No Trading Chips – Same Story, Different Year

If one thing has remained constant throughout Omar Minaya’s tenure as Mets GM, it is an inability to pull the trigger on a “big” trade at the July deadline.

Some may say it is because the Mets “didn’t need” to make a big deal in any July going back to 2005 (ha!). Others suggest that Minaya was being “smart” by holding onto the Mets’ “top” prospects and not giving in to the high demands of a deadline deal. Either of those arguments have credence. But the real reason is much simpler: the Mets simply haven’t, and still do not have, the chips to offer in a trade for a big-name, impact player at the trading deadline. In 2006, they had to give up their starting rightfielder — and in turn, creating a hole in the lineup — because there was no one else in the organization they could afford to give up, and had value to another team in a deadline deal.

Before Minaya was forced by a cab driver into trading Xavier Nady for Roberto Hernandez and Oliver Perez in July 2006, the Mets were desperate for a starting pitcher, and possibly a corner outfielder. But trading for one was never a consideration, because the Mets were running away with the NL East, and on the way toward playing “meaningful games in September”. So what if their rotation was in shambles, starting the likes of the late Jose Lima? They’d worry about that when they got to the playoffs.

In July 2006 and every July thereafter, the Mets were in dire need of one or two impact pieces to transform themselves from a team that play meaningful September games to one that was a near-guarantee to make the postseason.

Back in 2006, the Mets’ top prospect was Lastings Milledge, but they couldn’t part with him because he was the ONLY MLB-ready youngster they had. Further, they’d likely be “selling low” on him because his development was stunted by injuries. The rest of their “top prospects” were in the low minor leagues — mostly, 17-21-year-olds, the bulk of which who were international signees. So when Nady was traded away, and the team was desperate for a corner outfielder (remember, Cliff Floyd was hobbling around on one leg) as well as another reliever, the best they could do was pick up Shawn Green in a salary-dump move by the Diamondbacks and a juiced-up Guillermo Mota in a similar waiver deal.

(Tell me if any of this sounds eerily familiar — even if you don’t vividly remember 2006. For example, take a look at the Mets’ current farm system and tell me where the prospects are. Funny, isn’t it? Four years later and it’s like time has stood still.)

Each year after, the story was the same, for one reason or another. In 2007, the Mets were again doing well but were in glaring need of a top-of-the-rotation starter, a bat (Moises Alou was hurt), and at least one reliever. They acquired none — though they did make a very low-risk trade for Luis Castillo. You may remember how that season ended … you may also remember how the Mets made the trade they needed to make 7 months late, when they emptied the farm for Johan Santana.

And because they emptied the farm for Santana, they had no chips to trade when the deadline rolled around in July 2008. Yet, the Mets still were shy at least one bat — unless you believed that Fernando Tatis was going to continue to hit like Roy Hobbs after July — and at least one bullpen arm. Again, they acquired neither — not until Billy Wagner blew out his elbow and the Mets made yet another low-risk deal in trading for Luis Ayala. No Manny Ramirez, no Jason Bay, no Junior Griffey … heck, they didn’t even have enough on the farm to bring back Xavier Nady.

We all agree that 2009 was a lost season, but you may have forgotten that in July, both Mets management and most fans felt the team was still “in it”. There was some buzz that maybe the Mets could make a deal here or there to patch holes while we waited for “the cavalry” to return from the DL. But, again, the Mets didn’t have the chips necessary to make a deal — partly because a chunk of their shallow stock was sent to Seattle in the J.J. Putz deal.

So here we are, once again, with July approaching and the Mets in need of a puzzle piece. And yet again, the Mets don’t have chips to trade.

I keep getting pushback when I suggest that the Mets will need to include Jon Niese in a deal for a frontline starter like Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, or Dan Haren. OK, fine — then tell me WHO instead, the Mets can give up? You have to give up something to get something, and when I look at the Mets’ top two minor league squads — Binghamton and Buffalo — I see nothing. Do you really believe the M’s, D’Backs, or ‘Stros are going to get excited about Dillon Gee or Josh Thole? Tobi Stoner and Lucas Duda? Get real.

The Mets’ top prospects are probably Jenrry Mejia, Fernando Martinez, and Reese Havens. Fans don’t want to see Mejia leave, either, and F-Mart’s value is at an all-time low because he can’t stay healthy. Havens has similar issues staying on the field. People like to mention Bradley Holt, but he has been a disaster this year, with an ERA over 10. The next name I hear is Jeurys Familia but guess what? He’s struggling nearly as badly as Bradley. Who’s next? Kirk Nieuwenhuis? Tell you what: put ALL of those names together and you’re still not likely to get a callback from Jack Zduriencik, Ed Wade, or Josh Byrnes. GMs trading top-notch starting pitchers want in return at least one player/pitcher who is ready to step in and play at the MLB level right now. Not one of those names fits that descriptor.

To make clear, I’m not talking about a trade for Jake Westbrook, Fausto Carmona, Kevin Millwood, or similar individuals at an inferior level. I’m talking BIG names — those who are certain to make an impact on the pennant race.

Strange, isn’t it, that after five years, despite constant insistence to the contrary from Mets management, the organization remains lacking in talent at high-A through AAA, and devoid of legitimate prospects. Further, all they have to show for it is Johan Santana. One wonders if the Mets will EVER have a farm system that produces a genuine depth of MLB prospects — who can help the big club as players and/or as trading chips.

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. John Fitzgerald June 22, 2010 at 2:13 pm
    I don't understand the need for this post. The Mets are committed to Takahashi. And really, when you have Tak-y Baseball, what more do you need?
  2. joejanish June 22, 2010 at 10:20 am
    Ken or Hisanori?
    • John Fitzgerald June 22, 2010 at 2:58 pm
      Both. By the way, you can use the reply button to "thread" your conversation. Isn't that fantastic?
  3. drklynoon June 22, 2010 at 3:09 pm
    I don't like big name deadline deals anyway. But I'd bet the big trade this year will involve Carter or Pagan. Maybe Misch. The Mets have really been using their prospects the past couple of years. Murphy, Davis, Neise, Parnell. I don't mean that Parnell is a major trade chip but last year before he was put in a starter role he had significant value.
  4. Ed C June 22, 2010 at 3:13 pm
    I disagree with this post. This is the first year in a long time, I believe the Mets have some chips that can net them some big names. Davis, Neise, Thole, Meija, Parnell, F. Martinez, Tejada, Havens and Flores. I'm not sure what Evans is worth but he may also be a chip. In addition, D. Murphy would have been very good trade bait if it wasn't for his injury.

    I believe and hope that Minaya has a plan to build from within as evidenced by some of the players in the big leagues today (Niese, Meija (now Parnell), Davis and Tejada) which is possibly why Minaya has not pulled the trigger on a deal yet.

    Ed

  5. Kevin June 22, 2010 at 3:25 pm
    keep drinking that kool-aid Ed. Thole? Parnell? Come on! And Murphy was not going to be trade bait this year – it was people like you that didn't want Murph traded in the last two years. Not that he was ever worth anything but you are putting too much value in these prospects.
  6. Ed C June 22, 2010 at 11:30 am
    Where is this coming from Kevin. I'm sorry I'm not a pessimist like you but most of the guys I mentioned are good prospects. If I was a betting man I would bet that you didn't even think much of Ike Davis. Either take off your Yankee cap or stop with your pessimism, it's not very becoming of you.
  7. Ed C June 22, 2010 at 11:47 am
    I don't know where this is coming from Kevin. If I was a betting man, I would bet that you weren't very high on Ike Davis, Pelfrey or Jonathan Niese before this year began. IEither take off your Yankee hat or stop with the pessimism, it's not very becoming. I stand behind everything I said and will go 1 step further by stating that bearing any dumb decisions by the front office or any very bad luck like 2009, the Mets will be back in the post season possibly this season and most likely next season.
  8. MikeTomaselli June 22, 2010 at 3:51 pm
    Joe I think your server hates me. I can't submit my response.
  9. MikeTomaselli June 22, 2010 at 11:51 am
    Joe I think your server hates me. I can't submit my response. I think it is too long, in short the reason there are no chips is that they are all on the major league roster contributing. I'll take that over making a huge trade any day. Too often big trade DO NOT lead to playoff success. It ain't worth the risk. Injuries and disappointing performances have hurt the value of the other prospects. Next year the system will be top 10 overall, you watch, it is middle of the pack right now (15 or so).
  10. Bill June 22, 2010 at 4:06 pm
    Ed, I agree with you. Flores was a name forgotten, same with Tejada. Although I can't see them trading Davis for anyone outside of Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder (neither are happening!). I think Omar has enough ammunition to get a SP and a reliever. IF (that's a big IF) Carlos comes back, then Pagan becomes expendable as well.
  11. isuzudude June 22, 2010 at 4:59 pm
    All I know is you can't have a stocked farm system if your prerogative is to keep trading prospects for veterans. You can't have both. Complain all you want about the Mets having no depth, but who among us wants to take back the Johan trade that apparently "gutted" the system? Likewise, though the JJ Putz deal looks awful in retrospect, at the time the Mets needed a setup man, were getting 2 decent role players along with Putz, and the only player who has amounted to anything much since the trade is Jason Vargas. You can choose to cry over that spilt milk, but I'd much rather think of it as a good trade that had bad results. Move on.

    What with Davis, Tejada, Thole, Parnell, Mejia, Niese, and Pelfrey all having shown us first-hand what they can accomplish at the major league level within the recent past, I have to say Mike is right: the reason why it seems the Mets have no chips is because those chips have quickly emerged as contributing players. And thank goodness Omar didn't trade them for an aforementioned Manny or Bay or Griffey because then the Mets wouldn't be having half the success as they've had so far in 2010. There is a big difference between not having the chips to trade, and not wanting to trade them for the players that are available.

  12. wohjr June 22, 2010 at 5:08 pm
    Boy I wish we still had Phil Humber
  13. MikeTomaselli June 22, 2010 at 5:25 pm
    BTW, Joe, I want to get this straight. Considering your other post about Jason Vargas, you want the Mets to trade away big time prospects for big time players, but any time a player is traded that happens to work out for the other team, a player who was not highly valued at the time, you're against it? Doesn't that seem slightly unreasonable? If Roy Oswalt was a Met and they traded Bradley Holt (among others) to get him, and Oswalt flames out as a Met and Holt succeeds, are you going to say the trade was bad?

    I'm simply trying to point out that it seems were are using hindsight here which is really dangerous. At the time of the trade, we all thought it was a good deal because the Mets gave up nothing for Putz. Obviously is was stupid because he was never healthy (and quiet frankly I'm still upset about that). But like the Santana deal, what did we really give up? If Putz turned out to be great, would the Mets not have won that trade, even with Vargas having made a few good starts this year? wohjr makes a good point about Humber, he was part of the Santana deal. If he turned into a stud would you still have made that move? Really this is pointless because so many slam dunk trades turn into busts and other supposedly one sided deals surprise us with their value.

  14. Walnutz15 June 22, 2010 at 5:40 pm
    By the same token, I think it's "really dangerous" to classify groups of fans as "we all" — especially in regard to J.J. Putz.

    A good sector of Met fans wondered just how healthy he was in:

    1) Even being made available on the trade market by the Mariners; and
    2) Coming over to a team who routinely targets damageds goods.

    Not everyone thought that was a "good deal"…..and they certainly didn't give up "nothing".

    They got nothing, it turns out.

  15. John Fitzgerald June 22, 2010 at 6:08 pm
    I would counter that you can't have a good farm system if you don't have a good farm system. Period.
  16. John Fitzgerald June 22, 2010 at 6:14 pm
    The upside of the guys you mention is limited. I will give you that Pelfrey is on the verge of establishing himself as a bonafide Major League star. Davis and Niese should be solid contributors to a winning club, in the case of Davis, maybe more. Mejia has talent, but there's alot of talent in AA or AAA that never does performs at the MLB level, so I'm not buying the hype, yet.

    I wouldn't expect anything from Parnell, Tejada and Thole. They could just as easily turn out to be Brian Bannister, Argenis Reyes and Vance Wilson.

  17. John Fitzgerald June 22, 2010 at 6:20 pm
    I thought the Putz deal was awful at the time. I believe Joe thought the same.

    I think what Joe is saying is that a team shouldn't have a hard and fast philosophy of trading or holding prospects. A team needs to build up its farm system so it isn't in the position where it has to give up its only prospects in order to put itself in a position to win. Sometimes you trade prospects, sometimes you don't… But you always have to do it from a position of strength – having developed your farm system and accurately assessed the talent of your prospects.

    What I see here is the over-hyping of marginal prospects to give Omar cover for not making a deal that will make this a must-win season.

  18. metstoday June 22, 2010 at 10:12 pm
    Agreed, and to add, Tejada = Anderson Hernandez. I would be shocked if any MLB team demanded Ruben Tejada be part of a deal for a top-of-the-rotation pitcher. The Mets purposely promoted players just so that fans, media, and other organizations would stop saying their farm system sucks.

    And hey John, Vance Wilson was actually pretty good. Josh Thole would be lucky to have his career.

  19. metstoday June 22, 2010 at 10:22 pm
    Mike, first tell me where are the "big time" prospects you refer to? Mejia, Niese, etc., are not "big time". F-Mart might've been, and might get there again, if he can ever stay healthy.

    Second, I was not part of the "we all thought it was a good deal because the Mets gave up nothing for Putz". If you took the time to read my original post analyzing the trade (there was a link to it in the Vargas article), you would not be charging me with using hindsight. In fact I mentioned both the fact that trading Vargas would come back to haunt the Mets AND that Putz was a risk because of his elbow issues. When you get a chance please read it: http://www.metstoday.com/2731/mets-opinion/breaki

    But the main point you seem to be missing is that the reason the Mets don't have depth in their farm system is not because they keep trading it away, but because they have done a horrible job of drafting, signing, and developing talent.

  20. MikeTomaselli June 22, 2010 at 6:25 pm
    Joe, please with the Tejada = AHern. Anderson Hernandez is a terrible offensive player. That means he can't hit, take a walk, move a runner over, or put down a bunt. Tejada routinely does those things. Tejada more likely = Marco Scutaro circa the 2003 Mets. No one thought much of him at all, but he played well in Oakland and has had a very nice career. And Tejada is a full 2 years younger than Hernandez was when he debuted. Tejada has WAY MORE chance to be a good major leaguer than Hernandez ever did. Please come up with a better comparison.
  21. MikeTomaselli June 22, 2010 at 6:28 pm
    I keep losing posts…

    Okay so Tejada = AHern is getting to me. AHern is a terrible offensive player who can't hit, move runners over, take a walk, or anything productive. Tejada has shown he can do these things. Tejada is 20 whereas AHern was 22 when he came up. Tejada has way more of chance to be a decent major leaguer than Hernandez ever did. Please come up with a better comparison.

    • metstoday June 23, 2010 at 4:48 am
      Tejada has no business being in MLB right now, the Mets rushed him to convince fans like you that they have legitimate "prospects" in their system. There are dozens of players in the minors with skills equal to or better than Tejada. He's nothing special.

      I"m not sure how you figure Tejada can "do" all those things after watching him play in a dozen MLB games. Dan Murphy looked like Wade Boggs after 100 ABs, so what?

      How about we wait 3-4 years and then compare the two players?

  22. MikeTomaselli June 22, 2010 at 10:40 pm
    Okay I'm sorry I accused you of hindsight. In fact you had foresight, and I again bow to your awesome insight to pitching.

    But really Joe what are we arguing? That Jason Vargas was traded for JJ Putz? What about Brian Bannister for Ambiorix Burgos? Another pitcher who could have helped this team win. What about Kazmir (reopens wound). My point is the Mets seem to be bad at trading for talent. So my argument will continue to be that they need to hold tight to whatever they have (which I hold you are underrating) and make their move this offseason for FA pitching. See I believe having role players like Tejada, Thole, Carter, Parnell is exactly what a winning organization has in the minor leagues, and every once in a while produces a big star. Wright, Reyes, Pelfrey, (maybe) Davis are not typical for most teams to just have sitting around in the minor leagues. Another point is that with Tony B gone we have seen great improvement already in the minor leagues with teams that are actually winning because players are not aggressively promoted for no good reason. I see potential. And I don't want it ruined for a rent-a-player or another big contract plus prospects. Maybe I have rose colored glasses on, but I like what I see regardless.

  23. metstoday June 23, 2010 at 4:42 am
    I'll be watching with bated breath. The Mets farm system sucks, plain and simple. There's no way they go Top 10 when hardly anyone is left from the 2007-2008 drafts and half of their top 10 prospects from 2010 are already either hurt or have been demoted for awful performance.
  24. isuzudude June 23, 2010 at 1:49 pm
    Wasn't Tejada a part of the deal Toronto proposed to the Mets last year that would have landed NY Roy Halladay?
  25. John June 23, 2010 at 2:01 pm
    I agree. These deadline "big name" trades usually don't work out. The guys who are traded are usually on the downside of their career and the other team usually has reasons for making the deal other than salary.
    As to the minor leagues, very few teams have an abundance of "major league ready" prospects or "can't miss" guys at the lower levels. Each system is lucky if they produce two major leaguers a year and one "star" player every five.
    I think the biggest gauge is how many contributing players a team can develop who help the team win. That doesn't mean these guys will become all stars but guys who play winning baseball.
    That was this team's failure over the last few years. There was no one who could come in and be a major leaguer because they kept trading them all away for aging "names"
    I don't know if Ike Davis will be a big time player over the long haul (he really has to fix the stepping in the bucket.), Tejada will ever be a starting second baseman, Parnell will ever harness his control, Mejia will ever develop secondary pitches (I could go on but you get the idea.)
    But what I do know is that few players ever have a career where they are very successful over 8 to 10 years. The vast majority perform at their peak for three or four years. Time takes it's toll, players lose some of the desire after making a few bucks and developing other interests and having a family, teams figure out their weaknesses and adjust and the player can't and who else knows what.
    The point is trading for that "proven" big time guy is a risky proposition, not that you are giving up a prospect that could become a star because almost all don't but because you commit significant dollars to these guys and they usually have seen their best days.
  26. MikeTomaselli June 23, 2010 at 2:03 pm
    http://www.metsblog.com/2009/07/21/buzz-questions

    From July of last year, FYI. It seems that deal was never really considered. Also it claims Tejada was 17 years old at the time, which is amazing since about a year later he is 20. If Tejada ages this quickly I think I'm on Joe's side that he is a bust 😛

    I think I get your argument now, Joe, it's not that you are attacking Tejada or any other prospect for not being good enough, you are attacking the Mets for hyping them up. I agree. I see Tejada for what he is: a nice player with a winning skillset but no more than a role player. The Mets seem to want people to believe he is a star. It's just not gonna happen. I just never buy into the hype machines thrown out by clubs so I seem to forget about that part. I don't want you to think I believe the Mets system is amazingly good with stars all around. I just think it is consistently underrated by many, and I've read about scouts who say the same. I guess I'm choosing to believe them and not the nay-sayers.

    Yes, lets wait to judge him in 3 years, but can we really wait that long?