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.