One of the axioms in the baseball business is that you have to give to get. A lot of people are advocating various trade scenarios in which the Mets dump overpaid, underperforming players in order to improve the ballclub. While everyone would like to see that happen, the fact is that the other GMs are trying to do exactly the same thing.
If you’re serious about trying to upgrade the bullpen or the offense then you have to be prepared to give talent in return. The risk is that when you do the person leaving will seriously outperform the one you received. Those kinds of deals become the fodder of blogs and add to the folklore of the ones that got away. Remember Joe Foy for Amos Otis? Ugh!
It’s no wonder that many clubs eschew trades, preferring instead to address needs through free agency. In those cases, it’s merely money that lures someone to your club while you preserve your trading chips for the next deal which may present itself to you. However, even the free agent game has become controlled by the compensatory draft picks awarded to the clubs who issue qualifying offers to their departing talent. What that means is not only will you have to pony up the big bucks but also sacrifice a draft pick to help build for the future.
What that means for armchair GMs is the way the free agent game is now played. It’s no longer a case of trying to get solid major league talent via free agency. Now it’s looking for the cream of the crop who are worth the sacrifice of the draft pick or it’s scrap heap picking with lower level talent who have QO offered and hence no compensation.
What then? What else is a GM to do? Well, there’s always the non-tender market. This avenue has seemingly grown explosively in the past several years. Players reach a certain stage of compensation from arbiters where a club must think long and hard about whether or not retaining their home grown talent is worth the ever more costly investment.
The corresponding issue is team control of the player’s compensation. Nowadays the guys who have about three years of team control before arbitration and free agency are in VERY high demand. If they’ve shown a modicum of success at the major league level then they become crown jewels for other cash-strapped clubs to covet.
So, given these parameters, who are the players that would be most desired by other teams? Well, let’s take a look:
- Robert Gsellman – While he hasn’t got the raw power of some of his fellow pitchers, the 23 year old demonstrated both at the minor league level and major league level that he’s got the ability to get hitters out. In latter season trial he delivered a 4-2 record, a 2.42 ERA and struck out 8.5 batters per nine innings while walking 3. That kind of performance is going to make him highly desirable to other clubs. Throw in the years of control and minimum wage paycheck and he’s the best they have to offer right now, even more so than stud minor leaguers like Amed Rosario and Dom Smith who have yet to advanced to AAA, let alone the majors.
- Seth Lugo – His 26 year old age works against him and his minor league numbers were not as gaudy as Gsellman’s, but his control is the same and by most people’s opinion he’s not quite as talented. As such, he wouldn’t generate quite as much interest, but 5-2, 2.67 and a tiny WHIP of a hair over 1.000 is going to make some GMs drool. What was somewhat surprising was the paucity of strikeouts. In the minors he fanned as many as 11 per nine innings, but in the majors this year he delivered a pedestrian 6.3.
- Michael Conforto – Given his forgettable 2016 major league performance, his star is somewhat tarnished. However, his first turn at the majors in 2015 and his otherworldly numbers in AAA may keep him in the upper eschelon of desirable, cost-controlled resources. If the Mets do somehow wind up fielding the same outfield that finished 2016 – Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce – then he might be more valuable as a starter to another ballclub.
- Josh Smoker – While experiencing trial-by-fire at the major league level, Josh Smoker was an enigma who fanned an incredible 14.7 batters per 9 IP. Unlike his lefty clone before him, Jack Leathersich, he actually showed good control, walking just 2.3 batters per 9 IP. His problem was being hittable when they weren’t swinging and missing. A live arm like that will certainly interest other teams.
- Hansel Robles – Another high strikeout pitcher, Robles has turned in two solid seasons in middle relief. His ERA improved this year, but his peripheral numbers declined. Still, hard throwers will always generate some interest and he is still under team control.
- TJ Rivera – Although the Mets were seemingly hellbent on burying him forever in the minors, out of desperation they gave him a late season trial and he did what he’s done at every level of ball he’s played – he hit. He’s a bit long in the tooth to be considered a prospect but he’s a piece that would certainly draw interest from other clubs.
Brandon Nimmo, Ty Kelly, Kevin Plawecki and Gabriel Ynoa didn’t show enough yet at the major league level that they would be anything more than fillers in trades.
Now there are some low cost players who have some team control left like Wilmer Flores who will likely draw interest after the two solid half-seasons of run production. Depending on whether or not the team has plans for him to be a starter or a sub, he may indeed prove to be a valuable chip.
I’m assuming the starting rotation is off limits, not due to money but because it would be a classic case of selling low until they prove they are healthy. Furthermore, the club needs them to win.
Of this group, I can see Lugo or Gsellman going in a major trade during the off-season (but not both).