A few days ago Andy Martino of the Daily News floated the idea of trading Curtis Granderson in the quest for salary relief to enable the club to consider signing or trading for another slugger. While I applaud the outside-the-box thinking, the fact is that Granderson’s lackluster first year in Queens did nothing to enhance his value and in fact probably makes the remainder of his contract seem somewhat unwieldy. However, stranger things have happened with teams like the Baltimore Orioles suddenly desperate for their own “Adam Jones plus ‘What outfield?’” with the departures of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis.
It got me to thinking what is the perceived value around the league for other Mets players should they be put on the block. For purposes of this exercise I’m going to skip pitching as we have pretty much beaten that steed to death. We’ll look at position players.
Lucas Duda put together a season that actually had him second in the league to Freddie Freeman for offensive production by a first baseman. He’s still under 30 years of age, in his arbitration years and would likely garner significant interest should the Mets entertain offers. To do so would mean they felt last year was a one-year fluke much like Ike Davis’ 2012 season that saw him hit 32 HRs, never to approach that level again. It would be a gutsy move but one made possible by the acquisition of Michael Cuddyer who could slot into 1B in his place. Another way to go would be to shift either Wilmer Flores or Daniel Murphy to 1B and keep Cuddyer in the outfield What could Duda net? I’m sure with the dearth of hitting in the leagues right now, he might command a significant return. Of course, that kind of dice roll is not in Sandy Alderson’s DNA. The problem is if Duda repeats then he’s into the big money realm (with free agency looming) and if he doesn’t then he’s a non-tender consideration. For those reasons, the team could consider selling high on the big guy.
Daniel Murphy has been analyzed ad nauseum. The consensus is he’s more important to the Mets than he would be to pretty much any other team who might look at him as a supersub rather than a starter. I don’t know…there are not that many career .289 hitters in the league and his bat plays well for a middle infielder, but the lack of power minimizes his value at the corners. A few years ago the offer was Luke Gregorson who I would love to have had. Still, with Flores and Dilson Herrera and Matt Reynolds all barking at his heals it’s possible the Mets might just do a salary dump trade as they stand to lose him for nothing next year as he’s unlikely to get a qualifying offer in the $15 million plus range that would secure a draft pick in return by the signing team. Let’s not see a sad repeat of the Jose Reyes debacle and see if the team can get ANYTHING in return for the man. The Orioles had .209 hitting Jonathan Schoop playing 2B for them last year. Maybe they’d bite.
Wilmer Flores continues to be a bit of an enigma. All throughout his minor league career he’s taken a few months of steady play to adjust to the next level of pitching but when he does, watch out! He makes solid contact, doesn’t strike out much at all and has Murphy-like position versatility with a bit more power. For all of the people screaming for a new shortstop, remember he had 6 HRs and 29 RBIs in half a season last year (much of it buried on the bench for a week or more at a time to let his bat go ice cold). Most of that production came in August/September when he played regularly (and hit .267 over those two months). However, if you extrapolated those modest numbers he would have produced 12 HRs and 58 RBIs in a full season worth of ABs. Wouldn’t you sign up for that kind of production from SS right now? Guess what? His potential is actually significantly better than that, though batting him 8th will not help in his run production totals. For a point of reference, the team’s lone All-Star representative produced .289/9/57 playing every day at 2B while hitting in the enviable position of 2nd in the order rather than Flores’ customary 8th. What would another team give for him to play at 2B or 3B? He might be good as part of a package going elsewhere, particularly if the team is hellbent on acquiring a SS who might field or run better than does Mr. Flores? Bear in mind that 32 year old Hands-Of-Stone Jhonny Peralta fresh off a PED suspension got a 4 year/$52 million contract to deliver what Flores is likely to provide at minimum wage. On his own I think his value is minimal given how the team did their best to marginalize him in order to give more ABs to Honus Tejada. “If he’s so good why would you trade him?” questions would accompany him if it became known he was available. Then again, the Marlins were tickled pink by the .287/4/76 that Casey McGehee gave them at 3B last year in the middle of the order. Flores could possibly exceed those numbers if given the same opportunity.
The whole David Wright contract extension made little sense for a near-bankrupt franchise. You had a player who was seemingly not playing well in CitiField, a franchise reeling from the Madoff scandal and subsequent reparations demanded by the judge, so you defy all logic and extend the contract of the man in Vernon Wells fashion instead of trading him to replenish your barren system and taking that money to solve several problems. Well, it’s water under the bridge now, but the Mets are stuck with their Captain and all they can do is hope that health, his buddy Cuddyer and shorter fences conspire to make him the Shea Stadium version of David Wright. His contract is totally immovable unless you were willing to swap it with someone even more expensive like the Angels’ pair of busts, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton.
I’ll skip over Curtis Granderson as his value was covered by Martino, but move onto Juan Lagares whose value in an earlier column I stated would never be higher. The question for the Mets is how much of a downtick would Matt den Dekker be defensively and offensively if he played CF every day? I think you wouldn’t miss a whole lot on the glove side, though the throwing arm is likely not going to come close. Offensively den Dekker might be better -- more power and more speed – so Lagares, with his fielding gold in hand, could fetch quite a return. Again, it’s not the Mets’ norm to give up on young hitters (given how few they’ve ever produced) though they bailed prematurely on Jeff Kent and Greg Jefferies much to their chagrin.
How about Travis d’Arnaud? While Kevin Plawecki is reputed to be the better defensive catcher, d’Arnaud has more power. Plawecki makes more contact. d’Arnaud probably has more trade value despite his dismal throwing last year given that his return from AAA demonstrated an ability to hit major league pitching effectively, something Plawecki has not yet had the chance to do. However, for a team that struggles to score runs, does it make sense to remove a power threat from the somewhat anemic lineup? Still, I think if the offer was right they would have to consider it. Plawecki seems like a good consolation prize and they gain an extra year of team control.
Do I expect the Mets to trade any of these players? Well, the only one skating on somewhat thin ice is Daniel Murphy. Trading any of the others would require confidence and courage – attributes we have not seen since the days of Frank Cashen. (Omar Minaya’s steady supply of Madoff-generated blank checks doesn’t qualify as courageous). The conventional wisdom is that the Mets are in San Diego to find a lefty reliever, a righty outfield power bat and possibly to upgrade at shortstop. Do you all see any out-of-left-field scenarios for this team? Outside of a mild flirtation with Korean slugger Jung-Ho Kang, I sure don’t.