Let’s say Sandy Alderson and Theo Epstein are having a drink together during the Winter Meetings and I walk over and say: Fellas, you know what you should do? You should trade Oliver Perez for Daisuke Matsuzaka! Which GM would say no first? Would they both say no? Would they both start a bidding war for my services? Regardless, let’s try to look at this potential deal for both teams.
Why the Mets would do it
They would get rid of Perez. Wait, you want more? Okay, they would save $2 million this season. With Johan Santana out for an unspecified amount of time at the beginning of the year, the Mets’ projected starting rotation right now has Mike Pelfrey, Jonathon Niese, R.A. Dickey and I suppose Dillon Gee. In other words, they really need some SP.
Matsuzaka is two years removed from an 18-win season and last year put up a respectable 4.05 FIP while playing half his games in Fenway Park and while having to face great hitting teams like the Yankees (3 times), Rays (3 times) and Blue Jays (4 times). While he would now have to face the Phillies, he should find the Braves, Marlins and Nationals much more to his liking. A flyball pitcher, Matsuzaka should thrive playing his home games in Citi Field.
Why the Red Sox would do it
While Perez costs $2 million more this season, that’s not an obstacle for Boston. Plus, Perez’ contract is up following the 2011 season, while Matsuzaka is signed through the 2012 season. Even a team flush with cash like the Red Sox wouldn’t mind having an extra $10 million to play with for 2012. And Perez is 5-1 with a 2.59 ERA lifetime versus the Yankees
With a starting rotation that already includes Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey and Jon Lester, Perez would be the team’s fifth starter and would be in a position to succeed. And if he falls on his face Tim Wakefield is ready to step in and take the innings.
Why the Mets would decline
The Mets are already in a sense punting 2011 and having Matsuzaka on the team limits the payroll flexibility they will enjoy in the offseason heading into 2012. Plus, since winning 18 games in 2008, Matsuzaka has made just 37 starts in two seasons. The Mets need innings, not a $20 million question mark. And even when he was healthy, Matsuzaka was not very productive, with a 4.99 ERA over the past two years.
Because he always puts runners on base, last year’s 4.33 BB/9 and 1.37 WHIP virtually matching his career numbers, Matsuzaka is a threat to tax the bullpen each time out. Last year he failed to complete six innings in 10 of his 25 starts. The Mets need reliability and durability from the rotation and neither of those are strong suits for Matsuzaka.
Why the Red Sox would decline
They would get Perez. Wait, you want more? Okay, while the Red Sox appear to have a solid rotation even without Matsuzaka, it’s not nearly as good in reality as it appears on paper. Beckett has been great for two years in Boston and considerably less than that in the other three years. Lackey was hardly the top of the rotation guy they thought they were getting when they handed him a five-year deal last offseason. And Tim Wakefield is coming off a 5.34 ERA last year and will turn 45 next August.
While Matsuzaka has been unimpressive the past two seasons, he has made strides in improving his control, as his BB/9 have dropped the past two seasons. Last year he was victimized by a low strand rate, one over 7 percent lower than his career average. With a few less walks and a more typical Matuszaka season in LOB%, he could easily be a league-average or better starter. The Bill James projection pegs him with a 3.85 ERA in 27 starts in 2011.
The Red Sox would say no first. But that does not mean this trade has no shot of happening. Instead it means the Mets would have to sweeten the offer. In the comments section, chime in with what you would be comfortable adding to the pot to get Boston to take Perez off the Mets’ hands.