Winter Meetings Wrap-up

A quick rundown on what happened between the last winter meetings update and the end of the meetings …

The Dodgers traded Matt Kemp, catcher Tim Federowicz, and $32M to the San Diego Padres in exchange for catcher Yasmani Grandal and right-handed pitchers Joe Wieland and Zach Eflin. Whoa. I know that LA had a logjam in the OF, a bloated payroll, and needed a catcher, but was this the best they could do? Especially when they sent so much cash to San Diego? Think of it this way: how many MLB teams would salivate over the possibility of having a difference-maker and potential MVP on their roster for the next 5 years for the “measly” sum of $75M? In today’s market, that’s a steal for a power hitter. Yeah, Kemp is 30 years old and his best days are behind him, but again, think about it from the aspect of what a team gets in return for 5/75. Compare that to, for example, the fact that Albert Pujols will be getting $130M over the next five years — and will still be due another $59M over the next two beyond that! And really, isn’t it likely that Kemp and Pujols have similar production between now and 2019? Or, compare to the contract Pablo Sandoval just signed — 5 years, $95M. Will Sandoval be more productive than Kemp? Aren’t there similar questions regarding age and health?

Also, it seems that the Dodgers flipped Elfin to Philadelphia, added lefty Tom Windle, and possibly included someone else in return for Jimmy Rollins. All the particulars are not yet in place, but it seems that Rollins to LA is a done deal.

Rollins’ double-play partner will be Howie Kendrick, acquired from the Angels for Andrew Heaney — the prospect LA plucked from the Fish as part of the Dee Gordon deal.

Finally, the Hollywood boys signed Brandon McCarthy to a 4-year, $48M contract. Yowza. That seems like a lot of money and years for a 30-something starter with a very spotty injury history and only one MLB season of more than 170 innings pitched. Wouldn’t the Dodgers have been better off keeping Kemp and his contract?

So that was just the Dodgers. In other news …

The Phillies continued their tear-down by sending Antonio Bastardo to the Pirates in return for minor league LHP Joely Rodriguez. Doesn’t seem like big news, but Bastardo appeared in 244 games over the past 4 years, averaging about 11 Ks per 9 innings. This is a great under-the-radar pickup for the Bucs, and at first glance, seems puzzling by the Phillies — couldn’t they have received more in return for a proven, fairly solid lefthanded reliever who misses bats? Rodriguez’s minor league numbers are unspectacular, and he’s “old” (23) for someone who just spent his first year in AA and produced a stat line that suggests a repeat at that level. However, there’s more to Rodriguez than the numbers — he’s lefthanded, for one, and he’s spent his entire pro career as a starter. In that capacity, he’s touched 95 MPH with a four-seamer, though usually operates on the corners with a 91-93 MPH two-seamer / sinker. Hmm … sounds similar to the lefthanded version of a young Bobby Parnell. Maybe the Phillies think that a move to the bullpen and another year of seasoning will turn Rodriguez into another — shall we say? — Antonio Bastardo?

The Red Sox rival the Dodgers in their winter activity. We already covered the signings of Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez that occurred prior to meetings, and since then, they also re-signed Koji Uehara, signed Justin Masterson, traded for Wade Miley, and sent Yoenis Cespedes to Detroit for Rick Porcello. A week ago, the Bosox were desperate for pitching — particularly starting pitching — and it appeared as though they might be a potential trade partner for the Mets, considering that Boston had a surplus of outfielders such as Cespedes, Shane Victorino, and Allen Craig, as well as a possible surplus of shortstops. Well, now with Porcello and Masterson added to the staff, I don’t know if there will be dialogue between the Red Sox and Mets. Though, I could see Dillon Gee sent to Beantown for Craig — our own Dan Capwell suggested Allen Craig as a possible target a few weeks ago. Seems feasible to me — what do you think? I still don’t like the idea of trading Gee, but if the Mets are intent on dumping his salary, getting Craig would seem to be a good fit, based on their desire to find a RH-hitting corner guy to keep Lucas Duda on the bench against LHPs. Thoughts?

Rumor had it that when the Mets called about Cespedes, Boston insisted on Jacob deGrom or Zack Wheeler in return. I’m sure every Mets fan believed that was preposterous, but if you step back and look at it from a non-biased perspective, it wasn’t an obnoxious demand and it was worth considering. Of course, one has to take off the blue and orange glasses and understand that Wheeler and deGrom are not guaranteed to become Cy Young Award winners. It could be argued that Boston received a better return than either Wheeler or deGrom in landing Porcello, who is about the same age (25) as both Mets hurlers but has 6 full seasons of MLB experience. He might not win a Cy Young or be the ace of a staff, but he’s a proven, valuable entity — he’s won 14 or more games three times, won in double-digits every season, has taken the ball 30 times a year in five of his six seasons, and is coming off his very best season as a pro. The one thing Porcello doesn’t do is miss bats, and if you over-value that skill, then you might think Porcello isn’t as valuable as deGrom or Wheeler. Then there’s the other big point: Porcello, like Cespedes, will be a free-agent after 2015. I know many of you don’t feel it makes sense to trade for a one-year rental, but a) it’s always possible to extend players; and b) at some point, when a team decides it’s going “all in,” there likely will be a few rentals to help getting to the postseason. I’m not suggesting that the Mets should have traded deGrom or Wheeler for Cespedes; all I’m saying is that it isn’t nearly as inconceivable as the Mets blogosphere perceived. The Mets need offense, and are looking for homerun power in particular. Today, that kind of player has a high cost. Cespedes is one of those players. I also wonder if this time next year, people will be wondering if the Mets should have “sold high” on deGrom (or Wheeler) — reminds me a little of the winters when no Mets fan wanted to give up Lastings Milledge for Manny Ramirez.

The White Sox are right behind the Red Sox and Dodgers in terms of winter activity. They signed David Robertson (I don’t remember if we covered that one or not. In any case, scratch him off your Christmas list), traded for LOOGY Dan Jennings, and traded for Jeff Samardzija. They also just signed Melky Cabrera.

The Cubs signed Jon Lester.

The Reds traded Mat Latos to the Marlins for Anthony DeSclafani and Chad Wallach, and traded Alfredo Simon to Detroit Tigers for SS Eugenio Suarez and RHP Jonathon Crawford. I don’t understand either of these deals from the Cincinnati perspective, and don’t understand if they’re shooting for the postseason or rebuilding. Regardless, the Fish now have a new version of Josh Johnson — a starter with ace-like stuff, IF you can get him on the mound. They’re rolling the dice that Latos will remain healthy enough to be a factor, but I’m betting against it. Latos has battled various arm issues through the years and his mechanics are dangerous. Funny how those two things go hand in hand.

The Cardinals signed Mark Reynolds. Hmm … he wouldn’t have been a terrible option for the Mets for that RH-hitting corner guy with power playing twice a week role.

There were other moves during the meetings that I missed, I’m sure. And there have been more moves since last week, that we’ll get to shortly. Is it me, or have the last few weeks been unusually crazy in terms of player movement?

Post your notes in the comments.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Bat December 15, 2014 at 9:32 pm
    Joe raises an interesting point about the “blue and orange glasses”.

    I read three other Mets blogs besides this one, and while I think Joe is sometimes too negative I think one of the other sites is always far too positive, and the other two can at times drift into the same excessive positivity: believing that all Mets prospects will pan out, and that guys like Wheeler and deGrom are guaranteed to be perennial All Stars.

    Porcello’s had an impressive career so far: 15.3 fWAR through his age 25 season, and he’ll pitch all of 2015 at age 26. No, he’s not a strikeout pitcher at 5.49 strikeouts per nine innings but that doesn’t mean he isn’t successful.

    I would have loved to see Porcello on the Mets, but I’m not so sure the Mets infield defense would have been a match for him as this Fangraphs article seems to indicate he’s a ground ball pitcher: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/do-the-red-sox-have-a-ground-ball-fetish/

    As I wrote in a previous post, I’m worried about the Mets defense with TDA a work in process behind the plate; an aging Wright at 3B, Flores at SS (’nuff said), Murphy at 2B (not a good defensive player despite the occasional nice play that leads other blogs to claim he’s improving), Duda at 1B (slightly below average in my opinion), Cuddyer in LF/RF at age 36, and Grandy in RF/LF at age 34 (in a steady decline defensively at this point that is unlikely to be reversed).

    In my opinion, only Lagares looks above average and Wright is average: every other starting defensive player is either slightly below average (like Duda) or worse.

    That defensive alignment is very concerning to me yet you don’t really see anyone analyzing the entire defense of the Mets and pointing this out.

    • Joe Janish December 16, 2014 at 1:40 pm
      I’m “sometimes too negative”? That sounds so … negative. 😉

      I prefer to term my perspective as “fair and balanced.” Our society has evolved into extremism, where one is either for something or a “hater,” in politics, sports opinions, child-rearing, business strategy — nearly every aspect of our lives. If you don’t like the movie “12 Years a Slave,” you’re a racist. If you don’t like Obamacare, you don’t believe people should have access to free medicine. If you don’t want to be part of “Occupy Wall Street,” then you must be a wealthy person who wants to keep the working man down. If you If you point out Dan Murphy’s horrific defense, you’re a hater.

      Here, I try to keep a balanced perspective on the Mets, and often, that means going a little overboard to balance out the effusive praise spewed from that other far-too-positive blog you mention.

      /off soapbox

      Good point on Porcello’s ground-ball rates being a mismatch for the Mets’ heavy-handed infield. It seems the strategy is to get fly-ball / high-K pitchers on the mound in Flushing, and keep fingers crossed that there aren’t too many ground balls. I’m not sure if that’s a recipe for success — particularly when one keeps moving in the fences — but I’m curious to know if anyone has ever done an advanced study on championship teams that had pitching staffs with high fly-ball rates. Can anyone point to a source? My google brain is fuzzy right now, but maybe I’ll do some searching after I have some coffee.

      • Dan42 December 16, 2014 at 3:41 pm
        Manning the outfield corners with impaired veterans is not a recipe for success with fly ball pitchers either. This team needs Ks, and lots of them.
  2. argonbunnies December 16, 2014 at 7:36 am
    Joe, agreed that the Dodgers may miss Kemp’s bat, and that his bat might be a bargain at the price the Padres got, but I’m surprised that you didn’t get more into the defensive impact of these trades. Kemp’s play in the field had gotten really ugly, and Rollins is a huge upgrade from Hanley. McCarthy hasn’t been durable, but he doesn’t walk anyone and could really thrive with a good defense behind him. Yasmani Grandal always looks like an elite hitter against the Mets, so there’s upside there too. Maybe they gave a little too much money to McCarthy and the Padres, but I like the Dodgers’ moves on the W-L front.

    As for the Sandoval comparison, well, Kemp’s a better hitter, but Pablo’s been healthier, and the difference between 28 and 30 is pretty big these days…

  3. Bat December 16, 2014 at 5:24 pm
    Joe is correct that the team’s focus has been strikeout / flyball pitchers, but I agree with Dan42 where he basically says how can that be the plan when you’ve got Cuddyer and Granderson in the OF on most days when RHP are pitching against the Mets?

    I am very worried about the defense and I don’t think it gets better until Murphy is traded and Flores / Herrera begins to man 2B and they get a SS who can field well. That will significantly tighten up the middle of the diamond and, with Lagares in CF, would combine to make you feel pretty good about the Mets up the middle defense.

  4. argonbunnies December 16, 2014 at 6:37 pm
    With Gee and Colon on the mound, both low-strikeout righties, do you know who the Mets’ biggest defensive asset is (after Lagares, of course)?

    Lucas Duda.

    Be afraid.

  5. Vilos December 16, 2014 at 8:16 pm
    The way I see it is, the Mets played all of last year and the year before with Murphy, Wright and some combination of Duda/Davis. At short we had Tejada or Quintanilla. Correct? So basically its the same infield as 2015 except for Flores. Was the 2014 infield that bad? I dont know what the stats say, but they turned their share of DP, made most of the plays they were supposed to and didnt lose too many games as I recall, but I could bbe wrong.
    So this defensive concern is about Flores. I guess its a reasonable concern, but Tejada will still be around, Flores still has to prove he can hit and some type of upgrade can still arrive.
    The outfield is basically the same except for Cuddyer. We know Kirk and MDD can play defense and Mayberry seams to be a good athlete, and Granderson is also a good athlete, so can Cuddyer be that bad?
    Finally, I´ll bet that TDA gets a lot better defensively this year.
    • Joe Janish December 16, 2014 at 8:52 pm
      The way I remember it, the Mets were a losing team last year and the year before with the same infield, which would be defensively even weaker with Flores at shortstop.

      The outfield IS basically the same except for Cuddyer — and the fact that Granderson is likely to get even worse with another year of age. At what point does the lack of range on the corners wear down Lagares?

      Mayberry is not a good defender. But I don’t see him playing very often, anyway. In fact he may be released before July.

      If it were me, I’d have more Kirk and MDD in the corners and less Grandy/Cuddyer.

      I would like to hear your reasoning behind TDA getting a lot better defensively. I don’t doubt it can happen, I’m just curious.

  6. DanS December 16, 2014 at 9:09 pm
    Joe: I haven’t been following the blog long enough to know: have you written at any length about the Mets finances? Stadium debt, etc.? It seems that thanks to TV almost every other team in the league is flashing cash, even the Marlins are spending. Mets TV money has been going somewhere, and it’s not showing up on the field. I think the long-term financial well-being of the team is of more importance than whether the team fields such defensive liabilities as Flowers, Murphy, and TDA (sorry, I see no evidence that he’s going to get any better). Your thoughts, please.
    • DanB December 17, 2014 at 1:06 am
      Just what this blog needs — more guys named Dan. Is it me or are half the people in this blog named Dan? Well Dan, like you this Dan believes that Met finances are more important then their farm system or off season personnel moves. I think the Met’s second biggest obstacle is their finances. Their first is poor judgement of their owners. I believe the Mets are still in “cut spending” mode because they still have a large debt to refinance relating to SNY and they have their eye on developing the area around Citi Field which will take even more money. However these topics are not sexy and have been discussed to the point of boredom.
      • DanS December 17, 2014 at 11:52 am
        Sorry about the boredom. I’m stuck in the wilds of western Mass. and news travels slowly. (And at this point I’m already bored with the 2015 Mets!) I can’t believe the ownership may have the wherewithal to “develop” the area around CitiField, but no cash to put a decent team on the field.
        • DanB December 17, 2014 at 12:53 pm
          Actually, I enjoy discussions on the subject and wish we had more people online interested in it as I do think it effects wins and losses more then most of what we discuss. Unfortunately, I think I am in the minority though.
        • david December 17, 2014 at 6:20 pm
          I definitely care about wins and losses, but Dan S is on the money.

          For the Wilpons a “win” means securing Jeffrey’s progeny with a healthy trust fund from the property development in Flushing.

      • DanS December 17, 2014 at 12:37 pm
        Didn’t say more important than building a farm system, but certainly more important than endless discussions of the 2015 team’s all-too-apparent inadequacies.
        • DanB December 18, 2014 at 12:15 am
          By the way, Alderson has admitted the Mets have a budget and it is way lower then we have been led to believe. He said he is interested in some of the free agent shortstops but only if their price comes down. Well, if he thought these shortstops were not better then Flores, then he wouldn’t have interest in them at any price. But obviously he thinks they are better but he can’t afford market price. Flores’ only advantage is price, not quality. Not the words of a team committed to winning.
  7. Vilos December 16, 2014 at 9:39 pm
    Hello,
    No stats or specific knowledge behind my bet. Sorry
    Im basing it on first of all, blue and orange glasses, second that he only has one full season behind him, third, that he was a very valuable prospect across more the one organization, fourth, I recall Joe having written well about him, and finally, I think he might have been afected by the shots he took to the head.
    With respect to Granderson, the guy seems focused and inteligent, so he´ll work out and another year should not affect his atleticism or fielding. Yes, he has a weak arm, but I understand he´s moving to left.
    Finally, the Mets improved slightly last year, hopefully will continue the trend this year. Was the infield defense the main cause?
  8. Bat December 16, 2014 at 10:00 pm
    I agree with everything Joe wrote in his most recent post – the Mets weren’t previously good defensively which contributed to their poor records in recent seasons and are only likely to get worse – except the one point Joe made that I disagree with is that Mayberry is not a good defensive outfielder.

    Advanced metrics indicate Mayberry isn’t great but according to Fangraphs and a second source which said the same thing (which unfortunately I am embarrassingly forgetting right now) the only reason Mayberry rates bad on those defensive metrics is because he was being used sometimes as a CF. Keep in LF or RF, said those two different articles, and he’ll be average to slightly above average as a corner OF.

    On the Mets I think he will be used exclusively in RF or LF barring an injury because either MDD or Niewenhuis will make the team as a backup OF and more specifically will back up CF.

  9. Bat December 16, 2014 at 10:17 pm
    One last thought: Joe said he wouldn’t be surprised if Mayberry is released before July and I agree but I also wonder if it’s possible Mayberry doesn’t make the cut out of spring training?

    I was very surprised to see Puello not designated for assignment when the Mets added Mayberry. Instead, they designated Gonzalez Germen, which means they think (a) Puello can add more value to the major league team or (b) Puello has trade value.

    With respect to (a), Puello is out of options and if he doesn’t make the team out of spring training then he needs to be designated for assignment (i.e., traded or released).

    The answer probably lies with (b) so I’m thinking they hope Puello tears it up in spring training and they can deal him for something.

    But let’s just suppose for a second that Mayberry completely pisses the bed in spring training and Puello destroys LHP, which has been his history in the minors (other than last year). What happens? Mayberry clearly has the inside track on the job as the cheap Mets would owe him $1.45 million (or whatever amount he signed for) and the Mets are unfortunately likely to take that amount into account rather than saying it is a sunk cost and giving the job to the best man.

    So again I think it is unlikely that Mayberry is cut in spring training but I do think it is remote possibility.

    So this post of mine agrees with what Joe says and further says it is possible that Mayberry is out of the picture even earlier.

    Or maybe Mayberry hits the snot out of the ball all year and therefore (i) has trade value at the deadline if Mets are out of it or (ii) plays a Danny Heep / Lee Mazzilli type valuable pinch hitter role on the 2015 playoff-bound Mets! Maybe he can even fill in at SS a la Kevin Mitchell?

    Alright, I’ll stop the nonsense here.

  10. DaveSchneck December 18, 2014 at 8:39 am
    IMHO, the Mets’ lack of securing a legit quality lefty for the pen is all the evidence necessary that the finances still trump winning. Alderson would do better doing a Glen Sather impression and remaining silent. His claim about the benefit of competition for that spot in the pen is better than handing the role to a proven professional? What? He also claimed that the time after the meetings to Christmas is quite while others are dealing left and right, and the Nats just has a heist according to the opinions of many. I understand patience on certain fronts, and the Cuddyer move was misinterpreted as aggressive when it was simply forced by the QO acceptance deadline. It’s the same old same old. A fair and balanced assessment would peg the Mets as no better than the 3rd best in their division and 9th best in the NL, and that is debatable. I guess Alderson and Collins think if you repeat a le enough it becomes a truth. This is not a playoff team yet and won’t become one with inactivity or non-roster invitees.