I swapped questions with Eric Simon of Amazin' Avenue and MetsGeek over e-mail. Here's what he had to say about the state of his favorite team:
How do you feel about picking up Luis Castillo? Seems like he was the best available second baseman, and he fills a need, but is hardly a difference-maker in what could be a tight division race.
Eric Simon: Yea, I think you hit the nail on the head. It doesn't appear as if the Mets gave up much to get him, and at the very least it enables Omar Minaya to complete the Marlin trade trifecta that he failed to accomplish two offseasons ago when he nabbed Carlos Delgado and Paul Lo Duca. Used to be you could count on Castillo to put up a .380 on-base percentage and play sparkling defense. Age seems to have taken those strengths from him, but he is (allegedly) still just 31 so there is a chance they aren't gone for good. Rickey Henderson could help with the walks and stolen bases, and many have mentioned the sandwich pick that would fall to the Mets should Castillo leave via free agency after the season.
Speaking of which, are there any other moves you'd like to see, especially with the Braves acquiring about half of the deadline's available VORP?
Eric Simon: I wouldn't mind putting Adam Dunn in right field, and a reliable right-handed reliever-type could always help.
What's the latest on Pedro Martinez?
Eric Simon: Threw a simulated game last week and is scheduled to throw 45 pitches in a rehab start on Wednesday with High-A St. Lucie. For what it's worth, Pedro is very optimistic about his own recovery, says he is at 100% and expects to rejoin the team by the end of August. If he comes back healthy it doesn't really matter where his velocity is at; he proved in 2005 that he can still dominate big league hitters with mid-to-high eighties heat. I try to temper my expectations, but it's hard not to be excited about his return.
John Maine and Oliver Perez have the highest ERA+s among Mets starters. You've watched them pitch: can they really keep this up? And if so, could anyone possibly compete with Omar Minaya for GM of the decade?
Eric Simon: Earlier in the season I was skeptical about John Maine. He has always exceeded his eBABIP and he was walking a lot of batters in April and May. His overall control as well as his command within the strike zone has gotten a lot better in the past two months, and now his peripherals seem to be supporting his ERA more than they ever have. I'm definitely bullish on him long-term.
It's a little startling how quickly Oliver Perez seems to have corrected the flaws that plagued him over his final two-plus seasons in Pittsburgh. He is still prone to bouts of wildness and he can lose his composure on the mound on occasion, but his fastball can be overpowering and he has two different sliders that make hitters - lefties especially - look foolish.
For whatever mistakes he has made in the past or will make in the future, you have to give Minaya credit for those two trades, which look like good old-fashioned fleecings right now.
Now that second base is shored up, what's the achilles heel of the Mets down the stretch? I mean, besides Scott Schoeneweis.
Eric Simon: Their biggest weakness is Willie Randolph's insistence on playing Shawn Green every day in right field despite an overwhelming body of evidence suggesting that Green has no business playing much at all, let alone sucking up at-bats and spitting back outs six games a week. He is likely to see plenty of action with Carlos Beltran ticketed for the disabled list, but once Beltran returns there is no reasonable argument for trotting Green out there on a daily basis so he can needlessly take playing time away from Lastings Milledge.
[me again] You can read what I said to Eric at Amazin' Avenue here, read more about what Mets fans have to say at Mets Geek, and read another series preview with input from yours truly over at Mets Today.