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How the Mets' Billy Wagner trade can be salvaged

Sorry for the delay. I'm at Citi Field for Nationals-Mets. Looks like the weather should be playable.

Anyway, last August, we railed against the Mets for trading Billy Wagner to the Red Sox for, essentially, nothing besides salary relief.

But Chris Carter, the main player the Mets received in that deal, helped the Mets win a ballgame last night. So did Ike Davis, although that's not really relevant to this discussion.

Carter's one-night heroics don't negat the argument that the Mets should've held onto Wagner last season, offered him arbitration and - upon his rejection and signing with the Braves - planned to use those two delicious, compensatory draft picks wisely. The Red Sox will pick 20th and 36th as a reward for employing Wagner for about five weeks last year.

Yet as much as we tend to portray matters as "right and wrong," it's really more a matter of "better and worse." Even worse, in this instance, can turn out all right if...

1) Carter gives the Mets the sort of sustained run we discussed yesterday.

I'm not saying he has to bat 1.000. That's unlikely. Yet if he can be an offensive force off the bench, and occasionally give Jeff Francoeur or Jason Bay a breather against a righty starter, that would help the Mets. I am curious to see, in person, how bad his defense is. Although they can always substitute for him late in games they are leading.

2) The Mets make Carter relevant - there's no use celebrating over a good bench player on a mediocre team - by being active during the trading season.

There's still time for virtually any team to turn its season around, but it sure is looking like the Mariners won't have any reason to keep Cliff Lee past July 31. Lee would be costly in prospects - the Mets and other interested suitors would essentially have to top the two draft picks that Seattle would get next year for keeping Lee, offering him arbitration and seeing him sign elsewhere (the Yankees?) - but not in money, as he's making an ultra-reasonable $8 million.

3) The Mets use the roughly $2.75 million they saved in trading Wagner - $1.75 million in salary plus a $1 million buyout for his 2010 team option - directly for their 2010 draft. While they don't have those compensatory picks, they do draft seventh overall, giving them an opportunity to add a very impactful player to their system.

The last time the Mets allowed Omar Minaya to draft for talent, rather than signability, Minaya came up with Mike Pelfrey in 2005. This is Minaya's strength. Let him use it, even if Bud Selig gets miffed about another team paying over slot.

In other news...

--Great story by Katie Strang, as Mets COO Jeff Wilpon says he has spoken with the Islanders about building them an arena in Queens. It sounds like the Wilpons would be open to even owning the Islander someday.

--Good column by Jim Baumbach on David Wright. I agree with Jim that, while Mets fans' concern over Wright's streakiness is understandable, his struggles have been overstated.

--The Yankees were rained out last night, resulting in a doubleheader today, and Joe Girardi whined about it.

--Alex Rodriguez got one direct shout-out and one indirect shout-out in Dallas Braden's Top 10 list. At this point, the "feud" is entering a surreal phase. You just have to laugh. But it will of course be fascinating if Braden pitches against the Yankees during that July 5-7 series in July.

--Swinging back over to the Mets, tangentially, Jeff Francoeur expressed his frustration over MLB moving the June 25-27 Phillies-Blue Jays series from Toronto to Philadelphia, because of the G-20 summit taking place in Toronto at the same time.

I understand the Mets being upset, but this was just a product of bad luck. The summit wasn't announced until December, by which point the baseball schedule had already been released. This differed from last year's situation in Pittsburgh (referenced by Lizzy Nielsen in her blog post) because the conference in Toronto is much closer geographically to Rogers Centre than last year's proceedings were to the Pirates' PNC Park.

A neutral site? It was discussed. But the reality is, once the Blue Jays realized they couldn't host the games - hugely disappointing for them, given the potential return of Roy Halladay - they didn't care very much about where the games were held. If you pick a third site, then you're talking about huge logistical issues, involving the travel of two teams. If you pick Citizens Bank Park, then it's just one team travelling.

With the Blue Jays recopuing their lost revenues, that's pretty much the whole tale. Did MLB consider the complaints of the Mets and the Phillies' other competitors? Not seriously, from what I gather. Should they have? I don't know if such complaints would outweigh the benefits of holding the series in Philly, however.

--Did you see that Jason Varitek not only helped the Red Sox win two World Series, but also helped the Patriots win three Super Bowls? Funny story.

--I'll check in after the game.

UPDATE, 6:05 p.m.: An odd, disappointing game for the Mets and their fans. Francisco Rodriguez has OK mainstream stats (2.04 ERA after today), but a deeper look raises questions. Prior to today, his xFIP was a considerably worse 4.41.

Most of the post-game clubhouse chatter concerned the story about the Phillies stealing signs. Pretty funny stuff.

Out in Detroit, meanwhile, Javier Vazquez pitched his best game of the season, but the Yankees lost.

See you tomorrow.

New York Sports