While the Yankees began stalking the biggest pitcher (literally and figuratively) in the free agent market at the general managers meetings in California, their crosstown rivals were talking trade to bolster their own rotation. According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, Omar Minaya has been discussing a deal with the American League champions from Tampa.
Don't get too excited, it won't be David Price or Matt Garza coming north for 2009. It won't be Scott Kazmir, either, but mentioning him does enable everyone to remember that the Mets should be careful just who they send packing to make room for a back end of the rotation pitcher. Neither Andy Sonnanstine nor Edwin Jackson deserves comparison to Victor Zambrano at this point, but both are league average pitchers who provide more depth than strength to a rotation.
The Mets need that depth, though. Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey are the only sure things in the 2009 rotation, and each of the Rays would likely benefit from a move to the National League and Citi Field. According to Sherman and Ken Davidoff of Newsday, the Rays have interest in Aaron Heilman. The interest doesn't appear to include moving him to the rotation, though, which would probably mean that the Mets would have to send a prospect along with Heilman to get a deal done.
Minaya would be wise to keep the fires warm under this potential trade. The Rays have surplus pitching, so their desire to do a deal won't ebb any time soon. In the meantime, though, he should be pushing hard to get Derek Lowe as a free agent. He's an experienced, successful starter who would make a nice fit behind Santana at the top of the Met rotation. Although most Met fans would point the finger of blame at the bullpen in 2008, deservedly, the best way to keep them from causing problems is building a rotation that limits the havoc they can wreak on games.