Good Afternoon
Good Afternoon

Josh Thole and Cliff Lee - and there's a live chat today

Yes, live chat at 11, so I'll make this relatively brief:

--Before the Reds scratched starting pitcher Aaron Harang last night against the Mets, moving up left-handed rookie Travis Wood by a day, I did some work on a potential Josh Thole column. The Mets rookie catcher was slated to start against Harang, but once Wood became the starter, Jerry Manuel replaced the lefty-hitting Thole with the righty-hitting catcher Rod Barajas.

Thole has started two games and appeared in four others since getting called up from Triple-A Buffalo, and if you think the Mets are trying to showcase him to the Mariners, convincing Seattle that Thole merits centerpiece status in a Cliff Lee trade...well, so do I.

He's looked pretty good so far, hasn't he? He's produced some big hits, and he looked fine catching power pitcher Mike Pelfrey on June 25 and knuckleballer R.A. Dickey this past Saturday. And as we already knew, he can hit some.

The Mets are more than happy to extol praise upon their young catcher. Said Jerry Manuel: "He’s much improved as far as the receiving, from what we saw here last year. I know offensively, he can be a really, really big help for us. I've got to take this opportunity to take a good look at him, see how he fits."

Added Omar Minaya: "Thole’s really doing a good job. He’s catching much better. We’ve always liked his bat. He looks very good. ...He’s calling a good game, and he’s showing leadership skills."

I asked Minaya about the yin and yang between developing young players to play for the Mets and developing them to be used as trade chips, and he of course wouldn't get too specific, saying, "We’re happy with the young kids that we have. These guys are contributors right now. And that’s good to see."

He should feel good about the likes of Thole, Ike Davis, Jon Niese, Ruben Tejada and even Bobby Parnell lately. Where would the Mets be without these guys?

But since the Mets want to absolutely protect guys like Davis, Niese and Jenrry Mejia, and since they do want to make the playoffs this year, they've acknowledged privately that Thole would have to go in a Lee trade.

Does it happen? My bet, for now, is a shaky no. I'm not sure the Mets are going to be willing to pay the highest price in prospects, as I'm skeptical that the Mariners will accept Thole as a trade centerpiece. And I also think, as we've discussed here previously, the Mets do not like at all the notion of trading for Lee and then seeing him go to the Yankees this offseason.

The Mets really like Ted Lilly - both his pitching profile as a left-handed flyball pitcher and his personality as a guy who embraces a pennant race - and the fact that Lilly has a few more bucks coming to him than Lee does (he's making $12 million this year, as opposed to Lee's $9 million) could make the competition less intense.

--Off the wacky Mets game, I wrote about Mike Pelfrey, who admitted to losing his cool in the critical fifth inning. While his actual meltdown was obviously not impressive, Mets fans should be encouraged that he needed only an hour or so to process what happened and take some accountability. Pelfrey wasn't going to maintain that run of excellence back in April and May, but I certainly think he can continue to be a frontline starting pitcher.

--Jose Reyes might hit right-handed tonight against the righty Harang.

--The Reds have indeed been one of baseball's most pleasant surprises.

--The Yankees won. Because I was at Citi Field, I missed this game. Any thoughts? At the bottom of the story, Erik Boland details Dallas Braden's latest target of his anger - his own team.

--Doesn't look good, at all, for Alfredo Aceves. The Yankees already have started scouring the trade market for relievers, but Brian Cashman has established at this point that he's not going to expend much capital for bullpen help.

--OK, so check back in for the live chat, and then we'll have the book giveaway contest later today.


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