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