Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Following Up On The Milledge Trade

On December 12, 2007, I said this about the trade:

We traded 22-year old Lastings Milledge for a 31-year old catcher who can’t hit and for a 28-year old right-fielder worse than him. We traded him within the division. This is a nightmare scenario.

So where do we stand today, two years later?

Brian Schneider, after posting a 707 OPS and having a bad season defensively, did even worse this year. He started 52 games, hit .218 and slugged .335. His 65 OPS+ was second worst among all Mets who got at least 100 at bats this season (ahead of only Jeremy Reed).

Ryan Church, whether justifiably struggling after his concussions or not, also stunk. He posted a 707 OPS and was traded for Jeff Francoeur.

Francoeur, shockingly, was pretty good in his time with the Mets, batting .311, with a .338 OBP and slugging .498. He didn't set the world on fire, but drove in 41 runs in 70 games. He was competent, with a 118 OPS+.

Where does that leave us? Brian Schneider will be non-tendered, leaving us only with Jeff Francoeur. So the trade essentially becomes Lastings Milledge for Jeff Francoeur.

Francoeur is a right fielder who has a career .311 on base percentage. His career OPS+ is 92. He strikes out four times more than he walks, and he has no speed. His arm in right field is powerful, but hasn't shown that he covers a particularly large amount of ground in right. He made only one error this season, and had 11 outfield assists.

Milledge, on the other hand, was injured early in the year. Since his return from the disabled list with Pittsburgh, he batted .291, posted a .333 on base percentage, and slugged .395. He beats Francoeur in average and on base percentage. He is an accomplished base stealer, having stolen 24 bases for Washington in 2008. He is a natural corner outfielder, but can play a passable center field if pressed. In 56 games, he made no errors and had an excellent 6 outfield assists.

So, who wins? Francoeur with the power, or Milledge with the on-base percentage and speed? How about a tie breaker?

Age: Francoeur 25. Milledge 24 (14 months younger, with time lost to injury)

Salary for 2009:
Francoeur -- 3.375 million. And with 708 games played of MLB experience, he is almost a free agent.

Milledge -- 0.462 million. And with 318 games played, is much further from free agency, and is subject to arbitration.

If we had Milledge, we would have a younger player, who is a superior defender, with a broader range of abilities (speed, on base, fielding) who posts a superior batting line, who has a higher upside, and who is much much cheaper for the next two years. Clearly, Mets lose. I wish we could trade Francoeur for Milledge today, but the Pirates would never accept it.

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