Q: Do you think the Mets can sign Manny Ramirez, or is that out of the picture now that they have signed Oliver Perez?
— Frankie Olmeda, Bayamon, Puerto Rico
A: General manager Omar Minaya has said for awhile now that he feels compelled to put his money into pitching, and he has stayed true to his word.
And in fact, after the Perez signing, Minaya said the Mets won't be making any more big moves, and will go to spring training with their current roster. That means no Ramirez — no matter how much the Mets might need him.
Ramirez would make the Mets' lineup truly scary — how does Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, David Wright, Ramirez, Carlos Delgado sound? But I have to say that I agree with Minaya's prioritizing.
The Mets absolutely had to either re-sign Perez or sign Derek Lowe for a projected rotation that also includes Johan Santana, John Maine, Mike Pelfrey, and at this point, either Tim Redding, Freddy Garcia or Jonathan Niese.
And earlier in the winter, they addressed their biggest need by signing Frankie Rodriguez and dealing for J.J. Putz to dramatically upgrade the back end of the bullpen.
The projected left-field platoon of David Murphy and Fernando Tatis is quite a come-down from the possibility of Ramirez, but that's the way it's going to be barring a dramatic and unexpected reversal in philosophy in the Mets' front office.
Q: Why don't the Cardinals get interested in acquiring Ben Sheets or Jake Peavy? Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Kyle Lohse and one of those two would give the Cardinals one of the best rotations in baseball.
— Stephen Shoemaker, Tulsa, Okla.
A: Personally, I think the Cardinals should be interested in signing Manny Ramirez to hit behind Albert Pujols — a move that would send shock waves through the entire National League, and likely make them one of the league's elite teams again.
That's what Pujols wants, but Cards GM John Mozeliak already has shot down the possibility. As any Cardinals fan knows, they keep a firm handle on payroll these days, making a signing like Ramirez unlikely even if they wanted to do it.
But I believe the franchise needs to make a big acquisition, as the National League pennant race is so wide open, with several teams capable of winning the pennant if things break their way.
As for Tony La Russa's projected pitching staff, the biggest need actually is in the closer role. Young right-hander Chris Perez is the leading candidate, as the Cards didn't spend to add a veteran closer such as Kerry Wood or Trevor Hoffman.
The projected rotation at this point is Carpenter, Wainwright, Lohse, Joel Pineiro and Todd Wellemeyer, although the first two are iffy health-wise.
Peavy would cost the Cardinals a trio of top prospects in addition to the $63 million remaining on his contract. Sheets is another health risk, which is why he's still available this late into the off-season. The Cards don't seem inclined to pursue either option — and that isn't likely to change unless Carpenter or Wainwright isn't 100 percent healthy.
Q: Why hasn't anyone signed Joe Crede yet? Are the White Sox interested in him?
— Bernard Golab, Lombard, Ill.
A: Crede is being hit by the double whammy of concerns about his chronic back problems, along with the economic downturn that is affecting so many free agents this winter.
And maybe I should add a third deterrent — the fact that Crede is represented by Scott Boras, whom some teams avoid like the plague.
Crede (and Boras) are seeking to equal Crede's 2008 base salary of $5.1 million, and that is the likeliest reason why the 31-year-old third baseman remains unsigned less than two weeks before spring training will begin.
Crede recently went through a couple of on-field workouts — hitting, fielding and throwing — in front of scouts from a handful of teams in an attempt to dispel concerns about his back. But at some point, he's going to have to back off those salary demands and take a more incentives-based deal.
The Twins and Giants are among the interested teams, although both have other third-base options at this point. The White Sox appear to be going in a different direction, with Josh Fields, Wilson Betemit and possibly Dayan Viciendo in their third-base plan for 2009.
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