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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Mets could get a bargain if they are savvy


The Major League Baseball trade deadline is just about a month away. Several teams have expressed needs and a desire to fill those needs through trades. When examining the potential for a trade, it comes down to one thing: desperation. Many will say that a team will make a transaction based upon need, but deals are only made when a team is so desperate that they give into the other team's demands.

For example, if a seller is desperate enough to get rid of a particular player, they may be willing to obtain a less talented player and pay most of their player's contract just to unload the problem. If a buyer is desperate enough for a certain position, they may be willing to offer multiple young players and a potential good future for the chance at present success.

One such team that will most likely be a buyer, is the New York Mets. The Mets have yet to truly determine their desperation. The needs are obvious to most fans. They need a starting pitcher and a reliever in the bullpen. The right move could bring them both, however, how desperate are they?

Are they willing to part with several young and promising players as they have in seasons past? That is the essential question. That may depend primarily on who is on the trade block. There have been several names thrown into the trade bonfire recently. The most prominent name is Cliff Lee.

With the possible exceptions of Stephen Strasburg and Armando Galarraga, he may be the most talked about pitcher in the league this season. A quick look at his recent stats may show us why. From May 5, to now, Lee has posted a 2.39 era with a 0.91 whip. Both are far below the league averages. He currently has a 6-3 record for a Seattle Mariners team that struggles to score in his starts.

The major factor on whether or not to make the move for him depends on his impending free agency after this current season. He will command a very high salary somewhere in the neighborhood of double digit millions. He will get it too, but there is no guarantee that whoever trades for him now has the inside track on signing him later.

Therefore, he may just essentially be a two month rental player for a contending team. The Mariners will want multiple young prospects in exchange for him. They plan to use this trade to stock up for the next several years and they want that effect to be as immediate as possible.

So the team that makes the deal will give up several top prospects and at least one current player on the major league roster for a pitcher they may not be able to resign. That is a very steep price. Is he worth it? Perhaps, but the answer really lies in the results of the expectations.

The team that makes that deal will expect him to help them get to and win the World Series. A move that costly to their farm system can not end any other way to be deemed a successful gamble. If he does not and he signs elsewhere, it would be viewed as a total failure. The Mets have been down this road before though.

In 2008, they were trading for Johan Santana who had just one season remaining on his contract. They were able to trade for him only after they worked out a long-term contract with him. Perhaps, this is what the team that trades for Lee will have to do, otherwise it could potentially be a complete waste.

Another player in the headlines is Roy Oswalt of the Houston Astros. He holds a 3.55 era with a 1.13 whip. He may not be as closely monitored as Lee, but the same rules apply to him as well. He is high demand so the Astros will want several prospects for him. He also may be seeking a large contract from the team that makes the move for him. He, like Lee, could be worth it for the right team in the right park for the right price.

A new name that has been emerging is Dan Haren of the Arizona Diamondbacks. He is having a below average season by his standards with a bad team. He currently holds a 4.56 era (career era is 3.69) and a 1.32 whip (1.19 career whip), but he is currently second in the National League in strikeouts with 115.

So far potential suitors are only interested in his career averages and feel that a new team can do him some good. If that is the case, Arizona will want a lot in exchange for him, maybe not as much as previously mentioned for Lee or Oswalt, but still a lot.

Then there is Fausto Carmona. He is stuck on a very bad Cleveland Indians team while in the middle of a very good year. His 3.64 era and 1.27 whip is going virtually unnoticed in Cleveland. He is turning in a solid season for a disappointing team. He is their ace however, so they will command a high price to take Carmona off their hands.

The two Chicago teams could be potential sellers with multiple pieces to offer the trade market. However, the current hot streak that the White Sox have been riding in recent weeks may make them reluctant to sell so quickly. If they do, Jake Peavy wants to be shipped elsewhere.

He has admitted that he wants no part in a rebuilding effort and his 1.22 whip would be enticing to most teams in the trade market. If the White Sox do falter, than look for more stories regarding this possibility to surface by this time next month.

The Cubs, on the other hand, are in dire straits. They are desperate to unload their long-time ace Carlos Zambrano. They are so desperate in fact, that they are willing to pay the majority of the $45 M still owed to him just to entice a team to ship him out. In a new park, on a winning team, he may be useful, if he can get over his anger issues.

The Cubs may be desperate, but they are not stupid. After all, he is an ace and they will want major talent back in exchange for him. These pitchers are all wonderful choices for the most part, given the right team and atmosphere.

For the Mets however, they need to be careful in selecting a potential trade partner and targeted player. They may not need to be so desperate as to give up the multiple prospects in their farm system that it would take to acquire one of these pitchers. All of these pitchers are or were at one time considered top tier aces on a staff.

The Mets may not need a top tier pitcher. They may be able to make a move for a second tier pitcher and give up far less while still acquiring a key component to a playoff run. When thinking of second tier pitchers that fit that mold, here are a few that come to mind.

Jeremy Guthrie of the Baltimore Orioles. His 1.19 whip is being overlooked by his record (3-9), but the truth is that he has only been shelled once in the past few months. In a pitcher's park like Citi Field, he could be a good fit for the Mets.

Brian Bannister of the Kansas City Royals may be worth a look. His enormous era (5.29) and whip (1.48) are deceiving. He has really had only two dreadful starts in the past two months. Both of them he gave up more than seven runs in, but he is averaging around three runs in the other games.

He is worth some consideration when you factor in the surroundings of Citi Field may help those stats. Also, he was drafted by the Mets and spent some time in Queens, so he is very familiar with the team, the area and the media. That is more than most of the previously mentioned pitchers can say. He would most likely come much cheaper too.

Finally, is Ted Lilly of the Chicago Cubs. He has largely been overlooked this season. It is fair to say that he is having a very good season (3.28 era, 1.07 whip) despite being on a bad team, as long as the record (2-6) is not factored in. The right team could even that record out for him.

Lilly has experience with playoff caliber teams, something that only a few of these pitchers have. Pitching in Chicago, he has experience with big media markets. Also, with the exception of Lee, he could benefit the Mets in another way that no other pitcher here could. He is a left handed pitcher and the Mets need a left handed reliever.

Pedro Feliciano, at the time this article is being written, is the only lefty in the Mets bullpen. By adding Lilly, he could replace the lefty spot starter Hisanori Takahashi and send him back to the bullpen. Thereby strengthening the rotation and the bullpen at the same time and negating the need to make two separate trades.

Only the additions of Lee or Lilly on this list could replace one lefty in the rotation for another and be so beneficial to the team. As mentioned before though, Lee would come at a much steeper price than Lilly. There are several more players on the potential trading block, but these are all viable options and all have the ability to be a factor for a new team.

If the Mets want to be that team, they must act cautiously or suffer repeating lessons from the past. If they have the right timing for the right roster move, it could pay off for years to come and end this year with a bright present to match that bright potential future.

The question then remains, will the Mets do their homework and be patient enough to wait out a team's desperation or will they be so desperate that they make the wrong move? The next month will tell us.
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