The Mets are expected to bid on free
agent big fish like Matt Holliday and Jason Bay to play left field, but
according to Bill Ladson of MLB.com, they have joined the Giants,
Mariners and Braves among teams interested in Nationals outfielder Josh Willingham.
Willingham, 30, batted
.260/.367/.496 with 24 home runs, 61 RBI and a career-high .863 OPS in
2009. While he possesses the thump the Mets covet, he ranks well below average on defense, according to UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating). The Nats resisted parting with him before the trade deadline, but
under team control for two more seasons, he represents one of
the team’s best potential trade chips.
The Nationals would almost certainly
want pitching in return, meaning that major-league ready pitchers like
Jon Niese and Bobby Parnell would have to be discussed. Perhaps the best part of it all for
general manager Omar Minaya, Willingham is a former catcher. Zing.
In other Mets news, the team is reportedly interested in Rod Barajas, while Jon Heyman of SI.com thinks Bengie Molina may want a three-year contract.
Update: Jon Heyman of SI.com now believes the Mets may be waiting out Molina, as they have more money to work with than the Rangers and Royals.
On Monday, Baseball America reported that MLB is prepared to expand to Portland and Montreal. We talked about that at length yesterday. One of the most common responses to that piece has been “Portland? Really?”
There’s good reason for that response. Baseball-to-Portland has been talked about for years, but there has never been any real traction. Past initiatives have failed, significant public funding for a stadium seems to be a political impossibility and, heck, Portland wasn’t even interested in keeping its Triple-A team, turning its stadium into a much more successful soccer venue and not missing the Beavers all that much.
It would seem, however, that the reports are not mere speculation and there is a genuine baseball-to-Portland initiative afoot once again. From the Oregonian:
On Tuesday, former Trail Blazers broadcaster Mike Barrett confirmed to The Oregonian/OregonLive that he is part of the Portland group.
“I am officially involved with a campaign to bring Major League Baseball and a stadium development to Portland,” Barrett said. “There is also a formally organized, sophisticated and seasoned management group running this initiative. We will keep you fully apprised of any/all developments as this project progresses.”
One guy — a broadcaster no less — saying he’s part of a group is not exactly a major needle-mover, of course. But it does contrast with past Portland initiatives that have been well-publicized grassroots affairs. While those may have been more broad-based and while their public nature may have provided some refreshing transparency, the simple fact of professional sports ownership in the 21st century is that well-monied groups who play things close to the vest are more likely to make waves. We’re in an age when technocratic hedge fund-type guys make things happen in this arena, not in an age when flamboyant public personalities do.
None of which is to say that baseball in Portland is a lock or that expansion anywhere is a short term proposition. It’s just to note that, yeah, there is a bit more going on, it seems, than just pointing at a map and saying “yeah, a team would make sense here.”