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.

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. Walshman February 19, 2015 at 8:17 am
    The problem is Sandy sees this deal and envisions Gee is worth more… He will be searching forever if he thinks he will get more. This should have been a no brainer if it were on the table… Wake up Sandy!!!
  2. r. February 19, 2015 at 9:15 am
    I think GM’s are worried about Gee’s potential for injury, and I am, too.
  3. James Preller February 19, 2015 at 10:08 am
    I think the best approach might be link Gee with a prospect, sweeten the pot.

    There’s a long history of trades made near the end of camp. I can’t be too critical of SA on this until the season begins. If Gee is an ill-suited reliever in April, earning $5.3 million, then that would be a clear failure of resource management.

  4. Dan B February 19, 2015 at 10:14 am
    Alderson made three good trades for the Mets — Beltran, Dickey, and Byrd. All three were all star players whom had no place in the Met’s future. He has never shown to be creative nor has he been successful at swamping major league pieces for other major league pieces.
  5. argonbunnies February 19, 2015 at 9:12 pm
    Not reading the article, not reading the comments, just going to post the idea I alreayd had, then check to see if Joe and I are on teh same page:

    Mariners traded Michael Saunders, a plenty capable hitter who plays OF, for J.A. Happ. Dillon Gee is better than J.A. Happ. If the Mets offer Gee, they get Saunders, and don’t need to waste money and draft picks on Cuddyer.

    Okay, gonna go read the article now…

    • argonbunnies February 19, 2015 at 9:30 pm
      Heh, okay, nope. 🙂

      Suarez & Crawford might have been a better fit than Saunders anyway, who’s really just a small upgrade over Nieuwenhuis. I doubt Dombrowski prefers Gee over Simon, though — Simon was legitimately excellent in the first half of 2014, and his ERA was around 3.00 into August. I personally don’t like his odds, but there’s more to dream on there than with a lesser-stuff guy like Gee.

      Honestly, I’m kind of underwhelmed by adding minor pieces regardless of exactly who they are. Replacing a 1-WAR SS with a 2-WAR SS is nice, but if SS is the Mets’ primary opportunity for a big jump forward, they need to focus on turning their prospect surplus into a star SS.

      I’m not going to root against Cuddyer and Grandy, but honestly, if one of them gets hurt and gives den Dekker a chance, that might be the best thing for the team’s chances. Matt had a .407 OBP in AAA and .370 in MLB after his second call-up. The power’s gone from his new swing, but great defense and a good OBP will win you more games than very occasional homeruns. It’s not fantastic, but again, if you want to improve corner OF, go for a star, not a marginal improvement. I initially liked the Cuddyer signing as a first step, but since other steps haven’t been taken, I’m really starting to hate it.

      • DaveSchneck February 19, 2015 at 10:11 pm
        Glad you brought u MDD. With all the focus and babble about SS, the glaring hole at leadoff his not been discussed enough. Collins is penciling Lagares into that role, which could work vs.LHP, but Juan is very unlikely to raise hit OBP enough to provide quality leadoff hitting vs. RHP. This is where MDD has a shot at making the team. He needs to continue to impress all spring, but this squad can certainly use a high OBP LH bat, power or not, that brings plus speed and plus D. And if MDD continues as he finished last year, it is not out of the realm of possibility that the best fielding OF in the big leagues finds himself on the short end of a platoon. That would be weird.
        • argonbunnies February 21, 2015 at 2:45 am
          That’s what bugs me about Cuddyer — he and Grandy are blocking the corners from any potentially better players. I don’t expect den Dekker to offer as much with the bat as either guy, but defense matters too.

          As for lineup needs, yeah, den Dekker might be better than Lagares. I just don’t want to go an inning without Juan in CF! I also wonder if Juan will eventually starting hitting some homers and pitchers will be a little more careful with him, leading to more walks. He certainly has the physique for power. But maybe it will never translate, because of his eye — he doesn’t seem very adept at pitch recognition.

          The one bit of optimism I think is realistic is Juan’s basestealing. He was really good late last year! If they keep forcing him to run, I could seem him stealing 20 and rarely getting thrown out, or stealing 40 with an average percentage. (Especially if Grandy hits behind him, with all his walks and whiffs.) Not a season-changer or anything, but it’d be fun to watch!

  6. Mike C February 21, 2015 at 4:27 am
    I think Sandy was just reaching with Gee, refusing to trade him unless he “won” the trade and… Gee’s an inconsistent #5 starter making 5 million dollars, you’re not going to get good prospects back for that. He should’ve been dumped a long time ago in a strict salary relief move and been done with.
    • Dan B February 21, 2015 at 10:33 am
      Why do the Mets need to do a salary dump? They have more payroll flexibility then any team in the league! It is one of the greatest PR moves in the history of the game that the Mets, playing in the largest market, paying one of bottom ten payrolls, have their fans firmly committed to lowering the payroll even more! Wasting money is never productive but if there ever was a team that could afford to over pay a long man out of the bullpen it would be the Mets.
      • DanB February 21, 2015 at 10:54 am
        The Mets say 1) they have money to spend but they choose not to spend it because they don’t want to spend it just for the sake of spending, 2) they believe in team building from the bottom up — by focusing on building a farm system, 3) they actually have too many starters and would like to trade Gee, Niese, and/or Colon, and 4) nobody is interested in those three largely because of their salaries. Well, a creative team, especially a creative team working under rules that prevent you from overpaying for prospects including international prospects, would see an opportunity here. Do you think it would be hard for the Mets to trade either Gee, Niese, or Colon for a solid prospect if the Mets offerred to pay for half their salaries? They could up the ante by adding a minor prospect. 1) They publically say they have money, 2) it would strengthen their farm system by trading away 3) their excess of starters who would not cost the other team 4) too much money. And they would be creatively circumventing rules against using their big market money to buy prospects. Tell me one reason why the Mets could not do that? Oh yeah, it is because they were lying when they said 1 through 4 and it all mattered about number 5. The Mets just don’t want to spend money and the fans have learned to accept it instead of demanding the product they deserve.
        • norme February 21, 2015 at 12:31 pm
          Great insight! Well done.