12/13/17

Reese Kaplan -- Keystone Kops Seek Keystone Help

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While Sandy Alderson was snoring the crosstown Yankees added Giancarlo Stanton to an already formidable lineup that also features AL home run king Aaron Judge, slugging catcher Gary Sanchez and a myriad of other potent offensive weapons.  Yes, they have crossed into the luxury tax territory, but winning has never seemed to take a back seat to the economics of achieving that goal.


The potential silver lining to his deal is that Starlin Castro’s name has now been offered up as potentially available in trade which would help Derek Jeter and company to achieve the full payroll relief they sought in shedding the expensive contracts of Stanton and Dee Gordon.  Some suggest that the Mets have checked in on his availability which would be reminiscent of the short stay Mike Piazza had with the Marlins before they flipped their new asset to the Mets in a deal no one regrets. 

While a great many people are salivating over a solid hitter like Castro, his defense is Flores-like and you’d have to wonder if he’s worth the nearly $24 million commitment required PLUS traded assets to bring him to Queens.  Last season, for example, he provided a .300 average with 16 HRs and 63 RBIs over a 443 AB season.   By comparison, Wilmer Flores hit .271 with 18 HRs and 52 RBIs over 336 ABs.  Add in another 1/3 of a season to Flores to even things out and you would see 24 Homers and 69 RBIs albeit with a lower batting average.  Is that difference worth an extra $10 million? 

Jason Kipnis was good but not great for a few years in Cleveland but this year found himself displaced to the outfield.  He hit just .232/12/35 in about the same number of ABs as Wilmer Flores.  He would cost nearly $30 million over the next two years if you bought out the third option year.  He is clearly a better fielder than Flores and much speedier (averaging 17 SBs per 162 games), but that’s a lot of cabbage for someone providing inferior offense.

Inexplicably Cesar Hernandez has been rumored to be on the block by the up and coming Philadelphia Phillies.  The switch hitting 27 year old has turned some heads with good defense and moderate speed, but he’s never topped single digits in HRs and but his career batting average is a nice .284.  As a fellow diminutive guy, he’s not likely to generate Jose Altuve’s power, but he does get on base with alacrity and is currently earning $2.55 million with this year being his first to hit arbitration which means he’d be a relative bargain until free agency hits in 2021.  He’d be a nice addition, though he would block Luis Guillorme who should see Queens in 2019. 

Another relatively new name in the 2B trade mix is the Pirates’ Josh Harrison (who also can play 3B and outfield).  He was worth 3.3 WAR last year based upon solid defense that accompanied a .272/16/47 slash line over 486 ABs.  He’ll also add double digit steals.  The 30 year old is currently going to earn $10.25 million in 2018 with a $1 million buyout for 2019.  Being obligated to just a single year commitment might make him more attractive to the Alderson way of doing things. 

Speaking of single year commitments, Detroit’s Ian Kinsler is in the final year of his deal.  He’s a fiery personality and a former Gold Glover who brings a solid offensive resume to the table.  What works against him is his age – 36 during the upcoming season – and his salary -- $11 million.  You could certainly argue he is a better one-year bet than Harrison given his superior HR power and his 3 All Star appearances.  When you factor in the buyout on Harrison’s deal Kinsler would actually cost a hair less.  A typical season would deliver a slash line of .271/23/81. 

Former Met Neil Walker has had a bit of a tough time staying healthy the last few years which would make me wary of giving him too much money (particularly after being stuck with his $17.2 million salary last season).  He’s projected to hit .265/17/55 in 2018 which doesn’t seem to me it’s worth much more than half of his 2017 salary. 

Another name floated recently is the Cubs’ Ian Happ who is a natural second baseman but was forced into the outfield due to the strong play of Javier Baez.  The 22 year old rookie had a VERY solid campaign, hitting .253 but slugging 24 HRs and 68 RBIs in just 413 ABs.  Here’s a guy who can provide you the Flores run production with superior athleticism and defense.  Would a deal for Happ centered around Flores, one of Wheeler/Harvey/Matz and a middling pitching prospect get it done?  He would provide a long term solution either at 2B or CF. 

Finally, no article about the Mets cannot be complete without more déjà vu, and this time it is in the person of Jose Reyes, now a free agent.  Some people will point out him owning the Mets’ only batting title, his stolen base antics or his enthusiasm.  Others will point out how he turned a horrific start of Bay/Cuddyer proportions around to finish with acceptable but overall unimpressive numbers of .246/15/58 with 24 SBs in 501 ABs.  In 2017 he earned $22 million (all but minimum coming from the Colorado Rockies).  In 2018 the Rockies will pay him $4 million to get out from under the contract so perhaps an Asdrubal Cabrera-like $8.5 million would probably bring him back into the fold for his age 36 season if they chose to go in that direction.  He could provide a one year cushion to Luis Guillorme and mentor Amed Rosario into becoming the next star Mets shortstop.  Actually, the more you look at it, the better this option appears. 

Saving the best for last, the Minnesota Twins are allegedly evaluating offers for Brian Dozier.  He’s earning a rather paltry $9 million for which he gave them 34 HRs, 93 RBIs and a .271 batting average worth a season of 4.4 WAR.  They probably fear they will lose him in free agency at the end of the season but bringing in this kind of talent, while not Giancarlo Stanton, will help take the sting out of what’s going on in the Bronx.  As a fielder, he’s a good hitter. 

Given that you have so little to spend – roughly $30 million by most counts – does it make sense to put potentially 1/3 of it into a second baseman whose offense may not equal what Wilmer Flores can deliver for a fraction of the price?  As Mack reminds us, 2018 is the year to prepare for 2019.  What better time to find out whether or not Flores can withstand the rigors of a single position with his name in the lineup every day and hold onto that money to fortify the crystal-like pitching staff.  I’d make an exception for Happ or Dozier without hesitation, and could probably even be talked into a one-year deal for Reyes (who wouldn’t require you trading away any of your few chips).  The others, meh!

3 comments:

Thomas Brennan said...

Hey Reese, as usual a very nice breakdown of what is available and which would be worth it. I agree with you that I’d also make an exception for Happ or Dozier without hesitation.

What an upgrade in the outfield Stanton would have been. A bold Mets team should have given that a real run - a huge opportunity lost, in my opinion. Imagine a healthy Cespedes, Stanton, and Conforto as your outfield. Tough to not win 90+ with that trio, if healthy.

Mack Ade said...

Reese -

Morning. Hope you had a nice holiday beginning.

As usual, you help break out for all our readers the options as to who is available in the open market at a position. In this case, second base.

We asked the writers who they want as the 2018 second baseman on this team and their answers will be in Friday's "Q and A' post.

Mike Freire said...

Agreed, this is the biggest hole on the roster. I like Brian Dozier from the Twins, but he won't come cheap.

Mack's Mets © 2012