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March 28, 2007
  
GM in a Box: Omar Minaya, Part II

This is the final installment of Chris’s GM in a Box feature on Omar Minaya. Part One can be found here.

Roster Construction
Are there any types of players of whom he’s especially fond? Does he like proven players or youngsters? Offensive players or glovemen? Power pitchers or finesse guys?

Minaya’s “Latino bias” has been talked about quite a bit, and that pattern continues down even to his role players. For every Pedro Martinez there is a Julio Franco, and he also gave another chance to Wil Cordero after his domestic abuse days. Another pattern is that he doesn’t mind giving up bench flexibility for “good clubhouse guys”. He pushed for Lenny Harris back when he was an assistant GM, and has brought in other aging mentor types such as Andres Galarraga, Troy O’Leary, Jose Offerman, Todd Zeile, Ruben Sierra, and El Duque.

There are no clear biases toward defense or offense, proven or unproven. His fascination with Endy Chavez (Rule 5’ed him from the Mets in 2002) can show his infatuation with tools and glovemen, but he has also given everyday slots to Xavier Nady and Shawn Green in right. And while he has prolonged the careers of players like Galarraga and O’Leary, he gave Brad Wilkerson a chance to start right away with the Expos and has given Jose Reyes and David Wright free reign, as well as rushing up Lastings Milledge last year.

On the pitching side of things, Minaya has generally preferred power arms. While he traded Guillermo Mota and Wilkin Ruan to the Dodgers for Matt Herges early in his Expos career and dealt for Rocky Biddle in the trade that sent Bartolo Colon to the White Sox, the pitchers that he has paid big dollars for or traded for have all had either tremendous strikeout rates or tremendous raw stuff: Pedro Martinez, Billy Wagner, Oliver Perez, Ambiorix Burgos, Mota, Kaz Ishii. He was also said to be instrumental in bringing over Armando Benitez from the Orioles.

Does he tend to allocate resources primarily on the impact players or role players? How does he flesh out his bullpen and his bench? Does he often work the waiver wire or sign minor league free agents or make Rule 5 picks?

Minaya is big on franchise players. He tried desperately to re-sign Vladimir Guerrero, only failing because he could offer no better than a bunch of deferred money. He signed both Martinez and Beltran, and has generally avoided giving big contracts out to relievers (other than Billy Wagner and Scott Schoeneweis) or role players.

He has a good eye for talent and scrounges around the bargain bins pretty well—working with Rick Peterson and Shea Stadium, he’s been able to revive a lot of relievers that were thought to be washed up. Some examples are Mota, Chad Bradford, Roberto Hernandez, and Juan Padilla. He also brought over Luis Ayala from the Mexican Leagues, watching him become one of the better relievers in baseball until he hurt his arm in the World Baseball Classic.

In general, Minaya’s ability to manage his 40-man roster is probably his weakest skill as a GM. He once lost Ayala off waivers when he was taken off the roster, only to pick him up again in the Rule 5 draft. In general, his Rule V drafts have been pretty unsuccessful, his best find being Henry Owens in the Triple-A portion. He’s only picked once in the Major League portion in three years with the Mets, and that player, Mitch Wylie, was returned to the Giants. While with the Expos, he was plundered repeatedly on the waiver wire, losing seven players in three years, and while with the Mets he surrendered Jesus Flores to the Nationals in the Rule V draft, opting to leave open slots for superstars like David Newhan and Jorge Sosa instead.

When will he release players? On whom has he given up? To whom has he given a shot? Does he cut bait early or late?

He will release players when they’ve proven that they aren’t part of the solution this year nor part of the future. Examples involve pitchers sent to Triple-A with promises of making the club if they pitched well, such as Scott Strickland and Scott Stewart. Minaya is very slow to release prospects, and the only farmhand I can find who debuted with a team besides one of his is Bob Keppel with the Royals last year. Other guys he has cut during his Mets tenure include Bartolome Fortunato, Victor Diaz, and Danny Garcia. Usually, if a player is good enough to catch on somewhere else, he will have been picked off waivers before he can be released.

Is he active or passive? An optimist or a problem solver? Does he tend to want to win now or wait out the success cycle?

Extremely active and tends to favor winning now. Minaya has signed a lot of free agents during his career, and has made nearly as many trades. If his blockbuster Bartolo Colon/Cliff Floyd trades with the Expos and Pedro Martinez/Carlos Beltran signings didn’t make it obvious to you, he wants to win quickly more than anything else. His success cycle is now. It’s not yet clear whether he’ll be as quick to trade prospects for stars as he was with the Expos, but he has held off from doing so thus far.

Minaya has instances of being both an optimist and a problem solver. He tackled right-field for the Mets with no less than three different solutions during 2006, and even brought in Ben Johnson following the season for more depth. However, he also gave Jamey Carroll and Endy Chavez about 1000 more at-bats than they deserved during his Expos tenure, although one can argue that problem solving was not an option with Montreal’s limited budget; he often couldn’t even recall the players he wanted from the minors.

Does he favor players acquired via trade, development or free agency?

Once again, no clear bias. He has been a lot calmer with Mets prospects, and has given most of them a fair shake to break in, but his teams tend to involve bringing in a lot of players via trades. While he obviously didn’t do much with free agency in Montreal, he has been pretty active on the free agent market with the Mets, getting middling guys like Kris Benson, Moises Alou, Julio Franco, and Scott Schoenweis as well as the big names.

Trades and Free Agents

Is he an active trader? Does he tend to move talent or horde it? To whom does he trade and when?

Minaya is probably one of the most active traders in baseball today. There were the blockbuster trades when he was the Expos GM, but he also is no stranger to minor deals. When he first started, he was prone to making some bad deals with his talent, such as Jason Bay for Lou Collier. Following that, he lost Grady Sizemore and Cliff Lee in the Colon deal, Carl Pavano in the Cliff Floyd deal. He also got poor returns when he shipped the pair out, due to his bad bargaining position, with only Tomo Ohka and El Duque having any lasting value. As a Met, he’s been much more cautious about dealing from within, so he’s been able to avoid those kinds of scorched earth deals.

Minaya also is quite adept at picking out players in minor deals who could make a difference for the big club: some examples include getting Chris Young (the pitcher) from the Pirates for Matt Herges, Ryan Church and Maicier Izturis from the Indians for Scott Stewart, John Patterson from the Diamondbacks for Randy Choate, Gary Majewski and Jon Rauch from the White Sox for Carl Everett, John Maine for Kris Benson, and perhaps Oliver Perez for Xavier Nady.

Will he make deals with other teams during the season? How does he usually approach the trading deadline?

Absolutely. Mianya is as active during the season as he is in the offseason, especially when his team is on a playoff run, as the Mets were last year and the Expos looked to be in 2002. His deadlines are always at least moderately busy, from the trades he pulls off (the second Cliff Floyd trade, the Oliver Perez trade), to being in the mix for players like Manny Ramirez, Scott Linebrink, and Alfonso Soriano over the last few seasons.

Are there any teams or general managers with whom he trades frequently?

Well, last season he and Larry Beinfest spent more time on the phone than a couple in a long-distance relationship. He’s also made multiple trades with the Steve Phillips Mets, the Dombrowski Tigers, the Littlefield Pirates, and the Epstein Red Sox, among others. I think it’s safe to say that Minaya has every team on his speed dial though. He’s relentless in his pursuit to upgrade the team.

Under what circumstances will he sign free agents?

When with the Expos, his only major signing was Carl Everett, who was a bandage over the broken leg that was losing Vladimir Guerrero. We’ve been over Pedro, Wagner, and Beltran, but theres also Moises Alou. He’ll sign players when he has a gaping hole or it’s a franchise altering player. Even then, he prefers to work with trades, because Minaya has a very clear idea of how long he wants to be locked in to somebody and will not break that boundary.

Contracts

Does he prefer long-term deals or short? Does he backload his contracts very often? Does he lock up players early in their careers or is he more likely to practice brinksmanship? Does he like to avoid arbitration?

Minaya will ink long-term deals when he thinks it benefits him. Of the players that he’s locked up long-term, they’re all franchise-type players except for Jose Vidro, who was at one point considered one but has sadly gone down the Carlos Baerga/Edgardo Alfonzo career path. He’s more apt to go short-term with role players, Moises Alou, Jose Valentin, and Orlando Hernandez being good examples from this past offseason. He was very quick on the trigger with the David Wright and Jose Reyes long-term deals. Arbitration is seen as kind of a no-no with Minaya, and as far as I can remember no players got past filing.

Anything unique about his negotiating tactics? Is he vocal? Does he prefer to work behind the scenes or through the media?

Minaya’s big strength in major negotiations is that he is willing to meet the player on their terms. The Billy Wagner signing was predicated on Minaya and others from the Mets brass showing him around the greater New York area and Connecticut. He flew to and from Puerto Rico and the Dominican to meet up with Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, and Pedro Martinez.

Minaya tends to work behind the scenes. While he will do interviews, he isn’t the kind of guy who will issue a revealing press statement on a player, tending to keep that behind closed doors.

Bonus

What is his strongest point as a GM?

His familiarity with the Dominican and other Caribbean baseball organizations gives Minaya a major edge in scouting and signing players from the area, but his strongest point as a GM in New York is probably keeping the Wilpons out of the personnel side of the game. Not only has he avoided the kind of committee that led to Al Leiter and John Franco’s extended stays past the point of usefulness, but he’s set an example of professionalism throughout his time, ending the off-field distractions that popped up over the disjointed years that preceded him. Part of this is Randolph’s work, but Minaya also exudes a kind of professionalism that is very close to the level that John Schuerholz has given the Atlanta Braves in their dynasty years.

What would he be doing if he weren’t in baseball?

With Minaya’s people skills, I imagine he’d slot in well in any kind of personnel job; he seems like the kind of guy who’d be destined for corporate success no matter what the product was.


16 Responses to “GM in a Box: Omar Minaya, Part II”

  1. Comment posted by cruz on March 28, 2007 at 3:16 am (#270921)

    all hail Omar! I think we have to give him credit for the remaking of Lastings Milledge too! All that trade talk is bound to make or break you and for Milledge…we’ll see!

  2. Comment posted by AD62 on March 28, 2007 at 4:05 am (#270927)

    1. The Royals took Endy in the rule 5 draft.

    2. I would give Milledge and his family for his make over.

  3. Comment posted by lucienlc on March 28, 2007 at 8:40 am (#270954)

    Thanks for the analysis, Chris. I’m going to take the liberty of disagreeing with a few points, however.

    1. Minaya did not trade for Kris Benson. That was one of Duquette’s deadline trades, along with the Kazmir deal. Yes, Omar negotiated an extension with Benson, but after the bad press that accompanied the twin trades that season, he had little choice in the matter. He’d have been eviscerated if we’d lost Benson at that point in time.

    2. I do not at all see Minaya as a *win now* GM — or, more accurately, I do not see Minaya as a *win now at all costs, hang the future* GM, which is what I took from your article. I was afraid he would be that, after his Expos days, but he has shown great patience in not overpaying for players who might help us. As I recall, he would have made no trades before the trading deadline last year, but for Sanchez’ freak injury — and then he very cleverly made the trade before the news leaked out, AND got added value in the form of Oliver Perez rather than just panicking and trading Nady for Robo straight up.

    He also stayed out of the insane FA market this past winter, despite the pundits screaming for the Mets to acquire a SP, even a mediocre one that would be vastly overpaid in both dollars and years. He was very fiscally responsible, retaining flexibility for the future, in not overpaying Zito and tying the Mets up with an albatross of a contract for a pitcher not really worth it, just because he was better than what we had. A *win now* guy would have done that anyway, hang the cost. I applaud Omar for the deals he did not make as well as the ones he did.

    Also, he has been very cautious about trading our “A” prospects. Remember the abuse he took last year, when supposedly a Zito rental was out there for Milledge plus? A *win now* guy would have done that deal. Omar didn’t, because although he wants to win now, he also wants to win consistently, perhaps creating a Mets dynasty that wins year after year after year.

    3. I don’t think you give him enough credit for the bargains he has found, and for the way he has gone about creating a team. Yes, he overpaid for Pedro — to give the Mets instant credibility they formerly lacked — and for Beltran because he viewed him as a special player. But when his preferred catchers tried to hold him up for big dollars and long-term deals, despite question marks about each of them, he went a different route and found us Paul LoDuca. He’s very quick on his feet, very adaptable, and very good thinking outside the box, imo, finding creative solutions to problems.

    4. Maybe it was in the earlier piece, which I’m sorry, I don’t recall, but Omar is a terrific talent evaluator in most cases. And he expects players to live up to their contract dollars — or they’re gone. People screamed when he traded Jae Seo — and Seo proceeded to have a terrible year. They weren’t much happier in many cases about the Kris Benson deal — Jorge Julio -argh! and John Maine (who?). They questioned the retention of Endy Chavez over Tike Redman. Practically every trade or signing that Omar has made has benefitted the team. Has anyone been a bust in Omar’s signings? None I can remember offhand, and certainly nobody that we overpaid or gave up a lot for. To those few who might argue Pedro, I would reply that Pedro gave us instant credibitily and is partly responsible for both the Beltran signing and the F-Mart signing. To say nothing of how he changed the attitude and culture of the team overnight. That was money well spent, imo.

    I’ll shut up now. :-)

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  5. Comment posted by Buffaloaded on March 28, 2007 at 9:29 am (#270957)

    is Pedro DL’d???

  6. Comment posted by Manhasset Paulie on March 28, 2007 at 10:24 am (#270973)

    Chris,

    Can you please elaborate how Leiter overstayed his welcome. His last season with the Mets, 30 starts, 3.21 ERA, 133 ERA+. In 7 seasons with the Mets only once had an ERA over 4 (his second season met), never had an ERA+ under 100, nver pitched less then 28 startes (his first season as a met), never won less then 10 games (a meanlesss stat but important to some people out there). All the while a stand up individual who never had any trouble with no one. Furthermore the mets seemed to let him go at exactly the right time as his stats exploaded soon after his departure from Shea.

    Franco is another story, but he did post 4 above average seasons after losing closers role.

  7. Comment posted by DoctorK16 on March 28, 2007 at 11:10 am (#271023)

    Victor Diaz wasn’t cut, he was traded, albeit for a bag of balls but still.

  8. Comment posted by bcuster on March 28, 2007 at 12:32 pm (#271105)

    text

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  10. Comment posted by 86Forever, Live From the Ledge on March 28, 2007 at 1:22 pm (#271173)

    I believe one of Omar’s strengths — curiously omitted from Chris’ piece — is his leniency in allowing me to follow him with OmarCam.

    This omission/oversight is so conspicuous that it weakens the entire rest of the piece.

  11. Comment posted by bcuster on March 28, 2007 at 2:09 pm (#271297)

    all hail Omar!

    Omar’s strengths

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  13. Comment posted by jpwf on March 28, 2007 at 2:37 pm (#271350)

    Chris,

    Can you please elaborate how Leiter overstayed his welcome.

    The rumor is that Leiter’s was one of the voices telling Jeff Wilpon to get rid of Kazmir- Kazmir did something to annoy Leiter in ST [took his car for a spin]

  14. Comment posted by bcuster on March 28, 2007 at 2:50 pm (#271396)

    The rumor is that Leiter’s was one of the voices telling Jeff Wilpon to get rid of Kazmir

    leiter and john franco were intensely jealous of kazmir and helped plant the seed that grew into the scott kazmir trade disaster of ‘04..

    i can’t wait for the whole truth to come out about that: heads have and will still roll…

  15. Comment posted by robert griffin on March 28, 2007 at 4:10 pm (#271608)

    I always liked Leiter was hell of a pitcher for us. he did his job well. I think we let him go at the right time to. Franco should of been let go as soon as he lost the Stoppers role.

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  17. Comment posted by Confused on March 28, 2007 at 6:04 pm (#271742)

    lets not spread the blame. kazmir is all on duquettes. he puhled the triger, he chose wom to listen to. he didnt get a correct medical history on vz.

    it is all on him.

  18. Comment posted by Woodman on March 28, 2007 at 6:26 pm (#271761)

    I believe one of Omar’s strengths — curiously omitted from Chris’ piece — is his leniency in allowing me to follow him with OmarCam.

    This omission/oversight is so conspicuous that it weakens the entire rest of the piece.

    Gold I tell you ;-)

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  20. Comment posted by Chris on March 29, 2007 at 3:53 am (#272018)

    Okay, lets see if I can hit everything here, sorry this is late.

    @2) Correct, he was acquired on waivers. Regret the error.

    @3) I did not say that Omar traded for Benson. I said he traded him away. I regret that you took that I don’t think highly of him, I was just trying to be objective. I think there is a lot of Omar’s chapter thats left to be written. It was a good sign that he didn’t do it in 2005, but I’m not so sure that Omar wouldn’t pull the trigger on a deal with our A-prospects if we were in a tight race. We’ll have to see. I’m pretty high on Omar’s ability to find bargains, sorry if you didn’t read it that way.

    #5) We’re talking about the same Leiter who walked 90 batters the last two years of his Mets career, right? I agree, Leiter had a great career for the Mets. At that point, he was close to the end of his rope and his ERA’s were not supported by his peripherals.

    #6) My original line here was “cut bait on”, which I guess Eric interpreted as pure release while editing, regret the error.

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  22. Comment posted by jpwf on March 29, 2007 at 3:28 pm (#272488)

    lets not spread the blame. kazmir is all on duquettes. he puhled the triger, he chose wom to listen to. he didnt get a correct medical history on vz.

    it is all on him.

    Oh, I’m not defending Duquette, but it doesn’t look like he had much of a choice in pulling the trigger- Jeff Wilpon had hsi nose in their, and Duquette was never a “full” GM he didn’t have the autonomy or final authority of Omar- or even Steve Phillips before him. Duquette SHOULD have told Wilpon “no”.* He didn’t, if he had he would have been fired or demoted. And if he’d been fired or demoted for insubordination he probably would not have a job in the MLB today.

    *Ok- he shouldn’t/couldn’t have put his foot down and said no to the Wilpons, but as an alleged baseball man he should have talked Wilpon out of it- or at least tried hard.

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