Tag: aaron heilman

Breaking Down “The Deal”

Now that the smoke has cleared, and the details revealed, let’s break down the three-team, 12-player deal that made J.J. Putz a Met.


IN:

J.J. PutzJ.J. Putz
When healthy, Putz may be a better reliever than K-Rod, believe it or not. The term “filthy stuff” gets thrown around a little too much these days, but if you want to know what “filth” is, watch Putz from a camera behind home plate. He has a nasty 94-95 MPH fastball with movement and a knee-buckling curve that reminds me of Gregg Olson’s “yellow hammer” (anyone remember him?). In addition, Putz has icewater running through his veins — nothing rattles him. He has the makeup and the stuff to close in big games.

If there’s any negative, it’s that “when healthy” phrase. Putz will be 32 years old when spring training begins, and he’s coming off a season in which he suffered a torso injury early on and an elbow issue that knocked him out of action for over a month. That elbow problem (a hyperextension) could re-surface, considering his age and the violent force required to throw his curve.

Sean GreenSean Green
Green is a tall, gangly, sidearming righthander with a deceptive delivery and who pitches to contact. His ball has decent sink so he throws a lot of ground balls, however, he walks way too many hitters. One major concern is his ineffectiveness in New York; his career ERA in Yankee Stadium is 14.63, and at Shea it is 27.00 (one inning, three runs). He’ll turn 30 in April, so it’s hard to believe he’s going to make a marked improvement going forward. Moving to the NL will not necessarily make him better, as he’ll be facing tough RH hitters and pinch-hitters later in games. My guess is he won’t be much more than a situational righthander. My greater fear is that he’ll make fans clamor for Heilman’s return.


Jeremy Reed

Jeremy ReedReed is a “poor man’s Endy Chavez” (to steal a phrase from my friend Joe Hamrahi). Hmm … that doesn’t sound so promising, does it?

Truth is this: Reed doesn’t hit for a particularly high average, has no power, doesn’t take walks, and his speed is only average. He’s a lefthanded hitter who struggles mightily against lefties. On the other hand, he is a decent to good defender who can handle all three outfield positions well, and he plays hard. At 27, now is the time for him to blossom. My best guess is that he doesn’t make the team out of spring training — particularly if the Mets sign a big-name, LH-hitting free agent outfielder.

OUT:

Aaron Heilman
There were two kinds of Mets fans: those who hated Heilman and wanted him gone, and those who loved him and hoped he could turn it around. It appears that he may finally get a chance to start, and the low expectations of Seattle make it an ideal environment for him to succeed. Good luck Aaron.


Joe Smith

Ouch. The pundits are positioning this as “Green replaces Smith”. I’m not so sure about that, since at a tender young age Smith proved he could succeed in New York, and was a huge fan favorite. Looking purely at the numbers, Smith struggled against LH hitters, allowed the first batter he faced to hit almost .400 against him, and was ineffective with runners on in scoring position. Still, he’s young and promising, had some memorable, electric outings, and most of all, he was OURS. He’ll be missed.

Endy Chavez
Everyone will miss Endy, and no one will ever forget “the catch”. Unfortunately, Endy was the odd man out once Dan Murphy was promoted … actually, he was phased out much earlier than that. For whatever reason, Chavez fell out of favor the minute Jerry Manuel took over as manager. Considering that Murphy figures to be in the plans for ’09, Fernando Tatis was retained, and Carlos Beltran rarely takes a day off, Endy’s playing time was not going to increase. Better to see him get a shot to play semi-regularly in Seattle, than waste away on the Mets’ bench.

Jason Vargas
For most fans, losing Vargas seems inconsequential, since he’s been hurt for most of the time he’s been property of the Mets. I beg to differ, as I think he’s on the verge of finally breaking out.

There are a few things that simply can’t be taught. A 95-MPH fastball, for instance. Heart, for another. Vargas’ stuff is ordinary at best, but he has plenty of heart, and is a tremendous competitor. I’m of the ilk that you can’t underestimate what’s inside a ballplayer — see Dustin Pedroia, David Eckstein, Greg Maddux, Johan Santana. No, I’m not saying Vargas is another Santana — he’s not even close — but his competitiveness will take him further than better-skilled pitchers with weaker stomachs. I think he’ll win a job with Seattle, and do OK for himself. In my mind, he had a better chance of effectively filling the #5 spot in the Mets’ rotation than Jon Niese. Also, it’s too bad he won’t be able to hit in the “other” league.

Mike Carp
Carp can hit, but is a man without a position. Further, I doubt he ever would have gotten a fair shot to win a job with the Mets, for whatever reason. Certainly he wasn’t in the conversation for ’09, and he’d need to have a big year to be considered for a job in 2010. His biggest problem is his bat is his only tool, and I’m not sure he’ll hit enough to justify an MLB job. In the AL, he at least has the option to DH.

Ezequiel Carrera

I never saw Carrera play so don’t have an educated opinion. From what I understand he is, ironically, at best another Endy Chavez — a defensive-minded centerfielder with not much pop, and fairly fleet of foot. At age 21, he’s still young, but is not particularly toolsy — his speed is above-average, but he’s not “a burner”; his arm is weak; he has no power potential. At 5’10, 180 lbs, he doesn’t expect to develop into a power guy. In his first full year of high-A ball, he hit .263. Youth is on his side, but to me this looks like a throw-in.


Maikel Cleto

Another guy I’ve never seen. All I know is he’s 19 years old, and he’s a 6’3″, 220-lb. righthander who pitched at two different levels of A ball last year. Though his numbers were unimpressive, he’s only 19 so who knows? He did throw a shutout, so he must have something.

Bottom Line

The way I see it, this is a great deal in that the Mets acquired one of the top ten relievers in MLB, but a difficult deal to love because they gave up so much. Putz was a great pickup, but the other two players are throwaways — in fact it wouldn’t surprise me if both began the year in AAA, or were cut. So essentially the Mets traded seven players for one.

In my mind, putting both Smith and Vargas in the deal will come back to bite the Mets, and shouldn’t have been necessary. I understand you have to give up something to get something, but there’s a point where you’re getting fleeced. The Mets are in dire need of at least two, possibly three starting pitchers, and in Heilman and Vargas they traded away two guys who could have potentially filled those spots.

If it turns out the way I think it will, the Mariners traded a 32-year-old, damaged reliever and two fringe MLBers in return for two starting pitchers, a young and decent middle reliever, a fourth outfielder, and three prospects who may or may not turn into something. That’s too much for the Mets to give up, in my opinion.

One more note: Omar Minaya made a point in the press conference to say that the inclusion of several minor leaguers was indicative of the Mets having a quality system, and a great scouting department. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Carp was a product of the previous regime, Vargas was originally a Marlin and would have been on the MLB roster if not for injuries, and Carrera and Cleto are no-name, highly projectable throw-ins. Moreover, the fact that the Mets had to trade seven players for one legit big leaguer and two question marks is indicative of a WEAK organization.

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Mets Trade Heilman, Chavez, Smith

According to several sources, the Mets are part of a three-team deal, acquiring J.J. Putz, Jeremy Reed, and Sean Green in return for Aaron Heilman, Joe Smith, Endy Chavez, and Mike Carp.

In the convoluted deal that brings memories of Willie Montanez, Jon Matlack, and John Milner, Heilman, Chavez, and Carp go to Seattle, and Smith goes to Cleveland.

For those unaware, it’s a different Sean Green — this one is a middle reliever — and Jeremy Reed is a lefthanded-hitting outfielder with average speed, no power, and a poor ability to get on base.

It’s a good deal for the Mets in that they get Putz to handle the eighth inning — something he’s done successfully in the past. In addition, Green is a lanky sinkerballer with a deceptive delivery who fits the role of ROOGY.

On the one hand, it does appear to be a good deal for the Mets, assuming that Putz is healthy after struggling through an injury-prone 2008. On the other hand, Heilman, Chavez, and Smith were three of my favorite Mets. Sucks for me. Though, I do hope Aaron finally gets his chance to start in Seattle — though no word yet on whether the Mariners plan to use him as a starter or reliever.

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F-Mart for Jenks?

John Perrotto of Baseball Prospectus suggests that the White Sox and Mets are talking about a blockbuster trade that would send Fernando Martinez to Chicago in return for Bobby Jenks and Jermaine Dye.

Strange, as Jermaine Dye — who has a no-trade clause — has repeatedly stated that he is not interested in going to a New York team. Maybe he can be persuaded after all.

If the rumor is true, the only problem I have is that Ken Williams — like Billy Beane — seems to have a brilliant knack for trading away pitchers at just the right time and acquiring pitchers at just the right time. My guess is that Aaron Heilman would also be part of the deal.

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Heilman for Street? Ha!

Joel Sherman’s latest claim is that the Mets offered Aaron Heilman to the Rockies in return for Huston Street, and then refused to make the deal when Colorado insisted on the addition of Pedro Feliciano.

This is so laughable on so many levels I don’t know where to start.

First of all, if the Mets thought another team would think so highly of Aaron Heilman, why didn’t they offer him straight up for Matt Holliday? After all, that’s basically what they were telling the Rockies — since Street was the centerpiece of the Holliday deal with the Athletics. If I was Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd, and Omar Minaya proposed Heilman for Street right after I obtained Street for my franchise player, I’d not only tell Omar to stick it, I’d never take another call from him. Yes, I understand that other players were sent to the Rockies, but Street is the guy who has the most value at this moment.

Even sillier is the idea that the Mets would balk at adding Feliciano to such an unrealistic deal. Are you kidding me? Last I checked, there were about a dozen LOOGYs available on the free-agent market, for cheap, who can do what Pedro Lite does.

While it’s true that Huston Street’s stock has plummeted somewhat, he’s still a 24-year-old with almost 100 big-league saves. No one gives away that type of asset for two middle relievers entering their 30s and coming off their worst seasons. Remember what the Mets received in return for the Turk Wendell / Dennis Cook package? Exactly.

Now, if the Mets offered Heilman plus Jon Niese plus another youngster, I might believe it. Or if they offered Heilman and Ryan Church, I’d consider it realistic.

Personally, you know I think Heilman is much better than what he showed in 2008. But his current street value is nowhere near what Sherman is suggesting.

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Heilman Still Wants to Start

For the fourth straight offseason, Aaron Heilman has expressed his desire to be a starting pitcher.

This annual proclamation gives every Heilman hater out there another reason to despise Aaron — citing his “selfishness” and suggesting that “he should just be happy to be in the big leagues”, yadda yadda yadda. Whatever … there’s no point in arguing with the emotional lunatics. It would be easier to turn a Barack-blinded liberal into a George Bush supporter.

We won’t again go into the many, many, many reasons it makes sense to move Aaron into the rotation — just refer to this post and this page for the arguments. Notice I stated “move Aaron” rather than “give Aaron a chance”. This isn’t ONLY about Heilman wanting to be a starter — it’s about addressing the Mets’ current needs and using their available talent pool to fill spots. Speaking of, let’s focus on the latest thought-provoking explanation given by Omar Minaya to keep Aaron Heilman in the bullpen:

“We talked and he expressed himself,” Minaya said. “He told me that he’d like the opportunity to start. But my job is to make sure I do what’s in the best interest of the team, and we still see him in the bullpen.”

Huh. So, the fact that Jerry Manuel did everything in his power NOT to use Heilman in the final weeks of the season suggests that Aaron will be a key component of next year’s bullpen? How? Why? If Heilman continues to be such a valuable bullpen arm, why in the world are the Mets going after K-Rod and Brian Fuentes? Why not just name Heilman the closer and be done with it?

The Mets’ most dire needs right now, in this order, are: 1. starting pitcher; 2. closer; 3. starting pitcher; 4. starting pitcher. Those are four huge holes to fill, and the Mets are already behind the eight-ball regarding starters by not getting into the C.C. Sabathia bidding. Before they blink they’ll see not only C.C. but also Derek Lowe and A.J. Burnett off the market. “The best interest of the team” is filling those four holes. If all the closer eggs are going into the K-Rod basket, then doesn’t it make sense to move Heilman into one of the open starter roles?

Even more laughable is the scoop from Jon Heyman, who reported on SNY’s Mets Hot Stove that the Mets are “protecting” Heilman by keeping him in the bullpen. I’m not going to blame Heyman for that nonsense, as he’s simply the messenger reiterating what “insiders” have told him. Heyman tells us that the Mets are concerned about Heilman’s delivery, in particular the “high back elbow” motion that is similar to Mark Prior’s, and points to that specifically as a reason not to allow Aaron to pitch more than 100 innings in a season.

There is so much wrong with this “report”, I don’t know where to begin! Let’s start by reminding everyone that these “insiders” of the Mets organization are the same geniuses who recommended they trade Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano because Kazmir was going to blow his elbow out (huh … funny how things work out).

I will admit, as a pitching coach, that Heilman’s mechanics are complicated and have flaws — and the “high elbow” is something to be concerned about. But, it’s not nearly as big a problem as Heyman suggests. Don’t take it from me, though, use your own judgment. The argument is based on the fact that Heilman throws like Prior, and Prior had a major arm injury. Well, based on that logic, one would have to also believe that Greg Maddux will one day blow out his arm, because he throws with a low back elbow in the same manner as Pedro Martinez, and Pedro blew out his arm. Of course, that makes no sense. For every guy throwing like Prior who eventually injured his shoulder, there are two dozen guys who throw “correctly” and eventually injured himself.

In other words, everyone is different. Yes, Mark Prior suffered arm injuries, and it can be ascertained that at least part of the problem was due to his “high back elbow”, or what some term “inverted W”. But there have been many pitchers with this same arm action who DID NOT suffer a serious arm injury, the most obvious example being Don Drysdale. Yes, Drysdale’s career was over at age 32, but he managed to average somewhere in the neighborhood of 250+ innings per season through a dozen years before breaking down. Maybe Heilman will blow out his arm just like Drysdale did, and maybe it won’t happen until after he throws 3300 innings. No one can know for sure (again, everyone is different).

As a side note, I would like to point out that Mark Prior’s mechanics were once touted as “perfect” by Tom House, who is widely acknowledged as one of the best pitching coaches in baseball history when it comes to mechanics. In fact, Prior’s motion was gushed over and cited as an example of ideal mechanics in Will Carroll’s “Saving the Pitcher”. I point this out not because I agree with House (I don’t) or believe he’s as smart as everyone says (he’s not), but rather to illustrate just how subjective pitching mechanics can be. There are a ton of theories out there suggesting what’s “right”, but no one really knows for sure — no matter how many hours of video are studied, and no matter how many pitches are counted. What was believed to be “correct” today may be proved “incorrect” tomorrow, and vice-versa.

However, Heilman’s arm action is definitely not something I would teach, mainly because it is wasted motion and I like efficiency. It’s true that whipping the elbow up high before bringing it around could possibly lead to a dangerous load on the shoulder. But, there are a LOT of things in a pitching motion that can put undue stress on the shoulder — the most common one being over-rotating and opening up the front side too early. John Maine and Oliver Perez are two of the most blatant offenders of over-rotation — the ironic thing is, there are Major League coaches who TEACH this technique!

But the point is this: Maine and Perez have flawed, potentially damaging mechanics. But neither left the rotation … why are the Mets “protecting” Heilman and not Maine or Perez? If the Mets are going to allow Maine to continue to pitch with his flawed mechanics, will they also move him to the bullpen, as “protection”?

What’s much more concerning is that the Mets think there is a point in terms of accumulated innings that will cause Heilman’s arm to fall off. If they really believe this, I’m extremely curious how they arrived at this “magic number”. Did they pick it out of a hat? Do they simply like to apply the number 100 to all limits for pitchers? Certainly there is no scientific basis, because there haven’t been any studies done specifically on pitchers who throw like Aaron Heilman. If Drysdale is an indicator, then Heilman should be able to handle 300 innings a season for quite a while before hurting himself. John Smoltz does the “inverted W” thing and he had many 200+ inning seasons. Interestingly, Smoltz had four surgeries on his elbow before this most recent one on his shoulder — so it can be suggested that his motion didn’t do anything to his shoulder until he got into his 40s. Oh, and strangely enough, Jeremy Bonderman also went down due to and ELBOW injury — not shoulder — despite the fact that he, also, has a “high back elbow” motion similar to Aaron Heilman’s. Bonderman threw 175+ innings four years in a row.

What I find most hilarious about the idea of the Mets “protecting” Heilman by keeping him in the bullpen is that, in reality, they’re doing the exact opposite — they’re destroying him! There is not, and has not been, any indication in the past five years (at least) that the Mets follow any kind of system or protocol when it comes to the bullpen — not in as far as frequency of use, pitch counts, or “ups and readies” (i.e., warming up in the bullpen). Under each manager going back to Art Howe, the relievers were used recklessly, with no care or thought given to the preservation of individual arms. Instead, every game was managed like it was the seventh game of the World Series, with no thought given to tomorrow, or next week, or next month, or two months from now. Pitching on back-to-back days was a rule rather than an exception, particularly if a pitcher was “hot”.

It boggles the mind, some of the blasphemies that come out of the Mets organization. How in the world can pitching sporadically and without limits as a reliever be “safer” than the regimented structure a starting pitcher follows? Particularly when you rarely allow your starters to throw more than 100 pitches in an outing?

What this comes down to is the Mets showing Aaron who is boss. One of the many chefs in the kitchen doesn’t like the idea of Heilman telling them he wants to start, and as a result, the Mets will never fill one of their gaping holes in the rotation with the former #1 draft pick from Notre Dame. That’s the only explanation that makes sense — the rest of these excuses are exactly that, excuses.

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