The New York Mets have been conspicuous by their absence in rumors revolving around Cliff Lee, Adrian Beltre, Adrian Gonzalez or Jayson Werth this offseason, and given the state of the club’s finances, that’s no big shock. But given the necessity with which the Amazins will need to uncover a few diamonds in MLB’s very rough free agent junk pile, the Bergen Record’s Steve Popper suggests a rather unpopular candidate to assist GM Sandy Alderson.  To wit, Alderson’s predecessor, the still-on-the-payroll, Omar Minaya.  “If there was one thing that Minaya excelled at during his time with the Mets,” recalls Popper, “and the thing he really took pride in as an executive brought up as a scout “ it was finding the end-of-the-bench piece, an aging veteran or underrated chip.”

While Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo are the contracts that are defining Minaya right now, think instead of R.A. Dickey, Endy Chavez, Jose Valentin, Marlon Anderson, Chris Woodward, Damion Easley, Darren Oliver and Chad Bradford. Think of Fernando Tatis “ at least early in his tenure with the team. Angel Pagan and Pedro Feliciano were bargain pickups. Even in trades Minaya managed to find undervalued gems as often as he missed.

The point is that Alderson is searching for back-of-the-bullpen arms, a starter to fill out the rotation, a backup catcher and a fourth outfielder. And this might be the first test of Moneyball versus old-school scouting.

Whether it was Minaya or his mentor, Sandy Johnson, who was responsible, the Mets were able to fill out the fringes of the roster during recent seasons. Injuries to the roster’s main components did them in repeatedly. But this time, there are no main components on the shopping list.

I mean no disrespect to Popper — who deserves credit for recognizing that Minaya isn’t without his redeeming qualities (for starters, he’s not nearly as toxic or delusional as Isiah Thomas) — but in addition to the injuries suffered by key figures such as Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Jason Bay, Johan Santana and Carlos Delgado during Omar’s tenure, Jerry Manuel was constantly forced to rely on something less than a deep bench. For every R.A. Dickey or Angel Pagan, there was a Frank Catalanotto, a Gary Matthews Jr., an Angel Berroa, a Cory Sullivan. Popper claims Minaya is defined, for better or worse, by Oliver Perez’ contract, but on the bottom feeding end of the spectrum, Minaya is also the guy who lavished nearly $4 million on Alex Cora (and narrowly avoided paying him much more) and gave Kelvim Escobar $1.25 million and received nothing in return.