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The final piece

Minaya may trade Milledge for Oswalt or Schmidt

Posted: Monday July 31, 2006 1:24AM; Updated: Monday July 31, 2006 3:12AM
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Lastings Milledge showed glimpses of his enormous potential but made plenty of rookie mistakes in his first stint with the Mets.
Lastings Milledge showed glimpses of his enormous potential but made plenty of rookie mistakes in his first stint with the Mets.
John Iacono/SI

The New York Mets are engaged in serious talks for two superb starting pitchers who carry the potential to stamp them as a World Series favorite -- Giants right-hander Jason Schmidt and, in something of a shocker, the Astros' Roy Oswalt -- league sources told SI.com.

Mets general manager Omar Minaya was debating late Sunday night whether to surrender one of the biggest pieces of the Mets' future to acquire either Schmidt or Oswalt and greatly enhance his team's immediate chances. The asking price for both Schmidt and Oswalt is believed to revolve around multi-talented young outfielder Lastings Milledge.

Should Minaya land either Schmidt or Oswalt without surrendering anyone off the club's current major league roster, he'd be landing a major body blow to the rest of the National League, which is already a few laps behind the Mets.

"If the Mets get one of these guys, they're pretty much a World Series lock,'' one competing NL executive said.

Based on his history, you'd think Minaya's natural inclination is to go for the gusto and grab either Schmidt or Oswalt. And yet, he appears to be seriously weighing whether he wants to relinquish Milledge, the 21-year-old outfielder who's been touted as a "five-tool'' player. Contacted late last night at the Miami hotel where the Mets are staying, Minaya declined to comment on the scenarios said to be before him.

Milledge was the only key name known to be connected to the Schmidt talks, while Brian Bannister is believed likely to be used to enhance a deal for Oswalt, who unlike the free agent-eligible Schmidt can't test the market until after the 2007 season. Milledge is viewed as one of baseball's best prospects, a multi-talented player who could patrol center field for years to come -- if he played for someone else. The Mets already have NL MVP favorite Carlos Beltran in center.

If the packages need to be enhanced, the Mets could also dangle young right-hander Aaron Heilman. The Mets view Heilman as only a reliever because his repertoire is limited to two pitches (a stellar changeup and above average fastball) but several other teams see Heilman as a starter, and he's looked lost lately coming out of the bullpen.