An old trade that might bring some much needed help

Joe SmithAlmost five years ago, the Mets were involved in a three team trade with Seattle and Cleveland that helped land relief pitchers JJ Putz and Sean Green, along with outfielder Jeremy Reed.   It was a deal the Mets needed to make, after signing Fernando Rodriguez, to strengthen a bullpen which failed them continuously the previous season.  Now with the team looking to fortify some roster spots for the 2014 campaign, it might be in the team’s best interest to revisit that very trade for some help.  There are three players in that deal who can bolster the Mets roster immediately.

In the first part of that trade, Seattle received from the Mets Aaron Heilman, Jason Vargas, Endy Chavez and three minor leaguers, one of which was current Red Sox Mike Carp.  The trade was completed when Cleveland sent Seattle Franklin Gutierrez in return for Luis Valbuena and Joe Smith via the Mets.  So now maybe it’s time to bring Aaron Heilman back…just kidding!

Now that Matt Harvey is officially ruled out for the duration of next season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, the Mets have a need for a starting pitcher.  Jonathan Niese, Dillon Gee, and Zach Wheeler have a hold on three spots, but the other two are up for grabs.  As the roster is constructed today, it would be safe to say Jenrry Mejia and Rafael Montero would be favorites to fill out the rotation.  That would make 60 percent of the rotation with 182.3 total career innings combined.  If you look at that prospective rotation as whole, you see two pitchers with injury history in Niese and Gee, while the other three are raw, inexperienced, and most likely to have innings caps on their seasons.  It would be a rational decision to sign or trade for a veteran starting pitching to log numerous innings.

Enter Jason Vargas.  The 30-year-old free agent starting pitcher has averaged over 190 innings the past four seasons with Seattle and Anaheim.  In that same span, he’s had an ERA of 3.97 while winning 41 games for losing teams.  He’s not a front-line starter by any means, but he fits the bill for what the Mets should be looking for in a starter…INNINGS!   Vargas will certainly be looking for a multiyear contract in his first foray into free agency – last year his salary was $8.5 million.  Even though the Mets have a depth of good, young pitching potential in the organization, it would be wise to consider a two-or-three-year contract to a veteran, middle of the rotation pitcher to bridge the transition – especially with no guarantees in Harvey’s recovery.   Vargas’ demands may be more than Sandy Alderson is willing to dole out, but he should at least kick the tires on the former Met.

Then there’s Franklin Gutierrez, a player surprisingly you don’t hear about in rumors, even from the bargain hunter fan’s perspective.  Perhaps the reason is for his propensity for being injured which has caused him to play in only 173 games the past three seasons.  The Mariners have a team option on him for 2014 for $7.5 million, but if they decide to move on, perhaps the Mets could move in on this once, promising outfielder. He’s four years removed from his best season in 2009, when he batted .283 with 18 HR and 70 RBIs.  Gutierrez was also one of the premier defensive outfielders in the game, with the ability to play all three spots.  It’s a low risk, high reward scenario in the condition the Mets give him a moderate contract with incentives.  It’s been reported that Gutierrez has a genetic disorder that causes inflammation and arthritic pain in his joints and other parts of his body.  He has to be motivated to resurrect his career; maybe it could be with Mets for the right price.

Lastly, there’s Joe Smith. I’ve written about signing him before and still think he would be a good, under the radar signing for the Mets.  He was one of the few reliable relievers on those collapsing Mets teams of 2007 and 2008, his first two seasons in the big leagues.  Since he’s left, he’s become a solid and consistent contributor for Cleveland.  The past three seasons with Cleveland, Smith has averaged 65.2 IP with a 2.42 ERA, while letting 27 percent of inherited runners to score, which was the league average this year.  He’s a sinkerball pitcher, yielding only 17 HR in his seven year career while still averaging 7.6 SO/9.  The decision to sign Smith or any middle reliever outside the organization will be based on whether the Mets want to go forward with many of the relievers from last year’s squad.  LaTroy Hawkins and Scott Atchison’s return will determine a lot about the bullpen makeup in regards to veterans, but Smith is worth a look too.

The Mets top priority this upcoming offseason is finding a few players to help generate more runs from the everyday lineup.   Trades and signings are going to be more prevalent this season than any other time in Alderson’s tenure.  It will be interesting to see if any of the aforementioned players surface in front office discussions this offseason;  bringing back memories of a much forgotten trade.


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7 comments for “An old trade that might bring some much needed help

  1. Metsense
    October 25, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    Sean, a very compelling argument on why the Mets need a veteran innings eater in the rotation. Even so, I prefer to go with Mejia and Montero with deGrom and Syndergaard in reserve. Vargas at $8.5++ and multiple years is money I would rather spend on the offense.
    Smith is a good reliever but he wants to stay in Cleveland and the Indians want him back and the $3.1 M salary was negotiated to avoid arb so Cleveland knows his worth. The Mets would have to offer him much more than Cleveland for him to change his mind. I would rather spend the money on the offense.
    Even though I want to spend the money on the offense, I would pass on the oft injured Gutierrez. The Mets need more steady reliability.
    Sean, enjoyed the unique premise of the article.

  2. October 25, 2013 at 8:53 pm

    Wish we still had Smith, but I worry it may take too much to get him. Of all the players moved around then, Cleveland got lucky with him.

  3. October 26, 2013 at 2:00 am

    I see no point why SA will give a mid-level journeyman a 3 year contract. Within 2 years the Met starting rotation will be set without any over paid over the hill free agent pitchers. Stop gap pitchers can be found easily so why glorify them into high priced free agents.

  4. Dave
    October 26, 2013 at 4:01 am

    I believe Joe Smith wants to stay in Cleveland.

    • Name
      October 26, 2013 at 3:10 pm

      Everyone says that they want to “stay”. Rarely would a player come out and say that they don’t want to say. However, even though they say that, for 98% of the players ,they follow the money.

  5. Metsfan 62
    October 27, 2013 at 2:41 am

    As intresting as this may be, it is time to see some of that young pitching in majors. We need to find out who cuts the mustard, so to speak. We need an experienced catcher to be the on field coach to call the game, to assist in thier collective development. We can limit inning across the board of them all. This way we see what they can do. If we keep Ike Davis, we need a bat behind him so he sees better pitches in the zone. I am not looking at ’14 as win season just improving, as we look to see who is and isn’t the real deal.

  6. Mark
    October 28, 2013 at 9:42 am

    At those prices the Mets need Wins and not innings…Spend the money on some OF’s and a SS and perhaps a 1st baseman who swings at good pitches and takes the bad ones as opposed to the approach that they have now.

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