The NY Times reports that center fielder Tsuyoshi Shinjo may be returning to the Mets for $500-600 K in 2003. The Times speculates that if the Mets sign Shinjo, they will then try to trade outfielders Jeromy Burnitz ($11.5 M for 2003) and Roger Cedeno ($14.5 M over the next three). That would open the centerfield job for Shinjo.
I'm confused. Wasn't Timo Perez basically the Mets starting center fielder last year after they traded Jay Payton to the Rockies while Cedeno only played leftfield last year? Wasn't Perez also the best outfielder on the Mets' roster last year? And isn't Perez 27 and still improving while Shinjo is 30 and declining. (Cedeno is 27 as well but has been through 5 organizations and has seen his OPS drop each of the last four years). If all this is true, why are they considering anyone other than Perez for centerfield? Two words-Steve Phillips.
By the way, adding Shinjo in no way clears the way for a Burntiz and/or Cedeno trade. The Mets have been shopping the two disappointing players-and their salaries-without much luck this entire offseason. If I were Phillips, I would stick Perez in the center field slot next to Cliff Floyd in left. After that, it seems the best option is the apparently untradeable Jeromy Burnitz in right. Burnitz is a decent bet to turn things around in 2003. He had 6 straight seasons prior to last year with an OPS at least 7% better than average. He will be 34 next season, however, and it's possible that he is no longer capable of being a productive player. He had been declining slightly in the last two years before signing with the Mets. Of course, the foolishness in signing these players to such lucrative contract to begin with is what no has them in this mess (especially Cedeno, who was supposed to be their leadoff hitter last year but had just come off a year with a .337 on-base percentage).
The Times also reports that the search for a Mets third baseman continues. However, they have ruled out a trade for KC's Joe Randa. They are at an impasse with free agent Jose Hernandez (who's mostly a shortstop any way). And they got shot down by Houston in trying to acquire Geoff Blum. It looks like the only viable candidate is free agent Tyler Houston, who the Mets had been talking to prior to the failed attempt to acquire Boston's Shea Hillenbrand in a three-way trade.
This is a team that is supposed to compete in the NL East next year? They did improve their staff by picking up Tom Glavine and the offense by picking up Cliff Floyd (oh, and the avuncular John Franco may return), but with huge holes in right and third and now a self-made one in center, they could have a repeat of 2002. I think what this aging team needs is a babysitter to make sure that they don't get into trouble. Heck who needs a third baseman anyway? They're just overrated. I hope Philips has set up a seach agent on Hot Jobs.