Friday, January 11, 2008

Meet the Mets

Joe Christensen had an article in the Star Tribune yesterday reporting that the Mets may be the most likely eventual destination for Johan Santana, noting that they have reportedly offered the Twins a package that includes outfielder Carlos Gomez along with pitchers Deolis Guerra, Kevin Mulvey and Phil Humber.

I've always felt that the Mets were a logical trading partner, in that they have a greater need for Santana than the Yankees or Red Sox and thus may be willing to take their offers one step further than either of those clubs. Furthermore, there is little doubt that the Twins would rather send their star left-hander to the National League so as to avoid being forced to face him a couple times during the regular season and -- more frighteningly -- in the AL playoffs.

Christensen reports that the Twins have "told the Mets they'd have a done deal if New York would add prized outfield prospect Fernando Martinez." That's not exactly a minor toss-in, as Martinez is the Mets' top prospect and one of the better outfield prospects in baseball. Yet, if the Mets can make that happen, this is potentially an exciting package with a lot of upside. Martinez reached Double-A last season and held his own despite being just 18 years old, which is extremely impressive. He has tools that scouts rave about; then again, he has only accumulated 563 professional at-bats at this point, and he hasn't put up any jaw-dropping numbers as of yet (which is understandable, given his age), so making him the centerpiece of a Santana deal is a risky proposition.

As for the package the Mets have reportedly already offered, it has some potential but probably isn't significantly better than the offers the Yankees and Red Sox have made. I'm higher on Gomez than most and I like his chances to turn into a Jose Reyes type player. At 22, he's one of the fastest players in all of baseball, which makes him a very exciting player to watch, and I believe he'll build on his patience and power, both of which are fairly meager at this point. The lack of plate discipline is particularly alarming, as he'll never be able to put his blazing speed to good use unless he can get on base at a decent rate, but he is young and raw.

Along with Gomez, Guerra is the other enticing piece in the Mets' reported offer. A Venezuelan right-hander who won't turn 19 until April, Guerra has already put in a full season at Advanced Single-A, posting decent numbers against older and more experienced hitters. At 6'5" and 220 lbs., Guerra is an imposing figure on the mound and he brings a very good changeup which could become even more effective as he adds velocity to his fastball. Of course, Guerra is still at least a couple years away, and judging teenage pitching prospects is always a tricky task, so naturally there is a lot of risk involved with making him the centerpiece pitcher in a Santana deal.

Mulvey and Humber, the two others mentioned in the package, are decent pitchers who I don't believe will develop into above-average major-leaguers. The Twins already have numerous similar pitchers in the shape of guys like Nick Blackburn, Brian Duensing and Jeff Manship -- guys who can put the ball in the strike zone consistently but lack exceptional stuff. I'd prefer to see the punchless Twins get more offense out of a Santana deal than one speedy center field who could well become the next Juan Pierre, which is why the Mets' offer isn't overly appealing unless Martinez is involved.

At this point, with the offers that are reportedly on the table, I still feel that the Yankees' package is the best. Phil Hughes remains the best player mentioned in any trade discussions, Melky Cabrera provides a solid young outfielder, and the additional prospect or two added to the deal would help stock the Twins' system. The Mets, however, appear to be serious bidders, and if they can adjust their deal a bit and find a way to include both Gomez and Martinez, they might be the club that comes out on top in these lengthy Santana Sweepstakes.

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On an aside, if you're interested in reading what Mets fans are saying about this proposed deal, you can check this post and its comments over at Metsblog.com.

10 comments:

MVB said...

Nice breakdown of all the players in the deal Nick. Good analysis. Thanks for the link to the Mets blog too. Reading their comments was quite entertaining. You know, no trade is ever good enough for either side, hehe!

I wrote about the Mets this morning too, I linked you guys up to my blog. Keep up the good work!

Any chance you think this news is to try and make the Yanks or Red Sox budge? I'd said if F-Mart is included pull the trigger. It's a risky deal, but could be huge upside.

ubelmann said...

I know it's a pretty common nickname scheme, but F-Mart sounds like someplace you go to buy failing grades.

ubelmann said...

He has tools that scouts rave about; then again, he has only accumulated 563 professional at-bats at this point, and he hasn't put up any jaw-dropping numbers as of yet (which is understandable, given his age), so making him the centerpiece of a Santana deal is a risky proposition.

That was my original viewpoint, but the more I look at it, the more it seems like young position players are easier to project than you might guess. If Martinez adds a bit of power, he becomes Torii Hunter. If he doesn't change at all, he'll basically match Jose Reyes' line at the plate. If he gets a bit worse, he could still hit for a 90 OPS, which isn't all that bad for a sub-optimal outcome as long as he can handle CF.

Pitchers are a lot riskier because there's a longer time period for them to get injured, and they can be tougher to project because sometimes they add new pitches, but it seems like young position players aren't that bad as long as you're looking for the right things.

Heck, even consider the guys in the Twins' farm system. Denard Span has been hitting essentially the same every step of the way, save for some fluctuation in his singles rate. Alexi Casilla hit .270/.346/.348 when he was 19 and .269/.345/.344 last year in AAA. Trent Oeltjen hit .292/.344/.379 when he was 19 and has a career minor league line of .287/.348/.381. Darnell McDonald hit .260/.306/.364 when he was 19 and has hit .269/.330/.390 over his entire career as a minor leaguer. Matt Moses hit .224/.297/.362 when he was 19 and hit .248/.283/.362 last year between AA and AAA.

The big question mark for me is his defense. Is he just a fast guy that everyone assumes plays good defense, or does he actually run good routes and cover a lot of ground? It seems like a good scout could give you a pretty good idea of what Martinez will turn out to be.

At the very least, I don't think the projectability of an 18- or 19-year-old position prospect is all that much different than a 21- or 22-year-old position prospect, especially once you put the scouting and numbers together. (And to be clear, I don't mean to suggest that we can perfectly project the future. There are always a few weird out-of-nowhere successes and failures, but maybe we shouldn't be too worried about young prospects.)

Nick N. said...

Any chance you think this news is to try and make the Yanks or Red Sox budge? I'd said if F-Mart is included pull the trigger. It's a risky deal, but could be huge upside.

I really don't think the Red Sox or Yankees will go much further than they've gone already.

If Martinez adds a bit of power, he becomes Torii Hunter. If he doesn't change at all, he'll basically match Jose Reyes' line at the plate.

Yeah, but without Reyes' insane speed. Is Reyes really much of an offensive player without his game-breaking speed?

At the very least, I don't think the projectability of an 18- or 19-year-old position prospect is all that much different than a 21- or 22-year-old position prospect, especially once you put the scouting and numbers together.

You may be right. The issue with projecting these young guys who are playing at advanced levels is that it's difficult to gauge whether their sometimes underwhelming numbers are a result of playing against older and more experienced competition, or the fact that they just aren't that good and are being rushed for the wrong reasons (Luis Rivas, for instance).

ubelmann said...

Is Reyes really much of an offensive player without his game-breaking speed?

I tend to think Reyes' game-breaking speed is overrated. He was worth something like 8 runs above an average baserunner last year, which is more like the offensive difference (measured by VORP) between Reyes and Michael Young, not the difference between Reyes and Orlando Cabrera, or something like that.

You may be right. The issue with projecting these young guys who are playing at advanced levels is that it's difficult to gauge whether their sometimes underwhelming numbers are a result of playing against older and more experienced competition, or the fact that they just aren't that good and are being rushed for the wrong reasons (Luis Rivas, for instance).

I think in general, the problem is that young players are just given too much credit just for being young at their level. Look at the guys who were 19 when they played in the Eastern League. That's ridiculously young for AA, but they all basically have major league lines that match their minor league lines, including Rivas, Edgar Renteria, Jose Reyes, Omar Infante, and Dioner Navarro. Heck, look at Joe Mauer. He hit .331/.406/.424 in the minors and has hit .313/.394/.459 so far in the majors.

Basically, it's not that the young guys are so difficult to project, they're just not being projected correctly. Being young for your level makes your statistics as compared to other minor league players at that level more impressive, but it doesn't mean that you're eventually going to hit better in the majors than you did in the minors. The one thing that sometimes changes is that good hitters--if they have the right body for it--will generally see doubles turn into home runs or singles turn into doubles as they "fill in," but it's pretty uncommon to see guys go from low average to high average or low walk rate to high walk rate.

ubelmann said...

Also, as a note on Rivas, I don't necessarily think he was rushed. He hit .256/.309/.367 in the minors and .262/.307/.385 in the majors. Slowing his progress in the minors would have superficially made his statistics look better, but then we would have said "well, he was never that young for his level, so we have to expect some drop-off in his rates from the minors to the majors" and he would have turned out to be a .260/.310/.380 hitter anyway.

I mean, I don't think we ever thought Rivas would start hitting for a bunch of power, so we shouldn't have expected him to start hitting for high average (something he'd never really done at any level) just because he was growing older.

The problem with Rivas was more a lack of hitting talent than anything else.

Nick N. said...

I tend to think Reyes' game-breaking speed is overrated. He was worth something like 8 runs above an average baserunner last year, which is more like the offensive difference (measured by VORP) between Reyes and Michael Young, not the difference between Reyes and Orlando Cabrera, or something like that.

Perhaps. I guess I just think Reyes is overrated in general, but his ability to fly around the bases and put pressure on the defense does make him more of an offensive force than your usual .280/.350/.430 hitter.

Also, as a note on Rivas, I don't necessarily think he was rushed. He hit .256/.309/.367 in the minors and .262/.307/.385 in the majors. Slowing his progress in the minors would have superficially made his statistics look better, but then we would have said "well, he was never that young for his level, so we have to expect some drop-off in his rates from the minors to the majors" and he would have turned out to be a .260/.310/.380 hitter anyway.

So are you of the opinion that a player is destined to become a certain type of hitter in the major leagues regardless of what type of instruction they receive and success they achieve in the minor leagues (especially the lower minors)? I'm not sure I'd totally agree with that, although you may be right for the most part. I'm not saying Rivas would have ever become much of a hitter, but it doesn't seem like there was much reason to push him through the minor leagues so aggressively, given his lack of success at any level.

In general though, I'm buying your argument that the age factor may be somewhat overrated, and your examples do a good job of illustrating your point.

AZtwinsfan said...

I definately like the idea of Santan going to a National League team for sure. If the Twins could get this Martinez, it would be excellent. I think the Twins need a position prospect to look forward too.

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