Mets' focus not limited to starters

Mets' focus not limited to starters

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The chance of the Mets leaving the Winter Meetings with the remaining entries crossed from their wish list seemed somewhat diminished on Monday night, after their general manager performed the Moonwalk, though not with Michael Jackson aplomb. One moment, Omar Minaya acknowledged that he is still foraging for the starter who will throw the Mets' first pitch come March 31. The next, he backtracked to a position inconsistent with the swagger he had demonstrated until last week.

And after Minaya was done rocking to and fro, one of his lieutenants suggested that the Mets may have decided to make dramatic improvements to their bullpen because of the increasing unlikelihood of acquiring the Twins' Johan Santana, the A's Dan Haren or the Orioles' Erik Bedard.

"You've got to get the innings covered somehow," he said.

One day into baseball's annual convention, the Mets' position appears undefined and their posture indefinite. They arrived in Tennessee on Monday afternoon at the gigantic Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center -- it's roughly the size of Utah -- with a Texas-sized void at the front of their rotation. But as Minaya characterized the state of the Mets, he only added to the uncertainty.

Minaya addressed reporters in the early evening and, as he had done on Thursday afternoon at Shea Stadium, he said, "The question is, do we want to make a trade?"

That remark prefaced this one: "We don't have to make a deal for a big pitcher," and words about Pedro Martinez, John Maine, Oliver Perez, Mike Pelfrey and Kevin Mulvey. Orlando Hernandez went unmentioned, for what that's worth.

As he spoke, Minaya shifted his weight from one foot to the other and back. People who believe in body language might have seen uncertainty in that; that or his feet had been barking. This hotel does have a certain walkathon effect.

"I think Omar has realized how hard it's going to be to get something done," the lieutenant said. "I'm not saying he's giving up, but it looks like it's going to be tough to get something done while we're here. After that, you don't know."

Minaya spoke vaguely and several times seemed more intent to discuss the improvements made in areas other than starting pitching. He acknowledged that the club's position-player upgrade is probably complete. And three days after the fact, he went back to the trade of Lastings Milledge to the Nationals and the acquisition of catcher Brian Schneider and right fielder Ryan Church.

If Minaya was moving forward, it wasn't apparent from what he said.

Winter Meetings

Minaya said he polled his staff, and the consensus was that the team was better now that it was when last season began and when it ended.

"Can this be our team? Have we improved the club? Do we start the season better?"

"We've added speed, defense and pitching," Minaya said. And when he was asked to identify the club's improvements on pitching, his response was, "Our defense makes our pitching better."

Two mentions of compensating for the departure of Tom Glavine and the 200 innings he pitched last season prompted Minaya to mention Martinez. He did allow that "All the guys mentioned out there, we're having dialogue with," which was presumably intended as confirmation that the club is still talking to at least the A's about Haren and the Orioles about Bedard.

But who can say?

"There's so much out there," another National League general manager said. "There's no way to know where other teams stand. I'm not even sure where we are. I know how Omar feels. I think he wanted to make the big splash, and then he pulled back on that. And now, he might have pulled back again. But he plays it very close to the vest. So you can't say for sure.

"The way things are here, he could pull Santana and I can't say I'd be shocked."

Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.