Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Deadline Trade Analysis

I heard the Mets made a couple of deals the other day. I resisted posting about it until now, to try and be a little more rational and less emotional. I've thought about it, and come to a real conclusion about what I think happened on Friday.

Trade 1.
Pirates Get:
3B Ty Wigginton, C Justin Huber, P Matt Peterson
Mets Get:
P Kris Benson

Ok, this deal I hate. I hate it. I think it's terrible. I had plenty of time to sit around and think, "Hey, maybe this won't be such a bad deal in the end." but I can't justify it. I'll note that we didn't directly trade Huber to the Pirates, but traded him to the Royals for someone we traded to the Pirates.

Let's break down exactly what happened here. Ty Wigginton is a second year player, who nobody ever projected big things from. He played hard, but he generally muddled along at a below-average rate. This season, however, he has been hitting the ball pretty hard and had established himself as a major leaguer, to the tune of .285, 12hr, 42rbi, .334obp.

The minor leaguers included in this deal were also two top-rate Met prospects. Huber hasd been tagged as the "catcher of the future", a description that was increasingly increasingly becoming "catcher of the present". Huber is only 22 years old, yet had already been promoted to AAA. In Binghamton (AA) where he had spent the majority of this season, he was batting .271, 11hr, 33rbi, in only 236 at bats, with a 46-57 bb-k ratio. From what I hear, he plays good defense and had a good concept of the game.

The last guy included in this deal is Matt Peterson, a former second round pick who has been with the Mets since 2000. Though he wasn't blowing anyone away at AA, he was pitching very respectably. This season, he has posted an ERA of 3.27 with 90k's in 104 innings, and only 45 walks. He was also only 22.

And what did we get for all that? Kris Benson, the object of talk radio callers affections for the past few weeks. For those of you who have been interested enough to read, I've been giving plenty of reaons why the Mets shouldn't go after Benson... but after him they went. He's been pretty decent this year, I must admit, but his track record is lengthy and injury-riddled. Even in the optimists scenario, where he keeps up doing what he is doing now, he had a 4.22 ERA in 132 innings before the trade.

May I remind you, that's .59 WORSE than Steve Trachsel, who nobody gives a damn about because he isn't flashy on the mound and he's bland and kind of not good-looking.

Moving on to....
Trade 2
Devil Rays Get:
P Scott Kazmir, P Joselo Diaz
Mets Get:
P Victor Zambrano, P Bartolome Fortunado

I'm probably going to surprise a lot of people when I say I didn't hate the idea of acquiring Zambrano. I never would have done it at the price of Kazmir, who is an amazing talent and on the fast-track toward the big leagues... I'll let the numbers speak for themselves.

At Binghamton this year: 1.73 ERA, and 16 hits and 29 strikeouts in 26 innings. Only 9 walks. No homers allowed. The kid is only 20 years old. Yeah, he's only 6'0" (which is short for a pitcher) and 170lbs (which is light), but he's a major league talent. And he's younger than me.
Joselo Diaz was a pitcher we got in the Jeremy Burnitz deal last year... a talent, with an electric arm, but nothing major. At least not at this stage.

So what did we get in return? Another pitcher with a high ERA... this time, 4.43. Zambrano is a real enigma - he allows only a .230 batting average against, but runs into a ton of trouble because he leads the AL in walks and hit batsmen. He's been up and down this year, but he's also managed to will his way to a 35-27 career record with the lowly Devil Rays. So there's something to him... he strikes out a ton of guys, and he's hard to hit. If he can harness his abilities, there's no reason to believe that he can't be like many other pitchers who have gotten over control problems to become dominant (Randy Johnson, anyone?)

So those are the deals. Now for a breakdown of what happened.

The Zambrano deal, like I said earlier, wasn't the worst idea. I would have loved to have acquired him for something other than Kazmir, because the Devil Rays were fishing Zambrano for a while anyway. I really wish we had held on to Kazmir, and to hell with the risk of a prospect not panning out. There's a large school of thought that believes sitting around and waiting on prospects is a stupid idea, because there is so much left up to chance. But I'm not one of those people.

I feel, personally, that we should stick with what we've got. I made a post recently imploring the Mets to stay put and stick with our own guys. There's a certain feeling you get with players who have come up through your minor league system, or who have been on the squad for a while. Players like Alfonzo and Reyes and Vance Wilson - you get a little more attached to them, you trust them more. I would have loved to see Kazmir, as well as Huber and Peterson, in Met jerseys in the near future... but instead we have Benson and Zambrano. Virtual strangers. I mean, they are all strangers to us, but emotionally, there's something different about these trades, these conscripts.

Also worth noting - the Mets were offered a straight up Alfonso Soriano for Scott Kazmir trade in the offseason, and they DIDN'T take it. Yes, Soriano of the 40hr-40sb potential.
In my personal opinion, and I don't know what that means to anyone out there, I think the Mets made some bad moves this week. With some time to contemplate, I've decided that they weren't downright awful.... just bad. We did acquire two pitchers who can be with the team for a while (Benson is 29, Zambrano is 28). We got two guys who were decent, with some potential down the road for improvement. But why? Why do it now? The Mets were 7 games out of first place on the day the trades were made... and as noted earlier, that is a deficit that is nearly impossible to overcome. Since the trade, we have slipped to 9 games back.

So at what cost did we marginally improve the rotation? Kazmir, Peterson, and Huber, were three of our top five prospects... trading them all away greatly handicaps our future both in terms of talent and finances. Rookies and young players basically play for minimum wage for the first 4 years or so... the Mets now have to deal with a big contract for Benson and arbitration for Zambrano in like 07.

Mets 4th and 5th spots in rotation before/after trades:
Jae Seo: 4.86 ERA // Kris Benson 4.22 ERA
Matt Ginter: 4.79 ERA // Vic Zambrano 4.43 ERA

Not exactly earth shattering....

Its been proposed that the Mets did these deals because of our pitching coach, Rick Peterson, and his ability to turn around pitchers. Fix their mechanics and whatnot. Good idea? No. Bad idea.

So I don't really know what else to say. It's hard to weigh in on both of these trades... I've been basically inconsolable about Benson trade since it was made though... and the fact that he got shelled in his first start didn't help anything. If we could have used some of those prospects in the Benson deal to get Zambrano instead, I would have been a lot happier... because I think the Mets have plenty of in-house options for the 4th and 5th spots in the rotation.

I promised I would keep this brief, but I couldn't. I didn't even say all that I had to, but fearing that I will alienate my readers, I'll cut myself off now. All we can do, as Met fans, is hope that these two guys can push us to the East title next season (because it sure as hell isnt happening now) and that Kazmir, Peterson and Huber, don't turn out as well as we're all expecting. Meh.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Stayin' With Who Brung Ya

Alan Schwarz, a writer for ESPN.com, has hit the nail on the head today. His article, "Duquette in no-win situation", adequately outlines the problem that Mets GM Jim Duquette faces today as the Mets linger on the fringe of the playoff race.

There's currently a lot of talk in baseball about the Mets, Jim Duquette and
unenviable position he's in: Knowing what's best for the organization and yet
having the weight of 10 million tri-state yahoos ready to tar and feather him
for it.

This was a refreshing article to read. Of course, it was a little depressing, verification of my fears that the Mets really aren't in the race as much as we would hope them to be... but that sadness is outweighed by the fact that we finally got an honest perspective on the whole thing. I'm tired of listening to these talk-radio callers who don't know anything, or reading articles by guys in the NY Post of Daily News who have no concept of the future, or who are trying to sell papers. It's frustrating.

Of course, I'm just a student, and far away from the players and managers and businessmen who really make the decisions in baseball... but even I can see that making a deadline deal just doesn't make sense for the Mets right now. At least, not a BUYING/win-now deal. This article is basically a summary of every argument I have made regarding the Mets this season, to every thick-skulled neanderthal who thinks that a team who is currently 48-51 can win a World Series. People who point to the exception (the '97 and '03 Marlins, the '84 Royals, the '86 Mets) rather than the Rule.

Schwarz, who is a professional, did the work for me on this one. He dug up the numbers, and made a convincing arguments for the Mets to do the frustrating thing - to stand pat.

Well, five games is a lot -- a lot more than most people realize. Since 1969,
there have been 112 teams between 4-6½ games back on July 31, and just nine of
them came back to win. That's 8 percent, or about a one in 12 shot. (Those clubs
were far more likely to finish the season at least 10 games out than truly
remain in the race.) Of the teams that did win, only the 1984 Royals jumped over
three teams, which is what's facing the Mets.

I'm giddy about our future. Although our stars are all on the old side (Al Leiter is 38, Tom Glavine is 38, Mike Piazza is 36) we have a very intriguing team right now. I'll let Schwarz tell you about it.

The reason Duquette shouldn't sacrifice the future is that he's actually got one
-- one which other executives envy. The Mets' only existing deals past next year
are to left fielder Cliff Floyd, center fielder Mike Cameron and shortstop Kazuo
. They have two young, talented infielders (Jose Reyes and David Wright) who will be inexpensive contributors. They have a fine stable of pitching prospects (Scott Kazmir, Matt Peterson and several mid-level guys) from which one or two can join the rotation within a year or two. Given that the team can carry a top-five payroll, this club is about to have more wiggle room than Calista Flockhart in Tony Soprano's tux.

And he's absolutely right. We're looking at the best crop of prospects we've seen in years, and this isn't just wild speculation - Reyes is already a star at the major league level, and Wright is here as well and could be a star. Lastings Milledge is a legitimate OF prospect, and Victor Diaz is crushing the ball at Triple-A. We've got a lot of pitching in the high minors - in Kazmir (dominant at AA), Keppel (struggling at AAA), Peterson (doing well at AA), Yates (back in the ML), Ring (closing in AAA) - so it's no longer just pinning our dreams on one injury-plagued guy (Alex Escobar) or on guys doing well in the lowest minors.

Combine all that cheap, young talent, with the fact that the Mets are the third-richest team in baseball (behind the Yankees and Red Sox) and we can go places with this team. Even without our aging stars, we've got a nucleus that will be around for a while. Imagine what just a few high-profile additions can do to that?

Plenty of reason for Met fans to be encouraged. Enjoy this season as we return to prominence... but don't expect too much. I'm comforted to know I'm not the only one who feels that way... save those unreasonable expectations for 2005 and beyond.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Kris Benson to the Mets?

Mets swung a deal today, Karim Garcia for Mike DeJean of the Orioles.

Although DeJean has been awful this season, and has bad career stats on the road, and bad career stats at Shea, and has a 1.52 WHIP, I still like the chance we're taking. Shea is a great pitchers park and we've got a great pitching coach - maybe DeJean can turn it around for us. He did close in Milwaukee for a while successfully, and the cost of Karim Garcia is almost nothing. I liked the guy, but he had no role on the team anymore now that we've got Hidalgo. I'm happy with it.

Another Met thought.
Player A 4.59 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 42k in 86 innings.
Player B 4.26 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 75k in 118 innings
Player C 4.80 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 31k in 54 innings

Who are these guys? Player A and C are on the Mets now, and Player B is being construed as the *great savior* by the New York media. Player A and C are Jae Seo and Matt Ginter, currently in the 4 and 5 slots in the pitching rotation. Player B is Kris Benson, a Pittsburgh Pirate who everyone wants us to trade our starting third baseman for.

I'm not seeing much of an improvement there - I say the Mets stick with their guys and ride this out, we'll have a much better run of things when both our offense and pitching starts clicking at the same time.

Besides, check out Benson's recent stats.

2002 : 9-7 4.70 ERA, 1.55 WHIP
2003 : 5-9, 4.97 ERA, 1.55 WHIP
Some improvement.