Mets struggling early (cont.)
David beats Goliath, serves reminder
Scrappy Padres second baseman David Eckstein reminded the Mets what they missed when they failed to sign him yet again this winter by killing them in their inaugural game at Citi Field with three hits and a walk.
This past winter Eckstein rebuffed the Mets' $1-to-2-million contract talk to serve as backup (and possible Luis Castillo replacement, depending on whether Castillo got his act together) to take an $850,000 deal to be the Padres' second baseman. "I like it, it's my natural position, Eckstein said of second base. "That's where I want to play." The Scrappy One added that he has played second since he was a kid but switched to short a week into his big-league career out of necessity.
Second base is also where the Mets wanted to employ Eckstein when they pursued him two winters ago. Mets people recall offering Eckstein a four-year deal for about $27 million, but were told by his agent that he was after figures "somewhere between [Julio] Lugo and [Rafael] Furcal,'' which the Mets took to mean about $40 million over four years.
Eckstein doesn't recall it quite that way. While he didn't want to get into the ins and outs of the failed negotiations, he said he got the impression the Mets simply preferred Castillo, whom they signed for $25 million over four years. If there wasn't a disconnect then, there definitely is now, as Mets people recalled preferring Eckstein but getting the distinct impression that they weren't close to his asking price (though he eventually signed in Toronto for one year and $5 million).
The Mets would have been better off with Eckstein, about whom one Mets person said, admiringly, "He's either a pest or an inspiration ... a pest if you're on the other team and an inspiration if you're on his team.''
In any case, Mets people definitely understand Eckstein would have been a better fit than Castillo, who was never a Manuel favorite, even going back to their Marlins days together. Eckstein wouldn't claim the Mets erred, but he did say at some point since they signed Castillo instead of him, Minaya very kindly told him he made a mistake by not signing him.
Jake's still a Padre; might he stay now?
Padres ace Jake Peavy has been a prime trade candidate for months now, but the possibility remains he could stay with San Diego all year.
Peavy has a no-trade clause and seemed very enthused about the Padres and their surprisingly great 6-2 start when I caught up with him in the Citi Field visitors' clubhouse. He talked excitedly about the team's resolve to try to "grind it out'' and "empty the tank'' every night, pledges that apparently all the Padres made to each other at a stirring meeting on the eve of the season. "I just want a chance to win,'' Peavy said. "I've said all along I want that to be in San Diego.''
The Padres appear short on talent, but it's easy to believe their attitude is terrific with all-time great personalities Cliff Floyd and Eckstein enhancing the clubhouse atmosphere.
In another part of the clubhouse, new Padres owner Jeff Moorad, referring to Peavy's last start, said he "wouldn't trade those seven innings for anything.'' But Moorad didn't make the same claim about Peavy himself.
In fact, Moorad insisted they aren't trying to trade Peavy and that Peavy is as good as any National League pitcher when he's on, but also said "no player is untouchable.'' Moorad, a major upgrade over outgoing owner John Moores (that switch was the best trade San Diego could have made), also said he didn't believe the economic downturn and slumping late-winter market would inhibit suitors for Peavy, who has $63 million and four years left on his contract.
Though he's an Alabama native, Peavy makes his year-round home in San Diego, and folks involved in the winter trade discussion with the Braves say that, ultimately, Peavy's reluctance to go to Atlanta was a factor in that trade falling through. The Braves were on Peavy's very unofficial winter list of teams he would consider, but the list was nowhere near binding, and when Peavy started to seriously consider Atlanta, staying with the Padres apparently started to look better to him.
In reality, the Cubs may have been the only team Peavy was anxious to join this winter. If he submits a new preference list -- official or otherwise -- anytime soon, it'll likely be a short one, because he may already be on the team he prefers most.
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