The 2017 non-waiver trade deadline has come and gone and it doesn’t seem like anybody’s much too happy with what the Mets did…or didn’t do for that matter. After shipping Lucas Duda to the Tampa Bay Rays last week, the Mets made a curious trade with the Miami Marlins on Friday night to acquire AJ Ramos and then brought things down to today’s 4PM Eastern deadline with only the expected trade of closer, Addison Reed to the Red Sox.
In a perfect world, the Mets, toiling through what has been a lost season, would have been able to deal a bunch of their players who are pending free agents for players and prospects that would strengthen a retooling of the roster to prepare for 2018, but the combination of injuries, disappointing seasons and a soft market for offense found the Mets at prom night without a dance partner.
The hope to trade any or all of Jay Bruce, Asdrubal Cabrera, Neil Walker, Curtis Granderson and/or Jose Reyes was squashed early in the day as almost all reports pegged the team of not having a lot of interest in their players once the Reed trade was completed.
To make things easier, we’ll go in list form to break things down, but knowing myself as well as I do, things will have the tendency to get long once I get going.
Lucas Duda to Tampa Bay Rays for minor league reliever, Drew Smith
Duda was a solid Met and will leave the team in seventh place on the club’s all time home run list, but he was never fully appreciated by fans due to a reputation for being unclutch and for the throwing error in the 2015 World Series that allowed the tying run to score in a game that became the clincher for the Royals.
While he was prone to long streaks of being either red-hot or ice-cold, his numbers taken as a whole paint a picture of a solid major league first baseman who was surprising capable defensively despite his lumbering appearance. Duda also had the reputation for being a great team guy, beloved by teammates, who was always a consummate professional.
Entering free agency following the season, it was apparent that the Mets wouldn’t be resigning him due to his escalating salary and having Domonic Smith waiting in the wings in Las Vegas to take over the position next season. Trading Duda to open some playing time for Smith this season while also getting back anything of value for a player they would end up losing for nothing made plenty of sense. They were able to find a taker in the Tampa Bay Rays which brought back Drew Smith who was pitching in Triple A and was the 30th ranked prospect in the Rays system.
Since the trade, we’ve all heard a lot of glowing reports about Smith and going off stats alone (as I haven’t seen him play just yet), he does seem to have potential as a solid bullpen arm. A decent return for a player like Duda on an expiring deal who could end up becoming a solid major league.
Trade Grade: B
Minor leaguers Ricardo Cespedes and Merandy Gonzalez to Miami Marlins for AJ Ramos
With the Mets in seller-mode, this trade, on the surface, was a head-scratcher. Why would they be bringing on a back of the bullpen arm who saved 40 games just last season if they’re selling?
It didn’t take long or a lot of research to figure it out and, honestly, I’m a fan of this move. First the why: The Mets fully expect to contend next year and to do so will require them having a decent bullpen. Ramos is team-controlled through next year and should step into the role relinquished by Addison Reed who was obviously being traded due to his impending free agency.
Figuring Jeurys Familia returns healthy next season, this move has the team lined up with Ramos, Familia and lefty, Jerry Blevins as a solid trio who can then be complimented by other middle relief arms like Hansel Robles, Paul Sewald, Josh Smoker or whomever else they get during the offseason. Filling Reed’s spot wasn’t going to be easy, but by jumping out early to make a deal for Ramos, the Mets actually filled what was going to be one of their most glaring offseason needs.
As for the prospects they gave up, both Cespedes and Gonzalez were playing in Class-A this season and were – at minimum – each a few years away from contributing to the big club. That doesn’t mean you just start giving away all your lower-level prospects, but for a team that is trying to retool rather than rebuild, this move makes a ton of sense. Both prospects are very toolsy and could turn into solid ball players down the road, but for a team trying to compete, they merely served as a means to strengthen a weakness.
Personally, I love this deal as it showed a lot of creativity from the front office to get out in front of the hole they were going to have by losing Reed. It was completely unexpected and, while it doesn’t completely solve the bullpen for 2018, it does give them one less need to fill while also getting a former All Star who has closing experience at a minimal cost.
Trade Grade: A
Addison Reed to Boston Red Sox for minor league pitchers Gerson Bautista, Jamie Callahan and Stephen Nogosek
The trade we all knew was coming, it was just a matter of what the Mets were going to get in return. Reed was acquired by the Mets in August of 2015 while in the middle of an awful year with the Arizona Diamondbacks that even saw him get sent down to the minor leagues. Upon his arrival in Queens, he became a dependable arm out of the pen that played a big role on the NL Championship team of 2015 as well as being one of the more dominant relievers in the league in the two years that followed.
Reed’s value grew as he turned himself into one of the most sought after relievers on the market this season as well as the team’s most valuable trade chip. After hearing as many as eight teams were interested in Addison, it was the Red Sox who came away with the winning bid for the free agent-to be by trading three of their top 30 prospects for the Mets’ closer.
I’m not going to lie to you. With as good as Reed has been and as rampant as the rumors about him have flowed, the return on this is…underwhelming. Each of the three arms the Mets received seems to be the “power reliever with no control” type and none of them has particularly impressive statistics. Going off nothing more than numbers, this trade seems to be more about quantity over quality with Sandy Alderson just looking to stockpile power arms in the minors and hope that some of that shit he throws at the wall sticks.
Now, in fairness to the Mets’ GM, Reed is a pending free agent who had about $2.5M remaining on his current contract that the Red Sox will be picking up all of. So without the Mets kicking in any money, the return was going to be of the pedigree I think we were all hoping for. This was the team’s only real option to score a legitimate prospect in this trade season so a gaggle of bullpen arms who are far from a sure thing does come off as a disappointment. At the same time, I do have the utmost confidence that Alderson and his staff did their due diligence and came away firmly believing that this was going to be the best offer. I don’t know if the team was unwilling to kick in some money to get a better player or if the Red Sox weren’t going for that, but this is what the deal is. I don’t love it and had hoped for something of a bit higher caliber, but there is no such thing as too many arms as we’ve seen this year.
Trade Grade: C+
The trades that didn’t happen
Asdrubal Cabrera. Curtis Granderson. Jay Bruce. Neil Walker. Rene Rivera. Jerry Blevins. All still here despite rumors and hope. In a normal year, any or all of these players could have been valuable commodities to contending teams, but 2017 may be the beginning of a new normal.
Since the addition of the second Wild Card, you’d think more teams would still be in contention come the time of the non-waiver trade deadline, but, while that may be true, the value of a Wild Card spot has gone down. After being burned in the one game Wild Card round in consecutive years, the 2016 Pirates decided to trade their closer, Mark Melancon, while still within a stone’s throw of the Wild Card. Their GM Neal Huntington decided that with the dominance of the Cubs in their division, going all-in to achieve a Wild Card which would have set them up against the Cubs in the NLDS had they won just wasn’t worth it. They didn’t go into full-scale sell mode, but they weren’t buyers either.
This year, we saw a lot of the same as mid-market teams with limited resources weren’t making the commitment to double-down on their chances. A team like the Twins, who just last week were adding Jamie Garcia in a trade with the Braves decided their odds had dropped too much after a bad week and quickly flipped Garcia to the Yankees as well as dealing their closer, Brandon Kintzler to the Nationals. Teams just aren’t willing to risk the money and prospects on rental pieces just to get to a one-game showdown.
With that said, this made for an abundance of available position players basically flooding the market and lowered any demand there would have been for players the Mets would have tried to move. While a guy like Jay Bruce and his 26 homers would normally be a huge get for a team making a push, the wide discrepancy between the good and bad teams in the league this year is so vast that most of the contending teams don’t really need to make that big offensive addition this year and are solidifying there rosters with versatile players who can play multiple positions or sureing up roster depth instead.
Also, the game itself is different from years past. The abundance of home runs by guys up and down the lineups of almost every team has devalued the importance of the middle-of-the-order classic slugger. Not to say that type of player doesn’t have value, but when everybody nowadays it seems is providing some kind of decent pop, it lessens the need for that prototypical bopper who may be limited in other areas of his game.
Add these situations to the fact that the players the Mets were looking to move have significant dollar figures attached to their remaining 2017 salaries or (in the case of Cabrera) a buyout attached to an option for next season and their just wasn’t a lot of interest in what the Mets had to offer. While #MetsTwitter is going ballistic about how Alderson dropped the ball by not swapping these guys, it’s pretty difficult to make such a move when you have nobody to deal with.
Now, this can certainly change over the next month. The deadline today is simply for deals that don’t have to go through waivers first. For the next month, teams can and will be putting most if not all of their players through waivers. If another team claims them, the team has the option of working out a deal with the claiming team, allowing the player to go to the claiming team for nothing or to pull back the player to keep on your roster, but losing the ability to attempt a swap. If a player goes through waivers unclaimed, he is then able to once again be traded anywhere without interference.
In the past we’ve seen examples of teams cockblocking other teams by putting in claims on players they may not necessarily want, but they don’t want rivals to get either. A good example of this is the Yankees claiming Jose Canseco in 2000 to make sure he didn’t get to a rival thinking that the Tampa Bay Devil Rays would just pull him back. The Rays shocked the Yanks, though, when they essentially gave them Canseco for nothing in what was a “your problem now, bitch” move.
With the money guaranteed to the Mets’ players, it’s likely they’d all clear waivers without issue and, depending on what happens over the next few weeks with injuries and other roster needs, could be revisited in trade talks. Any player moved before the end of August is still eligible to be on their team’s postseason roster.
Either way, it’s not like any of the players mentioned were going to bring back some kind of monster haul of blue-chip prospects. It would be more about building depth in a minor league system that has thinned out over the past couple of years due to promotions and trades to supplement what had been a playoff team the past two seasons.
The onus was more on moving Duda and Cabrera simply to create roster space and playing time for their two top prospects: first baseman, Domonic Smith and uber-prospect, shortstop, Amed Rosario.
If we’re being honest, Amed Rosario probably should have been promoted to the majors as soon as the Super 2 deadline passed to ensure the Mets didn’t lose a year of control. For comparison, the Milwaukee Brewers called up their top prospect, Lewis Brinson on June 11th. If there’s any team that actually has to worry about the financial implications of an extra year of contractual control, it’s the Brewers. But still, the Mets refused to call up Rosario who is ranked as the number two prospect in all of baseball by MLB.com.
So why has this taken so long? I can (and have) try to defend it, but only to a certain point. After it quickly became apparent that 2017 was going to be a dumpster fire for the Mets, I reasoned that there was no hurry to bring him up into such a shitty situation.
When it became apparent that the Mets were going to be sellers, I reasoned that they could use the time to showcase the veteran players they were trying to move in an attempt to have them build their value to extract a greater return.
Well, when it became apparent that that wasn’t happening due to Neil Walker’s torn hamstring or Asdrubal Cabrera’s huge drop off from last season, I lost all reason to make excuses. If the Mets had been playing well and were still in contention, I truly believe Amed Rosario would have been here to help the war of attrition as the team was marching toward the playoffs to solidify the shortstop position. For all I know, that may have been the Mets’ plan all along, but as the season fell off a cliff, plans changed.
With the deadline now passed, Rosario has gotten the call and will be starting at short in Denver tomorrow night against the Rockies. Usually, when a top prospect is called up, there’s a sense of excitement that comes along with it, but this time, it’s more a sigh of relief. Finally.
We all love the hope, promise and expectations that come with a big prospect. How excited were we when Steven Matz made his debut against the Reds and we were introduced to his Grandpa? Or when Thor got the call against the Cubs in Wrigley Field? Hell, I booked a flight and flew from Orlando to Chicago to see Noah’s debut. I was hyped. Zack Wheeler in the doubleheader sweep of the Braves in Atlanta that piggybacked with a #HarveyDay (when that still meant something)? Amazing! We’ll still be excited to see what Amed can bring to the table, but it will be a much more reserved and tempered excitement because of the circumstances of one of the most disappointing years in team history.
The Mets have had plenty of bad years. Horrible years, even. But there has still been ways to enjoy them during such years. This was not one of those seasons, however. The great expectations of finally having a full pitching staff were shattered about ten minutes into spring training and followed up with everybody else taking turns heading to the disabled list as the team quickly dug itself a hole it wouldn’t be able to climb out of.
Amed Rosario at least will provide a reason to watch for the final two months of a season that just can’t finish soon enough and then we’ll be off to bitch about the money the front office won’t spend or the moves they won’t make to improve this team in the offseason which is almost certain to become the theme of the winter once again unless Sandy and crew have some tricks up their sleeve.
When it comes to that – to quote Amed – don’t be surprised, be ready.