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Five Questions with Jessica Bader of Take the 7 Train

No Reds bloggers returned my emails in time to get a 5 questions post up for last series...maybe that's why we didn't win it.  I hope that's how it's going to work, because here we go with some Mets talk.  Our lucky guest is Jessica Bader, who writes for Take the 7 Train and MetsGeek.

First things first: How do you feel about the Johan Santana trade?  In particular, were there any pieces Minaya included in the deal who you think the Mets will come to regret giving up?

I spent much of the offseason highly fed up with the Santana trade speculation because I thought that the only offers the Mets could make that would top the Red Sox or Yankees would be far too costly even for a pitcher of Santana's caliber (remember, the early speculation was that the Mets would have to part with Jose Reyes to have any hope of landing Johan). Then the AL East behemoths decided that they were okay with not getting Santana as long as the other guy didn't get him, and Omar was able to acquire Santana without giving up Reyes or top outfield prospect Fernando Martinez.

Of the four prospects the Mets gave up in the deal, the one I think they will come to regret the most is Deolis Guerra, who has the highest ceiling by far of the three pitchers who went to Minnesota. Carlos Gomez is off to a hot start with the Twins, but I have my doubts about whether he will reach his considerable potential. Had Gomez remained a Met, I would have wanted him to spend at least half of this season in AAA as he is still fairly raw (he was rushed to the majors last year because the entire outfield depth chart got hurt pretty much all at once), and I fear that throwing him into the majors right away will have a negative impact on his development.

The Phillies won the division last year, but the Braves have become the trendy underdog pick this spring.  Which one do you think is going to be the biggest challenge to the Mets in 08?

I think that the Braves and Phillies have similar strengths (lineup, particularly the infield, and a solid 1-2 punch) and weaknesses (bullpen, the rest of the rotation), but I think that the Braves will pose the bigger challenge. They're not going to be shooting themselves in the foot with four months of Scott Thorman this year, and instability at the back end of the rotation is something that is easier to survive when you play your home games in a pitchers' park.

With Pedro and El Duque both out, the rotation is already suffering.  What's your ideal scenario to get the Mets through the next month or two without them?

I tend to be optimistic where Pedro is concerned - he may be fragile, but he's not a slow healer - and I expect to see him back on the mound by this time next month. As for El Duque, after his latest setback I doubt we'll ever see him pitch another major-league game. This puts a lot of pressure on Mike Pelfrey - the most advanced pitching prospect remaining in the Mets' system - to perform at an adequate level.

If Pelfrey can harness his command of his secondary pitches (a big problem for him last year), he can be a solid contributor at the back end of the rotation (his being the only groundball pitcher in a flyball-heavy rotation may also be helpful). That would make it a lot easier to stomach the occasional Nelson Figueroa start until Pedro returns.

Tell us how excited you are to have two recent Brewers--Matt Wise and Brady Clark--on your roster.  If the Mets sign Claudio Vargas, do you think Mr. Met will start drinking Miller?

I like what Clark brings to the table in terms of OBP off the bench, but I don't think he was worth losing Ruben Gotay on waivers (to the Braves, no less). Wise seems like a decent middle relief arm, but he hasn't exactly endeared himself to Mets fans with the combination of giving up walkoff home run to a light-hitting utility infielder and going on the DL with forearm soreness a week into the season. I suspect that Mr. Met will crave poutine if the Mets sign Vargas (a strong possibility now that El Duque isn't coming back any time soon [now official -js]); Omar has brought in a handful of former Expos whose stint in Montreal coincided with his own.

I like to be ahead of the curve.  When the rumor mill goes into high gear in June, what will the Mets be looking for?  Any early bets on who will be that missing piece?

One thing the Mets still need badly is a right-handed bat who can play first base. Chris Shelton and Josh Phelps were both there for the taking this winter, but the team didn't make much of an effort to go after either one of them. I suspect that once the Orioles start playing like the Orioles and Carlos Delgado gets at-bats against lefties not named Jamie Moyer, Kevin Millar's name will come up quite a bit.

Thanks Jessica!