Joe DeMayo is a good friend of mine that I met a few years ago. He has been a Mets fan since he could remember. He and I talk on a daily basis about baseball and sports in general. Joe is primarily a minor league guy, but will also talk about the majors if it's something very important. So he constantly fills me on rumors and happenings around the league. So the first person I felt that I should interview was him. So without anymore waiting, here we go:
Kevin Lewis: Welcome Joe. Since you are a Mets guru, it's great to be able to ask you a few questions about the Johan trade, a year later. So, if you don't mind, let's get right into it.
Joe DeMayo: No problem Kevin. Let's do it.
KL: Joe, looking back at the 2008 season, do you feel the Twins made the right move by trading Johan Santana to the Mets for the package of players that they received?
JD: Yes and no. You can look at it this way, the Twins made it to a one game playoff and suffered a tough loss to the White Sox, if you have Santana on the staff, do the Twins win the AL Central? It's certainly possible. At the same time, where are the Twins in September without Gomez? He made multiple fantastic plays in center to save runs, and also put up a .290 batting average. Santana was brilliant for the Mets, but wasn't enough, maybe if he was still in Minnesota then we may be watching the Twins and the Rays rather than the White Sox. But at the time it seemed logical to trade him with the unlikelihood of him re-signing and only getting two draft picks. Bill Smith did seem to overplay his hand at the time by demanding both Jon Lester and Jacoby Ellsbury from Boston, and Phil Hughes and Melky Cabrera (doesn't make the Yankees look too good right now huh?). Mets GM Omar Minaya was just patient throughout, and it paid off, as he got him without losing prized prospect Fernando Martinez or prized pitchers Mike Pelfrey and Jon Niese. But the bounty was still heavy with Kevin Mulvey, Phil Humber and Deolis Guerra going with Gomez. But the way the Twins operate, and their great ability to develop pitchers, you could see all three of those pitchers possibly have a great positive impact on the Twins for a while.
KL: Many Minnesotans don't know much about Deolis Guerra. What can you tell us about Guerra's pitches, his work ethic and what he can bring to the table as a future Minnesota Twin starting pitcher? When do you expect him to be in the majors?
JD: Guerra unfortunately had a very poor year, posting an ERA over 5, including over 8 in the month of August. The Mets did not want to include him in the Santana trade, but it essentially came down to Guerra or no deal, so Minaya pulled the trigger. Guerra is still very young at 19, and has a great repertoire that leads you to believe he can be a #1 or #2 type starter in the future. He sports a fastball that when the Mets signed him as a 16 year old was in the 88-90 range, but by time they dealt him he was reportedly flinging it at 93-95, as he grows into his body he could develop more velocity, and he has potentially the best changeup in the minor leagues, if you watched the future's game in 2007 you would have seen it. He also has a developing curveball that has good natural movement, as do all of Guerra's pitches. If he gets one more good pitch, you're looking at a frontline pitcher, despite his low strikeout number this year; you are looking at a guy who could be a big time strikeout pitcher at the big league level. I do not know much about his work ethic, but hearing nothing is better than hearing something negative. I think Guerra is a kid for Twins' fans to keep an eye on, and you may see him as soon as 2011, or maybe 2012 at latest, which would still have him coming as a 22 or 23 year old which is still extremely young. Maybe you can see him sooner if he pitches his way up there, but he didn't help his cause this year.
KL: Phillip Humber is the only pitcher of the group we got in the trade that fans got to take a look at this year. He was a September call-up and worked out of the bullpen. Do you possibly see Humber being a long-relief pitcher or will he eventually make the rotation. Is there any worry about the Tommy John surgery having any long-term effects for his progression?
JD: When the Mets drafted Humber #3 overall in the 2004 draft (passing up talents like Jered Weaver, Phil Hughes, and Homer Bailey) it was widely believed Humber was a #2 or #3 type, but somebody who would ascend through the minors extremely fast. He along with teammates from "The Big 3" at Rice, Jeff Niemann and Wade Townsend all underwent Tommy John within their first year of turning pro, though Townsend was a year later as he didn't sign with Baltimore in 2004. The percentage of pitchers to come back successfully from Tommy John is over 90%, and Humber being over two full years removed from the surgery may be amongst that 10 or so percent. Granted he helped his cause with a 2.74 ERA in August, you can't at this point look at him as anything better than a #4 or #5, but possibly a bullpen arm. It's unfortunate as Mets people had high hopes for him, but the surgery seemed to hinder him quite a bit, though I heard his velocity was just starting to come back around mid-season this year.
KL: Kevin Mulvey is probably the one pitcher out of the three that has the most questions. After pitching fairly well for the Binghamton Mets, their Double-A affiliate, he seemed to struggle a little bit in Rochester. Should Twins be worried about his progression? Does he have a shot at cracking the roster after Spring Training?
JD: I personally liked Kevin Mulvey a lot. I saw him last year in Binghamton and he impressed me quite a bit with his pitchability, he reminded me a lot of Brian Bannister with better stuff. He is somebody you can look at as a #4 starter down the road; I don't think his ultimate destination is in the pen. He struggled some in his first season in Triple-A, but not to worry, the Twins should start him there again in 2009, and he can very well pitch his way up to the big club during 09. When this trade happened, it was my belief that Mulvey had the chance to be the sleeper of the trade, he was the least discussed member of the trade at the time, but I think he has the talent to be better than Humber.
KL: Carlos Gomez is by far the most popular player out the trade. That is in part to him being the only guy in the trade that the fans got to see day in and day out. He showed us why he is so coveted as a young outfielder. But at the same time, he showed how he has a long ways to go. He seemed to kick it up a notch during the month of September. Do you anticipate the CF job to be his to lose in Spring Training with Span lurking?
JD: I think the job should be Gomez's to lose. I absolutely loved Carlos Gomez as a member of the Mets organization, when you have a kid who when he raced Jose Reyes would win "9 out of 10 times" according to Reyes, that definitely opens your eyes. Gomez reminds me a ton of Reyes actually, very speedy, and when he first came up as a young kid, Reyes was one of the most raw players I ever saw, very similar to Gomez. After a couple years Reyes really got it, and he's looked at as one of the best players in the game today, and I think Gomez can very well follow suit. He is going to be a dynamic lead-off hitter, and if he grows into his body a little more he could provide more pop than Reyes does for the Mets, and steal you 60+ bases every year. He is a guy that to me you can look at as a future star, but just be patient with him, let him go through his ups and downs like the Twins did this year, and soon enough those ups will be far more often than the downs.
KL: Thanks for taking time to answer a few questions. I look forward to reading your updates that you post over on www.nybaseballdigest.com.
JD: Anytime Kevin, thanks a lot!