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SportsColumnistsJim Baumbach

Forget Phillies and let's work on fixing Mets

Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Ben Sheets pitches to

Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Ben Sheets pitches to the Washington Nationals in the first inning. (August 9, 2008) Photo Credit: AP

Note to self: better trademark the phrase 'Mets misery index' because right now that's the best way to describe Mets fans. The way they're feeling, it's as if every transaction that happens in baseball these days negatively affects the franchise from Flushing some how, some way.

Roy Halladay couldn't get traded to, say, the Red Sox, Angels or Cubs. Heck, or even the Yankees. Nope. Had to be the Phillies.

Mets fans, we feel your pain. As if sitting around and watching your team stockpile backup catchers wasn't bad enough, the Phillies are morphing their roster into an unstoppable machine.

We could attempt to reassure you by reciting that old cliché about no team wins a pennant on paper, but that would be foolish. Even Mets fans are strong enough to admit that the Phillies are hands-down better than the Mets.

But don't give up hope just yet. It's only the middle of December and there are still many interesting names available, and not all of them will wind up with the Phillies.

We think there is still a chance your team can salvage this offseason, so much so that we've put together a completely opinionated and wholly unscientific five-step program for the Mets brass.

1. Trade for Gil Meche.

The Royals, with an eye on their payroll, are open to trading him. He's coming off an injury-plagued season in which he had back and shoulder problems, but in his first two seasons in Kansas City he posted a respectable 3.82 ERA in 4261/3 innings for losing teams.

The Mets' biggest need right now is with their rotation, and we'll take Meche over remaining free agent starters Joel Pineiro, Jon Garland and Jason Marquis any day. The two years and $24 million remaining on Meche's contract are not cost prohibitive, compared to this year's market for starting pitching (see Wolf, Randy).

2. Lure Ben Sheets with incentives.

There's no better investment than a one-year incentive-laden deal. It's a win-win for everyone. So as the Mets fret over their rotation, it makes perfect sense to offer Sheets a one-year, $4 million deal that could balloon all the way to $14 million if he starts 30 games and pitches more than 200 innings.

We'd do a similar deal - on a much smaller scale - with Justin Duchscherer, as well.

3. Sign Bay, Molina.

The Mets are completely right to hold firm on two years for Molina. If he finds a team willing to go to three years, well, it was good negotiating with you. Yorvit Torrealba or Rod Barajas are fine fallback options.

As for Bay, if another team appears - and we have doubts - is it really the worst thing if the Mets go to a fifth year? This is the bat the Mets need in the middle of their lineup. But we think it will get done at four years.

4. Sign DeRosa, not Delgado.

We don't care how good Carlos Delgado looks in winter ball. Stay away. The Mets already have two key players coming off major injuries. Do they really want to rely on a third?

The perfect alternative is Mark DeRosa, who can play just about anywhere. So if prospect Ike Davis proves to be ready midseason, DeRosa can play the role of a super-sub.

5. Cross your fingers on Beltran, Reyes and Wright.

Let's not kid ourselves. The Mets can do everything right this offseason, but if Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran both miss a chunk of time again and David Wright doesn't revert to pre-2009 form, then the Mets are in trouble.

So knock on wood, throw salt over your shoulder, place horseshoes around the office. Because with these three players, the Mets need all the good luck they can get.

New York Sports