Ever wonder whatever happened to the minor leaguers the Mets gave away in past trades. Well here’s your answer as we catch up with the prospects the Mets traded away in the two blockbuster trades they have made over the past few years. To acquire J.J. Putz, Sean Green, and Jeremy Reed the Mets gave up minor league pitchers Jason Vargas and Maikel Cleto as well as first baseman Mike Carp and outfielder Ezequiel Carrera. Now let’s take a look at what these guys have done since and how they might have impacted the Mets minor league system or the major league club if they were not traded.
First up is left-handed pitcher Jason Vargas, who was traded away because he had no more minor league options, and the Mets did not have room in their rotation for him at the start of 2009. Vargas was mediocre in 2009 making 14 starts and 23 appearances with Seattle, while spending some time in the minors. In the majors that year he was 3-6 with a 4.91 ERA. However, in 2010 he was much better with a 9-12 record and 3.78 ERA pitching 192.2 innings with a WHIP of just 1.25. Those numbers don’t seem like much, but considering he was on a bad team and facing American League lineups, those numbers could have been even better had he been in the National League. Although the Mets did not have a spot for him in 2009, if they could have found one they would still be in control of Vargas, who would definitely be an asset to the pitching staff moving forward.
Mike Carp was once one of the top 10 prospects in the Mets system, possessing legitimate major league power. But because of concerns over his defensive being a liability in the field, the Mets were willing to part with Carp. In 2009, he put together another good minor league season, playing in AAA for the first time, and making a brief stint with the Mariners, hitting .315 with 5 extra-base hits in 21 games in the major leagues. In 2010, Carp put up monster numbers in AAA, hitting 29 home runs, but only hitting .189 in 14 games with Seattle. The minor league numbers are awfully impressive as expected, and Carp certainly would have helped the abysmal Buffalo Bisons in 2009, but with just 35 career major league games, it’s still unclear if Carp can be a consistent major league hitter. Also a cause for concern is Carp’s numbers against lefties last year in AAA, hitting just .170 with only 1 of his 29 home runs coming against lefties, making it more unlikely he could be an every day player and not just a platoon, something that would be further reinforced by his questionable defensive abilities.
A lesser known player involved in this trade was outfielder Ezequiel carrera, who was with the Mets through 2008 when he played in the Florida State League, hitting leadoff, stealing 28 bases, and being named the best defensive outfielder in the league. In 2009, Carrera made the step up to AA in the Mariners organization where he raised his average by 74 points, his on-base percentage by 97 points, and his slugging percentage by 23 points. That’s an incredible improvement from one year to the next, especially moving up a level. However, those stats took a hit with the move to AAA in 2010, during which the Mariners traded him to the Indians. If Carerra can return to the number he put up in 2009, he could become an every day centerfielder and a leadoff man in the big leagues. However, it’s more likely that he will just be a 4th outfielder, but with his speed and great defense he will be great in that role. Carrera is ready to be in the major leagues, and a fast and athletic 4th outfielder is something the Mets could certainly use on their roster for the upcoming season.
The final minor leaguer in the trade to Seattle was right-handed pitcher Maikel Cleto. At the time of the trade Cleto was a raw and undeveloped power arm with a good fastball, meaning there’s nearly an infinite amount of directions that his career could have gone. In 2009 Cleto was limited to just eight starts, pitching just over 25 innings while putting up a 5.33 ERA and a WHIP of nearly 2, making it a forgettable year. In 2010 Cleto was moved up to A-advanced ball where he made 21 starts and 2 relief appearances pitching a little over 100 innings with a 6.16 ERA and a WHIP of 1.65. Even more alarming is Cleto only having 83 strikeouts, which is disappointing for a pitcher with a good fastball and is indicative of a lack of development and consistency in secondary pitches. It’s still a little too early in his career to write off Cleto as a failed prospect, but there’s little evidence that he will become a successful big league pitcher. However, you can never have enough power arms, and despite never pitching above A-ball and not having much success there, Seattle felt it was necessary to protect Cleto from the Rule 5 Draft. Seattle has since traded Cleto to St. Louis in exchange for Brendan Ryan in a one-for-one deal, indicating the he still brings enough value to acquire a legitimate major league player, something you can never have enough of down on the farm.
In reviewing this trade two years after the fact, it’s easy to say that the Mets got the short end of the stick based on what they received. J.J. Putz was not the pitcher the Mets thought they were getting, Sean Green contributed very little in his two years in the organization, and Jeremy Reed is best remembered for his errant throw in Los Angeles as a first baseman. Not only did they not get much back, but they also gave up some pieces that could have been useful. Jason Vargas hasn’t been great but has been a serviceable lefty in the major leagues. Mike Carp’s best value to the Mets was including him in a trade, so there is little more the Mets could do with him other than including him in a better trade. Carrera’s future as a reserve outfielder will likely yield far better results and more value than anything Reed did during his season with the Mets. It’s still unknown what kind of pitcher Cleto will turn into, so it may turn out that the Mets were wise to trade him when they did. Still, two years later it seems clear that the Mets would have received much more value from the players they traded away than they got out of the players they traded for.
Coming up next is a review of the players traded to Minnesota in the Johan Santana trade.