Overcast 32° Good Afternoon
Overcast 32° Good Afternoon

Johan Santana, Oliver Perez, Ben Sheets and Xavier Nady

Johan Santana throws off a mound for the

Johan Santana throws off a mound for the first time since having elbow surgery in September 2009. (Jan. 26, 2010) Photo Credit: Newsday / Ken Davidoff

Yup, it's a beautiful day here, and it was a good one for the Mets. Well, at least for the Mets who are currently under the team's employ.

As I wrote in the previous item, Johan Santana threw 24 pitches over six minutes off the mound, at the Mets' minor-league complex. He looked free and easy -- I think I used that expression yesterday, too -- but not close to full strength.

>> Johan Santana photos

--Oliver Perez also threw -- he said 25 pitches, but I was too busy counting Santana's pitches to count Perez's. He looked considerably more advanced than Santana, and he spoke enthusiastically about the season.

Jerry Manuel and pitching coach Dan Warthen watched the two pitchers throw. Omar Minaya caught the end of the session, and Minaya is scheduled to return to New York today.

Manuel, in response to a question I asked, said that he and new infielders coach Chip Hale have been discussing ways to help Luis Castillo with his defensive range. It doesn't sound like they've come up with a solution. But they've been discussing it. Of course, this is something that should've been discussed with Castillo last October.

--Now, as for the Hot Stove stuff, Ben Sheets signed with the A's, as Danny Knobler reported for Good risk for the A's, at over $8 million. Would've been a good risk for the Mets.

What's next for the Mets? The pickins' are getting slim. Jon Garland is Mr. Innings-Eater, whereas John Smoltz has the better stuff but less durability. My sense is the Mets like Smoltz more than they like Garland, although that doesn't necessarily mean they'd pay more for Smoltz than for Garland. There's also Jarrod Washburn.

We're getting to the point now where the Mets are running out of players on whom they'd spend money. On one hand, as we've noted here, they'll have more to spend next winter, for what should be a great free-agent class. On the other hand...they really need another upgrade or two if they really want to contend in 2010. Maybe such upgrades will emerge during the season, via trade.

On a similar note, Omar Minaya said today that he believed Carlos Delgado's winter season has concluded in Puerto Rico. Given how little first base Delgado wound up playing, it's hard to see how the Mets could commit any amount of real money to him. They're still engaged with Fernando Tatis, who could team with Daniel Murphy to give the team an underwhelming first-base platoon.

--As for Sheets signing with the A's, that likely means that Oakland is out on Johnny Damon, which means that Damon is still looking for a new home, which means that we'll keep speculating about the Yankees and Damon. Never say never, but I don't see the Yankees stretching their budget considerably for Damon.

--And on a related topic, one of the Yankees' top targets to platoon in leftfield with Brett Gardner, Xavier Nady, has signed with the Cubs, as Tim Brown reported for Yahoo! That leaves Reed Johnson and Rocco Baldelli as top right-handed options.

--The Mets are holding their winter blood drive tomorrow, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Caesars Club at Citi Field. Donors must be 17 years of age (16 with parental permission), weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health. Bring ID with photo or signature. Each donor will receive a pair of tickets to a select 2010 Mets game in April.

Call 1-800-933-BLOOD for more information. Donors should enter Citi Field via the First Base VIP Entrance.

UPDATE, 1:55 p.m.: Sheets' deal was for $10 million plus performance incentives, as Jon Heyman reported. Wow. Great job by Sheets' agent Casey Close. And I have to criticize the Mets a little less with that info.

UPDATE, 2:16 p.m.: Multiple reports now indicate that the A's will keep speaking with Damon, and this marriage would make a lot of sense. With Sheets and Damon aboard, the A's really could make a run at the AL West title. And if the A's falter, they could trade both guys mid-season for prospects in return.

 UPDATE, 5:43 p.m: Busy day, eh? Yet another name drops off the board, as Jon Garland has reportedly agreed to terms with the Padres. My sense is that most of you Mets fans weren't that excited about adding Garland, anyway.

So...John Smoltz becomes the Mets' clear top target, from what remains of this free-agent group. Props to Matt Cerrone of, by the way, who has been reporting about the Mets' interest in Smoltz for quite some time. It's my understanding, as it appears to be Cerrone's, that Smoltz's first choice is to return to the Cardinals. But the interest doesn't appear to be mutual enough, at this point.

Jarrod Washburn and Chien-Ming Wang are also out there.

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