Reese Kaplan - Bartolo Colon is Our Derek Bell

Back in the winter of 1999 the Mets were on the brink of putting together their last legitimate World Series run.  GM Steve Phillips identified the need for a solid anchor in the pitching rotation to join the likes of Al Leiter, Rick Reed, Bobby Jones and Glendon Rusch. 

Down in Houston Mike Hampton was coming off a sensational 22-4 season with a 2.90 ERA which guaranteed him a hefty salary increase – something the Astros were not fond of paying (shades of the post-Madoff Wilpons).  The Astros knew they had a chip that many people would want so they set about trying to figure out how to make the most of the deal.

Now the traditional way of thinking would be to demand more talent in return in trade.  The Mets did indeed pony up three players in this deal – Octavio Dotel who just finished his career last year having pitched in 758 games – Roger Cedeño who was remembered more for his Dr. Strangeglove play in the outfield than what he did with the bat and on the basepaths– and minor league hurler Kyle Kessel whose potential was never realized at the major league level.  At the time Dotel was regarded somewhat like Jeurys Familia is now – a hard thrower who may not harness his powerful fastball.  Cedeño was coming of a great season in which he batted .313 and stole 66 bases despite outfield skills against which Lucas Duda would be considered a defensive upgrade.  Kessel was already organizational filler as a pitcher, never having done more than a .500 performance in the minors and at 24 his prospect window was closing. 

With the Mets having gotten to (but ultimately losing) the 2000 World Series, that trade would be considered fair and still in the Mets favor.  However, the Astros had a kicker in mind.  If you want Hampton, you have to take our worn-out-his-welcome outfielder Derek Bell at his full $6 million salary.  Back when the pockets were deep and the team was flush with its questionable investments, this was a small price to pay and the deal was consummated. 

Actually, the acquisition of Derek Bell wasn’t all bad because he turned in a respectable year’s performance that included a 18 HRs, 69 RBIs and batted .266.  Those numbers top what the Mets currently have out there but they still let him walk away to the Pirates a year later. His Mets tenure was probably better remembered for living on his yacht in Flushing Bay than for what he did in uniform. He was out of baseball at age 31.  

In retrospect you could say they got two decent rentals that resulted in a World Series appearance but as any Mets fan worth his salt will tell you, the compensatory draft pick they received when Mike Hampton left in quest of the favorable school systems in Colorado was an obscure Virginia-based 3rd baseman who in 2014 was named the face of Major League baseball.

So why bring up this old trade now?  No, it has nothing to do with David Wright and how both injuries and CitiField dimensions curtailed a career previously headed towards Cooperstown.  It has to do with what the Mets face this coming off-season and how they might want to try the Astros’ strategy on other teams.

With the bleak free agent market and the bloated prices the players have been receiving who enter it, the likelihood of the Mets getting involved in a significant way are slim even if they (ha-ha) increased payroll.  No, the path to changing the shape of the roster seems to be the one used least frequently by the current administration – the trade. 

Hear me out.  The Mets have arguably the deepest pitching inventory in baseball right now.  Let’s look at starters:

  • Matt  Harvey
  • Zack Wheeler
  • Jacob de Grom
  • Bartolo Colon
  • Jon Niese
  • Dillon Gee
  • Rafael Montero
  • Noah Syndergaard
  • Steve Matz

In the bullpen they also feature:

  • Bobby Parnell
  • Jenrry Mejia
  • Vic Black
  • Jeurys Familia
  • Josh Edgin
  • Jack Leathersich

In addition, they have some middle infielders to spare:

  • Daniel Murphy
  • Wilmer Flores
  • Matt Reynolds
  • Dilson Herrera
  • Ruben Tejada

So what do all of these players have to do with the Astros and their trade demand? 

Bartolo Colon is our Derek Bell.   It may well be that other teams are going to salivate over players currently in the Mets organization.  In order to obtain them you let it be known that you must take Bartolo Colon and his $11 million salary as part of the deal.  Now to another team, getting a Noah Syndergaard and Bartolo Colon may not be as painful since Syndergaard would be cost controlled for several years and Colon’s deal goes away after 2015.  Averaged out, their two salaries come to under $6 million apiece – pocket change for starting pitchers.  That average improves with each year Syndergaard is in the majors.  Now it doesn’t necessarily have to be Syndergaard in that trade but the principle remains the same.

Note that I’ve left out the other (by Mets standards) expensive player they have to deal – Daniel Murphy.  His performance and salary are not unreasonable on their own and he could probably be traded without any conditional hook like Colon being attached to his name.  However, if you could get someone to bite at a Murphy/Colon combo and plan to go with Dilson Herrera and Wilmer Flores up the middle then you just bought yourself somewhere on the order of perhaps close to $20 million to spend for a slugging corner outfielder’s salary.  You also have the Chris Young money left over to spend as well.  $27 million is more than enough to land someone like Cuban free agent Yasmani Tomas who is said to have as much raw power as Jose Abreu.  

Sound off in the comments below on whether or not this approach would make sense.  


Michael S. said...

I don't know. I think the only way to trade Colon is to eat some of that salary. If you condition a trade for one of our players on taking Colon it greatly diminishes value to our trade partner and we'll get a much less desirable return.

Thomas Brennan said...

Reese for GM! Good thinking.

Thomas Brennan said...

Derek Bell had better #s than Granderson, or I'd say Curtis is our Derek Bell. He was done at 31...when will Curtis be done?

Reese Kaplan said...

I could live with losing Curtis Granderson, too.

Michael has a good point. It could diminish the trade value of the Noah Syndergaard or whomever is in the package, but the problem is the team needs salary relief in order to address LF. They could muddle through at SS with Flores or Reynolds. The drop-off from star production to Matt den Dekker or Eric Young or Kirk Nieuwenhuis is even greater.

Thomas Brennan said...

A LF of Dekker and Campbell would be OK, but the difference between what they'd do vs, say, a Nelson Cruz is stark. So yes, LF is the biggest fix spot.

Steve from Norfolk said...


From your lips to Sandy's ears! But, you know with our owners we'll be lucky to get Michael Cuddyer. Maybe they'll trade with the Astros again and get Chris Carter back.

Reese Kaplan said...

He's a different Chris Carter. The former BoSox prospect is playing in Mexico.

Steve from Norfolk said...

Thanks for the info. I thought another one of our castoffs was making good.

bob gregory said...

Colon should actually be wanted by other teams.
He should bring back a decent return all by himself.
Maybe not future all star material but the Mets should definitely not have to beg for a team to want him.

Reese Kaplan said...

@bob I don't know about that. We found no takers during the waiver time period and there were definitely contenders in need of pitching (Angels, A's, to name a few). I think there is going to have to be an incentive to get someone to bite, hence my thought to turn it around. Offer a Plawecki and make them take Colon as part of the package...

Mack Ade said...

Reese -

Sandy Alderson isn't in to offering anything decent these days

bob gregory said...

you forget Alderson's insistence of setting an extremely high price in trades and not coming down off of it.
Alderson most likely over-priced Colon and refused to accept a lower price.
Other GMs I am sure have begun to pass over even approaching Alderson because of this unless they deemed it absolutely necessary and they couldn't get what they wanted elsewhere.
I am sure other teams would have gladly welcomed Colon for a post season run this year.
They just found easier routes to get a similar result without having to wrestle with Trader Alderson

Michael S. said...

Thanks Reese...great work by the way. If we're moving one of our best chips, we have to get top talent in return, not use it as an opportunity to dump salary.

I still think if the Mets eat 3-4M of Colon's contract they can move him and get a decent return.

Reese Kaplan said...

Thank you.

I agree that we need top talent in return and preferably at the AAA level or a young veteran.

The problem is you seldom see top prospect for top prospect trades because neither GM wants to run the risk of a major second guess if the prospect he receives tanks. When Wil Myers was moved, he went for a veteran. Then the GM can say he was trading for a known commodity.

So the next question is who is out there that fills the bigger hole in LF that could be gotten for a top pitcher alone, a veteran pitcher alone, or some combination of prospects? Some people say that Joc Pederson's numbers are a result of the PCL. However, that's the type of performance the team needs -- power and speed. Granderson and Wright don't run like they used to. Lagares is learning on the job. Duda, Flores and d'Arnaud have no speed. The only base stealer who isn't even guaranteed to start is Dilson Herrera. Ideally you want a new left fielder who can add that dimension as well as power.

A good example of the young veteran might be someone like Yoenis Cespedes who did steal 16 bases his first year and clubbed over 20 HRs per season. He's not quite at the level I'd like to see nor is Boston likely to move him. However, he's a one year rental as he's a FA after 2015. He could serve as a bridge to Conforto and/or Nimmo. There are likely other players that fit this mold that should be targeted.

I find Sandy Alderson's arrogance in trading is a large part of what leads to the sub-.500 record and the numbing inertia. You have to take risks to win. Just try not to take foolish ones like Young and Granderson.

Michael S. said...

You're right, Sandy's strong suit is also his downfall. I respect a man who holds his ground, but he must also be reasonable.

You bring up an interesting point about LF. Honestly, there isn't anyone around MLB that would be available and that I'd want the Mets to trade for, save Stanton who we aren't getting.

Honestly, I say give LF to MDD to start the year and start Nimmo at AAA. When he's ready move him up.

I'd also throw the kitchen sink at LAD and try to pry Seager away from them.

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