In part one, I examined whether advanced stats argued in favor of the Mets trading Jose Reyes. And, found that they do.
Today, recognizing it takes two to tango, we’re going to look at potential trade partners for a Reyes deal. But first, we need to understand a little better why the Mets would trade Jose.
While the comments section to part one was generally pro-trade, a number of commenters advanced the argument that if Reyes had a “bounce-back” 2011, then the Mets could easily afford to give Reyes a multi-year extension. Relatedly, those same commenters contended the Mets would not be able to find a shortstop that was as good as Reyes to replace him.
Both arguments are correct—as far as they go. It is possible, however, to believe the Mets can afford Reyes, that he will be the best shortstop the Mets can have going forward, and still think he should be traded. The reason why is twofold: first, as part one showed, while Reyes may put up good numbers for a shortstop, his overall numbers just aren’t that special; and it’s likely he’s going to get worse, not better. Second, by trading Reyes, there is the potential to receive multiple players in return; one or more of whom could provide more value to the team’s success than Reyes would.
To pick a slightly exaggerated example, let’s say that the Mets traded Reyes four years ago to the Reds for then-prospects Joey Votto and Josh Hamilton. Fast forward to 2010, as a result of the trade, the Mets had a slightly below-average shortstop like John McDonald of the Blue Jays. When healthy, there’s obviously a big gap in skills between Reyes and McDonald. But that difference would be swamped by the additions of Hamilton and Votto to the roster.
This is a nice time to introduce VORP (Value Over a Replacement Player), to illustrate my point. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I don’t love stats like WAR or WARP because I am dubious of the reliability of advanced defensive metrics. What makes VORP nice is it allows us to measure a player’s offensive value compared to what any freely available “minor-league” free agent type at the same position would produce. VORP is measured in runs. So, if a catcher has a VORP of 30,that would mean for a given season, he would produce 30 more runs than say, Omir Santos.
Let’s take a look at our hypothetical trade of Reyes to the Reds and Votto and Hamilton to the Mets. To do a full VORP calculation, we need to also recognize that Ike Davis and Angel Pagan probably don’t play as much (I’ll cut Pagan’s VORP by 2/3 and not give any VORP to Davis), and, I’ll credit Reyes with his 2008 VORP because that was the last year he played a full season.
|Player||VORP||Gain (loss) to Mets|
In total, the Mets would have gained 68 or so extra runs last season in that exchange. Roughly, that’s about 7 extra wins (and seven fewer losses). That’s pretty substantial. And of course, it doesn’t stop there. If Davis were blocked at first by Votto, he could have been traded for a young pitcher (or Cliff Lee), further bolstering the Mets.
What’s the takeaway? The Mets could get a lot worse at shortstop, but if they got a lot better elsewhere, it could still work out significantly in the Mets favor.
And, like it or not, right now, Reyes and Wright are the only two players that can get you a haul of young players with potential. Wright doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, and that leaves you Reyes. Perhaps, one might say, why don’t the Mets keep Reyes and in 2012 use their money to sign free agents? Well, first of all, there’s not a lot of high-level talent on the 2012 free agent list and in particular, there’s very little high level pitching talent. Second, free agent pitching (and free agency in general) is such a crapshoot. For every CC Sabathia there are two or three Barry Zito’s.
Ok, you might then say, why not just wait until our current young players develop and add Reyes to the mix. Here is another problem. The Mets have an average farm system. Most of the talent at the top levels is simply not elite-level. At the lower levels there are the Wilmer Flores’ of the world, who may turn out to be elite, but by the time they’re ready, Reyes will already be on the downswing of his career.
So, we are left with a trade of Reyes. Where might he go? In identifying potential trade partners, I set the following three requirements:
1) Need for a top-tier shortstop and a desire to win fairly soon.
2) 2-3 “impact” young players, either at the minor league level or with only a couple of years of service time.
3) A willingness to take on payroll.
In no particular order, here are the most likely suspects and possible deals:
San Francisco Giants: The defending champs need a shortstop and there are already rumors the Mets and Giants are in discussions. The Giants top prospect is Brandon Belt, who plays first base. For a deal to work out, the Mets would probably then need to ship Belt (or Ike) elsewhere. But I could see Reyes to the Giants for Belt and Madison Bumgardner. The Mets could then turn around and deal Belt to Baltimore for one of their top pitching prospects like Zach Britton. All of a sudden, the Mets have two young starters around which they can build their rotation for the future.
Boston Red Sox: Boston feels the need to upgrade their current team. If they lose out on Carl Crawford I could see them making a play for Reyes—particularly given their emphasis on defense. A package centered around their top pitching prospect Casey Kelly and either Jacoby Ellsbury, Ryan Kalish and Josh Reddick could work. The Mets get a potential ace and an outfielder to replace Carlos Beltran in 2012.
Los Angeles Angels: They too could have interest if they lose out on Carl Crawford. Here, I like a package focused around the Angels top prospect, Outfielder Mike Trout who combined for a .341/.428/.490 line at A/AA last year. He also had 56 steals, meaning that unlike Reyes, he would actually be an ideal leadoff hitter. Alternatively, I would like a package of Catcher Hank Conger (.300/.385/.463) at Triple-A, and closer-to-be Jordan Walden (23 K’s in 15 innings in the bigs). The Mets could also ask for Erick Aybar to replace Reyes at Short in the short-term.
Chicago White Sox: Assuming they’ve had enough of Alexi Ramirez, the Mets could ask for Gordon Beckham and OF prospect Jordan Mitchell, who missed all of last season due to a leg injury but if healthy is a top prospect.
Overall, I think the Orioles and Angels probably are the best fits. In particular, Trout from the Angels is a can’t miss outfielder that could really thrive at Citi Field for a long time. I think they’d be extremely reluctant to trade him, but if he could be pried, the Mets should leap at the opportunity. Trout’s going to be the player we hoped Jose Reyes could be.
In closing, the key takeaway from this two part series is that Jose Reyes has been an exciting player to watch, but he’s not getting any better, and isn’t a truly elite player. If the Mets can make themselves better in the long-run, by obtaining multiple good young players they should do so.