Potential Mets trading partner: Rays

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.

With that as our backdrop, I propose that if the Mets re-sign Jose Reyes, that they send Ruben Tejada, and Lucas Duda to the Rays for B.J. Upton.

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:

Reyes
Murphy
Wright
Davis
Upton
Pagan
Bay
Thole

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?

16 comments for “Potential Mets trading partner: Rays

  1. October 5, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    I like the idea of Upton, though obviously there are concerns. The strikeouts are one big one. My other is, as you stated, I just don’t see the Rays pulling the trigger on this type of deal for Duda & Tejada. I would think they would have their sights set on a little bit better “prospects”, especially with a team like the Nationals craving a CF and themselves having depth in the middle of their infield (thanks to Lombardozzi being on the verge of making an impact).

    I know Tejada made strides this season, but he’s not up to the level of an Ian Desmond or Danny Espinosa. If the Nationals dangled one of them, plus one or two other players, the offer easily trumps the deal you suggested.

    I’d love to see the Mets get involved in something like this, I just don’t see it happening as you have it constructed. Trust me, I’m hoping we are “treated” to a different CF in 2012, but I have a feeling a low cost FA signing like Coco Crisp may be a more realistic move.

    • Brian Joura
      October 5, 2011 at 6:07 pm

      Ian Desmond is a 25-year-old SS coming off an 80 OPS+ season. Tejada is a 21-year-old SS coming off a 96 OPS+ season. Both DRS and UZR think Desmond is a below-average fielder. The jury is still out on Tejada since he’s split time at 2B in his brief MLB career but what we’ve seen of him at SS he appears about average. I just don’t see any reason to prefer Desmond to Tejada.

      • October 6, 2011 at 8:34 am

        But at least Desmond brings something to the table (25 SB). With Tejada, it is all hope, in my opinion. He’s never going to hit for much power and he’s never going to steal a lot of bases. We are hoping he develops into a consistent .280-.300 hitter and can provide enough with the glove.

        Is he Rey Ordonez v2.0? No, because I do think he will hit more than Ordonez did. I also am not sold that he’s the same type of fielder, though. I mean, 10 errors in 69 games?

        • Brian Joura
          October 6, 2011 at 8:46 am

          If the bar to be considered a good fielder is set at Rey Ordonez, there’s not going to be a lot of people who clear that hurdle.

          And while Desmond does bring steals to the table – that’s much more helpful in fantasy baseball than on the field. He also got thrown out 10 times, meaning those numbers are good, not great. And when Tejada came up for good in the second week of August, he was more aggressive on the bases than we had seen earlier. He was successful on 4 of 5 attempts. I see no reason he couldn’t be a guy to steal 15-20 bases a year.

          I’ve got no problem if you want to err on the side of caution with Tejada, seeing if what we saw this year is sustainable. But I’ll gladly wager you a Coke that Tejada ends up a MUCH better player than Ian Desmond.

          • October 6, 2011 at 9:01 am

            Ha! I’m not even arguing that (though, part of ne feels Tejada is much better suited for a reserve role and could be exposed with regular PT ala Endy Chavez). I also don’t see another team trading a potential all-star and only getting someone like Tejada, especially a team like TB.

            One thing the Rays have proved is that their front office is one of the brightest in baseball. If they are going to trade Upton, they are going to get top dollar for him. Is that really going to be Tejada & Duda? I have a hard time believing that.

            I love the idea, I just don’t think the specifics are there. I like the idea of Duda, because the power he showed is something TB could buy into. I just don’t think Tejada is enough of a “kicker” for them. Look at the haul they got for Garza a year ago. It’s probably going to take at least 3 players to pry him away. Want to throw in someone like Reese Havens or Brandon Holt (or someone other decent pitching prospect)? If you did that, I could see TB biting a little bit more.

            • Brian Joura
              October 6, 2011 at 9:03 am

              You could very well be right on this point.

              If throwing in Holt gets a trade done, I do that in a NY minute.

  2. Chris F
    October 5, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    One of the reasons I visit here daily is the really thoughtful, knowledgeable discussion about the blue and orange. And even when I dont agree, I find it stirs a lot of brain cells…and such is the case here. My answer is no.

    I am a firm believer that there is a huge team benefit when there is a strong spine: good players up the middle of the field. I really hear what you are saying here, but I can’t see it right now for a couple reasons. I completely agree…all the pieces do not fit, but I cant see getting rid of developing talent to add strength in CF. While there is a lot to like about Murph, as ever he is one hard play at second away from another lost season. I cant see getting rid of Tejada, who has really played overall with a lot of promise. In any case, because the entire pitching staff is, in my eyes, a disaster, aside from dealing with Reyes, the only moves I would make would involve new arms. If we were to lose Reyes, why not deal Wright too, move Murph to 3B and see what we might get on the hill? Im no fan of Pagan, and practically just assume to see a Pridie/Harris platoon for Pagan, but in any event CF and C are “passable,” pitching is not.

    Chris

    • Brian Joura
      October 6, 2011 at 8:23 am

      Hi Chris – Thanks for reading and commenting!

      The problem with trading Wright is that he’s signed for $15 million next year, which limits the places where he can be dealt. I’m just not sure what kind of return you could get for him considering he’s no longer cheap and is coming off a sub-par year.

  3. Metsense
    October 6, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Well thought out,researched and presented and Rotoprofessor is correct that more needs to be added to get it done. Even though CF was a down position in 2011, and it is important to improve the team in any way, I don’t consider the offense the problem. The Mets need at least a #2 starting pitcher plus a bullpen. Alderson appears content with the starting pitching and not the Centerfielder. Since it is his team, I yield and think this trade would be an improvement. Brian, it appears that you don’t think Wright will bring much. Hopefully you will follow up on that thought in a future post.

  4. October 6, 2011 at 7:56 pm

    What do you think of the Mets taking a different approach with the Rays. How about packaging Lucas Duda & someone like Brandon Holt for Wade Davis?

    We all know the Rays have a ton of pitching, and a swap like this lets them keep their depth while also adding a viable bat for the outfield/DH.

    Davis is signed to a cost-effective contract for 2012 & 2013, but he quickly starts to get expensive after that with some hefty options as well. He would definitely benefit from a move away from the AL East as well and would fit nicely in the Mets’ rotation.

    • Brian Joura
      October 7, 2011 at 12:07 am

      I’m not sure we want a pitcher who “would fit in nicely in the Mets’ rotation.” We need a pitcher better than the collection of fourth starters that we currently have.

      And I think Duda is worth more than Davis by himself. Yes, he’s miscast as an OF but a pre-arb player who put up a 136 OPS+ and who hits LHP – that’s a valuable property. To me, the only reason to do this deal is if you think Duda is never this good again. I won’t blame anyone who holds this position because at this point we just don’t know. But my belief is Duda is legit offensively.

      And Holt’s first name is Bradley. http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=holt–001bra – unless you’re talking about a guy other than the one that the Mets drafted in 2008.

      • October 7, 2011 at 8:00 am

        My bad on the typo….sorry!!

        As for Davis, I’m surprised you are that against. I know the ERA (4.45) was poor, but he was also wading through the AL East. Get him in the NL, and I think you have a solid SP3, someone better than Pelfrey, Gee, Schwinden, Capuano or whoever else they want to fill the rotation with.

        He’s 26-years old, signed to a reasonable contract for a few years and, while he hasn’t shown it of late, had an 8.74 K/9 in the minor leagues. Get him to the NL, where he doesn’t have to deal with the DH, and seeing him get that number into the 6.5-7.0 range would be very believable.

        As for Duda, that bay may translate but is he going to be a defensive liability in the OF? Quite possibly, but he’s the perfect player for TB, who can use him in the OF, at 1B or at DH. I’m not necessarily endorsing trading him away, but I think the fit is nice. Davis would join a nice stable of young pitchers for the Mets and could be a nice mid-rotation guy for years to come.

        Again, I’m not saying that Duda needs to go, but I think this type of deal would make sense.

        • Brian Joura
          October 7, 2011 at 8:32 am

          You talk about Davis’ minor league K rate but last year he had a 5.14 K/9 – if you ask me Warthen’s not the guy to get him back to what he used to be. We’ve already got a guy like that in Pelfrey – don’t need another one.

          It’s not just his ERA – his FIP was 4.67 and his xFIP was 4.82 – he earned those lousy numbers. And that’s with a below average HR/FB rate and a below average BABIP. Would those numbers improve in the NL? Very possibly but it’s not like all of a sudden he will shave a full run off his ERA. And what happens if he gets unlucky in HR rate or BABIP? It gets ugly real fast.

          Some team has to make it worthwhile for the Mets to trade Duda. A guy who if all the stars align properly is a #3 SP is just not enough in my opinion.

  5. Joe Gomez
    October 7, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    If Sandy can get Upton for Tejada and Duda he would win the GM of the year award. No way that happens. I see that in your lineup you have Murphy playing 2B? For the second straight year Murphy has gotten hurt at 2B and you want to put him there again?

    I guess you don’t like him huh?

    • Brian Joura
      October 7, 2011 at 12:15 pm

      Thanks for the laugh, Joe! I do like Murphy and I want his bat in the lineup on an everyday basis. But the chances of him playing significant games there is not very high.

  6. Dan Tolliver
    October 19, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    If we’re worried about strikeouts, insert Davis in that trade instead of Duda.

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