In November of last year there was a rumor of a Mets-Angels trade involving David Wright. As with most rumors, it’s hard to say if there were actual talks between the two teams or if it was something created by a drunken journalist in a bar or a blogger in his mom’s basement. Most versions had the Mets acquiring Peter Bourjos, along with another player or two.
Mets fans were shocked that their star player would only fetch a slap-hitting outfielder and chaff while Angels fans saw no reason to trade a Gold Glove-level CF who posted a 116 OPS+ in his first year in the majors (much less throw in anything else) for an expensive 3B who was an injury risk and who was under team control for just one year.
Fast forward a year and this is what we saw unfold for the principals in this deal: Wright stayed healthy the entire season, posted his highest OPS since 2008 and returned to being a Gold Glove-level defender at third. Meanwhile, Bourjos was limited to just 195 PA, posted a .606 OPS and became a forgotten man with the ascendance of Mike Trout.
So, Mets fans are going to call me crazy when I suggest that Sandy Alderson should revisit (visit?) trade talks with the Angels with the same two players being principals of the deal.
Like many people, David Wright is my favorite player. In an ideal world, Wright would finish his career in a Mets uniform and be elected to the Hall of Fame five years after he retired. But it’s not a perfect world. The Mets’ owners have serious financial problems and the last thing they need to do is to commit to another long-term nine-figure contract that hamstrings the club financially while the player fails to meet expectations.
While Wright rebounded to an .883 OPS in 2012, the way he got there is a bit unsettling. The first two months of the season, Wright was an MVP. After that he was a much different – read worse – player. Because it’s handy, let’s use his first half/second half splits and compare that to what he did in 2011.
1st Half .351/.444/.563
2nd Half .258/.334/.416
In most cases, splits have no predictive ability whatsoever. But I’m not jumping thru hoops at the chance to lock up a guy to a contract north of $100 million who in 77 percent of his last 1,117 PA has posted an OPS significantly below .800 (roughly .765).
That’s still a good player. It’s just not a guy to pay $20 million a year to, regardless if he’s the “face of the franchise.” Add in the fact that paying Wright that money would preclude them from getting someone with a better shot of being worth that type of contract and it becomes even more distressing.
OK, you might be willing to play along with the idea of shopping Wright. But why the Angels and why Bourjos? Not many teams need a third basemen and would be able to pay Wright’s contract, which makes the Angels a nice fit. As for Bourjos, everything that made him attractive last offseason still applies. The fact that he had a .274 BABIP, 64 points below what he posted in 2011, does not change things.
He’s still a top-notch center fielder, one who had 9 DRS in less than half a season in the field. He’s still a guy who could give the Mets speed on the bases, someone who could be a nice leadoff hitter, one capable of driving the ball (lifetime .155 ISO). Last year when he wasn’t hitting, Bourjos retained a good approach, with an OBP 71 points higher than his AVG. Only Wright and Ike Davis had a higher OBP-AVG differential for the Mets last year.
The Mets need a good fielding center fielder, which Bourjos is. They need someone to hit leadoff, which Bourjos could do. They need RH bats in the lineup and while Bourjos does not have a pronounced split, he does fare slightly better against LHP in his career. The Mets could also use someone cheap and Bourjos is a pre-arb player.
But, we cannot completely dismiss Bourjos’ 2012 season, either. Which is why Alderson should hold out for more and the name that stands out is Jordan Walden. At the start of 2012, Walden was the Angels’ closer. But like half of the closers in baseball, Walden stumbled in the early going and was yanked from the job. Walden then came down with an injured biceps. While he returned to the majors, Walden was never able to reclaim his job as closer.
Ernesto Frieri took over as the closer and the 26 year old notched 23 saves, a 2.32 ERA and a 0.957 WHIP last year.
Meanwhile, you could compare Walden a bit to Bobby Parnell as both are hard throwers with some command issues. But after returning from his injury the third week of August, Walden appeared in 14 games and did not walk a batter. A fastball-slider pitcher, Walden has swing-and-miss stuff, with a lifetime 12.6 SwStr%. And he’s also a pre-arb player.
My guess is that those who are opposed to this will see it as trading an All-Star 3B for two guys who lost their jobs last year. That would be an accurate, yet totally incomplete look at the issue. It’s akin to the reaction Lee Mazzilli had when he heard he was traded. Mazzilli was incredulous when he heard he was dealt for a couple of minor leaguers that he had never heard of before. Ron Darling likes to remind Mazzilli of that comment every time he sees him now.
A Gold Glove CF and a shutdown closer, both pre-arb players, would be a nice haul for Wright, don’t you think?