Reese Kaplan -- Targeting AL Right Handed Sluggers

The rumor mills are churning out stories at breakneck speed, though most are in the realm of “the Mets ought to” rather than actual unnamed sources giving some insight into what the Yoenis Cespedes alternatives might be up Sandy Alderson’s sleeve. 

The most imposing and intriguing name to come down the pike thus far is the rumored shopping by the Marlins of slugger Giancarlo Stanton.  While no one can deny the man’s talent, there are numerous red flags that suggest trading for him would not be the wisest course of action.  First of all, he’s been in the league since 2010 and eclipsed 125 games in a season just twice.  For a team reeling from injuries you’d think health would be a high priority on their wish-list for new players.

Second, while no one can deny the man’s prodigious power, he’s only hit more than 90 RBIs once in his entire career.  Granted, until recently he hasn’t had much of a team around him, but not being on the field and not hitting in the clutch certainly seem like issues to consider.

Third (and first in the Wilpons’ collective priority list), he has one of the ugliest contracts in baseball.  Any team that acquires him is on the hook for over $300,000,000!!!  His salary for the 2017 season is a very reasonable $14,500,000 but then it skyrockets to as high as $32,000,000 annually through his age 37 season with a $10 million buyout or an additional year at $25,000,000 at age 38.  Ouch.

More importantly, it would require a boatload of talent heading down to Miami to pry him away even if Fred and Jeff got it into their heads that they had to have him.  You would think the David Wright example would show them the risk involved in putting all of your eggs in one basket when ill health strikes. 

Personally, if I was going to go jousting at windmills in the hopes of landing a big fish, I’d be getting on the phone about the rumored Mike-Trout-to-the-Yankees deal and instead suggest he’d find a more welcome home in Queens.  For comparison’s sake, let’s look at the contracts.  Trout is going to be paid quite well but for not as long a period of time.  For the next four years you’d be obligating yourself to a relatively paltry $122 million.

What do you get for that kind of investment?  Well, for starters, he’s been the AL MVP two of the past three years after also earning Rookie of the Year.  He’s hit as many as 41 home runs in a season stolen as many as 49 bases while playing a position of need for the Mets – centerfield. 

To get him would take pretty much everyone at the top of your farm system, such as Rosario, Smith, Szapucki , Gsellman and/or Conforto.  Then again, that same haul would be what the Marlins would ask for Stanton and I’d sooner have the latter day Mickey Mantle than the latter day Mo Vaughn while risking less than half the money.

Now that the ridiculous are off the table, who else is out there as a right handed slugger who might be available should the Mets put together an intriguing trade package?  Let’s look at some AL options.

The White Sox are probably looking to blow up the team and start all over after their major investments did not propel them into contention.  Two players fit the mold for the Mets -- Todd Frazier and Jose Abreu.  Frazier is more of an all-or-nothing type hitter who has played 90 games at 1B in his career as well as his more customary position at 3B.  Given the precarious state of David Wright’s health, that may not be a bad hedge against another prolonged DL stint.  His power output for the past few years has included seasons of 29, 35 and 40 HRs.  He’s arbitration eligible this year and coming off an $8.25 million contract.   Even if he doubles it, that’s way less than you’d have paid Cespedes and he’d be a one-year stopgap until Dom Smith is available in 2018. 

The first of the new wave of Cuban success stories was Jose Abreu.  When he was available I was screaming from the rooftops for the Mets to make him a priority, but between their cash flow issues and their xenophobia they demurred.  All he’s done for the White Sox in his first three years in the majors is deliver three consecutive seasons of 100 RBIs, eclipsing 30 home runs in two of them and delivering a batting average over that span of .299.  Did I mention he’s earned just $27 million ($9 million per year) for that output?  He’s arbitration eligible and will probably find himself in the same ballpark money-wise as Todd Frazier.  For that reason one of them may be on the block. 

The Tampa Bay Rays have always been a penny pinching organization and it may be that they’d consider a deal for their only well paid piece – Evan Longoria.  Granted, he’s been the face of the franchise almost since his arrival but the Rays have not been contenders and they may feel a package of prospects might be better for them in the long run accompanied by the financial flexibility of being off the hook for the remainder of his contract.  A year shy of being a 10-5 player, this year might be the perfect time to test his market value.  He’s the model of consistency, producing on average 31/102/.271 year in and year out.  He’s a right handed hitter who plays 3B and is entering 2017 as a 31 year old.  He’s earning an average of just $15.7 million per season for the next six years with a $13 million option ($5 million buyout) at the end.  He’s not an ideal solution as neither he nor David Wright have any experience at another position, but he’s a relative bargain considering the numbers bandied about for guys like Cespedes. 

Another 31 year old who is a more natural fit is the Orioles’ Adam Jones.  A centerfielder, he has hit an average of 26 home runs and 86 RBIs while batting .277 for several years now.  He doesn’t run much anymore, but he’s won Gold Gloves for his fielding.  He’s set to earn $16.3 million this coming year and $17.3 in 2018.  You know how Sandy Alderson loves his short term payroll commitments.

Finally, there’s a player who never seemed to get the respect he deserved when playing for the Atlanta Braves.  In fact, when he was packaged off to the Houston for minor league hurler Mike Foltynewicz everyone congratulated the GM for fleecing the Astros.  I again was a lone wolf howling that the Braves were robbed.  Thus far it looks as though I was right.  Folty had a 34-36 minor league career with a 3.84 ERA – not horrible but not great.  His major league output has been below that level with an 11-12 record and a 4.92 ERA with batters hitting an embarrassing .286 against him.  Who was that player who wore out his welcome in Atlanta?  It was Evan Gattis, who, after seasons of 21 and 22 HRs with Atlanta delivered 27 and 32 for the Astros.  Granted, he’s never going to win a Gold Glove, but he earns very little and has shown solid power from the right side.  In fact, given the uncertainty of both Travis d’Arnaud’s health and bat, he may not be a bad hedge as a catcher when not playing the outfield. 

There are a few others who are less than ideal fits but worth mentioning.  The Korean imports in Seattle and Minnesota had varying levels of success, but enough potential and first year production that they might be worthy gambles.  Dae-Ho Lee on the Mariners hit 14 HRs and drove in 49 in just over 300 ABs.  He’s earned $1 million.  Byung Ho Park was a bit of a disappointment for the Twins.  They signed him to a longer term deal off of his eye-popping Korean numbers (including his most recent two consecutive seasons of over 50 HRs each).  He struggled at .191 but still managed to hit 12 HRs and drive in 24 in just over 200 ABs, so you know the power is real.  He’s signed for the next three years (plus an option for a 4th) at just $8.75 million TOTAL for that period.  Both are 1st basemen by trade, so they’re not ideal but could be platoon partners for Lucas Duda as they bat from the right side. 

Speaking of Korean imports, an American who went to Asia is seeking a return after three consecutive productive years of 37, 47 and 40 home runs.  Eric Thames never was a regular in the majors but in his collective time in Toronto and Seattle he hit 21 home runs over a season's worth of ABs.  His dramatic surge in power could be due to maturity or lower level of pitching against him, but the numbers are hard to ignore.  Unfortunately he's left handed and doesn't address the right handed power gap created by a possible Cespedes departure.  

However, a previously recommended overseas exile -- Wilin Rosario -- does and he plays a position arguably of need -- catcher and 1st base.  Batting from the right side, the 27 year old hit 33/120/.321 in his first year in Korea in 2016.  He's worth an extended look as he had some good power with Colorado earlier in his career.  .  

Next time around I’ll look at NL possibilities to help offset the Mets’ balance of power. 


Thomas Brennan said...

Great analysis - still prefer Cespedes, for whom we'd only have to "trade" cash, but even if we got Cespedes back, some other move from the guys listed might make sense (besides Stanton and Trout, of course, who'd be too pricey).

Thomas Brennan said...

As much as I've added positive comments about Mets' (and Tebow's) off season efforts, the fact remains that those guys have only hit 5 homers in 450 plate appearances. Effective power bats are pretty scarce in the Mets' minors.

Mack Ade said...

Reese -

I stand corrected. No right hand power hitter (especially Stanton) should be pursued until the Cespedes issue is resolved.

Adam Smith said...

Ya gotta keep Cespedes, and not that interested in trading away a lot of the future for nearly any of these guys. Mike Trout, however, is a different animal entirely. I'' not sure what it would take to get him, but if the Angels came knocking and asked for deGrom, Bruce, Rosario, Lagares and a low level, high upside prospect (Lindsay?) it would be hard to just hang up the phone.

Adam Smith said...

But I would only do something like that if they also sign Cespedes. Ces-Trout-Conforto sounds like a championship OF.

Thomas Brennan said...

I agree. Trout is Mantle, Cespedes is a lesser version of Mays. What an OF that would be, especially if Conforto shows last year was a fluke.

Thomas Brennan said...

Read this in Joel Sherman article in NY Post, and again is a reason why I think the Mets were fools to not give Cespedes a multi-year, non-opt out contract last year - the possibility of Yo going to Nats:

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports was the first to report the Nationals – who already sport Cy Young winner Max Scherzer plus Stephen Strasburg and Tanner Roark – are seeing whether it is possible to form a super-rotation with Sale. The Nats also want to add a righty bat, were in on Yoenis Cespedes last winter and are intrigued again. As one NL executive said: “They were on Cespedes last year, so why would that change now? They had interest in [Jose] Bautista during the summer. They are looking for a right-hand power bat.”

They also could play for one of the big closers, trying to retain Mark Melancon or going for Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen

Mack's Mets © 2012