News came down today that the Brewers traded potential Mets-target Norichika Aoki to the Royals for Will Smith, who apparently gave up a career in the movies in order to be a solid lefty reliever in Kansas City last year.
This move prompted reader Jerry Grote to make a detailed post about how the Mets were overvaluing Ike Davis, as the Brewers allegedly turned down a Davis-Aoki swap. The post was a cold bucket of water thrown on Mets fans and gave a glimpse of how hard things must be for Alderson in the trade market when one of his primary assets seemingly has very little value.
But let’s take a look and see if things are really this bleak.
First off, let’s agree that the Mets offered the Davis-Aoki swap and the Brewers turned them down. While we have no way of knowing if that was indeed the case, it seems reasonable enough. So, why would the Brewers, a team admittedly in the market for a lefty-hitting first baseman with power, pass on this deal?
Aoki is owed just under $2 million in 2014 and then hits arbitration for the first time the following year. It’s a great contract for a guy who put up a combined 4.2 fWAR in the 2012-13 seasons. Yet Milwaukee dumped him for a middle reliever. While it’s true that they were looking to open a spot in the outfield for Khris Davis, it’s hard not to notice that he was dealt for someone making minimum wage.
Did the Brewers object to Davis’ expected level of production or his expected salary level? Estimating arbitration salaries is hardly an exact science but most reports have Davis earning in the neighborhood of $4 million in 2014. Since they traded a $2 million player for a $500,000 player, it’s very reasonable to assume that salary played a significant role in their evaluation.
The follow-up question is if Alderson offered to include money to even up the deal. Would Davis and $3.5 million have been enough for the Brewers to bite? My guess is yes. So, why didn’t Alderson offer that deal? He included money in both the Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez deals, so we know he’s not opposed to this kind of deal.
It seems that Alderson thought that Davis had more trade value than that.
It is important to note that these Davis-Aoki rumors were popular in early to mid-November, before the Mets acquired Chris Young. The signing of Young would appear to have squashed any interest the Mets had in Aoki. While he would have been a nice improvement in the leadoff spot, it seems unlikely that the Mets would have an outfield consisting of three potential center fielders and ones who combined to hit just 24 HR in 2013.
The company line is that the Mets still have money to spend and smart money has them using it on an outfielder who can deliver over the fence power.
Allegedly, the Mets had several teams express interest when they floated Davis’ name. It’s one thing to express interest and another thing to offer a reasonable package in return. Perhaps Alderson was interested in Aoki primarily to be rid of Davis and a distant second with Aoki’s OBP skills. Alderson seems willing to pay for power but has yet to pay – either cash or significant lip service – for OBP.
Right now all we can do is speculate. My speculation is that Alderson believes he can use Davis to bring in a HR bat. Since he was going to acquire two outfielders anyway, he was willing to make Aoki one of them because of the cash savings he would produce. But when those savings didn’t materialize, he decided to keep Davis for another deal.
If that’s the case, Alderson determined that Young at $7.25 million was better than Aoki at $5.5 million (salary plus what the Mets would have had to kick in for Milwaukee). That seems very questionable on the surface. The way it potentially makes sense is that Young plus Davis, with Davis bringing back something better, made the Mets a superior team.
Time will tell. Trades and the groundwork for trades are one of the keystones of the Winter Meetings. If the end of January comes and the Mets still have Davis then it will be an appropriate time to gnash teeth. There’s still a chance for a trade on February 1st, but it’s much less likely for a blockbuster deal to occur once teams are focused on Spring Training.
Alderson has done well in the past with trades by being patient. Let’s see if that method serves him well again. My hunch still is that Davis is not on the Opening Day roster for the Mets. Let’s hope it’s because Alderson knows the market is there and is playing his hand correctly. It seems he’s earned the benefit of the doubt in this regard.
At the same time, let’s not completely dismiss the possibility he has no trade value, either.