This is still a bit of a surprise, but the signs have been there all winter. Duaner looked very good until about the All-Star Break, but had a terrible second half and wasn't exactly inspiring confidence this spring. Releasing Sanchez also gives the Mets a chance to balance their bullpen a bit, clearing the way for a second left-hander (Ron Villone?) or perhaps Bobby Parnell. The Mets seem to be the only organization in professional baseball that believes Parnell is a major league pitcher; I think that the other 29 teams may be on to something.
Sanchez's release saves the Mets some money too, which may play a bigger part in this decision than people realize. I think the Wilpons, especially after getting burnt by Bernie Madoff, are being very fiscally conservative right now and will be for the foreseeable future. If they release Marlon Anderson in the next 72 hours to save a few more bucks, it will be a clear indication that money is indeed very tight in Queens.
For now, here's a look at my early prediction for will make the Opening Day roster. Remember, I'm not ranking these players in terms of who I think should be there (otherwise Livan Hernandez would be nowhere near this list) - I'm ranking them in terms of who I think will break camp and head north.
I think the Mets are desperate to hand the job to Hernandez or Garcia and stash Niese at Buffalo; it's actually not a bad idea to send the kid to AAA, but I have no confidence in the alternatives. Villone and Parnell are the only two serious candidates for the last bullpen spot, unless Sanchez's release allows Omar Minaya to pursue someone like Will Ohman.
I don't see any serious contests for one of the 13 position player spots, except maybe for the right to be a backup outfielder. The Mets should release Anderson and break camp with Kielty and Reed (unless Pagan is healthy), but I think the front office's man-crush on Marlon still runs too deep for that.