Phew! My two month hiatus is done. Sorry that I didn’t post anything for a while, but nothing really broke, and with the trade deadline being literally dead, never mind the fact that the expected happened, although the return could have been better, I really had nothing to write.
Anyway, yesterday was a big buzz day in terms of August trades. With Matt Harvey possibly shut down until 2015, the Mets pulled a classic “Oh sh*t” and promptly traded their two best players to Pittsburgh for Futures game alumnus and Pirates infield prospect Dilson Herrera, as well as a player to be named. Herrera is a 19 year old who, while undersized, can hit for power. He has above average speed, and while his glove needs work, he certainly could factor into the team’s long term plan. Dilson, at the time of the trade, ranked as high as the Pirates number 9 prospect, and as low as number 11. It’s also been reported by Pirates GM Neal Huntington that the PTBNL is expected to have people say that the Mets got very solid pieces in the deal (Update: The PTBNL in question is pitcher Vic Black, former 2009 first round pick of the Pirates). And all it took was a 36 year old outfielder having a miracle season and a catcher who had just lost his starting job to the team’s second best prospect.
This begs the question, how does Sandy Alderson do it? Since becoming the team’s general manager in 2011, Alderson has made three major trades, including the one above, in which he shipped out players who either had one miracle season, or who were starting to get past their prime, in exchange for at least one hotshot prospect. Examples:
July 2011: Trades outfielder Carlos Beltran, who is in the midst of a comeback season after an injury plagued 2010, to the San Francisco Giants for pitcher Zack Wheeler, who rises through the Mets system as the team’s number two, then number 1 prospect, before making his major league debut with the Mets. Wheeler is currently the number 3 starter in New York, behind Jon Niese and Dillon Gee. He is expected to get some points in the already established Rookie of the Year race. Beltran on the other hand, serves as a rental player, and the Giants do not make the postseason in an attempt to repeat as World Series champions. He signs with the Cardinals, and is named an All-star for them twice.
December 2012: Trades pitcher R.A Dickey and catchers Mike Nickeas and Josh Thole to the Toronto Blue Jays for catchers Travis d’Arnaud and John Buck, pitcher Noah Syndergaard, and outfielder Wuilmer Becerra. Buck ends up serving as catcher for most of the year and actually ends up third in the All-star vote, before being traded in the above deal. d’Arnaud starts as the team’s top prospect, ahead of Wheeler, ends up in Triple-A, gets hurt, rehabs, and makes his long anticipated big league debut in mid-August. Syndergaard blazes through Single-A and Double-A, and is named the starting pitcher in the 2013 Futures game. He is regarded as the team’s new number 1 prospect. Becerra is playing modestly well in the Gulf Coast league, and may or may not factor into the team’s future.
If you think about it, Alderson, in his three seasons as the general manager of the Mets, has, on a shoestring budget, brought the team out of the Omar Minaya induced darkness, when the team had no prospects, and no real chance of competing. He dumped off bloated contracts and revitalized the farm system with not one, not two, but four top ten prospects, all for guys who on any other teams would have gotten maybe a top 40 prospect and chump change.
Let’s look at each team’s situations to get an idea of how Sandy does it.
1. Carlos Beltran had already served his purpose in New York and looked to be coming off the books if he wasn’t traded. His value was severely diminished due to the 2010 injury, and Alderson had no plans to keep him on the team regardless of whether he revitalized or failed as a man in his last year. When Beltran exceeded expectations, teams were interested. When he made the All-star team as a starter, they were literally falling over themselves for him. Alderson could have basically asked for a contending team to gauge their farm system and they would have not only offered their top two prospects, but also a top ten who had the upside to be a top 5, which, incidentally, the Giants did offer not only Wheeler, but also outfielder Gary Brown and first baseman Brandon Belt. Alderson may not have jumped on the opportunity to gauge the team’s future, but he did get a franchise arm in Wheeler, one that could compete with Harvey when they both came up, and revitalize a much-maligned rotation. Suffice to say, it worked in the Mets favor. Wheeler rose through the system, and despite some mechanical issues, not to mention playing in the baseball Siberia that is Las Vegas, he’s become a much hyped part of the team’s rebuild.
2. Again, the Dickey deal was an effort to capitalize on a solid season. After seeing that the Blue Jays had gutted half their farm system in exchange for practically everyone good on the 2012 Marlins team, save Giancarlo Stanton, Alderson was ready to deal with Toronto. Granted, he could have made a deal with any team that wanted Dickey. The Red Sox would have offered a package that surrounded either Xander Bogaerts or Jackie Bradley, but not both, thus dropping them on the list. Texas offered a package that surrounded Mike Olt, but without Jurickson Profar, the deal was dead. The Dodgers offered Zach Lee, their top pitching prospect, and Dee Gordon, a shortstop, but given the fact that the Dodgers system has been weak, no deal there. Alderson had one big priority: Capitalize on Dickey’s wonder year by getting the next Piazza. In Alex Anthopolous, he found a sucker. Not only was Anthopolous willing to give either d’Arnaud or JP Arencibia up, he also was willing to get rid of one of his 2010 high school pitching phenoms. Having already given up Henderson Alvarez AND Justin Nicolino, you’d think he’d want to hold on to Syndergaard and Sanchez, but no. Alderson insisted, and also asked for Buck so that d’Arnaud’s transition be smoother. Anthopolous was more than happy to oblige, and the team soon found itself with two top prospects and a solid veteran catcher, not to mention an outfield throw in.
So there really is no magic in Alderson’s dealings, it’s just a simple matter of market philosophy. Remember Schoolhouse Rock’s infamous video, Money Rock? That song, Walkin’ on Wall Street? Basically, Alderson is selling high on guys who are past their prime, and reaping returns of enormous value. And again, this is on a shoestring budget. With that problem going away in the offseason, Alderson will be able to make bigger investments, like signing a big free agent outfielder.
The Byrd deal likely won’t pay dividends immediately for the Mets. Herrera is a good two or three years away, and with no clear idea who the PTBNL is (Update: Vic Black), he may or may not contribute to the team’s immediate future either. However, it may turn into another win-win for the Mets, as the team is interested in bringing back Byrd next year. In this case, even if the Pirates do end up relying on the contributions of Buck and Byrd, the team will still lose the deal. Score another for Alderson.