Chris Cwik of Fangraphs had an interesting piece over the weekend, discussing how the Mets need to make every effort to leverage their first half of 2012 into a playoff appearance.
I believe he’s right, but not for the reasons he’s described, nor do I believe they should they go about it in the way he discusses, by trading top prospects for starting pitching help such as Zach Greinke.
“While the Mets are in good position, the trade deadline could really shake things up in the National League. If the Mets want to ensure themselves a playoff spot, they should go all-in at the deadline.The first reason why: The Mets’ core group of players is aging. New York’s top three players, according to WAR, are all at an age where it’s not typical for players to improve any further. Wright has experienced a big rebound at age 29, but he’s dealt with some major injuries throughout his career and there was concern that he was in decline last year. It’s a miracle that 33-year-old Johan Santana is pitching this well after missing the entire 2011 season with a shoulder injury. And while Dickey has been phenomenal, he’s also 37. They’ve all churned out great performances this year, but there should be a healthy dose of skepticism as to whether they’ll be able to replicate their performances next season.”
This is a key part of 2012, which has been described in many places as a revival built upon the young, homegrown Mets. The lion’s share of value from the 2012 team comes from the longtime Met Wright, the trade acquisition Santana, and the scrap heap pickup Dickey. Among the rest of the Mets, the highest WAR among position players comes from Ruben Tejada, 83rd in the league; among pitchers, it is Jon Niese, 81st in the league. It is a sobering reality when considering how 2012 truly fits into the rebuilding schedule of the Mets.
But a deal, such as the one Cwick proposes–Zack Wheeler for Zach Greinke–does little to address the weaknesses that remain on the roster.
To be sure, Greinke has been fantastic this year. He’s pitching to a ERA+ of 146. But Chris Young, the man he’d replace in the rotation, is pitching to an ERA+ of 130 over five starts. That’s not nearly enough of a short-term bump to justify dealing your best prospect, if such a bump even exists.
Now, the suggested target from Buster Olney, Grant Balfour, makes a lot more sense. Balfour’s peripherals are down somewhat in 2012, but his track record suggests that he is a quality reliever capable of getting both lefties and righties out. He makes $4 million this year, so it would require the Mets to add around $2 million in salary, or presumably, give Oakland a better prospect if asking the Athletics to pick up the salary. But the fit would be a good one. and presumably, the cost will not be Wheeler.
The Mets could also boost the 2012 team similarly with an acquisition to catch, particularly as a right-handed complement to Josh Thole, or better yet, a right-handed hitting outfielder to play center field.
The potential upside- each round of the playoffs is worth estimations in the tens of millions of dollars– is critical to an ownership group still fighting to survive. But desperation aside, let’s be clear here: all teams do better with more money than less.
So if the Mets find a way to improve this roster, they ought to do so, within reason. But they probably shouldn’t do it in the principal area that has gotten them thinking like buyers, rather than sellers, in 2012, let alone at the expense of a young player they’ll need in years to come.