Mets Closing in on d’Arnaud for Dickey

So, the Mets look to be getting just about the best catching prospect in the minor leagues for the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner. Passan notes that there will be plenty of other players in the deal. That makes sense; Jays’ GM Alex Anthopoulos pulled off some of the biggest multi-player deals recently.

If the Mets were going to move Dickey, d’Arnaud is the kind of prospect, a nearly ready, up the middle player with legit Major League power, they had to have in return.

More later Saturday when more of the names on both sides become clearer.

Wait What? First Royals-Rays Reaction

Let me be clear: I love what the Tampa Bay Rays did Sunday night and I hate what the Royals did.

The Rays sent RHP James Shields and RHP Wade Davis to Kansas City for OF prospect Wil Myers, RHP Jake Odorizzi, LHP Mike Montgomery and 3B Mike Montgomery.

Myers, the reigning 2012 Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year, is ready. He hit .314/.387/.600 with 37 bombs as a 21-year old between double-A and triple-A last year. The 140 strikeouts in 134 games suggest that his average will come down in an important way in the big leagues, but the game power, at that age, and that level are real. He was one of the select few prospects, I would have been pleased to see the Mets trade either Jon Niese or RA Dickey for in a 1-for-1 deal.

Shields is signed for two more years at $21 million dollars. Davis is signed for the next two years at $7.6 million with team options on 2015, 2016, 2017 at $7 million, $8 million and $10 million respectively.

Shields is a very good starting pitcher (more on that in a few).

Davis is a failed starter – vacillating around replacement level- who was a very effective reliever in 2012. As a starter, opponents hit .260/.325/.428 with a .282 BABIP and a 4.22 ERA against him while that dropped to .189/.271/.299 as a reliever with a .264 BABIP and a 2.43 ERA. As a reliever, he fanned 31% of his opponents with a 10.2% walk rate, while as a starter it was just 15% with a 8.3% walk rate. He should be a reliever. If the Royals believe that he can start, and early indications are that they do, they see something in the numbers that I do not.

Shields was the prize. The Royals, fresh off a 72-win season, with Dayton Moore in fear of losing his job, are playing to win in 2013.

I thought it was a dumb deal for the Royals. Given that they were interested in winning now, I thought they should have preferred Dickey to Shields.

Last week, Andy Martino reported that the Royals were not interested in RA Dickey. If they are playing to win now, this stance seemed perplexing. In the last three seasons, since reaching the big leagues, Dickey has been a superior pitcher to Shields.

2010-12ERAGGSIPERA+WHIPSO %BB%HR%
Dickey2.959491616.21291.1518.60%5.96%2.19%
Shields3.7610099680.11021.2122.53%6.17%3.02%

 

However, this is somewhat unfair to Shields. He had an extremely poor 2010 with a 5.18 ERA and a 75 ERA+, his one and only below average season as a Major League starting pitcher.

Shields then bounced back. His 2011 was, by ERA+, his best season as a professional. He has thrown 200 innings or more in each of his six full Major League seasons. He will turn 31 in two weeks.

 

2011-12ERAGGSIPERA+WHIPSO %BB%HR%
Dickey2.996765442.11261.13520.19%5.99%2.33%
Shields3.1566664771201.10323.35%6.41%2.66%

This, is I think closer to the truth. Dickey’s ERA is just slightly better, but Shields has pitched more innings and is younger, but they are basically comparable.

As for their relative prices, Shields will cost an average of $10.5 million over the next two years. Dickey has indicated that he would be willing to sign a two year extension for $13 million per season, on top of his $5 million extension for 2013. That’s a few (Major League) pennies cheaper than Shields, an average of $10.3 million.

The Royals asked the Mets for a package of Jon Niese and Zack Wheeler. That’s 12 years of cost-controlled pitcher. That’s a whole lot more than two years of Shields or three years of Dickey, factoring the price of his extension.

That the Royals make strange moves is hardly news. I think the Mets were absolutely right to walk away when the Royals asked for Niese and Wheeler. And if the Royals preferred Shields to Dickey, that’s their reasonable decision.

Trading away so much young talent, however, is less reasonable. You can read Dave Cameron skewer the trade from the Royals perspective here while at ESPN, Keith Law called it a “heist.”

The bad news for the Mets: they do not have Wil Myers, and the other three youngsters headed to Tampa. The good news: they still have Niese and Dickey, two valuable assets in an industry always hungry for pitching.

With Zack Greinke and Shields off the market, the Mets now operate from a position of relative pitching strength.

The Wright Price

Wright WaveLast night, Ed Coleman of WFAN broke the news that the Mets and David Wright had agreed on an eight-year deal for $138 million. The deal begins immediately, replacing Wright’s previous $16 million option for 2013.

It is an extraordinary amount of money for an extraordinary baseball player.

 

The Mets will pay David Wright an average of $17.25 million for the next eight years, his age 30 through 37 seasons. If the price of a win (1 WAR) on the open market, Wright needs to produce an average of 3.1 WAR/year for the Mets to break even on this deal, or roughly 25 total WAR over the life of the deal. And that’s without discounting either the future money paid to Wright, or production earned. It also does not account for inflation. Baseball teams continue to sign ever more lucrative TV deals, so if players continue to receive roughly 50% of baseball’s revenues, there will be a dramatic rise in player salaries in the middle years of the decade. Wright has exceeded 3.1 WAR, by Fangraphs’ WAR in every year since 2005 except 2011, and by Baseball Reference’s reckoning in every year except 2009-2011 since 2005.

The deal looks better when compared to the other major signings of this winter. In terms of extensions for third basemen, Evan Longoria agreed to an extension that will pay him $136 million over the next 10 years with the Rays, an average annual value of $13.6 million. Thanks to deferred money, the Players Association values the deal at $131 million. It’s important to remember that Longoria’s deal includes one year, 2013, that would have been his final arbitration year, so it is not directly comparable to either Wright’s extension nor a free agent deal. Longoria has been great when he has played, but has played in just 207 out of 324 games in the last two years, his age 25 and 26 seasons thanks to back and hamstring problems. He is now under contract with the Rays through his age 36 season. Longoria agreed to his extension coming off the worst year of his professional career in 2012. Wright’s best season, his age 24 campaign in 2007, was marginally valuable than Longoria’s best (8.1 bWAR to 7.8), his age 24 year in 2010.  When he has played, Longoria has been more valuable than Wright (0.044 bWAR/game to Wright’s 0.031). However, Wright has never had a season in which he has played as few as Longoria’s 74 games in 2012. The slightly smaller AAV for Longoria reflects his status as 1. a player would still be arbitration eligible and 2. a player who has missed significant time in the last two years.

Wright is being paid just $2.25 million more per year than BJ Upton, who signed a five-year, $75.25 million deal with Atlanta over the next five years. Upton has averaged 2.4 bWAR over the last six years, since 2007, when he has been a full-time big leaguer. In those six years, Wright has averaged 4.8 bWAR per year. That is a massive difference, roughly the value of a solid regular player. Upton’s contract covers his age 29-33 seasons.

Wright is older than both Upton and Longoria. The concern around Wright’s deal should hardly be the money, rather it is concerns about how well Wright will play over the second half of the contract. Coming into the 2012 season, Baseball Prospectus’ ten-year forecast predicted Wright would have a .305 TAv (True Average); he exceeded that with a .312. True average is a total offensive stat like OPS+ or wOBA, that includes park effects, but excludes baserunning, scaled to batting average where .260 represents league average. So, the BP forecast for Wright for 2013 and beyond (before his bounceback 2012) were TAvs of: .305, .303, .300, .296, .291, .283, .272, .260. Basically, a slow, gentle decline, for four years, where Wright could be expected to produce around .300 TAV, (something like .280/.350/.500 for the first half of the deal before his decline became more pronounced in the back half of the deal. Notably, even in 2020, the projections were that he would still be a league-average hitter.

Extending David Wright was the Mets’ best chance of producing a winner in the next four years. He has been the franchise’s greatest offensive player and he signed for a reasonable annual value.

The Mets just locked up their best player, entering his decline phase from a 74-win team for the rest of his career. They have not come close to building a winner. Believe it or not, the hard stuff is still in front of Sandy Alderson and his staff.

 

Mar-LOL-ins Strike Again. Everybody Embarrassed

Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, John Buck and Emilio Bonifacio are heading from the Miami Marlins to the Toronto Blue Jays for a collection of lousy big leaguers Yunel Escobar, Jeff Mathis and Henderson Alvarez, and interesting prospects Jake Marisnick, Adeiny Hechavarria, Justin Nicolino and Anthony DeSclafani.

When he signed with Miami last year, Jose Reyes said, “They met with me at 12:01, and they showed me their plan that they have. It showed me they wanted to win, and I want to win, too. That’s why I made the decision to play in Miami.” I suspect the plan the Marlins showed Reyes did not include a trade before Thanksgiving 2012.

Leaving aside arbitration cases, Hechavarria is now the third-highest paid Marlin on the books for 2013. Mathis is the only Marlin on a multi-year contract through 2014. The Marlins are brutal.

Their own players know it.

Yup, pissing off your current best player by trading away all of your team’s competent big leaguers is usually a good way to go. Of course, winning baseball games is not the point here, slashing payroll and making money hand over fist, thanks to a new stadium and baseball’s revenue sharing is the point. Miami, a great city, and the fourth-largest metro area in the United States deserves better. Baseball deserves better.

Jeff Passan in July (!) on the Marlins’ ownership: “They’re awfully good businessmen, if you consider the ability to fleece feckless politicians and wring every last cent out of a metropolitan area a skill. What they lack in morals they make up for in social faux pas.”

Salfino: The Mets are Broke (But the Information is Hearsay)

Everyone reading this should know that the Mets have been through severe financial problems in the last few years. Some were a result of the ownership group’s relationship with Bernard Madoff, but some were not.

Last night, Michael Salfino, who writes for the Wall Street Journal, Yahoo! Sports and used to have a blog around these SNY parts (the now defunct SNYWhyGuys) tweeted that the Mets were broke.

He deleted his original series of tweets, but I retweeted one. Note, I edited it to keep it under 140 characters and use the old-style retweet, but did not change the meaning. Amazin Avenue has a screenshot of the original.

Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal wanted to make sure that it was clear that Salfino’s report did not come from the Journal, but also did not attack the statement as true or false on the merits, tweeting as a follow-up: “That’s not an attempt to discredit what he [Salfino] wrote.”

Salfino himself then walked away from his own statements, tweeting, “I have no knowledge of the Mets financial situation other than hearsay.” There was also a long string of tweets that included apologies to the Mets, and ones designed to insulate the Journal by declaring that he was not a WSJ employee. Just because it is hearsay does not make Salfino’s original contention not true.

What to make of all of this?

The Mets certainly are operating like a team with tight budget restrictions. Releasing Jason Bay, he of the -1.3 bWAR in 2012, to defer payments from 2012 to some date in the future and open a roster spot now is partially an argument that the team needs every penny now. On the other hand, the move was not purely financial. The 40-man spot freed by releasing Bay has value too, and will require the Mets to spend at least a little money to find someone to fill it.

The nice thing about Salfino’s assertion, or more precisely, his source’s assertion, is that it’s eminently testable. If the Mets do not extend David Wright or RA Dickey, his guy will be on point. If the team does extend Wright or Dickey, Salfino will just be the latest guy on twitter with lousy information.

I know we have discussed it (like every week) on the Mostly Mets Podcast, but I’m not sure I have written it here, so now I will: if either Wright or Dickey is not extended this winter, the Mets must trade that player. Both guys are too valuable for the team to let them walk via free agency while returning only draft picks, as the team did with Jose Reyes. If Wright or Dickey are to be part of the Mets’ future, they must sign extensions before Opening Day 2013.

In terms of talking about the Mets’ choices this winter, despite that similarity, it’s really time to split Wright from Dickey. (As an aside, did you realize that both Wright and Dickey’s middle name is Allen?)

First, the Mets hold a $16 million dollar option on Wright. It seems likely that they would be able to extend him with no raise, or at most a very small raise for the 2013 baseball season. Wright, who will be 30 on Opening Day 2013, is coming off his best year, by OPS+ since 2007. Wright’s price is rising to scary levels (7 years and $120 million dollars) but given his value, age, and history of production, keeping him probably represents the Mets best chance of winning in the near to medium term.

Dickey is in a different situation. The Mets hold a $5 million option on him for 2013 with a $300,000 buyout. Any extension (say $25 million over 3 years on the low end) would very likely increase his 2013 base salary. Since the Mets also need between one and three outfielders, catching help, and bullpen reinforcements, that raise could blow up their limited 2013 budget. Dickey wants to remain a Met, but he might not have a choice. Trading one year of RA Dickey, who will be 38 in 2013, and potentially coming off a Cy Young Award season, should return young, cheap talent the Mets can use to build their next winner. Unless Dickey is willing to sign an extension with a small enough raise for 2013, that the Mets would still be able to address the team’s other shortcomings, the team should be willing to turn his feel-good story, and mound dominance into talent that will be employed past 2013.

Broke? Not broke? Extend? Not extend? Trade? Not Trade? The decision points are coming. The Baseball Winter Meetings begin in Nashville on December 3.

Duda and his Wrist and his Other Wrist

By now, Mets fans know that Lucas Duda has surgery on his right wrist which he broke while moving furniture after the team announced it. Damn, couches are dangerous.

This is not the first time Duda has had wrist problems. As a freshman at USC, he broke his left wrist on a collision at first base back in 2005. He went on to hit just .208/.322/.299 in 91 PA over 34 games that year as a 19-year old. His sophomore year, his batting average and his OBP rose, but his power did not as he hit .298/.391/.398 in 226 PA over 56 games. By his junior year, he hit for a little more power: .280/.378/.468 in 223 PA over 53 games.

Here’s his College Isolated slugging, calculated by subtracting batting average from slugging to measure a batter’s power, by year:

Fr. (’05) – .091
So.  (’06) – .100
Jr. (’07) – .188

 

The next time he hit for an isolated slugging above .180: 2010 when he “broke out” with a .304/.398/.569 line in 495 PA between AA Binghamton and AAA Buffalo as a 24-year old that earned him his big league debut.

How analogous are Duda’s two wrist injuries separated by over seven years and many professional paychecks? I do not know precisely. The hands (top and bottom) do different things in a player’s swing, but a batter needs both. Also, Duda’s collegiate improvement was likely a result of both improving health and physical and mental development.

Giants Sweep Baseball into Post-Season Mode

Well, I didn’t see that coming. I really had no idea who would win a Tigers-Giants series. That’s the thing about a seven-game series in baseball. I thought in many respects, the Giants’ contact ability combined with the Tigers’ lousy defense made it a good matchup for the Giants. On the other hand, I thought Detroit had two starts of Verlander and the series’ best two bats. Whoops.

The really surprising thing is that the Giants’ swept the Tigers. The Giants held the Tigers scoreless in two games and to a .159/.243/.246 line in four world series games. That’s a really good way to do business if you’re a Giant, and a bad way to do business if you’re a Tiger.

I loved the ending. Sergio Romo had thrown nothing but sliders to the two right-handed batters he faced in the Detroit 10th inning, until his final pitch. Then, he painted a fastball on the inside black to straighten up Miguel Cabrera for a called third strike. You can see on the video here (around the 0:28 mark) that Cabrera is has started his hands out, and is about to dive over the plate to go get a slider. Romo fooled him.

Shhh… Raul Ibanez is Better vs. RHP than Alex Rodriguez

Ok, if you weren’t watching baseball Wednesday night you lose.

One quick thing from the ninth inning of the Yankees’ win over the Orioles (Raul Ibanez’s party).

Pinch-hitting Ibanez for Rodriguez was absolutely the right tactical move given that Yankees needed one run to tie the game. The best way to get one run? A solo homer.

vs RHP in ’12:

Raul Ibanez: .248/.319/.492 19 HR, 360 PA
Alex Rodriguez: .256/.326/.391, 10 HR in 356 PA

Who’s Made the Playoffs More Recently than the Mets?

I brought this up on yesterday’s podcast, but did not get it right at the time. Since the Mets last made the playoffs in 2006, they are one of only eight teams to miss the playoffs in all of the last six years. I said the Mets were one of six teams and Patrick and Ted both rightly told me that did not sound right.

The futile eight: the Mets, Marlins, Pirates, Astros, Padres, Jays, Royals and Mariners. Every division in baseball is represented among this group.

In breaking news, it’s been a long time since the Mets were in the playoffs. Most other teams have been better than the Mets in the last six years.

After the jump, I reviewed the gory details for every team since the Mets last played postseason baseball.

To read more of this story, click here

All of These Things Cannot Be Simultaneously True re: Johan Santana

Opened up Tweetdeck at 4:30 on Tuesday and saw this string of Tweets in my “Mets Beatwriter” column.


That’s one Santana will not start Thursday tweet (which was retweeted) versus one, “it has not been ruled out.”

And the clarification moments later.

As far as a 40-man roster move, that’s relatively close to a formality. The Mets have 39 players on the 40-man now so they have space to add a player. Once they are full, they could also simply shift Tim Byrdak or even Santana himself from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL without exposing anyone else to waivers.