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Top Ten Prospects: New York Mets
Complete Index of Top 10s
By J.J. Cooper
Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2005.
But even before their widely panned trades for Kris Benson and Victor Zambrano, the Mets were beginning to fade. New York went 22-39 the rest of the way to record its third straight losing season.
Before the season began, owner Fred Wilpon proclaimed he wouldn’t trade away the team’s future. Four months later, the Mets did exactly that. They gutted their minor league depth for no short-term benefit. They also overpaid Benson (three years, $22.5 million) on the free-agent market rather than face the stigma of dealing away prospects for a rental.
There still was plenty of embarrassment. As the industry wondered why the Mets would trade Kazmir to get Zambrano, the club offered a variety of excuses. One was that Kazmir wasn’t nearly ready to contribute at the major league level. But then he looked like a future ace at times after the Devil Rays called him up in late August.
Worse, the Mets’ front office turned out to be in chaos, with members jockeying to get the ear of Wilpon’s son Jeff, the club’s chief operating officer, and undermining general manager Jim Duquette. After the season, the Mets hired Expos GM Omar Minaya for the same role in New York, where he previously had been a senior assistant GM.
Duquette now works under Minaya as a senior vice president of baseball operations. Assistant GM Gary LaRocque had the scope of his duties reduced from director of baseball operations to overseeing only scouting. Russ Bove, a national crosschecker with the Expos under Minaya, became the new director of amateur scouting, replacing Jack Bowen, who remains with the club.
The scouting department has had its hands tied in recent years as the Mets surrendered their second- and third-round picks in both 2002 and 2003 as free-agent compensation. They also had yet to sign Rice righthander Philip Humber, the third overall pick in the 2004 draft, though negotiations are ongoing.
As Minaya tried to retool the Mets during the offseason, he realized the farm system wasn’t going to provide much immediate help. So he re-signed Benson, lavished a four-year, $53 million contract on Pedro Martinez, and continued to pursue more free agents and trades.
Maybe New York will be improved in 2005. More certain is that its fans will cringe every time Kazmir takes the mound for Tampa Bay. The Mets’ future is now playing elsewhere and the present doesn’t look too appealing.
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