Should the Mets Trade for a Starting Pitcher?

There have recently been some murmurs going around the Orange and Blue watercoolers that the Mets are looking for a starting pitcher, with names like Cliff Lee and Kevin Millwood being thrown around. Although the Mets are within a reasonable striking distance of first place in the NL East, there are a few things to analyze here. First, what is a weakness the Mets can try to improve? Here are some relevant rankings for the Mets in terms of place in the National League:

Team ERA: 6th
Team xFIP: 14th
Team FIP: 10th

So the Mets may be getting a little lucky with their pitching performance thus far, but we also need to remember that those numbers include some terrible pitching from former starter Oliver Perez (now on the DL and in the bullpen upon his return) and John Maine (now on the DL). Here is what looks to be the Mets rotation for the rest of the season with current FIP and rest of season FIP via ZiPS:

Johan Santana: 3.81/3.47
Mike Pelfrey: 3.28/4.00
Jonathon Niese: 3.76/3.98
R.A. Dickey: 3.37/4.66
Hisanori Takahashi: 3.27/No Projection
John Maine: 5.82/4.44

There are some problems with looking at the projections as well. R.A. Dickey is pitching with a completely new regimen and type of knuckleball, so the the outlook may be unfairly pessimistic, and there are no numbers for Takahashi. Either way, this rotation is solid. But what about the offense?

Team wOBA: 13th
Team OBP: 13th
Team SLG: 12th

Not pretty. However, the Mets do hope to get Carlos Beltran back in the near future, and Jose Reyes and Jason Bay will most likely perform better than they have thus far. With a lineup of Reyes / Beltran / Wright / Davis / Bay / Pagan / Barajas / Castillo, the Mets could reasonably have each position player with a wRC+ at ~100 or over. Unfortunately for the Mets, they have to hope for Beltran, Reyes, and Castillo to return to health and form, as well as continued above-average production from Barajas (although Blanco has played extremely well thus far).

Omar Minaya has another month and a half to see where the Mets stand. They probably have a true talent level of about 85 wins or so, but even teams with a true talent level of .500 can get to 88 wins or more. However, if the Mets are within a few games of first place at the end of July, a solid trade can easily push them right into the thick of things. This isn’t to say the Mets should trade Reese Havens, Jenrry Mejia, and Ike Davis for Cliff Lee. In fact, it may be more prudent of the Mets to move John Maine and Takahashi to the bullpen and pick up another solid arm without as big of a pricetag. Jake Westbrook would be a good fit; he’s a groundball pitcher who has been hurt value-wise by his homers per fly balls. A dose of Citi Field may be exactly what he needs. He’ll get a chance to audition for the Mets when he faces them in Cleveland tonight.

Unsurprisingly, the answer to the title of this article is, “It depends.” Omar Minaya may have the green light to pull the trigger, but picking up too big of a gun may prove pyrrhic in the longrun.




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Pat Andriola is an Analyst at Bloomberg Sports who formerly worked in Major League Baseball's Labor Relations Department. You can contact him at Patrick.Andriola@tufts.edu or follow him on Twitter @tuftspat

67 Responses to “Should the Mets Trade for a Starting Pitcher?”

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  1. Mike says:

    The problem with that lineup is that Jerry Manuel is likely to start Frenchy over Pagan because he is a grade-A jackass who knows nothing about baseball.

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    • Jeff says:

      Why play Frankie he only has .275 with more homers and rbi’s might as well bench him right?

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    • wobatus says:

      He should definitely start Frenchy against lefties. Frenchy can hit lefties. Pagan can’t. Overall Pagan has the positional advantage and if switched to rf would likely stil have a fielding advantage. I am not sure the hiting advtage overall is huge. But pagan kills righties and francouer kills lefties, and each sucks against the other. A natural platoon. And Pagan can spell carlos sometimes in cf and carlos could try some rf.

      Almost everyone here seems to think Pagan should play over frenchy all the time. Not so. The stats back up that a platoon is definitely the way to go.

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  2. Everett says:

    Reese Havens, Jenrry Mejia, and Ike Davis for Cliff Lee? Where do I sign up? This sounds like just the kind of trade that Minaya would be all over.

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    • Pat Andriola says:

      You’re acting like he’s the kind of guy who’d trade Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore, and Brandon Phillips for an older pitcher during a playoff race. Oh…

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      • Josh says:

        To be fair, the Expos were facing contraction at the end of the season and the Expos were still in the hunt at that point, so Omar felt like he had nothing to lose

        Obviously, it’s an awful trade, but it’s not completely insane, and he hasn’t made any big trades for rentals midseason as the Mets GM

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      • LeiterWagnerFasterStronger says:

        What Josh said.

        Plus, his one big in-season move during his Mets tenure was a pretty significant success (Nady for Hernandez/O. Perez).

        That it eventually led to his panic-signing Ollie for 3/36 shouldn’t diminish the fact that he squeezed a good amount of near- and medium-term value out of a platoon OF (at that point).

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      • Blastings! Thrilledge says:

        I hate to defend Minaya, but he hasn’t done anything that bad since, though the Putz deal was really stupid. I NEED TO IMPROVE THE BULLPEN HAI THIS GUY WAS A CLOZER

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    • Zack says:

      Doesn’t sound like it anymore. Ike Davis is their first baseman. They won’t make a trade weakening a position on their major league club to strengthen another. They literally have no one else that could compitently play first base in their organization at this time.

      We’ve heard for awhile Minaya doesn’t want to give up the farm. He didn’t want to last year either when everyone thought there was nothing in the minors to begin with. He stuck to his guns, and now the Mets have young talent rounding out their roster and contributing.

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      • BlackOps says:

        They have a few guys who could do well at first: Chris Carter, Mike Hessman, and some other guy whose name I forgot. What was it?

        Not to say they should deal Davis because Mike Hessman is destroying AAA, but there’s actually depth there.

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      • frank says:

        You sure you want to go with “literally” there? (sorry a pet peeve of mind)

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      • B N says:

        Re: “You sure you want to go with “literally” there? (sorry a pet peeve of mind)”

        Yes. I think he meant that literally they had no one who could play 1B “compitently.” Since compitence is not a standard English word, he can make it have any literal meaning he wants. QED.

        It’s all right though. Isn’t everything a pet peeve of “minds” anyhow?

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    • BlackOps says:

      He’s been reluctant to trade prospects recently, I seriously doubt he’ll trade away two guys in the bigs for a three month rental, even Omar Minaya. Don’t bring up Bartolo Colon either.

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  3. Zack says:

    Pelfrey is pitching much better compared to his career numbers, so his projections could even be considered pessimistic.

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  4. CaseStreet says:

    Would’ve been nice if you compared the difference a guy like Westbrook would have made versus Lee. BTW, Perez is on the DL, too.

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  5. gatone says:

    A Failcouer-Pagan platoon would be highly productive. Failcouer torches lefties and pagan kills righties.

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    • BX says:

      Currently, Angel Pagan is your best outfielder in the organization. Why would you platoon him?

      A Failcoeur/Carter platoon makes a lot of sense, but Pagan/anyone doesn’t.

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      • devo says:

        Pagan hits LHP poorly, to the tune of .249/.289/.406 over the course of his career. Even if you believe that he’s a superior defender (which I’m not sold on – he’s got better range but Francoeur possesses the superior arm), the difference certainly isn’t enough to make up for Frenchy’s prevailing ability versus left-handing pitching (.303/.346/.486 career).

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      • nrmax88 says:

        You aren’t sold that Pagan is a better fielded then French? Are you sold that Albert Pujols is a better hitter then French? No contest here.

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      • BX says:

        devo: Do you REALLY want an outfield of Bay, Francoeur, and Carter? That sounds horrendous.

        I mean, Curtis Granderson has an extreme platoon split, but plays awesome enough defense for him not to be platooned. Same with someone like Ryan Sweeney.

        They field well enough to keep them in the lineup against LHP.

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      • wobatus says:

        and I think he means when Carlos comes back. If healthy, I’d imagine he’s the best outfielder the team has. Pagan is a good fielder (per a few sss seasons of uzr and my eyes), but his wRC isn’t all that much higher than frenchy, frenchy is playing an ok rf, and really, most of one guys production is versus lefties and the others versus righties. It is a natural platoon, once beltran is back.

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      • wobatus says:

        Frenchy’s career uzr per 150 in rf is 6.9. Pagan’s is like 15, but he has only played about 50 games there, so not a representative sample. Rcently, frenchy had a couple of slightly sub-par uzr years, but he is ok this year, and uzr is in a given year is like batting average. Can be flukey. Overall frenchy seems like a decent rf with a great arm who kills lefties. Pagan seems like a great fielder, over relatively small sample (overall he he hasn’t played 2 full seasons) who kills righties and can’t hit lefties well (maybe he will given more time, but he hasn’t in his career and isn’t doing it this year).

        Once Beltran comes back, he will need to be spelled now and again. Pagan will get plenty of at bats subbing for beltran now and then and taking most rf starts against righties. Mets may not do even that, but to say he should start over frenchy against even lefties is pretty irrational frenchy hatred and saber-ignorant.

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      • St. Heathen says:

        Also, considering Beltran’s limp/injury, Pagan should be playing center regardless– not platooning in right!

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    • wobatus says:

      i should have read ahead

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  6. Gina says:

    The mets should ban Omar from using his phone.

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  7. Anthony says:

    You can be absolutely certain that the Mets aren’t trading Ike Davis for Cliff Lee.

    Why would they give up their starting first baseman who is under team control for five years after this season for a pitcher who will be a free agent at year end? Havens, Mejia, and all other prospects are legitimate possibilities, but the Mets aren’t moving Ike Davis.

    To even suggest that might happen is absurd.

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    • Pat Andriola says:

      It was an example of an outlandish trade, and there to demonstrate that I am not in favor of giving up good young players for Lee. Try to read it over with context please.

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      • Steve says:

        I think he meant to respond to the guy above who suggested that would be a great trade for the Mets.

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      • Steve says:

        Or more likely, it was just a cheap shot at Minaya. Carry on.

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      • Franco says:

        It’s not even that absurd to bring it up. Some reputable local writers have been saying that Seattle has been asking for Niese and or Ike Dave, Jenry Mejia. (for Cliff Lee that is) Word is Omar isn’t moving Ike or Niese for any rentals though.

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  8. vivaelpujols says:

    Oh hey look the Mets aren’t terrible and appear to have a very solid team and a good minor league system and a high payroll!

    #15org

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    • vivaelpujols says:

      Although actually the writeup for the Mets was mostly complementary.

      http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/organizational-rankings-15-mets/

      Seems strange why they would be ranked so low.

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      • Franco says:

        Bad GM and meddlesome owners. Otherwise, there’s no excuse for the Mets not to be in the same pack as the Red Sox and Yanks every year as a quality team. If the Mets had a good GM, it could possibly take 2 years to turn the team into a perennial 90+ win team until the end of time.

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      • Zack says:

        “Otherwise, there’s no excuse for the Mets not to be in the same pack as the Red Sox and Yanks every year as a quality team.”

        Seriously?

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      • Franco says:

        Re read what I wrote in context. They have the same revenue steam as the Sox and Yanks and ergo have the potential ability to be as good as them if they were ran well. A good GM with free reign and a couple years to digest bad contracts could easily turn the ship around.

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      • SF_Matt says:

        Franco, they won the most games in the NL from 2006-2008, they’re 1/2 game out of first place right now, and last year was an injury plagued season that no team could have overcome (including the yankees, phillies, sox). I don’t think this is a team that needs a couple years to ‘turn the ship around’. It’s already heading in the right direction. People discount them too much based on last year’s debacle.

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  9. J.P. says:

    I don’t know where they make a big upgrade with a bat. Franceour would be the obvious play, but he is simply not going anywhere unfortunately. I guess 2b, but there isn’t an obvious upgrade out there on the trade market. A lot of the Mets offensive woes came from Reyes’ early season slump and Bay’s power outage, and they are stuck with both those guys for the long haul.

    They might be better off going after a couple decent bullpen arms, since Manuel sems to have annointed Elmer Dessens as our high leverage reliever.

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  10. gatone says:

    what about trading for Ted Lilly? Isn’t he a free agent after the year? what would it take to get him?

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  11. gatone says:

    Reyes has started turning it around the past month or so.

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  12. gatone says:

    ranking the mariners 6th was competely absurd though.

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  13. Rick says:

    Would the Mets going after Dan Haren just cost to much? the D’Backs seem to be willing to trade anyone and everyone.. I think Haren is under contract for another 2 years at about 12 million a season… that would be a sick 1-2-3 punch

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    • Franco says:

      I’m sure the Mets would love to have him. The problem is their lack of prospects who aren’t already a part of the major league team or soon to be.

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      • wobatus says:

        I don’t advocate trading them, but I don’t think Wilmer Flores is soon to be part of the major league team. He’s 3 years away likely. And even if they are on the them or close, Havens and Tejada play the same position, so one could be dealt ostensibly, although nice to have 2 2b prospects (plus Josh satin). Kirk Nieuwenshuis is a year away as well.

        Just to be clear, I am not saying to deal these guys, but the Mets definitely have trade chips if they wanted to trade them.

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  14. Penn94 says:

    This article, though a bit dated, should be required reading for anyone who says the Mets should give up the farm for Oswalt or Lee. Haren is another story, considering his current contract.

    http://baseballanalysts.com/archives/2007/11/baseball_tradin_1.php

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  15. Dave G says:

    I like the idea of having Havens ready for a Sept. call-up, if he’s healthy. I would not trade him, since he could be a starter at some point in 2011. They have some other quality 2bs in their farm though, like Satin and Valdespin. Those guys or even Tejada could be traded to get a guy like Kelly Johnson or Jeff Keppinger. But then, they’d have to cut either Castillo or Cora, and Omar would blanch at that, since he has man crushes on both of them.

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  16. gravy says:

    satin is 25 years old in AA. Hes not really much of a prospect.

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    • wobatus says:

      yeah, but he is organizational depth, meaning you have him as a potential back-up even if you trade tejada or havens. Again, I don’t necessarily advocate dealing them, but the Mets could, and if they got Lee they’d get draft picks back if he goes free agency.

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  17. thurm12 says:

    Reading through the comments, I’m now quite confused. I thought the joke in the article was that Mets fans thought Reese Havens, Ike Davis, and Jenrry Mejia would be enough to acquire Cliff Lee. I know that Mets fans are in love with their new 1B, but do Havens, Davis, and Mejia equate to the $20 million or so in trade value that Lee will require (http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/cliff-lees-trade-value/) ? Maybe I have an anti-New York prospects bias (anyone remember the Carlos Gomez and Phil Humber hype?), but that trade proposal seemed obviously absurd to me in the other sense, akin to Casey Kotchman for Mark Teixeira.

    Maybe Jenrry is the key to any deal like that though. I just the Mariners, not the Mets, would be getting screwed in that deal. Quick look at BA’s prospect lists, that would be a trade for the #56, 62, and unranked Havens.

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    • David says:

      Ike Davis seems to be sticking in the majors. All he needs to do is produce 5 wins over the next 5 years to be worth even more than the high end of the 15-20 million dollar valuation of Lee. That doesn’t seem crazy. He could do a lot better.

      Whether a trade with Davis as the centerpiece just depends on how high the Mariner’s are on the young first baseman. Could they be more than twenty million dollars high? Yes. Than that trade happens. If they think otherwise, it doesn’t happen.

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    • wobatus says:

      you are using a pre-season top 100. Havens is now, if healthy, top 100. Davis was ranked behind Smoak and Alonso but has outplayed them this year. Not saying he is better, just that he was ranked a little low for how he has developed.

      That’s a huge package for a rental in this day and age. Much better than the package that got Lee to the M’s for a full season. The M’s will not get a package that good.

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  18. Franco says:

    Haven’s was hurt most of last year and has been destroying AA pitching this year while playing a competent 2B. The injury bug kept him from being ranked. I don’t think he’s future HOF’er or anything, but he’s a second baseman with real power and patience. Maybe Dan Uggla lite.

    From Seattle’s POV, I agree that dealing 2 or 3 prospects should be required for the trade. Trading Ike means that they have to replace someone at 1B since they have no internal solutions. Trading Reese means another year of Castillo/Cora in 2011. They can’t trade Niese because it just means they need another starter with no internal solutions (since Mejia wasn’t starting in the minors all this year).

    Mejia is the only spare prospect and hence the Mets aren’t getting Lee. I guess they could trade Fernando Martinez, but they’d be selling real low on a former top prospect.

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  19. GCQuakers Fan says:

    I don’t know if looking at season-long totals is the right way to analyze the Mets. On Opening Day they had Alex Cora, Mike Jacobs and Gary Matthews Jr. in the starting lineup and Frank Catalonotto as a PH. Oliver Perez and John Maine were in the rotation.

    Prior to tonight’s win, in the team’s previous 23 games, a stretch that started the day after John Maine’s last start, the Mets have a 3.38 ERA (3rd in the NL compared to season-long totals) and a 3.71 FIP (2nd in NL).

    The batters have a .332 OBP (8th in NL) and a .430 SLG (2nd in NL).

    Clearly, the Mets are on a hot streak right now and they cannot be analyzed by these numbers, either, but it’s sort of dishonest to claim that the full-season numbers are indicative of the talent on hand right now.

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    • Kevin says:

      Is that Guilford College? My parents both went there in the late 60s/early 70s. Totally random, and kinda made my day. By the way, I went to Earlham, the other ‘Quakers’

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  20. Pachoo says:

    I think the met’s are just setting their fans up for more disappointment. The team is more of a 500 club than a playoff contender. I expect them fall back to earth rather quickly, probably starting this week. Dickey and takahashi won’t continue to be so lucky.

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    • Franco says:

      Dickey hasn’t been that lucky. He’s a recent convert to the full time Knuckleballer. I’m not even going to pretend like I know what I’m talking about when it comes to knuckleballers, but his peripherals are good. He plays in Citi which should help out for those knucklers that don’t knuckle so much. Still, I’m sure his HR rate is going to jump a bit before the end of the year and make him more of a back rotation 4+ ERA/FIP guy. It’s still a lot better than Maine or Perez. Takahashi is a ticking time bomb as a starter.

      Also, even if they play a tad above 500 the rest of the way, you still can’t take away the 38 wins in the bank. A couple more dumb luck wins or a big trade and it’s a 90 win team.

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    • GCQuakers Fan says:

      Earlier this year the Mets won 10 out of 11 games and now they have won 11 out of 12. Show me one other .500 team in MLB history to have two streaks like that in the same season. Odds are stacked against mediocre teams running one double-digit win stretch like that during the season much less two.

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  21. shamus mcfitzy says:

    I’m miles behind most people who comment here, but what’s so great about Westbrook? His FIP and xFIP aren’t great this year and his K/BB ratio is bad so it seems like that definitely cancels out his GB%. He is coming back from Tommy John surgery and so he’s probably only going to get better, but I don’t know why anyone should definitely count on him being an impact player this year. If the Mets could get Oswalt on the cheap (so to say) by picking up all of his contract and not giving up too much prospect value then I think I would happy with that, but right now it just doesn’t seem like there is very many options out there that will be worth their asking price.

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    • Franco says:

      Westbrook stinks, sadly he stinks a lot less than Maine or Oliver Perez so it’s still an upgrade of 1-2 FIP. Yes, Maine has a 5.5 FIP, Olly 6.6 FIP and it isn’t bad luck. Takahashi is the current #5 pitcher and he starts throwing BP pitches in the 4th or 5th inning. A replacement level pitcher would be an upgrade. A washed up vet is a big upgrade. That’s why there are links to the Mets for guys like Millwood, Westbrook, etc.

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      • acerimusdux says:

        He’s still clearly a downgrade from Takahashi. Maine and Perez are no longer in the picture.

        If the Mets add a pitcher, it needs to be someone who can throw quality innings. Sure, Takahashi is even better in the pen than the rotation, but he’s still a better rotation option than guys like Westbrook or Millwood. If the Mets are going to go that route, they’d be just as well off adding a quality pen arm and staying with Takahashi as the #5.

        The last thing the Mets need right now is another overpaid pitcher who thinks he’s entitled to a rotation spot. If the price is too high on guys like Lilly, Haren, Lee, Oswalt, or maybe Peavy, they should probably just add a pen arm. Or deal cheap young prospects for a cheap young SP.

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  22. Matt K says:

    Does Fernando Martinez have no trade value now? Nobody even mentions this guy anymore…

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    • Franco says:

      I assume that the Mets won’t sell while he’s at an all time low in value. He’s still hitting, but he misses 50% of the season every year which has hurt his value.

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  23. Marc says:

    The injuries have made him a bit of an afterthought. He still has the talent, but all the time off has prevented him from getting the headlines that build a prospect’s resume. Basically, as has been said previously, trading him right now would be at his absolute lowest value. Much better to wait until he either demonstrates the ability to remain healthy, in which scenario he’s still a top notch cf prospect, or wait till he gets on a hot streak and trade him when his value is up a bit.

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  24. Click my name make $400 in one day…easy and works,guaranteed…:)

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