As we learned from Adam Rubin this morning, a number of Mets have cleared waivers, meaning they can be traded to any team. Prior to July 31, this was true of any player- after the non-waiver trading deadline, a player must go through waivers- with each team in reverse record order getting a chance to claim him- before that is possible.
Teams tend to put a huge number of their players through waivers, since they can always choose not to deal those players to the claiming team. (The team asking for waivers on a player can also just say, “Here, you take him.”) And if a deal can be worked out, everybody wins.
So here are the Mets who weren’t claimed, as per Rubin: Jason Bay, Chris Capuano, D.J. Carrasco, Willie Harris, Angel Pagan. Let’s run down their immediate futures:
Jason Bay: it makes sense that teams wouldn’t claim Jason Bay, in much the same way that if your neighbor came over and offered you his crippling student debt, you’d decline to claim it as well. Had a team claimed Bay, it is safe to assume the Mets would have reacted roughly like this. Bay is owed the remainder of his $16 million salary in 2011, along with a $35 million obligation through 2013 (assuming his option doesn’t vest for 2014).
One of the great unanswered questions about Jason Bay is this: how well will he need to play, and for how long, for another team to take on even a portion of his contract in a trade? With the kind of track record Bay posted through 2009, would a second half that continued at the pace of his August so far-.311/.392/.556- get it done? Is that enough production to convince another team to take a chance on him? And is there an amount of production Bay can have that would persuade the Mets to keep him around, even if another team would take him on?
I simply don’t know the answer to the first question- my suspicion is that if he hits for a .900+ OPS for two months, some team will deal a bad contract to the Mets for Bay. As to the second question, I doubt very much that the Mets will hesitate at the first chance to unload Bay, even if he posts a 1.200 OPS over the final two months of the season.
Chris Capuano: Unless the offers weren’t very good, I’m not sure why Capuano didn’t get traded by July 31. Capuano not getting claimed certainly points to that likelihood. But no matter: teams still need pitching, especially Arizona, and Angel Pagan was good enough to end Jason Marquis’s season to help the Mets with leverage. (This is what the mean by contributions that don’t show up in the box score.)
Capuano is signed through the end of the season. There was some hopeful talk that Capuano could become a Type B free agent, meaning that if the Mets offered him arbitration, he declined, then signed elsewhere, the team could get a draft pick. But as of August 1, Capuano wasn’t even close to making the Type B cut. As Principal Ed Rooney once said, “Between grief or nothing, I’ll take grief.” If by “grief” he meant a “Grade C prospect”, I’m with Ed.
D.J. Carrasco: Signed to a two-year contract this winter, Carrasco struggled early, spent time in the minors, but his second-half numbers have been a lot better. In 12 2/3 innings, he’s walked just three while striking out 11. If someone wants to give the Mets a useful piece, Carrasco shouldn’t be untouchable, but I’d be inclined to keep him around and see how he fits into the 2012 plans- less because of his second-half numbers, and more because those numbers fit into his career profile of a useful swingman pitcher.
Willie Harris: Trade him for a lottery ticket. A lottery ticket could help the Mets in 2012. Willie Harris, free-agent-to-be, cannot.
Angel Pagan: This one is the tough one. Pagan has experienced a down season, with his OPS+ dropping from 107 in 2010 to 92 in 2011, and his fielding going from way above average to considerably below average at the same time.
The hitting appears to be largely a BABIP trick. Pagan’s .268 average on balls in play this season, after a .331 mark in 2010, doesn’t reflect fewer line drives. In fact, he’s producing line drives at a rate greater than his 2009 or 2010 seasons. So assuming he’ll get most of his 2009/10 production back in 2012 doesn’t seem like a stretch.
But the defense worries me. He’s been, to the naked eye, as bad out there as the metrics say. And remember, he turned 30 last month- defense doesn’t get better with age, and usually peaks sooner.
Even that 107 OPS+ from 2010 isn’t great in a corner outfield spot, so Pagan needs to be a reasonably strong defender in center field to make him a great future fit. If the Mets decide he’s going to be non-tendered this winter, perhaps he is a trade candidate right now. My only reservation is that a league-average offensive option who can play center field isn’t really around this organization right now.