a bad deal afterall.

Definitely, less risky than say giving that money to Oliver Perez. A rotation of Johan Santana, Lowe, Mike Pelfrey and John Maine is solid to the point of being one of the best in the National League. And, if you match them up, it is as good as what the Yankees put together this winter.

Dec 13

Mets tender five ….

CHURCH: Arbitration case.

CHURCH: Arbitration case.

The following Mets were tendered contracts and will go through the arbitration process:

1. Ryan Church (30): Hit .276 with 12 homers, but was ineffective after sustaining a concussion in late May. He’s the projected right fielder.

2. John Maine (27): Season was cut short with shoulder injury that required surgery. Reports have him ready for spring training He’s the projected third starter.

3. Pedro Feliciano (32): Is the primary situational lefty following the trade of Scott Schoeneweis to Arizona.

4. Duaner Sanchez (29): Had problems coming back from two shoulder surgeries. Acquisition of J.J. Putz takes off the pressure. Was pitching brilliantly before injured in 2006.

5. Jeremy Reed (27): Acquired in 12-player deal this week. Is expected to assume departed Endy Chavez’s role.

These players can file from Jan. 5-15. The Mets have to exchange their salary offer by Jan. 19. The hearings are from Feb. 1-21.