Window Shopping with Empty Pockets

Finally, a team has been identified as a seller — the Arizona Diamondbacks sold off middle reliever Tony Pena to the White Sox for AAA first baseman Brandon Allen. Presumably, the D’Backs will look to move several other contracts in the next few weeks, such as Felipe Lopez, Jon Garland, Tony Clark, Chad Tracy, Jon Rauch, Scott Schoeneweis, and others (Doug Davis? Chad Qualls?). Had Tom Gordon and Eric Byrnes not hit the DL, they also would be on the trade block. Any of those names incite interest from the Mets?

Garland was a hurler we discussed at length here in the offseason for his ability to eat innings. He has been a very expensive version of Livan Hernandez so far — usually gives 6-7 innings, but has had a handful of absolutely terrible starts. With the return of Ollie Perez — however unimpressive — the chance of the Mets trading for a starter is next to nil. Lopez would be a nice fill-in at shortstop while Jose Reyes is on the mend, but at what cost? If a middle reliever having a down year is worth a prospect at the level of Nick Evans or Dan Murphy (or maybe better), what will a starting shortstop fetch? Likely more than the Mets are willing to part with.

Which brings us back to the same tired story we drudge through every year at this time — the Mets do not have the chips to offer in a trade that would sufficiently fill their needs. What makes this year more difficult than years past is that the Mets do not have the advantage of money. For example, in 2006 the Mets did not have the chips, but had the ability to take on a bad contract — i.e., Shawn Green and Guillermo Mota. Thanks in part to Bernie Madoff, the Mets are unlikely to pick up an overpaid veteran in return for a nondescript minor leaguer at the deadline this year.

But, we’ll do some window shopping anyway. Just because we can’t afford to buy a new 50″ LCD TV, doesn’t mean we can’t check them out at the store.

In addition to the Diamondbacks, we can safely assume that the Blue Jays, Orioles, Nationals, and Padres are also sellers. It’s hard to identify the Athletics as a seller, since they just acquired veteran outfielder Scott Hairston, but you never know what’s going on in the mind of Billy Beane. Similarly, though the Indians are a dozen games out of first, they’re still clinging to the idea of finishing strong and having a bounceback year in 2010, so I’m not sure they can be called “sellers” just yet.

Over the next few days, we’ll go over the identified “sellers”, in no particular order. First up, Toronto.

Toronto Blue Jays

The Jays just released B.J. Ryan and have made Roy Halladay available for a bounty similar to “what the Rangers obtained for Mark Teixeira”. Would the Mets be so bold as to make such a deal? A package would almost certainly have to start with Mike Pelfrey, and/or Jose Reyes. This is the best pitcher in MLB — hands down — and under contract through 2010. A deal might also include Alex Rios, who is a nice young talent but could turn out to be overpaid.

From the Mets’ perspective, it’s a deal that could make sense, even if it involves Pelfrey and/or Reyes, but they’d have to get Rios and they’d have to believe he is about to blossom (I’m not sure that’s the case). It would be hard to lose with Johan Santana and Halladay heading a rotation, and some scouts believe Rios is the next Carlos Beltran — who is not getting any younger and whose contract is up after 2011. In contrast, Rios is locked up through 2015, at a relatively inexpensive $12-13M per season. I say “relatively inexpensive” because you have to buy into the idea that the 28-year-old Rios is on the verge of stardom.

Interestingly, Rios’ career path thus far is somewhat similar to Beltran’s early years — look at their basic offensive numbers at the same ages. Both players had seasons in their mid-20s where they hit .300+, struck out 100+ times, and hit 40+ doubles. The biggest contrast is in the homeruns and RBI — Beltran was clubbing 20-25 HRs and driving in 100 a year from age 22, whereas Rios has had only one 20+ homer season thus far and not yet collected 100 RBI. But, it could be argued that Rios’ doubles power and speed is a better fit for spacious Citi Field, and at $6M less per year, could be a similar value — a “poor man’s Beltran”, so to speak.

Likely, the Mets aren’t making that deal anyway. Even more likely, they won’t make a play for veteran 1B / OF Kevin Millar, no matter how cheap he’ll be to acauire and no matter how fitting his righthanded bat and positive clubhouse personality. Tony Bernazard calls the shots in the Mets’ front office, and he still holds a grudge against Millar from Bernazard’s days with the MLBPA (Millar was a scab who crossed the picket line in 1994). Yes, Millar’s best days are behind him, and you don’t want Nick Evans losing at-bats to him, but his value is in his clubhouse presence. It wouldn’t hurt to have a few more strong personalities — with winning backgrounds — mingling with Wrights, Evanses Murphys, F-Marts, and other young players.

The Blue Jays will probably dangle 1B Lyle Overbay in front of teams, and though the Mets might be interested in a first baseman, the 32-year-old, underachieving Overbay — an older, lighter-hitting version of Nick Johnson — shouldn’t be on their radar. Similarly, David Dellucci should be available, but is he an upgrade over, say, Angel Pagan?

Either Marco Scutaro or John McDonald would be ideal plug-ins to help out Alex Cora up the middle, but again there’s the question — what would it take to pry one of them away, and would it be worth the cost? If it’s only Argenis Reyes, go for it, but if it’s going to take a legitimate prospect, it’s probably a “no” — it would smell too much like the Melvin Mora for Mike Bordick debacle of yesteryear.

Other than Halladay, the Jays don’t have any presumably available pitchers that jump out at you. Brian Tallet? Scott Downs? I don’t think so. And looking again at Halladay, there is something that “jumps out” — his age, which is 32. He’s showing no signs of slowing down, but if you acquire him, you are essentially saying that your team is going for broke in 2009 and 2010 and then letting him walk, because at age 34 he won’t be worth the multi-year, $20M+ per year contract he’ll command on the open market.

Bottom line? Assuming the Mets have to send the type of talent I think they have to, a Halladay deal isn’t worth it, because he alone won’t deliver a postseason appearance. Though, I’m intrigued by Rios, and would consider sending a top prospect away for him (yes, I mean F-Mart / Niese / Flores). I like F-Mart, but believe he’s at least 3-4 years away from where Rios is right now, and Rios *should* be at this level for at least another 3-4 years. It’s kind of like the A.J. Burnett for Al Leiter deal — would you do it again, knowing it would take Burnett several years to evolve into an Al Leiter-level pitcher? But don’t worry — the Mets would never, ever trade the very cheap and very young F-Mart for the very expensive Rios.

Picking up Scutaro for nothing would be nice, but unlikely. And if JP Ricciaridi is interested in an “out of the box” deal, I’d float the idea of trading Tony Bernazard for Kevin Millar.

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. TheDZA July 9, 2009 at 1:14 pm
    Good write-up. I think Halladay is guaranteed nails every start, and I was disagreeing with you regarding a potential Mets trade, until you rang up his age – and I can see the woods for the trees once again phew! This is what it must be like being Omar (minaya not Omar off The Wire)…That said if he went to the Phils I would probably start a fight club at work.
    Rios is an intriguing idea, he clearly has the ability but the last two seasons have not built on his 2007 as we would have expected.
    I like Millar, think he would probably ‘unwind’ the clubhouse a bit – but just on that picket line stuff, I have always had the impression that Millar was hugely liked in the clubhouse (Redsox/Orioles/Jays), so why has Bern still got the hump with him?
    I feel bad for Toronto thay have a good team and loads of injuries, and they still seem to make a go of it in a tough division. Maybe the Mets could take something on in that (in a not so tough division)?
  2. Taylor July 9, 2009 at 2:41 pm
    You could probably get Halladay if you took Vernon Wells and his ginormous contract off of the Blue Jays hands.
  3. joejanish July 9, 2009 at 3:16 pm
    Taylor – good point, but as was addressed in the original article, the Mets are no longer one of those deep-pocketed teams willing to take on big, bad contracts. They’re a big-market team charging big-market prices but operating like a small-market club.

    I can see a Halladay / Wells package going to the Cubs, with Jeff Samardzjia, Sean Marshall, and someone like Starlin Castro or Josh Vitters going the other way.

    Unfortunately, I can also see the Phillies giving up JA Happ, Carlos Carrasco, and Jason Donald for Halladay. I don’t know that they want/need Wells or Rios, though.

  4. mr.bmc July 9, 2009 at 3:17 pm
    Proposing a Halladay for / Pelfrey + Reyes trade shows a lack of understanding for how teams value player assets. That trade would be a loss of value for the Mets and would exceed Toronto’s budget.

    Toronto is looking for 10 WAR for less than $15M. The only way they’d get that is with elite prospects or rookies. Reyes and Pelfrey provide ~11 WAR through 2010 but are due $20+M in that time; after which Reyes is a FA and Pelfrey hits arbitration.

    Be that as it may. The Mets have the top talent to make this happen but seem to be looking to reload with it instead.

  5. joejanish July 9, 2009 at 4:50 pm
    Mr. BMC, thank you for the education. I was under the impression that the Blue Jays were interested in obtaining a big-time, but still youthful, shortstop, and/or a young pitcher who could step into their rotation right away and therefore make the loss of Halladay slightly more tolerable. Old school, dumb thinking, I know, but numbers make me angry.

    Unless it has to do with combat, I don’t know what “WAR” means but I’ll take your word for it, and assume a Beanehead (or is it Beanecounter?) like JP Ricciardi is on the same page with the fangraphs analysis.

    I’m assuming you are on board with Fangraphs’ proposition that it would take a package of Jenry Mejia, Wilmer Flores, and Fernando Martinez to pry away Halladay. If that’s true, and Toronto did that deal, financially correct or not, their fans might burn down the Rogers Centre.

    And was that what Ricciardi was talking about when he mentioned the Mark Teixeira trade? I assumed he meant he wanted at least one or two players who were within 365-500 days of making an impact at the MLB level. Does anyone outside the Mets organization believe that any of those three players will be ready — much less make an impact — a year from today? Is the 19-year-old Mejia at the same place where Matt Harrison was as a 21-year-old? Is F-Mart as close to being a true everyday player right now as Jarrod Saltalamacchia was in 2007? He and Flores seem closer to where Elvis Andrus was two years ago.

    I can sort of see it, but have to believe that when you trade away the best pitcher in MLB, you have to, from a PR standpoint, get someone guaranteed to make a big league contribution right away. For example after the Santana deal the Twins penciled in Carlos Gomez as their centerfielder — and that was a different deal b/c Santana was in his walk year and the Twins had far fewer suitors.