Would the Rockies Trade Tulowitzki for this Package?
Sure, Jon, the Mets SHOULD make that offer. And then be prepared for the Rockies to mildly chuckle prior to slamming the phone down.
To try to put this in perspective, let’s start first with the fan revolt that would occur in Denver if such a deal was consummated. As a Mets fan, imagine if the Mets traded David Wright, plus $30M in return for four guys you never heard of, and one journeyman .500 fifth starter. You’d be thrilled, right? Especially when you found out that the guy who would be stepping into D-Wright’s position was a question mark both offensively and defensively — right?
But let’s pretend that selling tickets and appeasing the fan base is not part of the equation. Is a package of Syndergaard, Gee, Montero, Plawecki, and Flores enough to pry Tulowitzki away from Colorado?
No way. It sounds like a Mets fan’s fantasy. Actually, it almost sounds like the kind of deal that a Yankees fan might call in to WFAN — “hey, I don’t see why the Yankees can’t trade, uh, Chris Young, Brendan Ryan, Garrett Jones, and Chris Capuano for Tulowitzki. Hey, we’ll even throw in Chase Whitley and Didi Gregorius if that’s what it takes.”
Let’s look at the proposed package. Gee is a throw-in and salary dump; I have no idea why Rockies would want him. He’s a career .500 pitcher, a fifth starter, coming off his worst season, and his fly-ball rates wouldn’t play well in thin air. Oh, did I mention he’s damaged goods? No one really knows the extent of his lat muscle injury — all we know is that Gee pitched poorly after returning from the DL. So, don’t even count Gee as part of the package.
Next up, Montero. Here we have a pitcher who will live or die by how well he can paint the corners. If his velocity drops at all, he probably won’t hit his projected ceiling of #3 starter. We’ve heard scouts compare him to Greg Maddux, but he hasn’t shown a consistent off-speed pitch. His ability to prevent homeruns makes him ideal for Colorado, but he wouldn’t be considered a key piece in a deal for someone of Tulowitzki’s caliber.
Then there is Flores, the man without a position. The Mets insist there’s a possibility he might be able to probably play shortstop, maybe. Mets fans are convinced that his 50-game audition is proof that he can handle the position. Sandy Alderson will boast that Flores hit 28 HR in his last 162 minor league games, and he’s still only 23 years old. OK, but what happens when outsiders evaluate Flores? They see a guy who has no speed, highly questionable mobility and fielding ability, likely will need to move to a corner position, and may not hit for power.
Plawecki is another Mets fan favorite — fans love to include him in nearly every trade proposal. They think he’s a stud because he hits for power and squats behind the plate. Or does he? Plawecki’s one tool is his bat, and he’s hit 26 HR in 3 pro seasons and close to 1200 plate appearances. Mets fans love his OBP, which is .372 but has more to do with his batting average than walk rate. He doesn’t strike out much, but that’s because he puts the ball in play. Scouts outside the Mets organization will tell you he’s a dead pull hitter who may have trouble adjusting to off-speed pitches. They’ll also tell you he has a below-average arm and barely adequate skills behind the plate. Baseball America says “Plawecki has the bat to profile as a starting catcher. If not, he could be a valuable part-timer behind the plate and at first base.” Hmm … doesn’t sound like a such a stud after all. He sounds like he might become Ryan Doumit — and Doumit has made a nice career for himself.
Maybe so. But then there is the forearm strain he suffered last year — which many know is a precursor to UCL strains (or tears). His mechanics are inconsistent, and he struggled last year in AAA. People like to point out that Matt Harvey didn’t dominate AAA, either, as if that means anything. The difference between Harvey and Syndergaard is that when Harvey was in AAA, he threw with consistent mechanics, consistent release point, and threw four pitches for strikes, while Syndergaard has a fastball and we don’t yet know what else. His curveball remains a work-in-progress, and he sometimes telegraphs it. He very well could turn out to be a star some day, but right now, remains unpolished. Would Colorado want him? Absolutely, and with Syndergaard is where the trade talks BEGIN.
Hey, I don’t mean to knock Mets players. My point is that outsiders view them differently from insiders and Mets fans; I’m trying to establish a more balanced perspective. I’m sure some of you will disagree with my analyses, and you’re welcome to voice your opinions in the comments.
But regardless, the point here is that Troy Tulowitzki, when healthy, is the best shortstop on the planet. And when he’s playing only half the time, he’s STILL more valuable than nearly every player on the Mets roster right now, and still one of the top players in all of baseball. To acquire a talent like that requires talent in return. Is there risk, due to Tulowitzki’s health issues and age? Heck yeah — but if those risks didn’t exist, he wouldn’t be shopped, and the Mets wouldn’t have any chance to acquire him at all.
If the Mets made the Heyman trade proposal and the Rockies accepted, I’d be worried — it would indicate that the Rox know, for sure, something is wrong with Tulowitzki.
Back in 1984, the Mets “emptied their farm system” for the best catcher in baseball. They traded Hubie Brooks, Mike Fitzgerald, Herm Winningham and Floyd Youmans to the Montreal Expos (yes Virginia, they really did exist) for Gary Carter. Carter at the time was going into his age-31 season, a perennial all-star and MVP candidate. Granted, unlike Tulowitzki, Carter was solid as a rock and showing no signs of wear and tear — he’d just appeared in 159 ballgames in the previous season, including 143 behind the plate. Because of this, you may not like my comparing Carter to Tulowitzki, but there is a clear similarity — if the Mets acquire Tulowitzki, it will have the same impact as acquiring Carter in the winter of ’84 — both in improving the club and in showing the world that the Mets are serious about winning.
If we look more closely at the Carter deal, it was a pretty substantial, bold move. Brooks and Fitzgerald were legit everyday players; Youmans was a flamethrowing, raw talent at that time and very similar to where Syndergaard is right now — he could light up the radar gun, miss bats, and destined to be a potential ace, but was rough around the edges and about a year away from breaking into a big-league rotation. Winningham impressed with his bat, legs, and glove in a September 1984 audition, produced at every minor league level, and likely would’ve been penciled into the 1985 Mets outfield had he not been blocked by Mookie Wilson and Lenny Dykstra. That was a serious package for Carter — far, far more value than the Heyman suggestion for Tulowitzki. Why did the Mets part with those players? Per GM Frank Cashen, as quoted by The New York Times:
“We have parted with some outstanding talent,” Cashen said. “But, to obtain someone of the caliber of Gary Carter, the price isn’t going to come cheaply.”
That’s what the Mets did in the winter of 1984, when they were knocking on the door of first place in the NL East — when they finally made the decision to go “all in.” They made a bold, dramatic move that changed the face of the organization and made crystal-clear their intentions.
But let’s move away from that for a moment; there’s still the matter of Tulowitzki being a major risk due to his annual injury issues, his age, and his most recent hip injury, which some think could impact his future. Well, a few things to consider. First off, the risk is a big reason Tulowitzki is available. Second, considering modern medicine, do you believe that career-ending injuries still exist? I’m not so sure. Maybe Tulowitzki won’t be quite the same player he was before, but I doubt he’ll hang up his spikes in the next two years. Third, the last time the Mets had the chance to get an elite, game-changing shortstop on the relative cheap due to injury concerns was the winter of 2010-2011 — and his name was Jose Reyes. Like today with Tulowitzki, the Mets at that time chose to minimize risk and take a “wait and see” approach. In other words, wait until the player proves to be healthy, at which point, the Mets could no longer afford him. In the event the player proves not to be healthy, well, the Mets look smart by not making the move. Either way, the Mets don’t get the player. See how that works?
I’m not necessarily advocating that the Mets put together a richer package than Heyman suggests in order to acquire Tulowitzki; truth is, I doubt very highly that the Mets would take on Tulowitzki’s salary and years — it doesn’t fit into the strategy they’ve been taking for the past four years. Rather, I’d like to first point out that the Heyman package isn’t nearly enough to pry Tulowitzki from Colorado, and second, any Met fan who thinks that package is “too much,” should try to look at it from the perspective of a) an outsider, and b) a Mets fan who wants to see the team truly and sincerely “go for it” in 2015.
What will wind up happening with Troy Tulowitzki? Who knows? My guess is he’ll remain in Colorado until at least through spring training, probably through early June. At that point, he’ll prove to the world he’s healthy, and the Rox will deal him to a contender for a massive, blockbuster package. My crystal ball is showing the Yankees, Angels, Tigers, and Mariners. There are also faint visions of the Giants and — perish the thought — Nationals. Yes, I just threw a lot of paint at the wall, but I’m betting one of those teams stick.
In other news, happy holidays. Post your reaction in the comments.