Mets And Marlins Swap Righties For Lefties

Mets and Marlins at it again

In what could be construed as a challenge trade, the Mets sent a pair of minor league righthanded relievers to the Marlins for a pair of lefthanded starters. The Mets receive Jason Vargas and Adam Bostick while the Marlins get Henry Owens and Matt Lindstrom.

Though in the same division, the Mets and Marlins have been active trade partners the last two seasons, with the Marlins sending the Mets both Carlos Delgado and Paul Lo Duca in separate deals for a quintet of prospects.

Vargas, a second-rounder in 2004 out of Long Beach State, is the only one of the quartet who has seen significant big league action. He shot through the minors in 2005 and pitched at three levels before he made his big league debut and had a 4.03 ERA in 74 innings. He was expected to be mainstay in the Marlins rotation, but posted a 7.33 ERA in 43 innings with more walks then strikeouts and spent much of the year in Triple-A. Vargas, 23, is a nephew of former big leaguer Randy Velarde. He works in the low 90s with his fastball. His slider is his putaway pitch but he can struggle with a feel for his changeup.

Bostick is a sixth-round pick in 2001 from a high school in Pennsylvania. After missing all of 2002 following surgery to transpose a nerve in his elbow, Bostick emerged as a prospect in 2004 when he struck out 163 batters in 114 innings to lead the low Class A South Atlantic League. In 142 innings this season between Double-A and Triple-A, the 23-year-old was 9-9, 3.74 with a 139-80 strikeout-walk ratio. He pitches at 88-90 with a fastball that features a late hop that hitters have a hard time with. He can be over-reliant on his fastball and needs to trust his offspeed stuff more.

Though Lindstrom has long be talked about for his triple-digit radar gun readings, Owens throws almost as hard and has the results to go with it. In 40 innings for Double-A Binghamton Owens struck out 74 hitters. A catcher in college, the Pirates signed him as nondrafted free agent to become a pitcher before the Mets nabbed him in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft in 2004. Though he missed three weeks of 2006 due to elbow tenderness, he was impressive enough that he earned a spot on Team USA's Olympic qualifying team. He had three saves in the tournament, including the win over Cuba. He's going home to South Florida, as he played at Division II power Barry in Miami Shores and went to Kendall's Braddock High. Owens, 27, dominated Double-A on the strength of his lively 94 mph fastball that touches 96. His velocity plays up because he hides the ball well behind a funky delivery and he has a short, quick arm action, a relic from his catching days. His slider command varies and he is working on a split-finger fastball, but his fastball deception and velocity are his biggest weapons.

With a fastball that sits at 94-97 mph and has touched 101, Lindstrom throws harder than anyone in the Mets system, and his control vastly improved this year. He made news on a national stage when his fastball hit triple digits three times in the 2006 Futures Game. His fastball is relatively straight though, and he has been working on various grips and finger pressures to increase movement. The 26-year-old has lacked a reliable second offering, but his slider has emerged as his second-best pitch. He throws it at 83-86 mph, but he has a tendency to get under it. He also toys with a changeup and a curveball, but now that he is strictly a reliever it is unlikely he will ever need to use them much. Lindstrom needs to improve his pitch selection His performance has greatly improved since the Mets moved him to the bullpen in 2005, and he is looking more and more like a big league reliever.

The Marlins should get better early returns on this trade because Owens, who is leading the Dominican Winter League with nine saves, will likely get major innings out of the bullpen this year. The Marlins' rotation depth, as well as Vargas' 2006 struggles, made Vargas and Bostick expendable, while the Mets had the bullpen depth to spare. Lindstrom and Owens would have been competing with newly acquired John Adkins, Aaron Heilman, Duaner Sanchez, Chad Bradford and 2006 third-round pick Joseph Smith for innings as setup men in front of Mets closer Billy Wagner.