Mets Bag Blevins, Take Torres

Sandy Alderson made twice as many trades in a few hours as he made in the previous 19 months. The net result has two lefthanded relievers wearing the orange and blue.

I double-checked the transaction reports, and am open to someone else triple-checking, but if correct, before today, Alderson made exactly one player trade since dealing Marlon Byrd and John Buck to the Pirates in August 2013. Is it truly possible that the only trade between then and now was sending Ike Davis to Pittsburgh for a PTBNL (who would up being Blake Taylor)? Mind you, I don’t count the “trades” of players for cash, such as the winter sell-off of Gonzalez Germen.

But that’s neither here nor there — it seemed like a fascinating tidbit that would’ve been included in a colorful inset if this was an old-school magazine. Back to the news.

Early in the day, the Mets announced the trade of Cory Mazzoni to San Diego for LHP Alex Torres. In the evening, they followed up with the trade of Matt den Dekker to the Washington Nationals for Jerry Blevins. We’ll take these one at a time.

Some feel Mazzoni’s best days are ahead of him — and that they’ll occur in the bullpen. Maybe so, and maybe the Mets will miss his mid-90s fastball when they realize Vic Black isn’t returning to his old self during the 2015 campaign. Or, maybe it doesn’t matter, because they have Rafael Montero, Matt Bowman, Erik Goeddel, Akeel Morris, and Gabriel Ynoa, among others. Or maybe because they can pick up a fringy RHP prospect in return for Dillon Gee. Point is, the Mets dealt from depth, so it isn’t a big loss. But did they get a decent return?

On paper, yes. Alex Torres had an unsightly ERA last year, and absolutely would have had even uglier numbers if not for nearly half his games occurring in spacious Petco Park. But the Mets front office wasn’t looking at those stats, they were focused on exactly one number: strikeouts per nine innings, which was 8.5 — and 9.6 while pitching in the Adulterated League for the Rays in 2013. The Mets braintrust loves strikeouts, looks past bases on balls, and isn’t afraid of fly-ball pitchers. It’s all about the math.

However, there’s the matter of those bases on balls, which was an awful 5.5 per nine last year. Interestingly, Torres’ K/9 rate was 1.4 K/9 higher away from Petco, and his BB/9 rate was about a full walk higher. Though the sample size is small, it suggests that Torres is a nibbler when he doesn’t have the safety of deep fences.

Perhaps more interesting for Mets fans is the fact that Torres performed significantly better against righthanded hitters than lefthanded. Harumph. So what was the point of trading away a perfectly serviceable 25-year-old RHP for a 27-year-old LHP who doesn’t fit the Mets’ need for a LOOGY? You got me. Maybe it was to mess with Terry Collins‘ head? Nah. My guess is Torres was the public-relations backup plan in the event that the Blevins (or another) deal didn’t go through. After all, the Mets NEEDED a lefthanded reliever on their 25-man roster, didn’t they? That’s what all the tabloids and blog headlines insisted. So what if the lefthander acquired wasn’t adept at retiring lefthanded hitters? Details, details!

On to Blevins, who, like Alex Torres, was extra baggage for his former club and, also like Torres, had an unsightly ERA last year. I’m not so sure ERA matters all that much for LOOGYs, considering their tiny sample size — two or three awful outings can significantly demolish an otherwise nice earned run average. Again, though, one stat pops out: strikeouts per nine. Blevins’ 10.4 K/9 rate in 2014 certainly caught the attention of the fantasy front office. What is surprising is that eye-popping rate was new for Blevins — only once before in a season had he eclipsed 8.5 K/9, which is his career average. Could Blevins be on the verge of becoming the next Andrew Miller? I’m not so sure. But, I’m also not sure how Blevins achieved this unprecedented strikeout rate, especially considering that my eyes have always seen him as a fairly ordinary LOOGY. But, he’ll do, and at $2.4M, he’s more than a million bucks cheaper than Brian Matusz, who is a similar pitcher in height and stats (though three years younger).

In return for their 2015 LOOGY, the Mets sent Matt den Dekker to DC. It looks to me like a good, fair deal for everyone. Blevins wasn’t making the Nats bullpen, but he’ll be the Mets’ #1 lefty. Matt den Dekker was redundant to Kirk Nieuwenhuis — who was out of options — so chances were good that den Dekker wouldn’t have made the Mets’ Opening Day roster. Instead, den Dekker slips into a reserve role in the DC outfield, which is going into April without starting center fielder Denard Span, starting right fielder Jayson Werth, and possibly also fourth-outfielder Nate McLouth, who is nursing a bum shoulder. Everybody wins!

On a personal note, I always liked den Dekker, and was glad to see him reinvent himself last year under the tutelage of Wally Backman in Las Vegas. But there was room in town for only one extra left-handed hitting, defense-first center fielder to back up Juan Lagares, so it made sense for the Mets to deal either den Dekker or Nieuwenhuis to fill a glaring need. I wish den Dekker well, and I still believe both he and Nieuwenhuis will enjoy several more years in MLB in reserve roles — and that’s not so bad.

What do you think? Do these deals make sense to you? Were you hoping for more? Do you think the Mets could have acquired similar assets from the waiver wire in the next few days? 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. Joe Bourgeois March 30, 2015 at 9:34 pm
    I’m thinking Blevins’s 2.4 mill means that fringy RP prospect for Gee coming sooner rather than later. And fringier.
  2. argonbunnies March 30, 2015 at 10:27 pm
    Hmph. I feel like I’ve seen guys who weren’t going to make their old team traded for far less than den Dekker. If the Mets had a $2.4mil LOOGY they didn’t need, you can be certain they’d get literally nothing back for him.

    I know we won’t miss den Dekker in the next few months, but what about the year or two thereafter? If any outfielder misses significant time (our starting trio has missed a combined THREE HUNDRED games over the last two years), we have all our eggs in the Nieuwenhuis basket. I’m fine betting on Kirk for a little while, but I was much more fine with it when we had a viable Plan B. I’d much rather have den Dekker than rush Nimmo or Conforto if Kirk flops.

    If den Dekker’s 2014 improvements were real, he’s an above-average MLB player, a leadoff guy who gets on base, runs well, can swipe a few bags, and plays an excellent CF. If his eye regresses and pitchers throw him more strikes, then maybe his OBP drops below leadoff levels and he’s more of a sub. So there’s risk there, for sure, but also upside to provide much more value than Blevins. If Blevins had several years of team control remaining and the Nats were likely to need him, then this would be an even trade. As is, though, anything the Nats got back was just a bonus, and Sandy failed to use that leverage to dump Puello or some other irrelevant player on them.

    As for the Mazzoni trade, I’m fine with it if the Mets have some reason to believe Alex Torres will actually be any good. There’s cause for optimism in his 2013 numbers as a multi-inning guy for the Rays, but the rest of his career is ugly.

    Montero looked fantastic today; I hope the Mets can get something for Niese, Gee or Colon. I feel bad that Dillon’s the only guy whose job is in question — it certainly isn’t based on merit.

  3. RDG1969 March 30, 2015 at 10:55 pm
    I predicted three weeks ago that the Mets would make a final week deal for a lefty reliever or two if the fringe backups didn’t wow us with the hope that they didn’t do any giveaways like they did with Heath Bell, Nelson Cruz, Scott Kazmir and other future stars in return for a shaky one year player. Too early to predict for sure but you can bet that den Dekker and Mazzoni will be playing regularly in the majors while ATorres and Blevins will be gone for no return two years from now.
  4. DaveSchneck March 30, 2015 at 10:57 pm
    Joe,
    I agree with you on MDD – always liked him and wish him well. Gun to my head I’d probably prefer to keep him over Captain Kirk (as Lagares insurance) but those 2 options remaining on MDD were big for the Nats. I like Mazzoni too, but you have to give up something to get something. I have been on Alderson all winter so now I will give him credit. The pen is much better now, and Collins has two legit MLB leftie, one that can face RH and LH bats, and one that is a true LOOGY.

    The pitching on this team looks real good. I’d be reluctant to deal Gee, and certainly wouldn’t give him away, but Montero has really pushed the envelop. These are good problems to have, which is nice for a change.

  5. Walnutz15 March 31, 2015 at 8:46 am
    While I’m not going to legitimately “complain” about either of these deals for absolute needs, I do think den Dekker will prove to be a productive piece for Washington.

    Whether he goes “boom” or “bust” all depends on how much the Nats plan on using him. Can easily see a possible McLouth scenario where he’s good for a bit, before possibly being exposed….but at least he’ll have gotten an extended look in his actual outfield position; probably hitting where he should be hitting within a contending lineup. (In watching him from his days as a Gator, actually watching him – and not seeing the ESPN Webgem highlights from the CWS — anyone would know he’s got legit potential to become a real leadoff man; and that ditching his “longball” swing last year [thanks, George Greer] was the 1st step in him possibly getting there.)

    I like den Dekker, and wish him well (when not playing against us).

    ……………but at least Lagares got his come-uppance when den Dekker broke his wrist that year. Gotta pray he stays healthy for the long haul.

    Hopefully, this further solidifies what got started earlier on in the day – with Torres. This injury-prone ‘pen, though — don’t get me wrong, happy they’ve suddenly been active, but it also makes me wonder what they really feel about who’s gonna be there/who won’t be, by the time things shake out. I’m just so skeptical about the Parnell’s and Black’s to begin with; and it’s not like any of the others are grizzled to the point of actually having proven anything in their careers.

    The acquisition of Torres does add even more comedy to the daily grind; as I’m envisioning our senile old coot of a manager in the dugout, trying to determine which one he wants.

    TC: *grabs bullpen phone*

    “YEAH, GIMME TORRES!”

    Ricky Bones: “Which one, Terr?………..you know we’ve got both of them warming now.”

    Collins: “……Heh?”

    Bones: “Carlos, Alex……….you know………..”

    Collins: “Stop (playing) with me, Rick……WHERE THE HELL’S ANDRES?”

    Bones: “(stunned silence)”

    Collins: Unintelligible Jargon………………..ANYADVANTEEEIIIJYOUCANGIT,AH? (Dunkin Donuts Commercial w/Joe Girardi)

  6. Bat March 31, 2015 at 3:03 pm
    I actually don’t like this Blevins trade or the Torres trade.

    I think Lagares is going to be somewhat injury prone for his entire career due to all of his acrobatics in CF. MDD had at least one option remaining and I think having him in AAA was a great insurance plan. When – not “if” – Lagares is hurt, you then have MDD ready to be called up and if Niewenhuis is in one of his strikeout-prone slumps, then MDD plays and Niewenhuis remains the 4th OF.

    With respect to the Torres trade – Torres doesn’t have a great track record of getting lefties out. So why not just keep Mazzoni – and this PTBNL – and give Mazzoni a shot while Black is out?

    I think Cory Mazzoni is going to be a better pitcher than Torres, and sooner rather than later. I wouldn’t be surprised if Torres is released before the year is very old.

    • DaveSchneck March 31, 2015 at 4:05 pm
      Bat,
      I have to disagree with you here. I am someone that likes both MDD and Mazzoni, and agree that each may grow into better players than the ones they were traded for. But, that’s not the point. The Mets badly needed lefty bullpen help, and did not trade from their major league roster to obtain two major league LHP. Torres numbers vs. lefties are strong, check ESPN.com for his 3 year MLS splits. And, his numbers vs. RHP are tremendous. The guy has held MLS hitters .558 OPS in 112 innings, that is impressive. And, the Mets control him for 3 years. Regarding Blevins, if he is used as a LOOGY, his career splits vs. LHP .212/.264/.594 are very strong. The pen is much better than it was 2 days ago, and as a result the team is much better.
    • Joe Janish March 31, 2015 at 8:23 pm
      Bat, I’m with you on the argument that Torres isn’t an answer, Mazzoni may prove to be better than him, and that den Dekker was a valuable piece tossed away too early.

      However, Sandy Alderson’s argument is that Nieuwenhuis = MDD, and the Ks don’t matter. Ironically, though Ks seem not to be of consequence when it comes to hitters, they are paramount when it comes to arms (in the Alderson point-of-view), thus Torres and Blevins have far more value than many can see.

      I do think the Mets needed a lefthander in the bullpen, but I’d argue that they would have been able to find one on the waiver wire prior to Opening Day who is equal to Blevins and wouldn’t have required the loss of MDD — and ditto for Torres. This, to me, looked like a move for the sake of making a move and appeasing the beat writers / blogosphere / fan base / manager-pining-for-a-LOOGY. For example, the recently released James Russell, to me, is the same pitcher as Torres, and I’d bet the house someone will be out there in the coming days who projects as good or better than Blevins, and at a similar price.

  7. Bat March 31, 2015 at 5:12 pm
    But Dave, what teams that are contending usually do is keep intact their (1) their major league team and (2) upper minor leaguers who may contribute to the major league in the current year.

    The guys that should have been traded for left-handed relief help aren’t potentially useful players this year like MDD (definitely could be useful if Lagares is out for a period of time, which I view as a near certainty) and Mazzoni (possibly – in my mind could have been a useful bullpen piece if Black is out, or Familia or Mejia is hurt (Familia: low velocity so far this spring and Mejia: been getting lit up).

    The guys that should have been traded for a left-handed reliever are guys like Ynoa, Gsellman, and similar A+ / AA starters who likely have no future in the Mets rotation and could be properly labeled as spare parts.

    Obviously I’m not referring to Syndergaard or Matz here but I am referring to pretty much any other starter not named Molina.

    If Lagares goes down and Niewenhuis is going K crazy, who is the CF? Probably Nimmo, I would guess, and that’s fine if they want to give him a cup of coffee if Lagares is on the 15 day DL. But I think having MDD was a very nice backup plan at AAA if Nimmo isn’t ready or pisses the bed in his trial and (for example) Lagares is out for the year or something else long-term.

    Again, in my mind, contending teams – or wannabe contenders – don’t deal from the major league team or the high minors if the lower- to mid-minors has quality assets, which the Mets have. They preserve their major league assets and upper-minor assets for their run at the playoffs.

    • david March 31, 2015 at 6:31 pm
      Granderson has the experience and ability to still play CF, although it is not ideal. The problem with MDD is he is not a good enough hitter to play CF regularly. Kirk is streaky and has been getting a lot of starts. He too gets exposed with too much playing time, but his overall skill set is, IMO, slightly better than MDD’s.

      Guys like MDD, and Kirk for that matter, can always be acquired from other teams. Any we have Nimmo in the pipeline, as well as Cecillani in an emergency but if we got to that point the phones would have to be ringing.

      You have to give talent to get talent, it is as simple as that, and there will always be risk in every deal. However, doing nothing about our lack of lefthanded bullpen pitching was not an option IF the Mets are serious about contending. Remember, it was early in ST that Fred spoke to TC about this exact issue and, to my recollection, this Blog noted it was Sandy’s fault – not TC’s. To my pleasant surprise Sandy has done something about it, actually 2 somethings, so let’s stop wringing our hands about what we dealt in the trades.

      • DanB March 31, 2015 at 7:42 pm
        Actually, you don’t have to give talent to get talent if the Mets had signed a free agent. However the Mets didn’t seem interested in spending the extra $1.5 million over what Blevins makes for a decent lefty reliever free agent. Kinda contradicts their claims to be building through the farm system (since they gave up prospects) and that they have money to spend. Doesn’t make the trades bad but it makes me not believe the Mets. Again.
  8. Bat March 31, 2015 at 9:20 pm
    For once Joe and I are in complete agreement.

    I agree the Mets needed a lefthander in the bullpen (as Joe said) and I am aware that you have to give talent to get talent (as David said).

    My argument is that Mazzoni is quite possibly better than Torres, who isn’t a LOOGY (and remember some other PTBNL is also coming from the Mets – likely a 2014 draftee who can’t be named because he can’t yet be traded) and I don’t think Blevins for MDD is a positive outcome in the Mets favor.

    Like Joe said, I think the Mets could have gotten someone on the waiver wire that is just as good when the spring training rosters need to be pared for Opening Day – great point Joe.

    If the Mets could NOT have gotten a better player on the waiver wire, then do as I suggested and trade someone in the lower minors – someone starting the upcoming year at A, A+, maybe AA. We keep hearing about the Mets vaunted farm system so I am sure some team (perhaps not the Nationals, but some team) would have had a LH relief pitcher to match up to the Mets lower level starters.

    We’ll see what happens, but I think the Mets are going to wish they had MDD when Lagares is inevitably hurt, and again I think Mazzoni is better than Torres.

    David, Granderson last played CF regularly a number of years ago, and his defense has declined since. To be honest, I don’t even think the Mets would try playing Granderson in CF if Lagares goes down. Seriously, I don’t even think they would attempt that on anything other than a single game emergency (i.e., perhaps maybe Granderson plays there on the day that Lagares is hurt, but not afterwards). You’ve got Cuddyer stumbling around in LF and you’re going to put Granderson next to him in CF? You need Lagares or someone who can really run down the ball in CF if Cuddyer and Granderson are out there.

    When you say “Sandy has done something about it, actually 2 somethings” I’m not sure just making a trade is a positive. Making a trade could be a positive, and it could be negative. Saying “Hooray, we made a trade!” doesn’t exactly make sense to me. Sandy has made some good moves since being hired as GM, and he’s made some bad moves, and I think these two moves are going to come down in the unfavorable category. As Joe said, I think this was just making a move to appease the masses rather than making two (or even one) productive trade.

    But obviously I can’t predict the future any more than you can David or DaveSchneck – we’ll just have to see what happens.

    • david March 31, 2015 at 11:26 pm
      Grandy played 89 innings in CF last year for the Mets, and 197 innings in CF for the Yankees in 2013. Admittedly he has not been a full time CF since 2012 but I was envisioning him filling in, as opposed to playing most of the season due to Lagares getting injured which we all agree would be a very bad development. MDD or Kirk replacing him is not a big difference.

      As for picking up a waiver wire LOOGY, you take your chances on that one as opposed to the certainty of getting someone you know you want – warts and all. Being a Mets fan it is easy to see the downside of everything this team does and to invoke Nolan Ryan / Scott Kazmir / Nelson Cruz (how about Jose Bautista while we are at it) each time we trade a prospect, but as the announcers said the night Lucas Duda hit 2 HRs the same day Ike Davis was traded – this organisation is due to make some good decisions.

      Final point – sure Mazzoni and Torres may, theoretically, have the same #s against rigthies but having guys with different looks in the pen is part of the equation. The Mets have a lot of righty relievers who throw hard, and before yesterday were looking at 1 lefty pitcher (Niese) and 11 right handed throwers on the staff. So the trade is logical.

    • DaveSchneck April 1, 2015 at 10:14 pm
      Bat,
      I am in agreement with you in preferring to have dealt a lower level prospect, but in this case I will give the GM the benefit of doubt and assume (sorry Felix Unger) that he tried to offer lower level guys and was rebuked. I don’t have a list of the available lefties , but Rizzo was not going to fill a Met need without filing a need of his own. Time will tell how this pans out and what the cost of available alternatives was.
      • Bat April 2, 2015 at 2:29 pm
        Dave, I agree with you that the Nationals probably don’t want some lower level minor leaguer because they too are “going for it (the pennant).”

        I would have suggested trading with a different team that was not in “win now” mode and trading any of the lower level pitchers other than Molina such as Whalen, Gsellman, Lara, Robles, Meisner, Morris, Mateo, etc.

        I think the Mets are going to regret these two trades for close to replacement level LH RPs but again I am just another fan so we’ll have to wait and see what happens.

  9. mckeeganson April 1, 2015 at 1:05 pm
    Mazzoni has been pretty mediocre even in the minors throughout his career, never posting an ERA below 4.36 above single A. Trading him away for a player with a career 2.55 ERA and .199 AVG against seems like a win for me. Torres had a really poor second half last year, but has been just fine this Spring and along with Blevins who had 3 straight excellent years in Oakland before taking a step back last year, they represent quality buy-low candidates. Even last season Blevins was lights out against lefties. den dekker is a tough loss, but his greatest strength; defense, isn’t able to be fully taken advantage of with Lagares around. As a fan, I’m happy to see him get a chance to play on another team.

    Perhaps worst case scenario in 3 years these trades won’t look perfect, but the fact of the matter is that these 2 players were not in this year’s plans and if the Mets are really figuring on making a playoff push, they added 2 players who can be contributors from day one. If anything let’s focus on the rest of the bullpen which seems to be riddled with question marks. Could Montero be closing within a month? seems possible