2005_12_sloduca.jpgWith plenty of time left before the holidays and the start of next year's baseball season, Omar Minaya has checked off his major tasks for the off-season. First baseman, done. Closer, signed. Catcher, officially finished yesterday when the Mets traded for Paul Lo Duca from the Marlins as Florida continued their fire sale. Minaya acquired Lo Duca from the Marlins for 21 year-old pitching prospect Gaby Hernandez and another minor league player to be named later. Lo Duca, who is 33 years-old, was born in Brooklyn, grew up as a Mets fan, and is excited to play for the team. He said yesterday that he expects the team to win as well, "I'll be disappointed if we don't win the NL East."

The trade for Lo Duca comes less than two weeks after Minaya offered contracts to Ramon Hernandez and Bengie Molina, two of the best free-agent catchers available. By trading for Lo Duca, who has a two year $12.5 million contract, there is a potential savings of $2 million a year for the Mets.

Lo Duca, a career .285 hitter and two-time All Star is a minor upgrade defensively for the Mets. With the Marlins last year, he had only 6 home runs and 57 RBI, but also had only 31 stirkeouts. His ability as a contact hitter had Minaya mention him as a possible #2 hitter.