Dead End Deals
Yesterday we looked at the Mets’ trade with the Seattle Mariners last December, and became collectively ill over the fact that seven players were traded away for what could essentially turn out to be Sean Green. Nothing against Green, but that trade is typical of Omar Minaya’s dealings over the past four years. Though you can’t expect every trade to turn out great, you also can’t consistently empty your organization for assets that provide zero return. The below one-way, dead-end deals are part of the reason the Mets’ organization is barren at the upper levels.
You may judge these deals on their success in terms of how the players obtained performed for the Mets, but that’s not the entire point. Moreover, it’s the fact that so many of these deals brought in players who either retired, were released, non-tendered, or left as free-agents — leaving the Mets nothing in return.
Note: these are assembled in no particular order. They represent most, but not all, of the trades made during Omar Minaya’s reign as GM.
Lastings Milledge for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider
Schneider will be a free agent after this season. Church was dealt for Jeff Francoeur, who may be non-tendered this winter. Milledge was eventually flipped to the Pirates along with Joel Hanrahan for Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett.
Carlos Gomez, Kevin Mulvey, Philip Humber, and Deolis Guerra for Johan Santana
It remains to be seen whether Santana will ever be sent away for more assets; but it appears as though the trade will turn out to be a fair one for both sides. Most likely, another dead-end deal for the Mets, but when the one-way street is Johan Santana, you don’t mind going down it so much.
Jose Castro and Sean Henry for Jeff Conine
Conine retired after the 2007 season. Castro and Henry make up two-thirds of the Carolina Mudcats’ (Reds AA) outfield.
Brian Bannister for Ambiorix Burgos
Burgos was let go after Tommy John surgery, beating up his girlfriend, and running over two women with his SUV. Bannister has been in the Royals’ starting rotation for the past three years.
Heath Bell and Royce Ring for Ben Johnson and Jon Adkins
Adkins and Johnson both left as free agents. Ring was flipped to the Braves for two other pitchers. Bell was a successful setup man for San Diego before becoming their full-time closer this season.
Matt Lindstrom and Henry Owens for Jason Vargas and Adam Bostick
Vargas was part of the Seattle trade we analyzed yesterday. Bostick still has a shot to make the Mets, possibly as a LOOGY — he may get an audition in September. Both Lindstrom and Owens have served as closer and setup man for the Marlins, though Owens is currently recovering from an arm injury.
Evan MacLane for Shawn Green
Green played a full season and a month for the Mets before retiring. MacLane was traded in April by the Diamondbacks to the Cardinals for future considerations, and is currently part of the starting rotation for the AAA Memphis Redbirds.
Jeff Keppinger for Ruben Gotay
Gotay was eventually put on waivers and claimed by the Braves. Keppinger was traded by the Royals to the Reds for minor league pitcher Russ Haltiwanger. Haltiwanger spent two years in A ball before being plucked by the Cardinals in the Rule 5 draft; he was released in March. Keppinger played two years for the Reds before being traded to the Astros this past March for a PTBNL.
Anderson Hernandez for Luis Ayala
Ayala left as a free agent last winter. Hernandez was traded back to the Mets for minor league infielder Greg Veloz. You may remember that AHern was originally acquired from the Tigers for Vance Wilson, way back in January 2005.
Drew Butera and Dustin Martin for Luis Castillo
Castillo became a free agent and was re-signed to a 4-year, $25M contract — I don’t know how you judge this one, since, technically, the Mets “lost” Castillo to free agency. Butera, a catcher, is on the Twins’ 40-man roster; both he and Martin are toiling for the Twins’ AAA Rochester Red Wings.
Mike Jacobs, Yusmeiro Petit, and Grant Psomas for Carlos Delgado
Delgado will likely leave this winter as a free-agent — leaving the Mets nothing. Jacobs was eventually traded to the Royals for Leo Nunez. Petit was traded to the Diamondbacks for Jorge Julio, who was traded for Byung-Hyun Kim, who was eventually waived back the the D-Backs. The 24-year-old Petit has made 14 starts for Arizona this year. Psomas made it as high as AAA but is now in the Frontier League, playing for the Washington Wild Things.
Dante Brinkley and Gaby Hernandez for Paul LoDuca
LoDuca left as a free agent after the 2007 season (prompting the trade of Milledge for Schneider and Church). Hernandez was eventually traded to Seattle for Arthur Rhodes. Brinkley spent a few years in A ball before being released.
Doug Mientkiewicz for Ian Bladergroen
Mientkiewicz escaped via free agency. Bladergroen spent several years in the Bosox organization before leaving as a minor league free agent.
Mike Stanton for Felix Heredia
Heredia pitched three games, busted his elbow, and left as a free agent. Stanton threw half a season for the Yankees before being released.
Jason Phillips for Kaz Ishii
Ishii was released. Phillips was eventually let go by the Dodgers as well.
Mike Cameron for Xavier Nady
Nady was eventually traded for Roberto Hernandez and Oliver Perez, both of whom became free agents. Cameron also eventually left San Diego as a free agent.
Xavier Nady for Oliver Perez and Roberto Hernandez
As you just read, Perez and Hernandez eventually became free agents. Nady was eventually traded with Damaso Marte to the Yankees for Daniel McCutchen, Jose Tabata, Jeff Karstens, and Ross Ohlendorf.
Jae Seo and Tim Hamulack for Duaner Sanchez and Steve Schmoll
Sanchez and Schmoll were both eventually released. Seo was traded to the Devil Rays, along with Dioner Navarro, for Mark Hendrickson and Toby Hall.
Kris Benson for Jorge Julio and John Maine
Julio was eventually flipped for Orlando Hernandez, who eventually became a free agent. Maine will likely be non-tendered this winter. Benson was eventually granted free agency.
I saved those last few deals for last. Omar Minaya received — and deserved — much credit for the deals that brought in Nady, Sanchez, Maine, El Duque, and Perez. Three years later, though, it boils down to this: the Mets got El Duque, Duaner Sanchez, Oliver Perez, and John Maine, but they sent away, among others, Xavier Nady. In the meantime there was an NL East championship, about five combined seasons lost to injury (adding up the DL time of those three pitchers) and close to $50M paid out to the acquired arms.
Again, the point here is not whether the Mets were fleeced, or fleeced someone else, in a deal. Rather, it’s an evaluation of how many renewable assets the Mets obtained in these deals — meaning, the players they were able to flip in return for more players down the road. The answer is not many. More alarming is the number of players who provided very little service time, in contrast to the players sent away who went on to either perform for several years and/or were traded again for useful assets by their new team.
But maybe this criticism is unfair; I have no idea how well other teams do in respect to trading for players who eventually provide further value down the road. For all I know it’s common for a team to trade for a player who eventually leaves the organization for nothing in return. In any case, you can see from the above that the Mets have sent away a fair number of players in return for a very few. That’s forced them to acquire most of their personnel via free agency — in other words, players cast away from other organizations for one reason or another (except for the handful of “high impact” signings — which cost the Mets not only huge sums of cash but #1 draft picks).
Bottom line? It appears from this angle that it’s time for the Mets to take a new attitude toward trades. Rather than send away several assets for one short-term solution, they may want to begin trading a few valuable veterans in return for large packages. I don’t see any other way they can quickly and efficiently re-stock the organization.
For most players of the ilk of Reyes and Beltran and Wright the price should be high because the player is very valuable. Moreover a guy like Beltran is more expendable because of his expiring contract and advancing age but that shouldn’t mean the team should trade him more readily than Reyes or Wright if the price is not right.
My personal hope is that they do not make any drastic move and reload where they can for another final run with Beltran next year. After which if things don’t work out really consider trading Beltran in his walk year and maybe even Reyes or Santana. I have been vocal about the current minor league crop in the past here and I will reiterate that the Mets have 3-4 legit prospects AA and up (Mejia, Davis, Martinez, Thole) and a few pieces as well (Evans, Bostik, Holt) so making drastic moves won’t be necessary until after next year when these guys are going to be ready.
So in sum, I think there needs to be an overhaul and drastic philosophical change within the entire Mets’ organization. Until the focus becomes a singular organizational philosophy on fundamentals and professional growth, there will always be a disconnect between the minor leagues and the product you see on the MLB field. There is no reason the Mets cannot build from the draft and develop their players from within. They did it with Seaver and Koosman, Doc and Darryl, and Reyes and Wright. It’s time they start doing it again.
I think this speaks more to the nature of the WILPONS that big names are attractive and will draw a crowd. They have not learned from their mistakes. And do I think Minaya is responsible for that? No I think he was convinced by management that this is the right thing to do instead of doing it the way he promised he would. I do, however, think he is bad that being a general manager but good at talent evaluation because he has found a few diamonds in the rough (and possibly equally as many duds, but I’ll give credit where it is due).
This goes back to my earlier point that when trading players you have to properly identify their value to the club (and properly identify what is a valuable commodity and what is just good for business). Trading Beltran for a few prospects is only worth it if other value him enough to give up a top rated prospect. Otherwise they need to sit on him because he is worth more to the team than whatever haul they can bring in with no future.
Perhaps this is more tied into my theory that, in general, the Mets do not know how to properly evaluate most players. Besides Wright and Reyes, the Mets have been dead wrong in their evaluations of their own prospects, as well as other teams’ prospects. The Generation K trilogy of Paul Wilson, Bill Pulsipher and Jason Isringhausen is a good start. This triumverate was an unmitigated failure for the Mets. Yes, Izzy did go on to have a nice career as a closer elsewhere (much to my chagrin because I wanted him to supplant Franco as a closer in 1997). But Wilson and Pulsipher did not match the hype with the Mets or anywhere else.
How about Alex Ochoa? The Mets demanded him in the 1996 Bobby Bonilla trade because the Orioles said he was untouchable. Apparently he really wasn’t untouchable. Alex Escobar was a can’t miss 5 tool player for years, according to the Mets. Not so much.
The Mets should not trade for the sake of trading. But in any move they make, there needs to be some purpose and long-term goal set for each move. Like was said before, patching up holes in the dam and not ensuring that future holes aren’t created has been the Mets’ way for too many years. There is no reason why the Mets can’t be comprised of a few elite stars, some younger players, and some veteran gamers. They don’t need all-stars at every position. But what they do need are players who fit within a team concept that focuses on winning – both now and long-term. If Minaya truly believes what he preached years ago, then he needs to stand up to ownership and use these next 3 years to build a foundation for what could be his next contract term. Otherwise, I would rather see someone like Pat Gillick come in and make relevant personnel moves and have Minaya in a talent evaluation role. Gillick single-handedly built a winning team and a strong, deep farm system in Philadelphia. That is the way to do it.
Beutiful post: In fact go back to 1987 when the Mets traded away Kevin Mitchell, Stan Jefferson and Shawn abner for K. McReynolds. Or even when the gave up the FARM for Frank viola…the twins got a WS out of that in Rick aguilera and Kevin Tapani…AND not just the infamous Alex Ochoa for Bonilla trade…but the Dave Cone for Ryan Thompson trade or Brett Saberhagen for Arnie Gooch and Juan Acevedo.
Omar might be the best GM in recent history…ESPECIALLY given the owners
We’ve covered that here before, but in a nutshell, the Mets hired Minaya with the reasoning that he was some kind of miraculous talent evaluator, and therefore would be the right guy to build an organization “like the Braves” (from the scouting department and up through the minors / player development). That was also the reason they hired Willie Randolph — because Randolph had been instrumental in developing youngsters such as Derek Jeter and Alfonso Soriano. All was going according to plan until Minaya came up with the bright idea to sign Pedro Martinez under the guise of “showing Latin America that the Mets are someone you want to play for”.
It was a fine theory until the Mets then signed Carlos Beltran. Once that occurred, the long-term plan went out the window, replaced by a short-term strategy to win while they had Pedro under contract and Beltran in his prime years.
Too bad Frank Cashen is 87 years old. He turned the Mets farm system into a prospect machine in only three years.
I did write that the Mets would non-tender Francoeur — and believed it as late as the first week of September — but after the way he finished, I’m fairly certain the Mets will indeed re-sign him.
I do think it makes sense to sign him to a one-year deal as you suggest. The Mets may do something else, and they are probably signing him more because he made a great public impression than anything else. Whatever … personally I like watching Francoeur and like having his personality on the team. He may not be a favorite of the sabermetricians but sometimes you want to have players on the team for the simple reason that you enjoy rooting for them. Considering that the Mets are unlikely to acquire anyone better than him this winter to play RF, I’ll be happy to see him in 2010.
Now, if we knew the Mets were going to sign both Matt Holliday AND Jason Bay, that’s another story.
I think it is silly, almost stupid, to sign Francoeur to a three year deal at this juncture. The Mets are a large market team, so they can afford to pay his market price if he rakes next year. The downside isn’t worth the upside when you already control his rights and his hitting prior to arriving in New York was awful for an extended period of time.
With respect to your comment re: rooting for certain players that may not be sabermetrician darlings, read this article by Joe Posnanski about a former Met – http://joeposnanski.com/JoeBlog/2009/04/17/the-curious-case-of-mike-jacobs/
I read your blog daily, Joe. Great stuff along around – your appraisal of the team and the organization, your special insight into pitching mechanics and things of that nature, and all the rest. Fantastic.