2 Guys Talking: Scott Kazmir, Zack Wheeler and the Need for Ownership Commitment


Tonight Scott Kazmir pitches for Oakland and tomorrow the Mets throw Zack Wheeler. Both pitchers are destined to be major figures in Mets history. Kazmir, of course, was once a hotshot Mets prospect, until he was shockingly traded to Tampa Bay in 2004 for Victor Zambrano. That trade was a watershed moment in Mets history, with immediate major backlash. The GM at the time, Jim Duquette, was replaced by Omar Minaya before the 2004 year ended.


Uh-oh, where are you going with this?


Like just about anyone not named Rick Peterson, I was against the trade the day it was made. But it didn’t take long for me to get over it. By April of 2005 I was watching the artistry of Pedro Martinez. In 2006 a fabulous Mets team won the NL East easily. Nothing about the path the franchise was on in 2004 made me confident that real improvement was coming. We had a dysfunctional front office, and Jeff was very involved. For me losing Kazmir was a worthwhile sacrifice for the change that quickly came.


Two things: For me, it wasn’t that Kazmir got traded — the problem was the lousy return; a hasty, ill-conceived move, based on a poor understanding of where the Mets stood at that moment in time. But to be clear — and I know we agree on this — trading a hotshot prospect was not in and of itself the primary problem. The lesson was not, IMO, “Never trade away a young pitcher.”

As for your point, yes, that trade was so bad, and on so many levels, it brought about changes that the organization desperately needed. Things turned around quickly once Omar came on board. A new GM can make a difference. It’s like that old joke about the man who comes to train the stubborn mule. After he hits it in the head with a 2″ x 4″, the farmer asks, “Is that part of the training?” The man replies, “No, that’s just to get his attention.”


Tomorrow is Wheeler’s turn. Zack is the bizarro Scott Kazmir. Wheeler, every bit the pitching prospect that Scott once had been, was traded to the Mets by the Giants for Carlos Beltran. Beltran, of course, was a much better player than Zambrano, but he did not provide enough to get the 2011 Giants to the playoffs, after which he left to play for the St. Louis Cardinals.


Yankee Carlos Beltran is welcomed to the team during a press conference at Yankee StadiumAnd today he’s the Yankee he always dreamed of becoming.

Hey, the Giants went for it. That’s the attitude that has enabled them to succeed in other seasons. They don’t wait for the next opportunity; they take their shots when reason dictates. Also, they had pitching depth to spare.

I like Zack. Next year I look forward to a Mets nine-man rotation of Harvey, Gee, Niese, Wheeler, Syndergaard, Colon, de Grom, Montero and Hefner.


Well, that could be changed by making a trade or two. Those same Giants who “lost” the Wheeler deal have since won a World Series. If a team is smart overall you can lose some deals. And as I mentioned above, we won the Division within two years of the Kazmir deal. Neither team was crippled by the moves.


Meanwhile, Sandy Alderson has gone on record expressing his reluctance to trade any of the team’s young pitching. There is risk involved. And he’s right, to an extent. But I just don’t see how the Mets get better without bringing in some outside talent.

There isn’t risk involved in holding still, there’s dead certainty: more mediocrity. I get the feeling that somehow that’s okay with the current management group. Sandy is now working on an 8-year plan. He probably dreams of a championship team with Nimmo and Conforto in the OF, Dominic Smith at 1B, Herrera at 2B, Rosario SS, Plawecki/d’Arnaud at C, and so on. Maybe it all comes true. I guess it is a model for how to win games and influence fans without a realistic budget. But we’re talking about three years from now, at best. Meanwhile, you alienate your fan base.


I don’t see that as a model for success, it will keep you on the hamster wheel. As those players roll in, others will be rolling out.


Matt-Harvey-todayClearly, one option is to trade Harvey. Once he’s back and healthy, Sandy could (and maybe should) make that big move. There’s no way on earth the Mets can afford to retain Matt Harvey — and no way, IMO, he passes up the opportunity for free agency. Why would any star hitch his wagon to this ownership group? Just look at David Wright, sitting glumly at his locker, talking about the 2006 playoffs as the highlight of his career. Even if the Mets had money (which they don’t), does Matt Harvey want to be that guy?

And then suddenly there we are again: Back to the Kazmir moment. When the fecal matter hits the fan.


Trading Harvey is another example of subtracting major league talent. We have seen that for four years and the major league team goes nowhere. To win you have to change gears at some point, and decide to build around a core. You have to add major league talent. Those types of deals cost money, because good players need to get paid. Ownership commitment is huge. The ability to spend in 2005 and 2006 is why the Kazmir deal did not end up being a killer to the franchise at that time.


There’s Pujols in St. Louis, where they realized that paying Albert was not the most productive way to spend that money. Then they won a World Championship. It could be argued that not paying Harvey — and getting players in return — might be the wisest option for a low-budget team. Not pretty, not fun, but necessary. But when Sandy was brought in to be the adult in the room, he didn’t have the courage to trade Jose Reyes. I’m just saying, spending on Harvey is not the only way to go. Not advocating, either way.


To bring this full circle, the Cardinals then turned around and spent serious money on none other than Carlos Beltran. They didn’t pocket it all or use it to pay off debt. They spent, and spent wisely. They also spent before that on Holliday. They added players to their homegrown core.

A trade of Matt may come. It plays to the current strategy, cut expenses and guarantee some profit. Keep spinning in new prospects who need time and keep asking fans to wait a few more years. Five becomes ten, eventually it’s twenty years. Ask a Pirates or Royals fan. Since Madoff that has been the annual operating plan.

There will be some silly attention paid to the A’s as the model this week, they are winning with a low payroll. They are the exception, not the rule. As of Sunday they were the only team in the bottom third of payroll with an over .500 record.

When it comes to trades, the Mets can wake me when they are ready to trade for major league players. Twenty-year rebuilds are boring to me.










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  1. For the record, I think it was the depression talking. Or just my attempt to stir the pot. I don’t believe the Mets should, or even will, trade Matt Harvey. If the team is anywhere near close to making the playoffs, you almost have to keep Matt until the final pitch — that amazing chance he gives any team in a short series. There’s a wild scenario where he leads the team to a World Series and then walks during the offseason. Worth it? It would be.

    • wkkortas says:

      I’m a big believer in the Flags Fly Forever theory, and if you believe that scenario could be true, then you hold onto Harvey and take the draft pick when he inevitably leaves. Still, I’m skeptical that this club is anywhere near being able to pull that off; if you look at the everyday eight guys, where is the championship level production? Wright (though not to this point this season), Lagares, Daniel Murphy if you accept the premise that he’s a lower-case Neil Walker. The sad thing is that this is the year–where mediocrity abounds in the NL–that you could sneak into the playoffs with 82 or 83 wins and then ride your pitching in a short series. I’d sum up my feelings about Harvey’s future this way–he’s the type of piece you want to build around, but as Branch Rickey once said about Ralph Kiner, “We should be willing to be overwhelmed.”

      • So Chris Young — rumored to be on the verge of being released this week — bats 5th while Travis d’Arnaud is in the 7-spot, ahead of Ruben. Because: Terry being Terry. Clueless.

  2. Raff says:

    And so, here we are with the type of representative pitching which could, in this season, deliver a well rounded team to a playoff birth. All it would have taken is the ability to add several players- A return to “lower mid-level spending. $115 mill could have brought Choo and a couple other players to fill out a roster which could compete. David Murphy would have looked good. Perraulta, and couple steady other bullpen pieces. The time to compete is always NOW. Waiting for tomorrow equals waiting forever.

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