Mets: Where are the Trading Chips?

The Mets have holes to fill this winter — that’s obvious. We’ve looked at the potential free agent pool, and it doesn’t appear to have much depth in regard to the Mets’ needs. Therefore, the Mets likely will explore the trade route in order to strengthen the club for 2008. Oh, just one problem:

There isn’t much to trade.

Let’s take a look at the players who are currently on the 40-man roster, and will be the Mets’ property when 2007 contracts expire. I’ve taken the liberty of splitting them into three groups: Won’t be traded, Can’t Be Traded, Untradeable (due to health), and Trading Chips.

Won’t Be Traded

Moises Alou
Carlos Beltran
Orlando Hernandez
John Maine
Oliver Perez
Jose Reyes
David Wright

I could be wrong about El Duque, Maine and Perez. Certainly, Maine or Perez would have to be involved in a major blockbuster — the type that would net a Roy Oswalt or a Victor Martinez. But I’m guessing that Mets management would prefer to hold onto all of these guys.

Can’t Be Traded

Carlos Delgado
Pedro Martinez
Billy Wagner

Some of the MetsToday faithful are anxious to send Billy away. However he, like Pedro, has a full no-trade clause. Delgado has declining skills and a guaranteed $20M left on his contract. Maybe I’m nuts, but I highly doubt the Mets can move him.


Ambiorix Burgos
Juan Padilla
Duaner Sanchez
Jason Vargas

Burgos underwent TJ surgery, Vargas had a less serious elbow surgery performed (bone spur), and both Padilla and Sanchez are huge question marks after missing all of 2007.

Trading Chips

Adam Bostick
Endy Chavez
Willie Collazo
Pedro Feliciano
Carlos Gomez
Ruben Gotay
Aaron Heilman
Anderson Hernandez
Philip Humber
Ben Johnson
Lastings Milledge
Guillermo Mota
Carlos Muniz
Mike Pelfrey
Scott Schoeneweis
Joe Smith

Yeah, that’s a fairly long list — better than a baker’s dozen. But hold on there, do we really believe that Mota, Bostick, Collazo, Muniz, or Johnson can land anyone of signficance? Those are throw-in guys. I doubt any would even bring back someone worthwhile in a salary dump.

So let’s cut the list down:

Realistic Trading Chips

Endy Chavez
Pedro Feliciano
Carlos Gomez
Ruben Gotay
Aaron Heilman
Anderson Hernandez
Philip Humber
Lastings Milledge
Mike Pelfrey
Scott Schoeneweis
Joe Smith

First of all, I’d be very surprised if the Mets traded Endy Chavez. But who knows, if they re-sign Marlon Anderson and decide to keep Carlos Gomez around, maybe Endy goes. Yet if he is offered, what could he possibly bring back? A cheapo team like the Marlins, Nats, or Devil Rays could be interested, but none have a desperate need for a fourth outfielder who may or may not be talented enough to play centerfield every day.

Further, as stated before, AHern doesn’t have much value. Sorry, but slick-fielding middle infielders who don’t hit are fairly easy to find. Mario Mendoza had no value in the 1980s, and AHern has none now.

Now in the case of Ruben Gotay, you have a kid who may or may not have played over his head in 2007. Not too many teams are looking for a second baseman, and those that are, probably are more comfortable with their in-house options. Off the top of my head I’d imagine the Rockies will need a second sacker if they don’t re-sign Kaz Matsui. Otherwise I’m having a hard time thinking of a team that might be interested.

I’m also having a hard time believing the Mets can trade Scott Schoeneweis for anyone that can help in 2008. Maybe you agree. Let’s cut the list down again, removing The Show, Gotay, AHern, and Endy for the reasons above.

Realistic Trading Chips – Adjusted

Pedro Feliciano
Carlos Gomez
Aaron Heilman
Philip Humber
Lastings Milledge
Mike Pelfrey
Joe Smith

Now we’re getting down to the nitty-gritty. Take a good, long look at that sparse list of tradeable chips. That’s what Omar has to work with this winter.

Consider the following:

1. Feliciano, Heilman, and Smith are probably your best in-house options for middle- and setup relief in 2008.

2. Humber and Pelfrey are two of only three young pitchers the Mets have in their organization who could be ready to pitch at the MLB level by 2009. (Kevin Mulvey is the other).

3. Gomez and Milledge were corner outfield starters in 2007. Like Humber and Pelfrey, they constitute two-thirds of the Mets’ top position prospects in regard to the near future.

Obviously, you have to give up something to get something. For the Mets to make a deal of any consequence, they’ll have to give up either significant pieces of their future, or the better arms of an already disastrous bullpen. Tough call.

What makes things more difficult is that the Mets may think more highly of their own players compared to their perceived value on the open market. Sure, the Mets think that Pelfrey is the bomb, but nearly every other organization has one or two or three Pelfreys — same with Humber. To get a proven MLB player would probably require BOTH Pelfrey AND Humber — if recent trades are any indication. We may love the speed of Carlos Gomez, but opposing scouts question his bat. Lastings Milledge could indeed be the next Gary Sheffield but there are a large number of clubs who see him as a potential headache — deserved or not, that’s the opinion viewed by many on the outside.

Omar has his work cut out for him this winter, there’s no doubt. Even if you disagree on some of my opinions stated here, you have to agree the Mets don’t have a whole lot to work with. Finding the key pieces necessary for a 2008 postseason bid will take some remarkable creativity.

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. Micalpalyn October 10, 2007 at 12:28 pm
    Joe: Scroll down for comments on Joe Nathan and Mike Barrett.

    I hear your rhetoric, but the ‘opposing GMs’ are often they that simply want to make a splash by picking up the next Jeff Bagwell or Scott Kazmir.

    I’ll defer on this untill after the WS and options are picked up. There are waaay too many scenarios out there.

    I will go out on a limb (again) and say that the Twinkies NON TENDER/decline the option on Joe Nathan and hand the job to Joe Neschek (?).

    Another X-factor for the Mets: Eddie Kunz

  2. joe October 10, 2007 at 2:46 pm
    That limb holding your Nathan theory is swaying toward the ground.

    Rosenthal is just like me, speculating things out of thin air. Only difference is he gets paid a regular salary to come up with jackass ideas, while I come up with silly scenarios out of love for the Mets. (And BTW I do have a few “inside sources” who will always remain more anonymous than “a rival GM said…”)

    The Twinkies are going to let Santana walk in ’09, so my noneducated guess is that they go for broke in ’08 (not the same as other teams going for broke, of course). There’s no way they don’t pick up Nathan’s option, and positively will pick it up if they think they can trade him. In which case the Mets would have to offer Pelfrey/Humber and Milledge at minimum to obtain him.

    Funny that you mention Barrett, because the entire reason I started a baseball blog came from this catalyst:

    I had suggested to the Padres fans (there weren’t any decent Mets forums back in 2003) that Barrett would be a bargain to fill their catching hole, and a good bet to improve. I was poo-pooed, naturally. All Barrett did from then on was hit .287 / .276 / .307 the next three years for the Cubs.

    At this stage of his career, though, I think Barrett is the opposite — not a bargain, and not likely to improve.

    Also saw in that Rosenthal column: the Phillies could be interested in Miguel Tejada as a third baseman. Dear lord … can you imagine if the Phils had ANOTHER bat in that lineup?

  3. Micalpalyn October 10, 2007 at 4:05 pm
    Here’s my bottom line Joe:

    a. Trades, everytime i see a trade we are giving up the earth. The media has created Met trades in the past and ALWAYS knew what Jim Duqutte was doing, ditto SP. THEY never know what Omar will do. He balked at the Cordero trade, A Jeff Kent deal 2 yrs ago, The Milledge and Manny deal, Oswalt deal etc. i think he will splash but essentially he has the team he wants:

    He has 5 OFers: Beltran/Alou(option), Endy, Gomez, Millz
    IFers: Reyes, wright,Del (rebound yr?, i think so)
    SP: ollie, Maine, Pedro

    This is the least holes he’s had to fill. I think he signs at least one catcher quickly though. even if its only Di Felice.

    b. There are several smaller market teams that dump high quality players, especially if they have viable prospects. I recommend you post a two yr review (2006 & 2005) of the non tender FA/option declined lists.

  4. Micalpalyn October 10, 2007 at 4:21 pm

    Whew alot of Mets in this rumor list. And some very common patterns.

  5. joe October 10, 2007 at 4:29 pm
    Excellent point: the media NEVER knows what Omar is doing. Nearly every signing and trade he’s made came out of the blue. Recent examples: Schoeneweis, Jae Seo trade, Bell/Ring deal. Even the in-season deals for Conine, Green, and Castillo were more or less off the radar until they were complete (all the pundits were certain Omar was trading for Alou last August, not Green; similarly, most thought the Mets were getting Cordero, as you mention, not Castillo).

    Is this the offseason of the least amount of holes? I’m not sure, and going to investigate that. Will make for a good article either way!

    I started looking at this winter’s potential non-tenders, and it doesn’t look so bountiful. However the two-year review sounds intriguing — just not sure where to find the archives?

  6. isuzudude October 10, 2007 at 5:46 pm
    I’m with Joe. No way on God’s green earth do the Twins not pick up Nathan’s option. Think of it. If the Mets had Nathan, and held a $6-mil option for him, but had a small chance of fielding a contending team in ’08, would you just drop one of your best trading chips for nothing? Or, would you pay him the 6-mil, go into the season hoping to make a run, and trade him for a ton of prospects if/when the season goes bad? There’s certainly going to be no shortage of takers. And at $6-mil he is a BARGAIN for a pitcher of his caliber nowadays, even for the likes of the penny-pinching Twins.

    Also, keep in mind the term “non-tendered” only applies to players teams don’t want to pay arbitration to. Instead of dishing out big bucks a player has been awarded by a judge, a team decides to sever ties altogether by non-tendering(i.e. failing to agree to) his contract. Nathan is not arbitration eligible, so he cannot be non-tendered. He can be released, but again, realistically speaking, that will NEVER happen.

    I happen to keep detailed lists of offseason free agent movement dating back to 2001 (I need to get a hobby, I know). Those lists include non-tenders. In the offseason leading up to 2007, non-tenders included: Victor Zambrano (Mets), Joel Piniero (Mariners), Danys Baez (Braves), Chris Reitsma (Braves), Marcus Giles (Braves), Alexis Gomez (Tigers), David Newhan (Orioles), Jason Werth (Dodgers). Not exactly your most awe-inspiring list. Certainly nobody of a Joe Nathan mold.

    I happen to put absolutely no stock in rumors generated by the so called “experts.” Joe hit it right on the head. These guys are no more knowledgable about the subject than you or I, the only difference is they make more money and have a very public venue for trumpeting their opinions. If you ever were to keep track, the “experts” are wrong about their rumors 95 out of 100 times. Why anymore pays attention to them is beyond me.

    And Joe, props for the article. A common trait of a misguided fan is to overvalue his team’s own system and believe his scrap metal is worth another team’s gold (aka the Blue Jays would be crazy not to trade Burnett for Ben Johnson and Willie Collazo!) But Joe put it out there in realistic terms, and that is that the Mets have a depleted farm system and a poor selection of propects other teams have interest in trading for in exchange for a proven major league player. Omar certainly has his work cut out for him, and really backed himself into this corner by dealing Ring, Owens, Lindstrom, and Bell for nothing. If the organization was deadset on trading those 4, at least get better value in return. But we’ve been down that road already, and it leads us to where we are now: fishing for pitching help without much bait to put on the hook.

  7. Micalpalyn October 10, 2007 at 7:00 pm
    I know you do not see my logic, but similarly the Mets declined Shawn Green’s option (back in April), in which he would earn $? M, obviously Omar knows he has at least 4 options in the minors plus a FA market AND an option on Moises.

    On Nathan: I’ll be sitting on my limb if the subject comes up again. But baseball IS crazy.

    On your later post you have Sullivan and House on the market as FA. With NO catchers at the ML, AAA, and AA levels worthy of a 2nd thought does not a JR House make a little sense to sign and ask to be the starting AAA catcher, 3rd/4th ML catcher?

    Isu: Granted I dont keep records, but Joel Pinero I would have signed last yr (not Chan Ho) and asked him to chase Pelfrey. Reitsma and Baez also were options considering the BP woes. Wasn’t Sho also signed after he was non tendered? I know Bradford was the year prior. Also Omar picked up Mota and previously Danny Graves.

    Which brings another observation: Omar really does not TRADE for relief pitching he tries for FA and cast offs. Getting back to Humber, whatever happenned to the Rick Aguilera, Kevin Tapani mold of a pitcher who relieves in lieu of starting.

    Isu: I want to commend you for your post reference the need to prioritise pitching. In defense of Omar. I think he KNEW how bad the Mets relief was going to be,, but refused to mortgage a good youngster for a so-so reliever.

    Not that I am criticising, but Omar turned down a trade of Cordero for Humber and Pelfrey for Jon Rausch. A net of either could easily have made THE difference. So how high DOES Omar value Pelfrey and Humber.

  8. joe October 10, 2007 at 7:36 pm
    I was backing a Joel Pineiro signing last winter, but the Mets didn’t want to shell out the 2-year / $8M because of his questionable health.

    Addressing both Mic and Isuzu, good points that Omar’s annual plan is to fill out the bullpen with free agents and non-tenders, and that finding nuggets in the non-tender market can be next to impossible.

    Isuzu: you bring up a HUGE point regarding the casting away of Lindstrom, Owens, Ring, and Bell in return for zippo (and we could throw Bannister in there as well). Those deals — combined with the fact that the Mets were reluctant to give any of those arms a chance at the big-league level — could prove to be the single biggest undoing of the franchise.

    OK, maybe not that dramatic, but you have to admit — if the Mets don’t either find some great arms quick, or get really lucky, 2008 could be tougher than 2007.

    And yeah, isuzudude I think it’s time for a hobby! 🙂

  9. isuzudude October 10, 2007 at 8:44 pm
    Ah-ha! But if not for my obsessive record keeping I would not have been able to provide this blog with such enriching information!

    …well, I need to re-assure myself somehow that Saturday nights in front of my computer are more worth while than Saturday nights on the dance floor.

    Anyway, to address a few things…

    1. Mic: Green had an option for 2007 that kicked in when the Mets traded for him at the end of 2006. He had no option for 2008 declined in April, as you speak of. Again, thank my record keeping.

    2. To compare contract options of Green and Nathan is ludicrous. It would be like comparing options between Jonathan Papelbon and Luis Gonzalez. One is an instrumental part of a team’s success, the other is a close-to-retirement role player. I’ll let you figure out who’s who and who’s more valuable to keep.

    3. JR House is NOT a free agent. He was simply demoted to triple-A. He still has minor league options left with Baltimore, and isn’t going anywhere besides the Orioles’ farm system.

    4. Schoenewies was not non-tendered. He was strictly a free agent from Cincinnati, and just so happened not to be signed when the Mets came calling in January. I guess every other team in baseball besides the Mets knew well enough to stay away from the bum.

    5. Omar has been known to trade for some relief pitching. Remember, it was Roberto Hernandez the Mets were really after when they dealt Nady to Pittsburgh. It was a bonus they got Ollie as part of the deal. Omar also dealt Bannister to KC for Burgos, Seo/Hamulak to LA for Sanchez/Schmoll, and I guess you have to count getting Jorge Julio in the Benson for Maine trade, although he sent Julio to ‘Zona for El Duque later in the ’06 season. But again, this brings up a point we’ve already been discussing, and that is that it seems almost impossible to get something of value thru trade without giving up your left nut. And that’s why it seems like Omar is either sifting through someone else’s garbage or taking a chance on a FA (Sho, Mota, Sosa) to fill out the bullpen. You know what? To see Joe Nathan in a Met uniform, it may be worth sacrificing the ol’ left nut. In this case = Humber, Milledge, & Mulvey. That is, of course, if they can lock him up long term.

  10. joe October 10, 2007 at 9:58 pm
    JR House is not a free agent but he will be available via Rule 5, assuming that he stays off the 40-man. Same deal with Lew Ford.

    How quickly we forget the RoHern, Julio, and Sanchez deals — thanks for reminding us.

    Although as you also point out, Omar will be sifting through the scrap heap this winter, because any arm worth obtaining via trade will cost our top prospects.

    Finding a good middle reliever these days is like buying real estate two years ago — too many buyers, not enough sellers, and the market values going through the roof.

    If only the Mets could parlay a no-money-down, no-interest, low APR mortgage to acquire some Nathans and Riveras, they’d be set.

  11. Micalpalyn October 10, 2007 at 10:55 pm

    scroll down to the Mets portion. Is Green a FA?

    Co-rrect on the deals. But none of those compares (to me) as the MEL ROJAS, Turk Wendell (and Mcrae) trade {for mark clark and Lance johnson), the Steve Reed for jason Bay, Todd Hundley for Armando benitez, or even the jay Payton for jon Thomson trade.

    Ollie & Rohern for nady was a great one to remind us of. Just glad he did not spin Ollie for Linebrink as rumored.

    And I know very little about JR house, but he could well make up for losing Jesus Flores to the Nats. Could he be a Shoppach clone?

  12. joe October 10, 2007 at 11:51 pm
    No on House being a Shoppach clone. He has a weak arm, decimated by injuries. His hitting what brought him to MLB as a catcher, and MIGHT be strong enough to consider as a backup corner infielder/OF. At best he’s an alternative to Castro as a backup catcher who can come off the bench with some pop in the bat as a PH.

    If he were a Shoppach clone he’d have been kept on the 40-man.

  13. joe October 10, 2007 at 11:53 pm
    Oh … and Green will become a FA when the Mets buy out his $10M option for $2M.
  14. joe October 10, 2007 at 11:56 pm
    — Now you got me obsessing on House!! —

    Sorry Mic … now you know how I felt when isuzudude got me all hot on Russ Springer.

    Man this is going to be a tough offseason, if we’re going to be spending hours researching scrubs like Springer and House!

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