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.