Section 518

Where we endeavor to stay positive about the 2011 Mets…

Archive for the ‘Trades’ Category

Lefty Luxuries

Posted by JD on August 24, 2010

All of the waiver-wire action of the past few days (Rod Barajas, Johnny Damon, and Manny Ramirez leap to mind) got me wondering whether the Mets will make any more moves before the August 31st deadline. The Mets have already passed a few players through waivers successfully, but I don’t anticipate any movement on them due to their price tags (Carlos Beltran) or limited value (Jesus Feliciano, Mike Hessman, Luis Castillo, Jeff Francoeur, and Oliver Perez).

There are, however, two other players on the roster who should be placed on waivers immediately: Pedro Feliciano and Hisanori Takahashi. Don’t get me wrong: both players are useful cogs in the bullpen. But given their respective ages and price tags, they are luxury items that aren’t necessary for a .500 team that’s fallen out of the playoff race.

Ted Berg addressed potentially trading Pedro Feliciano back in July. He was right then, and he’s still right today (the only difference being that the market has significantly narrowed due to the waiver requirement). Feliciano is earning $2.9 million and can expect a raise in the arbitration process this season. While the Mets almost never go in front of an arbitrator, but you can expect them to settle with Pedro somewhere between $3.5 and $4 million. Heck, the Mets signed Scott Schoeneweis to a 3 eyar/$9 million deal just three seasons ago, and I’m sure a) Feliciano is a better pitcher, and b) the market has gone up since then. Can the Mets really afford to pay a lefty-specialist that much when they have so many other roster spots to address?

Takahashi is only making $1 million and to the best of my knowledge (read: the Mets’ page on Cot’s Baseball Contracts), he won’t be eligible for arbitration until 2013, meaning the Mets can retain him until that time while giving him only minimal raises. However, he’ll be 36 next season and there’s no guarantee that he’ll be able to match his current level of success (a term I use loosely: his 98 ERA+ indicates that he’s a slightly below-average pitcher). Sure, there may not be a market for Takahashi, but it can’t possibly hurt to gauge other team’s interest.

As for Feliciano, there’s an additional wrinkle to consider: MLB Trade Rumors is predicting that he’ll qualify as a Type B free agent. As such, if the Mets offer him arbitration and he declines, they’ll receive a sandwich pick in next seasons amateur draft, which will likely be worth more than any prospect they could land after putting him on waivers. But, there’s definitely a market out there for him. For instance, the Yankees would probably be interested in adding a solid lefty-specialist, and that might force Tampa, Boston or even Texas or Minnesota to be interested, if only to their potential playoff opponents from adding to their arsenal. Heck, I could even see the Phillies claiming Feliciano just to ensure that he doesn’t land on the Braves and wreak his usual havoc on Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez, and Chase Utley in the playoffs. The Mets might luck into landing a prospect who can help them more cheaply, but if they don’t find a return that they’re interested in, they can still pull him back from waivers. There’s really no downside (aside from bruised egos, I suppose).

There are several scenarios in play and the Mets should at least take this opportunity to make Feliciano and Takahashi available to other teams.  Get a gauge of their value, see what they’re worth to the contending teams in both leagues. It’s possible that they’ve been placed on waivers and it hasn’t been leaked yet (waivers are intended to be confidential until another team claims a player), but if they haven’t yet, there’s no real excuse for it. They should be making every attempt to maximize their available assets.


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Oswalt Rumors and Draft Picks

Posted by JD on June 14, 2010

Two story lines broke today that were of interest to me, and neither were particularly encouraging. The first was related to Roy Oswalt: the New York Post reported a friend of his said that Oswalt “likes the veteran fiber of the Mets” and would accept a trade to Flushing.

Kudos to Oswalt’s buddy for that excellent quote, but no thank you. In the spirit of full disclosure, I feel compelled to share with you my utter dislike for Roy Oswalt. It’s pretty straightforward: I don’t like Oswalt because of his grudge with Cliff Floyd. I distinctly remember my outrage when Oswalt plunked Floyd with first base open, after Floyd had hit a grand slam off of him in a previous game. It was petty and I’ve never let go it. My inner “irrational fan” wants nothing to do with that jerk.

My “rational fan” side is only slightly less disinterested. Oswalt is still an above-average starting pitcher who, in his prime, was dominant. The problem is that he’s owed a lot of money over the next two seasons, will probably require a contract extension to waive his no trade clause (“veteran fiber” be damned), and plays for an organization that will demand premium prospects in return.

Truthfully, it’s that last piece that is the biggest negative. I read a couple of stunning trade suggestions from Mets fans on Twitter today that alternatively had me laughing out loud or dropping my jaw in utter disbelief. I don’t want to single anyone out, so I’ll just tell you my parameters for a deal. If the Astros asked for Jon Niese straight up, I’d decline the trade. Jenrry Mejia straight up? No thanks. Wilmer Flores? Nope. Fernando Martinez? No way. Dillon Gee? I’d think about it. Any combination of the above? Please don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

If the Astros are willing to eat a significant portion of Oswalt’s contract or accept Oliver Perez as part of a package, I’d think about upping the quality of prospect included in the deal. If not, I’d start with Tobi Stoner, Pat Misch, and a C quality prospect (or lower). If the Astros accept, great. If not, save those bullets for Kevin Millwood, Jake Westbrook, or (if possible) Cliff Lee: their cost/benefit ratios are far more acceptable than Oswalt’s*.

*This may all be a moot point. While I was writing this, Craig Calcaterra of NBC Sports’ Hardball Talk (hat tip to MetsBlog) reported that the Texas Rangers are working hard at acquiring Oswalt. According to Calcaterra, the Rangers and Astros have agreed on the players involved but are waiting for MLB’s approval on the contract side (the Rangers are in bankruptcy and MLB is floating their payroll until their recent sale is finalized). Stay tuned, as Buster Olney is tweeting that there’s “nothing to it”, but it looks like it may be out of the Mets hands anyway. Which is a good thing.

In other news, MetsBlog reported that the Mets had come to term with 25 draft picks, the highest of which was 4th round pick Cory “Son of Greg” Vaughn (for the full list of signees, click here). I’m all for getting the kids signed and playing as soon as possible, but I have mixed emotions about these quick signings.

I have no insight regarding the scouting and drafting process beyond what I read in the past 10 days or so and I’m not involved in the negotiations, so I can’t comment on what was demanded and what was offered. But the quick signings indicate that the Mets drafted these kids knowing that they wouldn’t try to break the bank. It’s possible that they’re the players Omar Minaya wanted, but available evidence indicates otherwise. If even one of these guys makes the majors, it won’t matter one bit, but as I mentioned here and here, that was the last thing I wanted to see. The amateur draft may be one of the bigger crapshoots in professional sports, but that’s no excuse for a franchise as wealthy as the Mets to intentionally handicap themselves like that.

Posted in Mets, Omar Minaya, Trades | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Castillo for Pierre, A Study

Posted by JD on December 8, 2009

It being the height of the Hot Stove season, we’ve been inundated with trade and free agent rumors. One of the most persistent subject of rumors this season has been Luis Castillo. He’s been mentioned prominently in deals involving Milton Bradley of the Cubs, Pat Burrell of the Rays, or a three-way deal involving both. I don’t have the energy to discuss those particular rumors; in my mind, they’re total non-starters. Let’s just move on.

There’s another rumor circulating: Castillo for Juan Pierre, straight up. I think we can handle this one. Let’s break this down, Dr. Jack style*:

*So if Bill Simmons admits he’s borrowing this concept from Dr. Jack Ramsey, am I’m copying Simmons or Ramsey? Or is it just “public domain” at this point? And is Joe Posnanski pissed that I used an asterisk to ask the question? I’m getting dizzy.

Remaining Contract: Cot’s Baseball Contracts provides the following numbers: 2 years at $6 million each for Castillo vs. 2 years at $10 and $8.5 million for Pierre. $12 million vs. $18.5 million. Edge: Castillo.

Age: Castillo is 23 months older and has 1,108 more MLB at-bats than Pierre. And he routinely limps like a 70-year-old with rheumatoid arthritis. Edge: Pierre.

Defense: Castillo plays the more difficult position (2B vs. LF). Pierre catches fly balls with two hands, but bounces throws to second from deep shortstop. Edge: Pick ’em. Alright, that’s not even remotely fair. Using career Range Factor per 9 Innings, Castillo comes in at 4.88 vs. Pierre’s 2.38. However, when you compare them to the league averages at their position, you find that Pierre is slightly better than average: 4.88/4.99 vs. 2.38/2.21. Edge: Pierre.

Home Runs: Castillo has 28, Pierre only 13. Over the past 3 years (basically since Castillo came to the Mets; we’re going to use this standard throughout): Castillo 5, Pierre 1. Edge: Shockingly, Castillo.

Stolen Bases: For their careers, Castillo has stolen 362 bases vs. Pierre’s 459. Pierre is also a more efficient base stealer with a 74.76% success rate against Castillo’s 68.17%. Over the last three years, Castillo has far fewer stolen bases (56 vs. 134), but a slightly better success percentage (80% vs. 77.46%). Edge: Pierre.

Runs: Castillo has 973, Pierre 804. We can’t ignore the four-year difference in career length, so let’s turn this into a rate stat. Castillo scored a run in 13.56% of his plate appearances vs.  Pierre’s 13.26%. And over the last three seasons, Castillo has scored 214 runs to Pierre’s 197. Edge: Castillo.

Runs Created: Castillo has 882, Pierre 753. Again, Castillo played four more seasons, so that’s not exactly fair. Let’s use Runs Created per Game instead: Castillo 4.9, Pierre 4.8. Pretty even, although Pierre wins the 2009 battle, 4.9/5.1. Edge: Pierre.

Slugging Percentage: Castillo’s .354 vs. Pierre’s .372. Why? Pierre has nine more doubles and 22 more triples in 1,108 fewer plate appearances. Edge: Pierre.

On-Base Percentage: Castillo .369 vs. Pierre .348. Just 21 percentage points, you say? That translates to an average of 20 additional walks per year (54.36 vs. 34, to be exact), I say. Edge: Castillo.

On-Base Plus Slugging (OPS): .723 against .720. Here it is, in black and white: walks are good. It says here that walks can even mitigate an obvious lack of power. Edge: Castillo.

OPS+: Castillo’s 93 vs. Pierre’s 85. Both players have been worse than league average over the course of their career, but Castillo less so. Edge: Castillo. What’s that you say? Pierre had an OPS+ of 105 last year, while Castillo only had a 98? Fair enough. However, Castillo has bettered Pierre in every season since 2004*: 77/75 (08), 94/74(07), 91/82(06), 108/84 (05). And for good measure, let’s look at 2003 (the last year Castillo was on a World Series winner, and the only time for Pierre): 106/94. I’ll take Castillo, thanks.

*For the record, Pierre won the 2004 season 93/107.

Let’s add it up. The Tale of the Tape shows Castillo beating Pierre 6-4-1. I’ll keep Luis, please.

Listen, feel free to poke holes in this analysis. I’m a relative newcomer to statistical analysis and I readily admit that I might be missing pieces of the full picture. This is how you learn: do your best, share your results, and learn from the criticism. But I’ll stand by this: no matter how you choose to perform your analysis, Castillo’s career stats mirror Pierre’s to the point that you can’t ignore the fact that holding on to Castillo saves you $6.5 million over the next two years. That cannot be understated.

Castillo for Pierre is a losing trade for the Mets unless they get the Dodgers to throw in at least one prospect. And the Mets better hold out for more if the Dodgers offer a prospect that’s over 24. Otherwise, Castillo is the better deal for 2010.

Posted in Mets, Offseason Moves, Trades | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Five Fun Facts: Jeff Francoeur

Posted by JD on July 11, 2009

The Ryan ChurchJeff Francoeur trade was a pretty bad one. As there’s already been plenty of discussion on it, I just want to throw out a few tidbits about the Mets’ new right fielder:

1. Francoeur currently has a 68 OPS+. He’s currently tied for 7th worst among qualifiers. I’d list some of the players with a better OPS+ but why bother? Just know that Ryan Church has an 88 OPS+.

2. Francoeur won the Gold Glove in 2007. That’s nice and I’m sure it looks great in his trophy case, but it’s 2009. His Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) is currently 0.6 (via the fine folks at FanGraphs Baseball). That means he saves about a 0.6 runs per game more than a league average right fielder. Of course, Ryan Church’s UZR is 2.8.

3. In his four year career, Francoeur has played 162 games twice. He’s pretty proud of that fact, listing it second on the Career Highlights section of his blog. For the record, the other three Braves to do it are Dale Murphy, Andruw Jones, and former Met Felix Millan.

4. Francoeur has actually lowered his strike out totals in each of his last three seasons, going from 132 to 129 to 111. He’s currently on pace to finish with 96. So, we got that going for us. Which is nice.

5. Via, two of his most comparable players are Butch Huskey and Mark Carreon. Well then.

And so it goes. I really don’t understand this trade. The Braves had been shopping Francoeur since Spring Training with Kansas City and Florida being mentioned most prominently. With that in mind and the statistics listed above, I have to say the Braves “won” this trade. Why did the Mets decide to help a division rival? I doubt we’ll know the full answer for some time, so I have to infer that Jerry Manuel really wanted to dump Church. I’m going to put this trade in the “negatives” column of my Manuel evaluation until proven otherwise.

Posted in Mets, Trades | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

The Alex Rios Debate

Posted by JD on July 3, 2009

The Mets’ current struggles with an injury-depleted lineup have fueled trade talk among the fans, one of my personal favorite activities. I love wondering whether this pitcher or that batter is available, speculating on the price tag, and concocting mock lineups featuring the targets of the day. It makes me feel more engaged with the team and leads to some interesting discussions with fellow fans.

One such target is Alex Rios, the Toronto Blue Jays’ right fielder. I first saw Rios proposed as a trade target on Matthew Cerrone makes a logical argument that he might be available and says that Rios reminds him of a younger Carlos Beltran. I see it, too. He’s played center field, has a nice arm, and runs the bases well. He carries himself similarly, too. Not a squeaky wheel, Rios strikes me as a quiet performer who just goes out there everyday and plays hard. He’s definitely someone worth researching further.

Rios currently has a .736 OPS and an OPS+ of 93 (100 is considered league average). Not stellar, but an upgrade over Ryan Church, Gary Sheffield, Fernando Martinez, and Jeremy Reed, right? Uhmm, not really. Church checks in at .740/97 and Sheffield at .906/139 (How did we get this guy for the Major League minimum? But, I digress…). Rios blows away Martinez (.523/39) and Reed (.659/76), but not Fernando Tatis, who checks in at .734/95. That’s right, Alex Rios is comparable to our very own Fernando Tatis!*

*Rios’ power numbers are better, but he has roughly twice as many plate appearances as Tatis (351 to 175). IMHO, the similarity is stunning. Damning, even.

Let’s dig a little deeper.  Rios had a career year in 2007 at the age of 26, hitting 24 homers, collecting 85 RBI and scoring 114 runs on his way to a 122 OPS+. As players tend to reach their primes at the age of 27, it seemed that Rios was setting the stage for a good run. However, he regressed slightly the next year to 17 homers, 79 RBI, and 91 runs (111 OPS+). Admittedly, this is a small sample size, but it indicates that he’s hitting a plateau. His OPS+ has declined from 122 to 111 and his current production indicates it will drop again this season, all during his prime years. Not a good sign.

Acquiring him for a reasonable price would strengthen the lineup a bit and send a positive message to the players (and fans). Cerrone speculates that the Jays would likely give Rios away and I’m inclined to agree: a Dillon Gee-type prospect might get it done. But don’t forget his contract. According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, Rios is owed $5.9 million this season. By comparison, Church makes $2.8 million, Tatis $1.7 million, and Sheffield $400k. We’re about halfway through the season, so let’s cut those contracts in half. That means Rios is owed $2.95, while Church ($1.9), Tatis ($850k), and Sheffield ($200k) combine to equal that. Three players who each have a higher OPS+ than Rios have a combined salary that equals his? That’s just not a reasonable use of the Mets’ budget.

But wait, there’s more! Rios’ contract climbs to $9.7 million next season. Assuming (and yes, I know what you make when you “assume”) that Rios is a league-average outfielder next season, do the Mets want to lock him in for $9.7 million? Potential free agents include Jason Bay, Carl Crawford (team option), Jermaine Dye, Matt Holliday, and Vlad Guerrero (not to mention everybody’s favorite 2B, Orlando Hudson), and there’s always the possibility that other names will become available via trade. Is acquiring Rios now worth losing the flexibility to acquire these other players?

In my eyes, Rios’ contract has a poison-pill feel to it. It escalates to $12 milli0n in 2011 and 2012 and $12.5 million in 2013 and 2014, with a team option for $13.5 million in 2015 ($1 million buyout). Would it prevent the Mets from adding a premier players in the future? Not necessarily, but is it worth the risk? I’d say no.

To be fair, you can’t ignore the fact that Rios has been playing in the best division of the better league. A trade to the National League might boost his stats or he might be revitalized by the change in scenery and repeat his earlier successes. He’s only 28; it’s not like he’s ready for retirement. But I’d argue that the money and years involved make it a gamble not worth taking. In my opinion, it’s not worth trading prospects and future flexibility for Alex Rios.

Posted in Mets, Trades | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »