I received the following Email from the Mets early this morning with the headline:
My reaction: Huh?!? For a second I thought it was SPAM.
Talk about the Email equivalent of a Bloody Mary. Very rarely are trades of this magnitude completed nowadays with executives who are either afraid to make such a bold move or don’t know what they’re doing well enough to even try to execute such a thing; and with the contracts, no-trade clauses, finances, and mitigating factors, they rarely happen. It took three executives from three teams who have the audacity (the Mets’ Omar Minaya); smarts (the Indians’ Mark Shapiro); and new car smell (the Mariners’ Jack Zduriencik) to pull it off.
The deal is somewhat complicated, but I’ll try to break the players down clearly and concisely from what I know or find statistically:
- The New York Mets receive:
RHP J.J. Putz—Not only does Putz have successful experience as a closer and rack up the strikeouts, but he’s a leader in the clubhouse, has a bit of an edge and is signed through 2010 at a very affordable number (to the Mets anyway) for a guy as good as he’s been ($5 million in 2009, $8.6 million in 2010). More than anything else, the elbow injury to Putz early in 2008 contributed to the Mariners 100-loss season. Things seemed to snowball once they lost Putz and the Mariners roster, which by all rights should have at least been in the .500 area, quickly turned into an avalanche to oblivion. This was a case of Minaya resisting safer offers from teams like the Rays for Chad Bradford and trying to bag a whale, and getting it.
RHP Sean Green—The Mets didn’t get much production from their first foray into acquiring a player named Shawn Green, so maybe they wanted to try the other one and see if he worked out better. All kidding aside, Green is a veteran reliever who’ll be 30 early next season and has been durable and consistent. He’s been about as successful against righties as he’s been against lefties, throws strikes and doesn’t give up many homers. He’s also inexpensive.
OF Jeremy Reed—Reed’s a veteran backup outfielder who can play all three positions and run a bit although his stolen base percentages are atrocious. He doesn’t hit for much power and strikes out a lot; depending on what else the Mets do, he may be spun off and dealt elsewhere or non-tendered since he’s arbitration eligible. It might be worth it just to keep him around as a backup outfielder.
- The Seattle Mariners receive:
OF Franklin Gutierrez—Gutierrez was acquired by the Indians from the Dodgers in the Milton Bradley trade in 2004. He’s gotten a chance to play by the Indians and hasn’t fulfilled vast potential. He has some pop in his bat; can run a bit and needs to improve terrible plate discipline.
RHP Aaron Heilman—Heilman had to get out of New York and while it’s unclear if the Mariners intend to use him as a starter or reliever, they have holes in both areas and are going to be rebuilding, so they could give Heilman his wish and let him have a chance to start. They could also spin him to the Colorado Rockies, who had interest in him for Huston Street. The Mariners would have Street to close games at a much cheaper rate than what they were paying Putz. The argument against Heilman starting has always been his unique arm angle and how difficult it is to retain his slot pitch-after-pitch; he also has a “high elbow” similar to Mark Prior and the concern is that he’ll break down if he’s asked to throw 200 innings. I’d probably give him a chance to start anyway and see what happens; he does have great stuff with a power fastball; a good slider and changeup.
OF Endy Chavez—-Chavez will forever be remembered as a hero for that stunning catch in which he robbed the Cardinals Scott Rolen of a home run in game seven of the 2006 NLCS; it briefly saved the Mets in that game and series. It was clear that Chavez wasn’t held in very high regard by manager Jerry Manuel after he took over and his playing time had also diminished under Willie Randolph in favor of, inexplicably, Angel Pagan. Chavez is a Gold Glove-caliber defender who can hit a bit, but the Mets got him for nothing and he wasn’t going to get a chance to play for the Mets as anything more than a defensive replacement.
LHP Jason Vargas—A major misstep in Minaya’s time with the Mets has been dealing flamethrower (and new Marlins closer) Matt Lindstrom for Vargas. Vargas showed potential to be a useful starter or reliever in his rookie year with the Marlins, but was awful with the Mets in his two starts in 2007 and then got hurt.
INF/OF Mike Carp—Carp is a 22-year-old slugger whose destiny is probably as a DH. He has power, walks a lot and makes surprisingly good contact. He spent 2008 in Double A and might get a chance in the big leagues sometime next season.
OF Ezequiel Carrera—Carrera is a 21-year-old minor league outfielder who’s shown some speed and a little pop.
RHP Maikel Cleto
—Cleto is a beefy (6’1″ 210 lbs) righty whose numbers in the minors haven’t been very impressive. He’s only 19.
- The Cleveland Indians receive:
RHP Joe Smith—Smith is a sidearming reliever who has done very well in spurts with the Mets; he was probably their only consistently reliable bullpen arm and is a workhorse. Lefties hit him hard and he gives up the occasional homer, but he’s a solid reliever.
INF Luis Valbuena—A small (5’10”, 160 lbs) left-handed hitting infielder with some surprising pop for his size; he has speed and improving plate discipline. He’s 23 and could be in the big leagues with the Indians next year.
On paper, this works for everyone. The Mets get a set-up guy who was a successful closer in Putz and he’ll replace the unhappy Heilman. Minaya swiftly addressed the Mets most glaring needs without giving up top prospects Fernando Martinez, Bobby Parnell, Jon Niese or Daniel Murphy. Zduriencik re-stocks the Mariners farm system, gets himself high-end, big league ready talent in Heilman and Gutierrez, plus a great defender and good guy in Chavez. Shapiro brings in a useful, affordable reliever (one of his specialties) to set-up for Kerry Wood and a middle infielder in Valbuena who could possibly play third base regularly or another infield position if they start shifting players around.
A final aspect of this trade is how old-school it is. Today, a vast majority of trades are contract dumps or dealing one problem player for another; teams generally try to address their needs via free agency, but to see such a massive and complicated deal completed—-as well as one that makes sense for everyone—-is a rarity and we probably won’t see another deal like this for ten years. How much longer the Mets and Yankees can play the game of dueling tabloid headlines will be fascinating to see, but with all the rumors still floating around, somehow, I don’t think they’re done, either of them.