The 2016 Baseball Winter Meetings concluded on Thursday. While a number of teams were in the mix for or making splashy trades and free agent signings the New York Mets mostly looked for a place to offload the $13 million contract of Jay Bruce. Depressing isn’t it? Yes, bringing back Yoenis Cespedes is fantastic but is that going to be it for the offseason?
One name much talked about in trade negotiations was that of the Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen. It looked like the Washington Nationals were on the verge of landing him when talks went south. So the Nats looked west as they brought in Adam Eaton from the Chicago White Sox who are well into rebuilding mode.
And even though the Pirates now say they will be keeping McCutchen it is pretty clear that he can be had for the right package. So the questions are whether the Mets could put together the right combination of pieces for the center fielder and whether they should even bother.
With the Mets, more so than with most other teams, much of the decision making comes to down to dollars and cents. Presently the team’s payroll is at about $150 million and GM Sandy Alderson recently said he expected it to be lower than that once the new season begins.
Let’s first look at the player and see where his precipitous 2016 decline puts him.
Here are his major league batting statistics.
|8 Yrs||8 Yrs||4463||720||1304||262||42||175||637||160||62||612||922||0.292||0.381||0.487||0.869|
So we see a player who from 2012 through 2015 was consistently good for a 900 or so OPS to one in 2016 who dropped to 766 in the OPS number.
Observers noted that McCutchen’s usually stellar defense was nowhere to be found during the past season. The Strat-O-Matic Game Company gave him a defensive range grade of CF-1 (that’s the best there is) for five years until for 2016 it will be CF-3. That’s as steep a decline as the offensive numbers have shown. It is moving from Gold Glove caliber defense in center to what we saw when Yoenis Cespedes manned center for New York early in the past season.
The 2016 version of McCutchen was a good but not excellent player. To spend a lot in player and prospect talent for that version of him would be ill advised.
Usually if a healthy player still at or near his prime age (McCutchen had his 30th birthday in October) has a down season one can expect an up tick the following year. It is possible that McCutchen has had his last 900 OPS season. But if he could be reasonably expected to come halfway back then we could average the 766 OPS in 2016 with the 889 one from the prior season and expect an OPS of (766+889=1655, divide by 2, =828). So a reasonable expectation would be for an OPS in the 800 to 850 range. The Steamer Projection for him is .283 BA/.378 OBP/.470 Slug%/848 OPS. Looks reasonable to me.
On Wednesday this was my suggested offer that I tweeted at Twitter.
The Pirates, unlike the White Sox, do not appear to be in rebuilding mode. They well could be enticed by a mix of immediately usable items (Lagares and the pitcher) and some future value.
Since the Mets are very budget conscious including Lagares and his salary would be key. And while the Pirates might not balk at Lagares’ salary of $4.5 million in 2017 they might put the kabosh on the idea when they see themselves owing him $6.5 million in 2018 and then $9 million in 2019.
From the Mets’ side they would be taking on McCutchen’s contract which is for $14 million this coming season and then $14.75 million in 2018. If the team can successfully trade Bruce away while not taking on much salary from the reliever that he brings back the team could still keep payroll under $150 million to keep the Wilpons from erupting.
So this is what I would like to so the Mets front office try to do. If the Pirates decline then at least the team was out there mixing it up. Beats what it looks like they’ve been doing.