Trade Analysis: Manny Ramirez and Jason Bay

Dodgers get: Manny Ramirez
Red Sox get: Jason Bay
Pirates get: Bryan Morris, Adam LaRoche (Dodgers), Craig Hansen (Red Sox), Brandon Moss (Red Sox)

Every ten minutes throughout the day, there was a new Manny rumor brewing. The day began with his bags packed for Miami, to join the Marlins, and by the end of the afternoon he was Westward, landing in Hollywood. Manny’s ever-changing destination kept Bay in limbo, though at one point it was reported that Jason Bay was going to Tampa Bay to be Ray.

When the smoke finally cleared, the wreckage looked like this: Joe Torre gets Manny, the Pirates get four prospects for Bay, and the Red Sox wind up with a worse team than they were when the day began.

Throughout it all, there was not a whisper from the Mets. This despite the fact that division rivals Philadelphia and Florida were making offers. Omar Minaya’s explanation was that the Red Sox didn’t match up with what the Mets had available.

I’m not sure how to interpret that.

First of all, it didn’t matter what the Red Sox wanted — it was clear, at the end of the day (figuratively and literally speaking), that the main thing the Bosox wanted was to be rid of Ramirez. Secondly, the “match” turned out to be with Pittsburgh. Look at that package — the Dodgers gave up next to nothing! Let’s break it down.

Adam LaRoche – once the crown jewel of the Los Angeles farm system, his stock fizzled quickly in the last year and a half. Yes, Baseball America tabbed him as the #2 prospect in the Dodgers organization. However, LA has had major troubles at third base, parading a total of 6 players at the position. LaRoche was one of the six, but didn’t last long — 12 starts there, total. His bat is his best tool, but he hit only .203 this year and a scant .226 in 35 games last year. At age 25, he’s not getting any younger, and scouts are starting to wonder if he is a AAAA guy (see: Andy Marte).

Bryan Morris – an A ball pitcher who once threw 95 MPH but underwent Tommy John surgery, causing him to miss all of last year. He’s pitching in low A-ball now, and seems to be doing OK, though his velocity is “only” in the low 90s. Because he’s on the road back, and is only 21, there is a lot of projection here.

Craig Hansen – most NY fans remember this St. John’s grad getting drafted in 2005 and reaching the Majors a few months later. However, he was clearly overmatched, and has since struggled to get back to the bigs. He was in the Boston bullpen at the time of the deal, but not a major contributor. At only 24, he still has time to reach the potential that made him a #1 pick.

Brandon Moss – also was on Boston’s 25-man roster at the time of the deal, but like Hansen, a spare part. He had a good year in AAA last year, but not enough to supplant anyone in the Red Sox lineup. He’s not a big homerun guy right now, and doesn’t have much speed — his thing is he can hit for average and shows gap power. Baseball America had him as #11 in the Bosox organization; I imagine if he were with the Mets, he’d be in their top 5.

Considering that Theo Epstein added two players in addition to Manny, AND is going to pay the rest of Manny’s salary, makes you wonder what Ramirez did that we haven’t yet heard about. If Omar Minaya comes out one day and says that the Mets didn’t go after Manny because of his personal issues, or because the Wilpons don’t want that kind of personality associated with their brand, fine. But do NOT tell me the Mets “didn’t match up”, or “didn’t have the chips” to get him. And do NOT tell me that you didn’t want to give up Fernando Martinez, Jonathan Niese, and/or Bobby Parnell in the deal — this is one of the top three hitters in MLB regardless of his current stats, and one of the best postseason performers of all time.

Don’t get me wrong — I don’t think the Mets should be giving away F-Mart or Niese for a pretender like Raul Ibanez. But for Manny Ramirez? IN A HEARTBEAT. In fact, I would also give up both of those players for Jason Bay, a guy who would fit right into a corner outfield spot and #5 in the lineup now, and for the next three years at minimum. If you can trade a 19-year-old prospect for an All-Star outfielder in his prime, you do it — because the All-Star has a future, too.

Please, don’t buy into the argument that Manny is a rental player, and will walk away, leaving the Mets with nothing. On the contrary, in that situation the Mets would have received two #1 draft picks after Manny signed elsewhere — two picks that you can turn into viable replacements for the F-Marts and Nieses and Parnells of the world.

But the bottom line is this: the Mets likely didn’t have to include F-Mart in the deal — they certainly would not have had to deal both Martinez and Niese. Look at it from the Dodgers’ perspective: they gave up a disappointing third baseman and a really risky pitcher. The Pirates were not in the market for a young 3B, not with Neil Walker ready to step in. Maybe they thought it would be cute to have both LaRoche brothers on the same team — in which case, it’s true, the Mets didn’t match up unless they could coax father Dave out of retirement. It would seem to me that the Buccos might have been very happy getting, say, Dan Murphy or Mike Carp, as well as, say, Parnell, Brant Rustich, or Nathan Vineyard.

Surely there are those out there who think his personality would have been a problem in the clubhouse, yadda yadda yadda. And yes I’m the first person to criticize Carlos Delgado or David Wright for not hustling down the line. But you know what? No one on the Mets is Manny Ramirez. No one can flat-out hit, and intimidate the competition, and come through in big situations, like Manny. You put Manny in the four-spot and watch Carlos Beltran turn into the all-world superstar he was in that two months with Houston in 2004. Manny may come with baggage, but there are few people who can instantly elevate the game of others around him, simply by writing his name into the lineup.

But let’s forget about Manny for a moment, and focus on Bay. No doubt the excuse for not getting Bay was the same as the one for Manny — that the Pirates weren’t interested in what the Mets had to offer. If that’s the case, then the Mets weren’t offering any of their “untouchables” — which is ludicrous. You BET I’d trade a 19-year-old and Jonathan Niese AND Bobby Parnell if it’s going to bring back a 29-year-old All-Star. If Bay were 32 years old, and starting to slow down, OK, it doesn’t make sense. But Bay has plenty of future in front of him, and would have done well in a lineup where he wasn’t counted on to be the star. And looking at the package the Pirates received, again, it doesn’t look like the Mets would have had to give up ALL of their “untouchables”. The Bucs certainly don’t have a “can’t miss” guy in that group.

Maybe there really wasn’t a match, I don’t know. But I have a bad feeling that the Mets’ stance regarding their “untouchables” kept a conversation from taking place.

Bottom line: The Dodgers make out like bandits, getting Manny, giving up nothing, and likely looking at two extra #1 draft picks come next June. The Red Sox, ironically, overpay to get rid of one of the most valuable players in baseball, and likely gave away a 2008 postseason appearance in the process. The Pirates get the PR benefits of having the LaRoche brothers, get a cheap fourth outfielder, and might get lucky with one of the pitchers.

From a Mets’ fans standpoint, the best part of the trade is that Manny didn’t go to the Marlins or Phillies. Unfortunately, the Mets will likely have to face him in the playoffs — should they get there.

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.