Mets pursuing Bay, Holliday

According to SI.com, the Mets have “tweaked” their offer to free agent Jason Bay to give him a possible five-year alternative and have jumped into the race for Matt Holliday.

Mets GM Omar Minaya and Bay’s agent, Joe Urbon, spoke at length on Tuesday. Minaya is thought to have signaled a willingness to go to a five-year deal (at slightly lower dollars per year than the original four-year offer for close to $65 million), but with Bay still believed to be seeking a six-year deal from them, the Mets apparently have decided to dip back in on Holliday. The Mets, who are now believed willing to go to about $75 million for five for Bay, originally concentrated on Bay in the hope that they might be able to sign him quicker.

Minaya is expected to talk to Holliday’s agent, Scott Boras, as soon as Wednesday. Mets people suggest there could be a trade option to fill their offensive gap, but it appears that Bay and Holliday are their two top targets to enhance their power.

SI.com also reports that the Mets are trying to wrap up a deal with catcher Bengie Molina, but that talks are at a standstill because Molina wants a three-year deal for as much as $20 million. But New York is only willing to do two years at $10 million for the 35-year-old backstop.

What’s interesting about SI.com’s report regarding Bay is that ESPN’s Buster Olney says the Mets are currently at four years for the former Red Sox (not five) and that the club isn’t actively involved in the Holliday sweepstakes.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

National League All-Star voting–who is leading and who should be

Last week we picked apart the American League all-star voting. Well, this week we will look at the National League, and after last night the starters have all been selected (aside from pitchers). You ready?

First base
Leader: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals
Mike’s pick: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals.
Well, this one is a no-brainer. Is it possible that Albert gets better with age? Yes, and his numbers border on staggering. 81 games in, he’s batting .336 with 31 homers and 82 RBI and a slugging percentage of .748. That projects to 62 homers and 164 runs batted in. What’s more, dude has a .993 fielding percentage. There is little doubt Pujols is the best player in the game, and he gets to flaunt it in front of his hometown crowd a week from Tuesday.

Second base
Leader: Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies
Mike’s pick: Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies.
This one is also a no-brainer that the voters got correct, though as a Mets fan it pains me to say that. Utley has 17 homers, 54 RBI, he’s batting .303 with 16 doubles and a .980 OPS—all unbelievable numbers for a second baseman. This guy is a gamer.

Shortstop
Leader: Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins
Mike’s pick: Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins.
This is getting to be a trend, but the numbers in the National League don’t seem to lie, do they? Hanley is batting .344 with 13 homers and 58 RBI, 26 doubles, 12 stolen bases and a .972 OPS. By comparison, he is hitting 119 points higher than JJ Hardy and 132 points higher than the slumping Jimmy Rollins. Case closed.

Third base
Leader: David Wright, New York Mets
Mike’s pick: Mark Reynolds, Arizona Diamondbacks
. Wright was leading the league in batting for quite a while, and he’s currently hitting .333 but with just 5 homers and 42 RBI. By comparison, Reynolds has clubbed 22 home runs with 57 RBI while batting a respectable .271. At a power position, I’m giving the nod to the guy barely anyone gets to see play.

Catcher:
Leader: Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
Mike’s pick: Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves.
This is close, because Yadier’s brother Bengie has 10 homers and 46 RBI for the Giants, but McCann is batting .311 with 8 home runs and 33 driven in, with 15 doubles and a respectable .988 fielding percentage.

Outfield
Leaders: Raul Ibanez, Philadelphia Phillies
Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
Carlos Beltran, New York Mets
Mike’s picks: Raul Ibanez, Philadelphia Phillies
Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
Brad Hawpe, Colorado Rockies
Ibanez is having a career season, batting .312 with 22 homers and 59 RBI, and Braun just continues to rake, with 16 home runs, 58 driven in and a .326 average. But Beltran, while he plays in the biggest media market and makes mega-bucks, is not going to get my all-star nod over Brad Hawpe. Beltran is hitting .336, but has just 8 homers and 40 RBI. Hawpe is hitting .328 with 13 homers and 56 runs batted in, 25 doubles and a stunning .993 OPS. If Manny Ramirez was playing most of the season, he’d probably be on this list, but I can’t consider a guy who’s only played 28 games, regardless of why he missed all that time.

Starting pitcher
As you all know, pitchers are chosen by the managers and will be announced this Sunday.
Mike’s pick: Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants. Last year’s NL Cy Young winner got off to a slow start, but has been mowing hitters down lately, to the tune of 8-2 with a 2.37 ERA and league-leading 132 strikeouts with just 28 walks in 114 innings. Arizona’s Dan Haren is a close runner-up, with a 7-5 record for a crappy D-Backs’ team, and a league low 2.19 ERA with 113 K’s and 0.81 WHIP.

Relief pitcher
Mike’s pick: Heath Bell, San Diego Padres. When this former Met helped christen Citi Field by mowing down his ex-teammates in April, I thought it was just a phase. But dude leads the NL in saves with 22, and is 3-1 with a 1.34 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 33 innings of work. And here’s the best stat of all—Bell has saved or won 74% of his team’s wins. If he keeps that up, Bell will contend for the NL Cy Young and even garner some MVP votes.

Could Lee be a trade option for Giants?

The Chicago Tribune is speculating that the Giants could make a push to acquire Cubs first baseball Derrek Lee. The paper notes that San Fran’s pitching is good enough to keep them in contention, but the team desperately needs a big bat and Lee could be a viable option given that Chicago has a couple of replacements for him in Micah Hoffpauir and Jake Fox.

While rumors are definitely fun to discuss, this one looks like it has no teeth. The Cubs haven’t given any indication that they want to deal Lee and even if they have considered it, he’d still have to waive his no-trade clause. (And why would he waive it to go to a team like the Giants?)

The Giants make an easy target in all of this because yes, they do need a bat. Aaron Rowand, Pablo Sandoval, Bengie Molina, Randy Winn and Juan Uribe don’t exactly strike the fear of God into opposing pitchers. But GM Brian Sabean has to be smart here and even though San Fran is playing well, it’s probably not worth it for the Giants to trade young arms (which they’ve got plenty of) so that they can put a band-aid on a deep gash.

Now, if a situation comes up and a club is willing to part with a young bat in order to get a couple of arms, then all bets are off. If the Giants can get a young, productive bat this season that could also add to their rebuilding process, then Sabean would be a fool not to jump on the opportunity. But how often do clubs make young bats available?

The Giants have already been linked to the Marlins’ Dan Uggla and the Nats’ Adam Dunn. Now Lee’s name has been throw into the mix and while it would be tempting for Sabean to add a bat to his weak lineup, none of the aforementioned names are going to help the Giants win a World Series this year so why bother? Why sacrifice the future for half a season?

We’ll see if this rumor grows any legs, but I hardly doubt it will.

MLB Daily Six Pack 4/8

1. Nice start for Josh Beckett
This season hasn’t gone the way of the ace so far, with CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Justin Verlander and Tim Lincecum all struggling for their respective teams. But one No. 1 that didn’t struggle in his ’09 debut was Boston’s Josh Beckett, who fanned 10 in the BoSox’s 5-3 victory over the Rays on Tuesday. You hate to make claims that a pitcher is already in midseason form after only one outing, but Beckett’s two-hit, one-run effort against Tampa was impressive.

2. Speaking of Tim Lincecum…
Boy did he struggle yesterday for the Giants. But the good news for San Fran and the reining NL Cy Young winner is that his velocity wasn’t down, it just looked like he had a major case of the yips in his Opening Day debut. He looked too pumped up from the start and just never settled down. Fortunately, Aaron Rowand, Bengie Molina, Travis Ishikawa and the rest of the G-Men offense helped Lincecum out as SF romped the Brewers 10-6. Huh, what a concept – the Giants offense bailing out the pitching for once…who would have thought?

3. Dombrowski better be taking heat today in Detroit
In the offseason, Tigers’ GM Dave Dombrowski’s answer to solving the bullpen issues in Detroit was signing former Arizona closer Brandon Lyon instead of pursuing other avenues like J.J. Putz (who is now a setup man for the Mets). At least for one day, the decision backfired as Lyon blew Edwin Jackson’s (7.1, 2 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 4 K) gem in Toronto by giving up three runs on three hits as the Jays knocked off the Tigers 5-4. Granted, Lyon has plenty of time to bounce back but if he doesn’t, the Tigers will be left with mental midget Fernando Rodney to close games, who didn’t necessarily earn the role this spring with a 7.00 ERA. Considering Joel Zumaya may never pitch again due to freak injuries and Nate Robertson (who Dombrowski just gave a 3-year, $21 million deal in January of ’08) is pissed about being taken out of the starting rotation, Dombrowski has quite a mess brewing in Detroit.

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Five Deep Sleeper Teams for the ’09 MLB Season

I know this guy (I’ll stop short of calling him a friend but wouldn’t hesitate to pick up the phone if he called) that at the start of all the major sporting seasons will throw out his list of “sleeper teams” to watch out for.

What’s funny about this guy is that he knows if he’s wrong he’ll never be called out because hey, they were just sleeper teams anyways right? But if he’s right, well hell, he’ll look like some kind of sports sleeper team Nostradamus.

This is the same guy that’ll pick a No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1 every year in the March Madness Tournament, so on the rare chance it happens he’ll have the opportunity to say that he called the upset of a lifetime. The funny thing is that he would have been wrong the previous 34 years of predicting 16’s over 1’s, but that would be beside the point.

Anyway, this piece is dedicated to him – the “Sleeper Team Guy.” For fans, there’s nothing like predicting a perennial loser (i.e. the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays) to rise from the ashes and make a postseason run no matter what sport it is. And with Opening Day right around the corner, I think it’s a perfect time to hand out some potential sleeper candidates of my own.

Below are five deep sleepers to make a postseason run this year in baseball. Most pundits assume that none of the five will finish better than third in their respective divisions, which is why I can get away with calling these teams “deep sleepers.” If any of them make the playoffs, I’ll wax poetically about it in my sleeper teams piece next year. If none even sniff a postseason berth, then in honor of “Sleeper Team Guy” don’t expect me to admit I was wrong. Yeah, that’s right – accountability is for losers.

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