Yesterday brought the news that Adam Wainwright, whose curveball to end the 2006 NLCS is etched in my memory forever, is likely out for the season due to elbow trouble. According to Baseball Prospectus, the Cardinals’ odds of making the 2011 playoffs dropped from 55% to 43% just because of the injury. It is safe to say that the Cards are a team that needs to win now. With Albert Pujols’ free agency looming, the Cards can’t afford to wait until next year.
The above facts, coupled with my view stated in a recent post that Mike Pelfrey was not as good as we might think based on his 2010, got me thinking.
Specifically, it got me thinking that the Mets should try and trade Big Pelf to the Cardinals. Yes, I know we already don’t have a great rotation, but that’s precisely the point, at least in part.
Baseball Prospectus gives the Mets a 6% chance of making the playoffs. If we traded Pelf, maybe those odds drop to 3%. Hardly a catastrophe. And, if sabermetrics are to be believed, the loss of Pelf will never be that substantial because he’s simply not that good of a pitcher. Pelf is also due to make $4 mil this year, and will probably be due for a bigger raise next year. Trading Pelf now means freeing up more money in the future to actually build a team with a better than 6% chance of making the playoffs.
For the Cards, as noted above, they need to win. There is currently no one like Wainright available, but Pelf offers the illusion of being something of an adequate replacement. We know that for at least stretches at a time, Pelf can pitch like an ace. The Cards also aren’t known as a team that focuses on stats in their player evaluations. And like I said earlier, the Pujols situation makes the Cards desperate.
Thus, the Mets have an opportunity. They can take advantage of the Cards need for a starter, and possibly bring back some young talent that may turn out to be more valuable than Pelf in the long-run, when hopefully the Mets will once again be ready to contend.
What would I want the Mets to get back? Well, the Cards don’t have a great minor league system. But they do have Shelby Miller. Still only 20, he struck out 140 in only 104 innings in low-A, and already throws 93-95 regularly. He’s on all the top prospect lists and has the potential to be a true ace. Would the Cards give him up? Normally, I’d say no. But the Pujols thing has them on edge, and they may feel that there’s no price they wouldn’t pay to ensure they contend now.
If the Mets could bring back Shelby Miller, I say they should jump at the opportunity to trade Pelf. As I’ve argued in the context of Jose Reyes, the Mets need more talented players than they have right now. Simply building around the existing core just won’t cut it – that core is declining, not improving – and this group of players has proven repeatedly they aren’t up to winning a championship.
Will trading Pelf now hurt the team this season? A little. But if the payoff can be an ace down the line, I say it’s worth it.