Did Mets Miss Prime Deal for Dillon Gee?
Looking over the winter of transactions throughout MLB — and the lack of transactions involving a certain team based in Flushing, New York — one particular deal stands out to me as a possible missed opportunity for the Mets.
We all know that the Mets were trying to deal Dillon Gee to
clear payroll make room for Matt Harvey in the starting rotation. Then again, maybe they weren’t. One rumor had Gee going to Colorado for reliever Rex Brothers. Another had him part of a deal for Ian Desmond. Still others suggested he’d be sent anywhere from Kansas City to San Francisco.
One of the explanations for the bearish market for Gee was that teams were waiting to see what happened with free agent pitcher Ryan Vogelsong. Or was it James Shields? Or was it Max Scherzer? Or Justin Masterson? Or was all of that nonsense?
Regardless, among the Mets pitchers and catchers reporting to Port St. Lucie this week is Dillon Gee — he and the $5.3M salary agreed upon last month to avoid an arbitration hearing. So now he’s the odd man out — at least, until one of the Mets projected starters goes down.
But was there a deal that could have improved the Mets, and given Gee a job in a Major League starting rotation? Maybe.
Of all the hay that heaped up the transaction pile through the winter months, one needle sticks out: a trade between the Detroit Tigers and Cincinnati Reds.
As the result of a small miracle (or voo-doo?), and in between illicit crimes, 33-year-old journeyman reliever Alfredo Simon enjoyed a career year, winning 15 games and posting a 3.44 ERA in 32 starts for the Cincinnati Reds. Overjoyed with their fortune, and smart enough to know when to sell high, the Reds traded Simon to the Tigers for two youngsters who spent most of 2015 in the minors: Eugenio Suarez and Jonathon Crawford. The deal flew under the radar for several reasons, mainly because few outside of Detroit have heard of Suarez and Crawford, and also because Simon only gets in the headlines when he’s being accused of rape or surrendering to the police for manslaughter.
Being based in New York, I’m as guilty as anyone. I saw the deal briefly mentioned on the wires and shrugged, vaguely remembering Simon as a taller version of Bartolo Colon, though not quite as accomplished.
Then I looked at the two prospects sent by Detroit to Cincinnati.
Jonathon Crawford is big righthanded pitcher and a 2013 first-round pick (20th overall). The 22-year-old went 8-3 with a 2.85 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 23 games in low A last year. After the 2013 season, he was the Tigers’ #5 prospect according to Baseball America, which stated:
Between his fastball and his breaking ball, Crawford has two plus pitches. He throws 92-96 mph sinkers with heavy life that makes it difficult for hitters to lift, and he maintains his velocity deep into his starts. He adds and subtracts from his plus slider, cranking it up to the high 80s at times. His changeup is better than it was when he got to Florida but remains a below-average pitch… Scouts are split on whether Crawford fits best as a starter or as a two-pitch power reliever.
Not a can’t-miss prospect, but a pretty decent prospect. If he was all the Reds received from the Tigers for Simon, it might’ve been considered an even trade. Sure, Simon had an outstanding year, but considering his history, age, and troubles with the law, the Reds couldn’t expect a huge package in return.
But then there is Suarez.
Eugenio Suarez is a 23-year-old shortstop who made his MLB debut in 2015, batting .242 in 85 games. Not an auspicious debut, but hey, he was only 22 and less than a year removed from A ball. Actually, his offensive numbers were strikingly similar to those of Wilmer Flores. Suarez is in fact similar to Flores as a prospect — minus the power, but plus the defense and baserunning. Though he’s never been a homerun threat, Suarez has managed to get on base (.361 career OBP in the minors) and hit enough to make scouts believe he has a shot to be an everyday MLB shortstop or second baseman. He might, in fact, give Zack Cozart a run for his money this spring for the Reds’ shortstop job. Suarez doesn’t have one specific tool that will “wow” anyone; he’s average to good all-around. Along with his decent bat (for a shortstop), in the field he’s an above-average to plus defender with very good hands, good range to both sides, solid footwork, and an above-average to plus arm. In short, he profiles as a better version of what everyone hoped Ruben Tejada would be after the 2012 season. Wouldn’t that be a better back-up plan (or competitor) to Flores than the current situation? Oh, not to mention that both Suarez and Crawford are under team control for several years, and would make the MLB minimum. (Tejada will make $1.88M.)
I have to wonder if the Mets could have received this same package of prospects from Detroit in return for Dillon Gee. Sure, Gee is coming off his worst season while Simon is coming off his best, but considering that Gee is still under 30, has a track record of fifth-starter success, and has been a more than admirable citizen, I’d bet the Tigers would have made the trade. Of course, we’ll never know if such a deal was ever on the table, so it’s all moot. But, we haven’t had much of anything to talk about this winter, so it’s up to us to create conversations.
What do you think? Do you see this as a realistic possibility? Would the Tigers have traded Crawford and Suarez for Gee? Would the Mets have taken that deal? Would YOU have liked that deal? Why or why not? Answer in the comments.