Lastings Milledge was as heavily hyped as any Met prospect during Omar Minaya's tenure. Now, still only 25, Milledge has been non-tendered by the lowly Pirates. That says a lot about the farm system the last few years - both in selecting and developing players.
In recent years, the most heavily hyped Met prospect has been Fernando Martinez. It's too early to write him off - he only just turned 22 - but it's no longer out of the question to imagine him being cut by the Pirates in a few years.
I still remember sweating out the July 31, 2006 trading deadline, the Scott Kazmir trade just two years before, wondering if Omar would use his top chip to add to that powerhouse team. Rumors had Billy Beane seeking Milledge in return for Barry Zito and Omar offering Milledge to the Red Sox for Manny Ramirez.
Omar kept Milledge then, but his trade of Xavier Nady for Roberto Hernandez and Oliver Perez ultimately hurt the franchise more than any Milledge move, creating a hole in right field and establishing a connection to Ollie that would eventually help cause Omar lose his job.
If Omar had been able to trade Milledge to rent two months of Zito, it might have helped the Mets get to the World Series that year. Zito would have made the two starts Ollie made in the NLCS.
Oddly enough, Zito and Ollie had very similar stats in the 2006 postseason, finishing with identical 4.63 ERAs. Both had one good start and one bad start, allowing six earned runs and three homers in 11 2/3 innings. Ollie, believe it or not, had better control, striking out seven and walking three while Zito struck out one and walked six. And Ollie did pitch well in Game 7 of the NLCS.
The worst-case scenario with Zito would have been for the Mets to still fail to reach the World Series, but for Zito to pitch well enough that Omar ended up being the one to sign him to that monstrous seven-year deal that offseason, a deal that still has three years to go. At least Ollie's deal has only one year left.
If Omar were still GM, I doubt he would have non-tendered Chris Carter, who is all the Mets have to show for the misguided Billy Wagner deal, when they should have offered him arbitration instead to get draft choices. I had nothing against Carter, but all that "Animal" hype for what is basically a quadruple-A player was reminiscent of earlier eras when the Mets tried to drum up excitement for mediocre players and teams.
As for Milledge, somehow I doubt the new regime will want to revisit this part of the Mets' past. Even if, in another statistical oddity, according to Baseball Reference, the player most similar to Milledge through age 25 is Cleon Jones.