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OLNEY: THE HEAT IS ON IN NY

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ESPN Insider's Buster Olney on the challenge facing Omar Minaya this offseason:

Omar Minaya took over the Mets a year ago and splashed down loudly, signing Pedro Martinez, signing Carlos Beltran, rightly getting loads of credit as the team made strong progress and increased its victory total from 71 to 83.

Third baseman David Wright advanced from promising rookie to rising superstar, and shortstop Jose Reyes gradually reduced some of his inconsistency; he's already dangerous, and he's probably going to become much more than that.

But here's when the tough part begins for Minaya, who might have the greatest challenge of any executive in baseball this offseason.

By and large, the Mets' fan base didn't anticipate a division title in 2005. They just wanted to see the Mets getting better, and perhaps contending along the way -- and that's exactly what they got. Next season, however, the expectations will be different.

The Braves again seem vulnerable, with their continued problems in their bullpen and with the possible departure of shortstop Rafael Furcal. The Marlins could have an ugly offseason, with general manager Larry Beinfest forced to consider a trade of slugger Carlos Delgado to meet a budget that Beinfest won't discuss. The Nationals are in the process of being sold, and the 2006 general manager -- whether it's Jim Bowden or Theo Epstein -- will be forced to work with a barren farm system, a mediocre base of major league talent and perhaps some financial restrictions. The Phillies could be improved, but they have a significant personnel problem at first base and a precarious situation at the back end of their bullpen.

The Mets should, considering all that, be in position to win next year, and they should aim to win the division as soon as possible, with Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine closer to 40 years old than 30. They've got to take advantage of Martinez's ability while he is still healthy and productive.

But the Mets have enormous weaknesses that need to be addressed before Opening Day, problems that won't be easily solved.

First and foremost: Their bullpen is an abyss, a blank slate. They need to identify a closer and three quality middle guys. Some of the solutions could develop from within, but it's evident they will have to use the bulk of their available resources to plug their bullpen hole.

They're ready to offer Billy Wagner everything from Montauk to Buffalo, as Dave Lennon writes, but it may be that Wagner will simply use the Mets as leverage and then re-sign with the Phillies.

The free agent market is flush with closers, so the Mets will get somebody, whether it's B.J. Ryan or Trevor Hoffman or Todd Jones. But they'll need to sign at least two other middle men, as well; that'll be pricey.

They need a catcher, to replace Mike Piazza. Maybe it'll be Bengie Molina, or Ramon Hernandez. But that'll cost a lot, as well, because they can't afford to go the cheap route; they have to get an established guy who can do all the necessary defensive work, plus add the offense.

If I were in Minaya's shoes, I would look to trade Cliff Floyd right now, while his value is high. Over the last 10 seasons, Floyd has had only four in which he's played in more than 121 games, and now he's coming off a year in which he played 150 games, slammed 34 homers and drove in 98 runs.

He'll be 33 years old, he's a good guy, he's slated for free agency next fall, he's making a reasonable salary of about $7 million next year; he's never going to have this much value, and he's always high risk. You watch Floyd run and move stiffly around the field, you cringe, wondering if he's about to blow out; he'll be a full-time designated hitter within three years. He never has fit in Shea Stadium, where outfield defense is very much necessary. The Mets should move him now and try to get a couple of good hard-throwing arms, then turn around and use the savings to get a younger, left-handed hitting outfielder -- Jacque Jones, formerly of the Twins, would be a perfect fit.

Then you go to Carlos Beltran and you tell him: Look, we're trying to win, and our best defensive outfielder on the roster is Mike Cameron. We're putting Cameron back in center and you move to right field. You are still The Man, the guy getting the most money, and when Cameron leaves, you go back to center. But with an outfield of Jones, Cameron and Beltran, the Mets would have the best outfield defense in the majors, well-suited to serve the pitching staff.

They need some help at first base, but that's all secondary. Address the bullpen, get a good catcher, move Floyd now, and make the team all about pitching and defense. It's a tough assignment for Minaya, but there is pressure on him now. The honeymoon is over.

Some interesting ideas. Jacque Jones isn't much of a hitter so I'm not keen on that one, but moving Beltran to right with Cameron playing center is what the Mets should have done last season (and many of us were proponents of at the time).