Last week I wrote about how the pieces on the Mets did not fit and that they needed to find a trading partner, one that had OF or pitching to trade for infielders, which the Mets have a few extra. A team that might make a good trading partner is the Tampa Bay Rays.
Before talking about specific players, let’s take a minute to understand the situation the Rays are in. They have a young team which has been very successful winning games the past four years (368-280) but one that has not been able to draw fans. This year their attendance was only 1,529,188, which ranked 29th out of 30 teams.
On Tuesday the Rays hosted a playoff game and drew just 28,229 fans.
Cot’s lists the 2011 Rays payroll as $42,171,308. The Mets seemingly have more money on the disabled list than that. According to Gary Shelton’s story in today’s St. Petersburg Times, the Rays “didn’t turn a profit this year.” It’s worth clicking through to the article to read some of the quotes from Rays Managing General Partner Stuart Sternberg.
Why this works for the Rays:
Upton will be entering his third and final arbitration year this offseason. He was the second-highest paid player on the club ($4.825 million in 2011) and is likely to be the club’s highest-paid player if he is still on the roster in 2012. The Rays have a replacement in center field for Upton as Desmond Jennings was just as productive in 287 PA last year.
Duda and Tejada are pre-arbitration players, which makes them attractive to Tampa Bay. Duda could be their DH. In 2011 Johnny Damon was the Rays’ DH and he made the most money on the club at $5.25 million. Damon inked a one-year contract and would not have to be re-signed. Shortstop was a black hole for the Rays last year. Reid Brignac played the most games at the position and he had a 29 OPS+ and yes, that’s not a misprint.
Both Duda and Tejada are upgrades from what the Rays utilized at DH and SS, respectively, last year – Tejada significantly so. Duda’s 136 OPS+ comfortably beats Damon’s 110 mark in the category. By trading Upton and letting Damon walk, the Rays save over $9 million in salary compared to a year ago, once you factor in Duda and Tejada’s pre-arbitration salary numbers.
Why this works for the Mets:
Upton is a potential five-tool CF who hit 23 HR, scored 82 runs and drove in 81 in what was considered a disappointing year. It was not his best defensive season but he still had a 1.6 UZR/150. He would be an upgrade over Pagan defensively, while Pagan would be a giant upgrade over Duda in RF. Plus, Upton’s RH bat would help balance the lineup. The Mets would control his rights for 2012 and potentially have the inside-track on re-signing him long-term. And while it seems like he’s been around forever, 2012 will be his age 27 season.
With this trade, the Mets could trot out the following lineup:
Why it might not work:
The Rays may feel that they can get more elsewhere for Upton. The Mets are concerned about Upton’s arbitration status and the likelihood of a $10 million+ contract for a guy with a low AVG and high K% marks.
Re-signing Reyes and trading for Upton would likely add around $30 million to the Mets’ payroll, which already has $63 million in obligations to just five players. The Mets would be forced to fill out their roster with low-cost additions to meet the expected $110 million payroll.
But guys like Upton don’t come around often for trade. His addition would give the Mets a much improved defensive outfield, which is one of the team’s goals. While it’s difficult to give up two guys who came up through the farm system, you have to give up something to get something and this trade would do a nice job of rebalancing the talent on hand. A team with Pagan, Reyes and Upton features three guys who are a threat to run at any time.
If you were Alderson – would you propose this trade?