Mets Pass On Ian Desmond
In case you haven’t already heard, the answer to the Mets’ shortstop problem was nearly solved with Ian Desmond — but the Mets declined.
According to Ken Rosenthal, the Mets would have been part of a three-team blockbuster involving the Nationals and Rays that would have sent Desmond to Flushing, Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar to DC, and two Mets prospects to Tampa Bay. But, Rosenthal says that the Mets declined when the Rays insisted on Noah Syndergaard and another mystery prospect. After the deal fell through, Zobrist and Escobar were shipped to Oakland in return for John Jaso, minor-league shortstop Daniel Robertson (the Athletics’ No. 1 prospect), minor-league outfielder Boog Powell (who posted a .451 on-base percentage at Class A last season, and is NOT related to the “other” Boog Powell), and $1.5 million.
First off, there’s no discussion about whether Ian Desmond would have been an upgrade at shortstop for the Mets — both in the field and in the lineup. Though, I’m sure there are a few dozen people wearing orange and blue sunglasses who will be happy to tell me that there’s no guarantee Desmond won’t be as good or better than Wilmer Flores — whose legend grows by the hour. The fact that the Mets were interested in acquiring Desmond to supplant Flores is evidence enough that the Flushing front office isn’t as sold on the idea as they have been suggesting since September. But hey, if you’re of the ilk that Flores will post a .800+ OPS and be respectable in the field (which Desmond has become, over the years — he’s no Gold Glover but far from a negative) in 2015, then go ahead and blow off steam in the comments.
Next, it’s possible that the two-prospect package upon which the Rays were insisting was too much; they did fetch a fine pair of youngsters from Oakland, as well as a legit everyday MLBer, from Oakland, so it’s fair to assume they were looking for similar value from the Mets. We don’t know the mystery prospect, so everyone is focusing on Syndergaard, and, of course, a Mets fan will be the first to scream that Ian Desmond is not fair value for Syndergaard. A Mets fan probably would also say that Giancarlo Stanton is not worth trading Syndergaard — unless the Marlins included Jose Fernandez and $250M in the deal, and then, MAYBE it MIGHT be worth it.
Further, there is the argument that sending away Syndergaard for one year of Desmond is downright stupid, especially since the Mets can sign Desmond as a free agent next winter and give up only a draft pick.
Well … hmmm …
Here’s the flaw in that second argument — it’s a farce. The Mets CANNOT sign Ian Desmond as a free agent next winter, because they can’t afford him. If they COULD afford him, then they would have been after Hanley Ramirez this winter. Not to mention, there’s no reason why the Mets couldn’t consider the possibility of extending Desmond — either after acquiring him, or, at the very least, requesting a 48-hour window to discuss an extension with Desmond. Sure, the chance was small the window would’ve been granted, and there were odds against getting Desmond to agree to defer his free agency for another year or two, but there’s no harm in asking — the Mets did something similar with Johan Santana not so long ago. But again, that would’ve incurred many millions of dollars that the Mets either can’t or won’t spend.
Should the Mets have done the deal, even with the risk of losing Desmond after the 2015 season? If you’re a frequent reader here, you know my answer — of course! Why not?
If the Mets are serious about making the postseason in 2015, then yes, absolutely — make the trade and figure out how to keep Desmond beyond ’15 later. Subtracting Desmond from the Nationals, replacing him with Zobrist and Escobar, and adding him to the Mets makes the Mets a serious Wild Card contender and a legitimate threat for the NL East crown if a few things break right in Flushing and a few things break wrong in DC. Desmond is that good all-around, and the Nats will miss him if they succeed in moving him this winter.
Oh, I know, I know — Syndergaard is going to strike out 15 guys a game and throw 10 no-hitters in the next three years, and the Mets would be crazy to give him up for a scab like Desmond. Shortstops who hit 25 HR a year are a dime a dozen, after all. Oh wait, we’re not partying like it’s 1999 any more, are we?
Yes, Desmond’s offensive numbers have been steadily trending down over the past three years (though, they’re still better than nearly every other shortstop in MLB). Yes, he’s getting closer to age 30, when skills begin to fade. Yes, his contact rate is declining and strikeout rate skyrocketing. But let’s go back to that thing I typed in the parentheses: he’s still better than nearly every other shortstop in MLB. He’s likely to be better than nearly every other shortstop in MLB for the next three years, as well — with a little luck, possibly even better than Wilmer Flores. And the next three years is really all the Mets should care about right now, isn’t it? Isn’t the next three years the Mets’ window to succeed? Their big chance to get to the postseason? If they don’t win between now and 2017, they won’t sell enough tickets to generate enough revenue to keep the Harveys, d’Arnauds, Wheelers, etc. for that “sustained success” to which Sandy Alderson keeps referring. The time to win is right now — 2015. The Braves are rebuilding. The Phillies stink. The Nationals have some issues (Jayson Werth‘s shoulder, for one; a hole at 2B, for two; a questionable bullpen) that could knock them down a notch. The Marlins may or may not be primed for a winning season in 2015. Now is the optimum time for the Mets to strike — while the iron is hot.
Instead, they continue to hold back, hoping to get a superstar shortstop at a bargain price in return for Dillon Gee and a random prospect that their fan base hasn’t seen on any published “top ten” list. Good luck with that. Maybe it will happen — certainly, there is still time before Opening Day.
As for Syndergaard, yeah, I know, he’s the Second Coming. But you have to give up something to get something, and every year pitching gets to be more of a surplus for nearly everyone, while bats continue to be more premium. Additionally, prospects remain prospects until they get to MLB, while proven MLBers continue to produce until their t-levels naturally decline. I’m still waiting for Lastings Milledge to win a Triple Crown and for David West to win a Cy Young. Just sayin’. Even if they did, it wouldn’t matter — teams that want to win now make deals to win now, and don’t worry about what prospects do in the future. The more I hear about the Mets refusing to part with Syndergaard, the more I wonder if his value may be at its all-time peak right now. All it takes is one injury to immediately reduce a pitcher’s value to near-zero, and Syndergaard already suffered one that is a precursor to a UCL tear.
Go ahead, scream at me in the comments — let me know how wrong I am.