No-Brainer for Mets

Patience paid off for Omar Minaya. The Mets GM, who needed Johan Santana more than Boston and his crosstown rivals, stuck to his guns. He stared Bill Smith down, never gave in on Jose Reyes, Mike Pelfrey, or any other proven major league commodities the Twins targeted. Minaya sweated out Boston’s package of prospects. He took deep breaths when the Yankees decided to dangle Philip Hughes. In the end, Minnesota waited too long, disenchanted the the AL superpowers – neither really wanted to dismantle the future for Johan anyway – then when they had to move Santana Omar stood with the best offer, the only offer.

6 years, $137.5 million with attainable incentives. Risky grounds for a pitcher – yes. But Santana stood to get that contract from someone, especially after San Francisco gave Barry Zito, who can barely hold a candle to Santana, an outlandish $18 million per year contract last season. The Mets had so many reasons to make this deal.

Jeff Wilpon did not have John Maine in mind when he envisioned Opening Day at new Citi Field next season. Now the Mets have a true ace, the potential hall of famer in his prime, to close out Shea and open Citi Field with. Santana guarantees attendance, he guarantees headlines. Not easy to come by in a town where the Mets need to work double overtime to grab any attention from the Yanks.

Lest we forget, four months ago the Mets experienced the worst regular season collapse in baseball history. Tom Glavine recorded one out in the final game, Philip Humber made his first major league start in the last week of the season, Pedro Martinez was available no more than once a week down the stretch – see a trend? Willie Randolph needed a stopper, an ace to stop the bleeding – he needed a Johan Santana. Since the season ended Minaya did nothing to supplement the pitching staff. Glavine left, a foregone conclusion after that finale, they toyed with Livan Hernanadez, but unless this is the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest Livan will not save the team.

Last season, Minaya rolled the dice, counting on an unreliable, aging El Duque, an aging Tom Glavine, and a speedy recovery for Pedro Martinez. It almost happened. Before Santana, the Mets rotation showcased an even older, less reliable El Duque, an unknown quantity in Martinez, the solid yet hardly dominating duo of John Maine and Oliver Perez – though Perez can become dominant – and the unfulfilled potential of Mike Pelfrey. Enough to cause indigestion. Philly grabbed Brad Lidge, moving Brett Myers back to the rotation, forming a nice young 1-2 punch with Cole Hamels, while Atlanta hoped to get healthy. Without an ace pitcher the Mets watch next October from home again.

Not only did Minaya obtain his pearl, he sent Minnesota a bag of balls. No major-league proven talent, no major-league ready stars. Carlos Gomez has more questions than answers, Humber struggled at AAA last season, taking a step back. Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra may prosper down the line. Even if one of those four becomes an All-Star, or even two, the Mets are built to win now and none of those players can help.

The Mets immediately become favorites in the NL, but far from a guarantee. Remember, Cleveland beat Santana five times last season and won the division. Santana looked human down the stretch last season. Attribute it to lack of interest, or the league catching up to him, or diminishing skills. Bottom line, Santana was beatable. He allowed the most homers in the AL last year, and pitchers always carry the injury risk. No question, it’s a risk the Mets had to take.

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