ESPN’s Jayson Stark caused a fuss yesterday by discussing a potential Mets-Phillies trade. The parameters: pitcher Vance Worley, outfielder Domonic Brown and at least another top piece for David Wright.
Before we get into the specifics here, a few words of warning about those who would dismiss the rumor for one reason or another.
To those who would take issue with Stark, since he is a Philly guy, I’d respond: you aren’t paying attention. Stark is one of the best, most plugged-in writers in baseball, and has been for decades. Whether his loyalties as a fan are with the Phillies, or any team, it is his professional responsibility to get it right. Over and over again, he does. That’s what matters.
And for those who claim the Mets will suffer an attendance hit by dealing Wright- have you been paying attention since 2009? Attendance went from 3.1 million in 2009 to 2.56 million in 2010 to 2.35 million in 2011. But attendance, absent Reyes, won’t keep dipping in 2012 because the Mets keep Wright? I’m sorry, but “Hey, we didn’t lose both cornerstones!” isn’t a slogan bringing fans into Citi Field in droves.
As for the idea that if the Mets trade Wright, it shouldn’t be in-division: I don’t get it. Sure, the Phillies are a direct rival, so giving them David Wright makes no sense. But the Mets wouldn’t be giving Philly anything. They’d be trading. And the essential aspect of a swap is that you are getting something in return. Moreover, if you are making the trade, you at least think you are receiving more than you are giving up.
By that standard, isn’t an in-division trade ALWAYS better than a trade with, say, someone in the AL West? It is the equivalent of an in-division game: you get to help yourself and hurt an opponent at once! I’d also bet on Sandy Alderson over Ruben Amaro, Jr. in trade negotiations.
The proposed trade would do that, too, since the Phillies are rapidly reaching their expiration date. With some of the best starting pitching in recent memory, the Phillies won 102 games despite a below-average offense. In other words, this Phillies team will rise and fall on the performance of its aging starting pitching staff. Whether you think that happens in 2012 or 2013, it is likely to happen sooner than later, especially as the offense continues to deteriorate. The bloated salaries on the books also limit Philadelphia’s ability to retool. They’ve largely emptied the farm system, and haven’t been spending on player development over the last few years. Now, can David Wright help delay that offensive downturn? Yes, but he can’t make up for the declines of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins (if he even returns) all by himself.
Meanwhile, if Jose Reyes doesn’t return, and the smart money says he doesn’t, the Mets aren’t realistically looking to contend in 2012, and probably not 2013, either. In other words, they’d be getting young talent in Worley, who’d instantly become a top-of-the-rotation starter for the Mets, and Domonic Brown, who is valuable if he plays right field, super-valuable if he can stick in center field. By 2014, Wright is on his next contract, anyway- and 2013 if he gets traded, since that voids his 2013 club option.
I do feel the need to put this standard caveat in my analysis- the “this could all be avoided if ownership still had the capacity to spend generously on MLB salary, allowing them to keep Wright/Reyes, augment them, while also spending money to properly develop young talent, you know, like a big market team should” caveat. I’m providing analysis based on what is- but I don’t want people to forget that this was no more inevitable than any other man-made crisis.
So with that caveat, good luck, Sandy Alderson. If significant talent can be had for Wright, make the deal.