Piazza wants to remain a catcher

Updated: November 14, 2003, 2:29 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- Mike Piazza's eventful reign as the face of the Mets could be coming to a conclusion, according to Friday's Newark Star-Ledger.

Mike Piazza
Piazza

Piazza and his agent, Dan Lozano, want to tell the Mets that if the club is planning a long-term rebuilding process, Piazza would accept a trade, according to a source close to the All-Star catcher.

If such a meeting took place, the Mets must decide whether to trade the best hitter they've ever had, a certain Hall of Famer.

As a 10-year veteran with five years on the Mets, Piazza has the right to veto any trade. At the same time, Piazza concedes that what's best for the team and for himself might be for him to move on.

According to Piazza's friend, if the club is in a rebuilding mode, it doesn't make sense to have a 35-year-old catcher who is owed $30 million over the final two years of his contract, reported the newspaper.

Considering the tumult of the past two seasons -- including Piazza's groin injury, the Mets' gaffe of telling the media they wanted the catcher to play first base before they told him, and two awful losing seasons -- Piazza may just accept a trade, no matter how much he loves playing for the Mets and living in New York.

Since the Mets pushed him to move to first, Piazza has sensed the end of his time with the Mets. Piazza still wants to catch, reports the Star-Ledger. Whether he can play first base competently remains to be seen, and Piazza knows there is a mounting pressure to move him there.

Said general manager Jim Duquette: "Our plan, after having discussions with Mike at the end of the season, is for him to play an undefined amount of time at first base, to be determined based on how he makes the adjustment in spring training."

In another team scenario, though, the Mets might go with Jason Phillips at first and Vance Wilson behind the plate. In doing so they will save themselves $14 million per season over the next two years -- as they begin rebuilding, knowing the playoffs would be a long shot.

If this happens, reports the Star-Ledger, Piazza probably would agree to a trade to the right team.

One person with knowledge of Piazza's thinking said, "They would be doing him a favor." Another friend said he believed Piazza wanted to remain with the Mets.

Neither Piazza nor his agent was available for comment.

A Mets official told the newspaper that the club was unaware of Piazza's intentions, has no current plans to trade him, and has not been engaged in any trade conversations involving Piazza. But over the past year there have apparently been internal discussions about the pros and cons of a trade, though no decision was reached.

Nonetheless, a trade is now a possibility. Piazza would most likely go to an American League club where he could catch and be a designated hitter.

A deal would not necessarily be easy, however, because Piazza is coming off a season in which he missed nearly three months to a groin injury. Also, his numbers have declined the past two seasons. Teams may not be willing to take a chance on Piazza until they see he is healthy and productive again.

According to ESPN.com's Peter Gammons, the Orioles would be interested.

The Red Sox and Dodgers also might have him on their wish lists, according to the Star-Ledger. Boston might consider how Piazza could thrive at Fenway Park. And Los Angeles, the team with which Piazza spent the first 5 seasons of his career and developed into a superstar, might be one NL team interested in acquiring him.

Still, the Mets realize Piazza's worth. A fearsome hitter, Piazza could create a good situation if he can play first base, with Phillips catching. Piazza provides the only real superstar quality on the team as a future Hall of Famer, leaving the Mets without a charismatic marquee figure should they trade him.

Piazza joined the Mets in a trade from the Marlins in 1998, after he'd been traded to Florida by the Dodgers.

Before the 1999 season, Piazza signed a seven-year, $92 million contract to stay in New York where he has enjoyed tremendous success, leading the Mets to the World Series in 2000. Since, however, the team has failed miserably -- not even making the playoffs after their World Series berth, and Piazza has become a scapegoat for its failures.

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