Mets linked to every crappy player in MLB!  Here I break down some of the more popular Winter Meetings rumors surrounding the club.

The Winter Meetings are in full swing and that means we are hearing thousands of trade rumors, too.  We always heard a bunch of rumors at the Winter Meetings but with Twitter now we hear even more.  Mostly, any conversation that is had, regardless of its seriousness, gets reported.  But you have to know how to separate the wheat from the chaff.

I just wish that at least one of the rumors surrounding the Mets was one that would get me excited.  We don’t hear “Mets Make Strong Push For Matt Holiday” or “Mets Explore Roy Oswalt Deal.”  Instead, the rumors linked to the Mets are downright depressing.

Here, I am going to explore the latest rumors and give my odds on them actually happening.

Rumor #1 Mets Pursue Bengie Molina

The good news is that the Mets have decided that Omir Santos is not a starting-caliber catcher.  The bad news is they have identified Molina as their top choice to replace him.  Molina has good power for a catcher and because he batted cleanup most of the season for the Giants last year, his RBI totals look superficially good.  But let’s check his stats that are not context-dependent and see where he rates among catchers with at least 300 ABs last season.

AVG – 2.69 (12th out of 29)

OBP – .285 (26th)

SLG – .442 (9th)

wOBA – .308 (18th)

WAR – 1.8 (16th)

The WAR metric does not include defense, and as we saw yesterday, Molina is a below-average defensive catcher.  He’s also going to be 36 next season and has caught 1,172 years.  Catching years are like dog years – they add up quick.  The Mets are discussing a multi-year, multi-million dollar deal which has a less of a chance of being successful than the Luis Castillo contract.

Chances of happening: 85%

Rumor #2 Mets Explore John Maine for Corey Hart Deal

Milwaukee’s new pitching coach is Rick Peterson, the same one who guided Maine to a 15-win season in 2007.  Maine has suffered from injuries since then and has compounded matters by not telling club officials and attempting to pitch when he should not.  But the chance that Maine can recover to pitch 30 games in a season is worth more than Corey Hart.  In the last four years, Hart has had one good season (ironically also in 2007) but in the other three, he has struggled to be better than a replacement player.  This trade would mean he would start ahead of Angel Pagan.  Nobody knows for sure how good Pagan will be in 2010, but he’s a good bet to be twice as good as Hart while costing 1/10 of what Hart would get in arbitration.

Chances of happening: 50%

Rumor #3Mets Interested in Joel Pineiro

Prior to the 2009 season, you could have gotten Pineiro for a bag of broken bats and a pop-up toaster.  What a difference a 15-win season makes!  Pineiro altered his pitching style, giving up strikeouts for ground balls.  It was a trade-off that worked out well for him, especially since he virtually stopped allowing any walks and also did a better than average job of keeping the ball in the park.  But in September, Pineiro started to give up gopher balls, allowing 5 HR after permitting just 6 HR in the previous five months.

I see very little chance for Pineiro to duplicate his 2009 success.  He’s going to walk more batters and he is going to allow more homers and his ERA is going to skyrocket.  I do believe he can maintain his high ground ball rate, but with the Mets’ porous infield defense, that is not necessarily a good thing.

Regardless, Joel Sherman in today’s New York Post had an excellent thought.  He mentioned that if Randy Wolf gets a three-year deal with his injury history, that Pineiro will likely get a four-year contract, potentially pushing him out of the Mets’ reach.  Finally, we catch a break!

Chances of happening: 15%

Rumor #4 Mets Inquire About Millwood

The Mets have allegedly talked to the Rangers about Kevin Millwood.  In 2009 Millwood had a bunch of wins but he was also extremely fortunate with his BABIP (.279) and strand rate (78.6%) and had a career-worst K% (5.57) along with the third-worst walk rate (3.22) of his career.  It is not going to be pretty for Millwood in 2010 and the bottom could completely fall out if his strikeout rate deteriorates any further.

Nobody was mentioned as going to the Rangers in this deal.

Chances of happening: 10%

Rumor #5 Mets Seek Backup OF Options

The Mets are kicking the tires on Josh Willingham and Juan Rivera in case their alleged pursuit of Holliday and Bay falls short.  Both have some power, although Willingham is a terrible defensive player   The Angels would love to trade an outfielder, but the odds that they deal Rivera and keep Gary Matthews seem remote.

Chances of happening: Willingham 10%, Rivera 5%

Rumor #6 Mets Kick Tires on Gil Meche

Injuries limited Meche to 23 starts last year and he was not particularly effective when healthy, unlike the previous three seasons.  This is an intriguing possibility, especially since it could be a salary dump with Castillo going to the Royals.  Meche has more money due him the next two seasons, but is also younger with a higher upside.  Of all the rumors, this one could help the Mets the most.

Chances of happening: 33%

Rumor #7 Mets Trade Jeff Francoeur for Taylor Teagarden

Okay, I admit it – I just made that one up.  Getting rid of Francoeur would be great all by itself but getting a young catcher who can play defense would be a nice coup.  Unfortunately, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the starting catcher for the Rangers, is injured yet again, making a Teagarden deal unlikely.

Since Omar Minaya joined the Mets, the team has been involved in a lot of rumors but generally Minaya has done a pretty good job of avoiding terrible trades.  His big-ticket free agent signings have typically been positive, too.

However, we could see a 180-degree turn if the Mets trade for Hart and sign Molina.  I think I liked it a lot better when our trade target was Johan Santana and we were chasing Carlos Beltran in free agency.

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