Breaking Down “The Deal”
Now that the smoke has cleared, and the details revealed, let’s break down the three-team, 12-player deal that made J.J. Putz a Met.
When healthy, Putz may be a better reliever than K-Rod, believe it or not. The term “filthy stuff” gets thrown around a little too much these days, but if you want to know what “filth” is, watch Putz from a camera behind home plate. He has a nasty 94-95 MPH fastball with movement and a knee-buckling curve that reminds me of Gregg Olson’s “yellow hammer” (anyone remember him?). In addition, Putz has icewater running through his veins — nothing rattles him. He has the makeup and the stuff to close in big games.
If there’s any negative, it’s that “when healthy” phrase. Putz will be 32 years old when spring training begins, and he’s coming off a season in which he suffered a torso injury early on and an elbow issue that knocked him out of action for over a month. That elbow problem (a hyperextension) could re-surface, considering his age and the violent force required to throw his curve.
Green is a tall, gangly, sidearming righthander with a deceptive delivery and who pitches to contact. His ball has decent sink so he throws a lot of ground balls, however, he walks way too many hitters. One major concern is his ineffectiveness in New York; his career ERA in Yankee Stadium is 14.63, and at Shea it is 27.00 (one inning, three runs). He’ll turn 30 in April, so it’s hard to believe he’s going to make a marked improvement going forward. Moving to the NL will not necessarily make him better, as he’ll be facing tough RH hitters and pinch-hitters later in games. My guess is he won’t be much more than a situational righthander. My greater fear is that he’ll make fans clamor for Heilman’s return.
Reed is a “poor man’s Endy Chavez” (to steal a phrase from my friend Joe Hamrahi). Hmm … that doesn’t sound so promising, does it?
Truth is this: Reed doesn’t hit for a particularly high average, has no power, doesn’t take walks, and his speed is only average. He’s a lefthanded hitter who struggles mightily against lefties. On the other hand, he is a decent to good defender who can handle all three outfield positions well, and he plays hard. At 27, now is the time for him to blossom. My best guess is that he doesn’t make the team out of spring training — particularly if the Mets sign a big-name, LH-hitting free agent outfielder.
There were two kinds of Mets fans: those who hated Heilman and wanted him gone, and those who loved him and hoped he could turn it around. It appears that he may finally get a chance to start, and the low expectations of Seattle make it an ideal environment for him to succeed. Good luck Aaron.
Ouch. The pundits are positioning this as “Green replaces Smith”. I’m not so sure about that, since at a tender young age Smith proved he could succeed in New York, and was a huge fan favorite. Looking purely at the numbers, Smith struggled against LH hitters, allowed the first batter he faced to hit almost .400 against him, and was ineffective with runners on in scoring position. Still, he’s young and promising, had some memorable, electric outings, and most of all, he was OURS. He’ll be missed.
Everyone will miss Endy, and no one will ever forget “the catch”. Unfortunately, Endy was the odd man out once Dan Murphy was promoted … actually, he was phased out much earlier than that. For whatever reason, Chavez fell out of favor the minute Jerry Manuel took over as manager. Considering that Murphy figures to be in the plans for ’09, Fernando Tatis was retained, and Carlos Beltran rarely takes a day off, Endy’s playing time was not going to increase. Better to see him get a shot to play semi-regularly in Seattle, than waste away on the Mets’ bench.
For most fans, losing Vargas seems inconsequential, since he’s been hurt for most of the time he’s been property of the Mets. I beg to differ, as I think he’s on the verge of finally breaking out.
There are a few things that simply can’t be taught. A 95-MPH fastball, for instance. Heart, for another. Vargas’ stuff is ordinary at best, but he has plenty of heart, and is a tremendous competitor. I’m of the ilk that you can’t underestimate what’s inside a ballplayer — see Dustin Pedroia, David Eckstein, Greg Maddux, Johan Santana. No, I’m not saying Vargas is another Santana — he’s not even close — but his competitiveness will take him further than better-skilled pitchers with weaker stomachs. I think he’ll win a job with Seattle, and do OK for himself. In my mind, he had a better chance of effectively filling the #5 spot in the Mets’ rotation than Jon Niese. Also, it’s too bad he won’t be able to hit in the “other” league.
Carp can hit, but is a man without a position. Further, I doubt he ever would have gotten a fair shot to win a job with the Mets, for whatever reason. Certainly he wasn’t in the conversation for ’09, and he’d need to have a big year to be considered for a job in 2010. His biggest problem is his bat is his only tool, and I’m not sure he’ll hit enough to justify an MLB job. In the AL, he at least has the option to DH.
I never saw Carrera play so don’t have an educated opinion. From what I understand he is, ironically, at best another Endy Chavez — a defensive-minded centerfielder with not much pop, and fairly fleet of foot. At age 21, he’s still young, but is not particularly toolsy — his speed is above-average, but he’s not “a burner”; his arm is weak; he has no power potential. At 5’10, 180 lbs, he doesn’t expect to develop into a power guy. In his first full year of high-A ball, he hit .263. Youth is on his side, but to me this looks like a throw-in.
Another guy I’ve never seen. All I know is he’s 19 years old, and he’s a 6’3″, 220-lb. righthander who pitched at two different levels of A ball last year. Though his numbers were unimpressive, he’s only 19 so who knows? He did throw a shutout, so he must have something.
The way I see it, this is a great deal in that the Mets acquired one of the top ten relievers in MLB, but a difficult deal to love because they gave up so much. Putz was a great pickup, but the other two players are throwaways — in fact it wouldn’t surprise me if both began the year in AAA, or were cut. So essentially the Mets traded seven players for one.
In my mind, putting both Smith and Vargas in the deal will come back to bite the Mets, and shouldn’t have been necessary. I understand you have to give up something to get something, but there’s a point where you’re getting fleeced. The Mets are in dire need of at least two, possibly three starting pitchers, and in Heilman and Vargas they traded away two guys who could have potentially filled those spots.
If it turns out the way I think it will, the Mariners traded a 32-year-old, damaged reliever and two fringe MLBers in return for two starting pitchers, a young and decent middle reliever, a fourth outfielder, and three prospects who may or may not turn into something. That’s too much for the Mets to give up, in my opinion.
One more note: Omar Minaya made a point in the press conference to say that the inclusion of several minor leaguers was indicative of the Mets having a quality system, and a great scouting department. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Carp was a product of the previous regime, Vargas was originally a Marlin and would have been on the MLB roster if not for injuries, and Carrera and Cleto are no-name, highly projectable throw-ins. Moreover, the fact that the Mets had to trade seven players for one legit big leaguer and two question marks is indicative of a WEAK organization.