No Mulligans In Baseball

Today’s news that J.J. Putz has undergone surgery on his right elbow and will miss the next two months should come as a shock to no one. We talked about his obvious health problems a few weeks into the season, and the only surprise is that it took this long for the Mets to put him under the knife.

Given the information available at the time, the deal looked like a continuation of Omar Minaya overvaluing “proven” relief pitching. In retrospect, the trade to acquire Putz has been a total disaster.

To acquire J.J. Putz, Sean Green, and Jeremy Reed, Minaya gave up Aaron Heilman, Joe Smith, Jason Vargas, Endy Chavez, Mike Carp, Ezequiel Carrera, and Maikel Cleto. The Mariners then turned around and flipped Heilman for Garrett Olson and Ronny Cedeno. Here’s how the players have performed since the deal went down.

Putz – 4.25 FIP, surgery
Green – 4.92 FIP
Reed – .324 wOBA

Smith – 3.63 FIP, DL
Heilman – 5.38 FIP
Vargas – 4.81 FIP
Olson – 6.28 FIP
Chavez – .317 wOBA
Cedeno – .237 wOBA
Carp – .421 wOBA (Triple-A)
Carrera – .418 wOBA (Double-A)
Cleto – DNP, visa problems

Jason Vargas has settled in nicely as the Mariners 5th starter and has clearly been the best player in the deal to date. Endy Chavez has provided his usual excellent outfield defense, and has been worth 0.5 wins in part-time work. Carp is having a big year in the PCL, adding power his already patient approach. Carrera is proving that the “Endy Chavez in training” tag has some merit, flashing terrific defense and a lot of walks in Double-A. Olson hasn’t pitched well as a starter, but has shown the potential to be a useful LH reliever. And, of course, with the exception of Chavez, the Mariners are paying all of these guys the league minimum.

Meanwhile, the Mets are paying about $6 million this season for three guys providing replacement level performance. There’s almost no chance they’ll pick up Putz’s option for 2010, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the team decided not to offer arbitration to either Green or Reed. That would leave the Mets with a big fat zero to show for the entire deal.

They didn’t give up any future stars in the deal, but once again, trading youth for relief pitching fails to pan out. I’m pretty sure the Mets would love to have Jason Vargas, Mike Carp, and Ezequiel Carrera back, at the very least. When you give up seven guys, odds are one or two are going to come back to haunt you.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

40 Responses to “No Mulligans In Baseball”

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  1. Gina says:

    What I don’t understand is that if the mets knew about the bone spur before the trade, which I believe Omar claimed he did, why wouldn’t they have taken care of it during spring training?

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  2. KG says:

    They could certainly use the depth with all their injuries – something that wasn’t too hard to imagine, given the roster!

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  3. Anthony says:

    The worst part is that Putz was proven, but was hurt last year and spent considerable time on the DL which should be a warning, plus Omar knew about the spur: ‘”Guys pitch with bone spurs,” Minaya said. “… The condition got worse in the past couple of weeks.” ‘ I’m not sure why he didn’t have Putz get it taken care of in the offseason.

    I think a big problem is that Jerry overused him, looking at your velocity charts shows how heavily he has been used this year compared to the last two. Putz started the year off pitching well but Jerry ran him into the ground.

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  4. erik says:

    There is a Casey Mulligan pitching for the Palm Beach Cardinals, does that count?

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  5. joser says:

    So I wonder if we’ll get a visit in this thread from the folks (or the one in particular) who jumped all over Dave earlier in the season when he suggested that Putz might be hurt? It turns out those indicators (lowered velocity, poor K rate) did indeed signal a problem.

    Anyway, I was always kind of surprised by the Putz trade because Minaya had already picked up KRod, so paying closer prices for a set-up guy seemed like gilding the lily. Obviously the Mets were haunted by late-season bullpen meltdowns and felt it necessary to go above and beyond to see that it didn’t happen again — and Zduriencik was quite happy to take advantage of that — but I guess that at least gave them some depth to absorb developments like this.

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    • big baby says:

      I still feel I was totally right to criticize the initial Putz post… because it was 2 weeks into the season. Turns out it didn’t get any better and the post was right. Doesn’t mean I was wrong to criticize it.

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  6. steve shane says:

    So the mets traded 7 scrubs for 1 guy who supposedly was AS caliber and 2 other scrubs. Even if they knew Putz was hurt, lets say 50/50 chance hed be healthy, its still a good deal.

    Heilman was garbage, getting rid of him was addition by subtraction, chavez was a good 4th OF, not an everyday player. sure it would be nice to have him but he was replaced by murphy and/or sheffield (obv not defensively). Carp is a career .270 hitter with not a ton of power, not exactly what you want from a 1B, besides, they basically have the same player in nick evans. Joe smith was nothing special, and lets not let forget vargas has a 97% LOB % right now, so just wait a few more starts when that number comes back from the 99.999th percentile.

    All that “trash” for a 50/50 shot at getting a AS caliber arm, especially added to a bullpen that has been the teams achilles heal the last 2 season. Great trade by minaya, seattle once again get ripped off (i think their last good move was signing ichiro)

    To cite the mets spent $6 mil on 3 players is irrelevant, theyre the mets, not the marlins, wilpon probably wipes his *ss with $6 million

    and no the mets dont want those trash players back, they want a SU guy to bridge the gap to KRod.

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    • Eric says:

      I have to agree with this; Heilman is in that middle ground where he could be a mediocre 5th starter but doesn’t have the stamina to do it, but clearly hates pitching out of the bullpen enough that it was hurting his ability to do it well

      Chavez is a very good defensive 4th outfielder with zero power; I think of him as a slightly worse version of Ellsbury, with less hope for improvement. If the Mets didn’t have Beltran, I wouldn’t be against having him play CF and hit 7th or 8th, but he’s not a MLB-caliber RF/LF… and as far as I’m aware none of the Mets prospects were ranked highly by anyone (they were only ranked highly within the Mets system because of how depleted it was after the Santana trade and how bad it was to begin with). Smith I was never impressed with last year, and Carp I don’t think anyone thought would be a starting 1B on a playoff team

      Putz, who up until recently was successful despite his apparent injury, was a risk worth taking for that level of personel in my opinion – in a contract year, hopefully healthy, having a closer-caliber person able to pitch the 8th inning would be awesome (and they could get that back if Wagner actually does come back late this year). They’re close enough with a risky enough bullpen that it’s worth losing a couple backups to give it a shot.

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    • philosofool says:

      I disagree. Three of those “scrubs” are prospects and the best strategy with prospects is to get as many as you can. Prospects aren’t a sure thing, they’re a lottery and the Mariners now own several tickets. Two of those prospects are having very good seasons right now, and one is a live arm. If just one of those guys becomes an MLB regular that’s money the Mariners can spend on better things. It’s certainly worth more than what they gave up, either from the pre-season perspective (50/50 chance of an all RP on a non-contender) or the present one (guys who produced replacement level.)

      Also, what is this, 1970? Could you reference a real stat instead of BA for Carp? Eyeballing Carp, he’s something like a .365 OBP/ .470 SLG, which is an OPS of .835. He’ll turn 23 in June, which I’d say makes him a pretty fucking solid prospect. If he transfered exactly those numbers over to the big leagues, he would have ranked among Conor Jackson, Derek Lee and Adam LaRoche last season. None were stellar players, but you weren’t thinking about exercising options either. (And by the way, Ryan Howard was once a fifth round selection who had an .835 OPS and underwhelming scouting reports through his age 22 season.)

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    • BrettJMiller says:

      I wish I could thumbs down this twice.

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  7. big baby says:

    Well, Putz turned out to be hurt, with the initial post about it engendering a harsh response out of me that makes me look like a total asshole. I still think I was right to get on the initial post, but it’s moot at this point.

    So am I ready to learn my lesson? No, absolutely not.

    Oh noez, Jason Vargas! He was out of options, gives up a ton of homeruns, is a fly-ball pitcher, and doesn’t strike anyone out.

    Damn, no Mike Carp, an unathletic, platoon 1b/DH who isn’t good against lefties and plays bad defense.

    The Mets took a gamble. It hasn’t panned out. How many contending teams in baseball are going to wager a fringe 5th starter, a decent platoon DH, and a 4th outfielder on a lockdown reliever? I mean, it’s better than turning number 1 draft picks into relievers.

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    • big baby says:

      I’m also really bummed that Omar spent money on K-Rod instead of taking the super-smart bargain closers like Wood and Fuentes.

      I’m also confused as to what Omar’s big hard-on for proven relievers is predicated on.

      You have Wagner, who superficially was one of the best closers in baseball throughout his tenure with the Mets.

      You have K-Rod, who so far as has been an unmitigated success.

      He signed Schoeneweis, arguably one of his biggest mistakes and the one true reliever signing that validates the accusation.

      Who else? Anybody?

      Seriously. Is there a single other example that I’m missing? So far I have 2 closers who performed incredibly well and one actual mistake. And a whole host of other relievers found off the scrap heap (Bradford, Feliciano, Stokes, Oliver), developed (Heilman, Smith, Parnell), etc.

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    • RexS says:

      It’s this superficial and lazy thinking that initiated the trade in the first place. Minaya saw Carp as an “unathletic platoon DH type” and the rest as “finge players/prospects”. In reality, Carp had largely worked out his problems hitting lefties and was a 22-yr. old hitter who led his league in OBP and could play 1st base rather well. The other players were not stars, but useful. Omar cannot distinguish between useful and useless non-stars. It’s always been his problem.

      In retrospect and at the time, the deal was a disaster for the Mets, especially since Putz was by no means a sure thing and the Mets have no answers at 1st base.

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      • big baby says:

        Carp has superficially high numbers vs. lefties due to an incredible BABIP.

        He has an infield fly rate of 31.8% against lefties. That is INSANE. He also has a .414 BABIP against lefties.

        His luck adjusted OPS against lefties? .688.

        Yea, he really figured them out.

        Calling this deal a “disaster” is absolutely preposterous.

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      • philosofool says:

        You’re looking at 41 AB sample. Don’t be ridiculous.

        It’s hard to get a large enough sample to know what Carp’s ability versus lefties is, but his 21% LD rate with .298 BABIP and .347 OBP from last season suggests that he’s going to be okay. Nothing about his recent history suggests his L/R split will be especially bad.

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      • BrettJMiller says:

        Putz was also clearly not right at the end of 2008. Minaya also apparently traded for him knowing he had a bone spur in his throwing elbow. So basically everyone except Minaya saw this coming. And Minaya knew he washurt before hand.

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  8. vivaelpujols says:

    This seems kinda revisionist to me. The Mets need bullpen help, and they got a guy who before 2008, was worth a combined 5.9 WAR in his previous two seasons. The guys the Mets gave up were replaceable, albeit useful. I doubt this was about Minaya’s “proven closer” fetish, and more about the fact that Putz used to be really, really good.

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    • marcello says:

      It would be revisionist if it wasn’t called at the time.

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      • vivaelpujols says:

        Wrong word. I meant to say it was wrong to say that Minaya’s proven closer fetish was why he wanted Putz.

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    • BrettJMiller says:

      The problem is there were red flags that Putz was not going to be that really, really good guy anymore.

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  9. Nick says:

    I don’t know how Cashman is consistently trashed by the NY media and Minaya gets a free pass. He’s been pretty terrible for the Mets and it’s all coming crashing down. He “saved” the Mets by signing Pedro in 05, but what else? They have no depth. They are basically running out a AAA team plus Johan Santana, Carlos Beltran, and David Wright out there.

    Minaya in offseasons doesn’t fix the multiple problems the Mets have, he fixes one and calls it an offseason, and now that fix has blown up in his face. They don’t even have anyone in the farm system to trade, so they can’t fix any of their multiple problems. Jon Niese is godawful. They just demoted Nick Evans from AAA to AA and he’s hitting .200 down there after hitting .093 in AAA. This wouldn’t even get Nick Johnson. Watch him sign Nady to play 1B this offseason and not do anything else.

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    • Gina says:

      It’s because the NY Media barely cares about the mets. They only care enough to tear down the major Mets stars.

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    • nrmax88 says:

      Yeah, Brad Holt and Jenrry Mejia both suck. Jon Niese is godawful? I don’t even love Niese, but what are you basing this on? His ERA in AAA? Ignoring his 8.18 K/9? His 2.86 K/BB? 1.6 GB/FB? .398 babip? His 1.81 fip in his two ML starts? He is a groundball pitcher for Buffalo, probably the worst affiliated team in the minors. They have Javier Valentin playing 3B, and Mike Lamb playing 2B. He is hardly god awful. The Mets have pieces to get a deal done. Daniel Murphy, Ruben Tejada, Josh Thole, Wilmer Flores, Jeffry Marte, Cesar Puello, Dillon Gee, too say they have no assets to make a deal is just lazy.

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  10. Russell says:

    The part of this trade that made me scratch my head was the Indians giving up Franklin Gutierrez for Joe Smith and Luis Valbuena. If you want to talk about overvaluing relief pitching, that’s the very definition of it.

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    • Gina says:

      Valbuena looks like he could be a very valuable middle infielder and Gutierrez didn’t really have a place with Sizemore already there. Plus Smith is young and under control cheaply for a while.

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    • snapper says:

      With Sizemore in CF, and a lack of power in RF/LF the Indians had no use for a good glove/light bat CF.

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    • hans says:

      Yeah I’m pretty sure Valbuena is the guy key in the trade. It completes Cleveland’s harvest of Seattle middle infield talent once they move Peralta and allow Asdrubal Cabrerra to play SS and Valbuena at 2B.

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    • Russell says:

      Ok, maybe I need to see a scouting report on Valbuena. To be honest I assumed he was something of a throw in, and the .071 ISO in AAA in 2008 and the bad UZR numbers in the bigs made me think the .423 wOBA this year in AAA was small sample size. If he’s even league average for the next few years it does make the trade look more even. (Though I’m still not convinced!)

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      • BrettJMiller says:

        His UZR in the bigs last year was in an extremely limited sample size. I’m no scout, but I have season tickets at Safeco in the right field 100 level, and watching him get extended playing time at 2B was a welcome change to watching Lopez man the position. He’s rangy as hell and while it may not have translated to results at this point, I think he definitely has defensive tools.

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    • Nick says:

      Franklin Gutierrez, as already mentioned, had zero place on that team. Between Grady, Ben Francisco, Shin-Soo Choo, Matt LaPorta, and Trevor Crowe, there was no way Franklin was bringing anything to the table there.

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  11. wobatus says:

    I’d say the trade was worth the risk. Putz was throwing hard in September 2008. As someone said, maybe Jerry rode him too hard early. And certainly he shou;d have had the surgery earlier.

    I don’t know you can say Gren has been the best player to date clearly. His fip isn’t the lowest.

    Carp has stepped up his power, and the Mets could use him at first base, and they need 4th and 5th outfielders it seems. But I don’t think that makes or breaks the team.

    If Putz could have given a facsimile of his ’06 ’07, he would easily have been worth those players, unless Carp turns into a huge star. Maybe he will.

    And although Green was awful for abit he has picked it up. Note that his fip is sub-Heilman.

    Naturally, now, it looks like a failed gambit. And this outcome was a distinct possibility. But it wasn’t written in stone.

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  12. wobatus says:

    oops, meant to say I don’t know you can call vrgas the best of the deal to date.

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  13. Roger says:

    Wobatus.. I would imagine it has something to do with SP FIP vs RP FIP.

    I imagine that Vargas has a better FIP in relation to other starters than the relievers in that deal have to other relievers.

    Mets made a bad deal, but they didn’t give up anything that will hurt them in the long run to the point of crippling the franchise.

    Carp could become a league average 1B. Carrera could be a solid fourth OF. Cleto has a live arm.

    These guys all have value, but if they thought Putz was going to be 05/06/07 Putz then I can see why they made the deal.

    What Omar should have seen is a giant red flag in regards to JJ’s command. His walk rate shot up in 2008 in large part (in my opinion) due to his injury earlier in the year which seemed to have him totally screwed up in regards to throwing his splittler.

    Anyway, the M’s made a great deal. They got Gutierrez, Carp, Carrera, Cleto and some SP depth in Vargas and Olson for basically a damaged and overpaid Putz.. and Valbuena (who probably tops out at a value similar to Gutierrez or Carp)

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  14. wobatus says:

    Roger, understood, but vargas doesn’t really have all that much track record. We’ll see. Losing carp my end up hurting a lot. But the other posible outcome which has not occurred shouldn’t be ignored: Putz came back, shored up the bullpen (which looks pretty good right now even without him due to the fluctuating nature of bullpens), Mets avoid 3rd collapse in a row and make playoffs. It didn’t turn out that way, but there was a chance it could have.

    I’ll have to go back and check, but I believe Putz had 13 ks and 2 bbs in september, and was throwing 95-97 his last outing. You can’t bank the store on that small sample, but it was a roll of the dice.

    Carp’s power has spiked. The mets kinda have a poor man’s carp in duda, although older and even less power (hence the poorman). They couldn’t have been too confident in Davis after last year, although he is doing ok in Fla. St. this year. Lucky babip though.

    Carp took a leap forward (not to be unexpected in a 22 year old). Putz flopped. Endy is a good defensive 4th outfielder. Carrera looks similar, maybe more. Yes, it hasn’t turned out great. I am just saying it wasn’t pre-ordained to turn out this way. And it looks like a very good deal from the M’s perspective and likely always was. They didn’t need an iffy health expensive closer coming into this year. Not saying the mets did, but they can afford to make that kind of gamble. Hey, if they really need a 1B maybe they can rent branyan later this year from the Ms. :)

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  15. wobatus says:

    Ya know, vargas’s fip has declined, green has been pitching much better, and is a groundabller. Yeah, Putz has had surgery. He claims he can extend his arm better. Perhaaps he comes back before season ends. Likely won’t be resigned. Regardless, this trade still seems to me to have been a toss of the dice. I think people decide to write the story before it ends sometimes.

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    • wobatus says:

      a toss worth takinh, I meant to say.

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    • wobatus says:

      BTW, based on tRA*, Green ranks 27th among all relievers. Vargas 103rd among all starters. Albeit both samples are small.

      It’ll be funny if Sean Green becomes the best piece of this trade.

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  16. I d do anything to read some additional about what you wrote! Outstanding post!

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