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The final piece (cont.)

Posted: Monday July 31, 2006 1:24AM; Updated: Monday July 31, 2006 3:12AM
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The Mets have been very reluctant to surrender Milledge in most deals, although they have been willing to trade him for Florida's great young left-hander Dontrelle Willis (the Marlins are believed to want Mike Pelfrey in addition to Milledge, a non-starter as far as the Mets are concerned). Milledge is a former No. 1 pick with tremendous bat and foot speed, but there are questions about his maturity after a couple small incidents this year and doubts on the part of some as to whether he'll ever exceed 25 home runs. He batted .233 with three home runs in a short stint with the Mets this year and is hitting .278 with seven home runs and 12 stolen bases with Triple-A Norfolk.

While Minaya has also spoken to the A's about left-hander Barry Zito, it is believed he is focused on Schmidt and Oswalt, the type of hard throwers he'd prefer for his playoff rotation. For Zito, the A's have also been asking for Milledge and Heilman. But Mets people believe the harder-throwing Schmidt or Oswalt would fit perfectly between Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine, two Cooperstown-bound pitchers who are finesse pitchers at this point in their glorious careers.

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It isn't altogether surprising that Schmidt, who is 7-7 with a 3.18 ERA, would become available with the Giants falling to third place in the NL West after losing their seventh straight game, the last three defeats coming against Pittsburgh, the worst team in the NL. Giants GM Brian Sabean is very secure in his job and doesn't have to scrap for every victory, which explains why he's considering a deal such as this. Sabean also is seen as having an excellent chance to sign back Schmidt as a free agent.

The appearance in trade talks of Oswalt, who is 8-7 with a 3.23 ERA, is much more surprising in that Houston has never suggested that it's anything other than a buyer in the trade market. However, Astros GM Tim Purpura is desperately trying to add offensive weapons to a staid, sagging lineup, and was also known to be seeking either Miguel Tejada or Alfonso Soriano after losing out on Carlos Lee. The Astros trail the Reds by six games in the wild-card race.

The Mets have a playoff spot practically wrapped up, but their playoff rotation is a serious question mark after Martinez and Glavine. While some Mets officials are believed in favor of surrendering Milledge in one or the other of these two blockbuster possibilities, Minaya is said to be waffling about whether to hurt the organization's future to take his best shot at a World Series title now.

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