Late last night, a trade was completed between the Cleveland Indians, Seattle Mariners, and the New York Mets with the big name involved – J.J. Putz – headed to Flushing.
Here’s how the trade breaks down:
Mets get: J.J. Putz (RP), Jeremy Reed (OF), and Sean Green. Give up: Aaron Heilman (RP), Endy Chavez (OF), Joe Smith (RP), Mike Carp (1B) Jason Vargas, (SP/RP), Maikel Cleto (SP), and Ezequiel Carrera (OF).
Indians get: Luis Valbuena (2B), and Joe Smith (RP). Give up: Franklin Gutierrez (OF), Jeremy Reed (OF).
Mariners get: Franklin Gutierrez (OF), Aaron Heilman (RP), Endy Chavez (OF), Mike Carp (1B), Jason Vargas, (SP/RP), Maikel Cleto, and Ezequiel Carrera. Give up: J.J. Putz (RP), Sean Green (RP) Luis Valbuena (2B).
For those keeping count, that’s twelve players overall. Phew.
Mets GM Omar Minaya had set out to remake the much maligned New York bullpen, and with this trade and the acquisition of Francisco Rodriguez, he has done just that for better or worse. He has replaced the trio of Billy Wagner (injured – out for 2009), Heilman and Smith with K-Rod, Putz, and Green.
Wagner’s contract with the Mets runs out just as he would be preparing for a return from Tommy John surgery so he needed to be replaced no matter what. Whether the Rodriguez signing was the way to go is yet to be determined. Regarding the righty side-armer Joe Smith, his value to any team is limited due to his ineffectiveness against left-handed hitters. He’s a ROOGY, and such pitchers limit the manager’s bullpen flexibility, leading to the overuse of everyone else.
And while I liked Aaron Heilman, his return to the Mets in 2009 was unlikely. He became the poster child of the inept bullpen despite being a very dependable player from 2005-07. His control left him in 2008 against both lefties and righties and he ended up issuing 46 unintentional walks in 76 innings. In his career, Heilman garnered a reputation as a righty who can shut down lefty hitters thanks to his highly effective sinker/change-up combo, and last year he began mixing in a slider as well. I wonder if this addition of a third pitch was the problem. Although he threw them mostly against righties – and it was the left-handed hitters who destroyed him to the tune of a .991 OPS – it may help explain his inconsistent delivery in 2008. According to pitch f/x, his release point was further away from his body, which would be a logical answer to the spike in walks. I’m not sure why he felt compelled to add the slider, but the cynic in me thinks that he wanted to prove he had the ability to be a starter. Whatever the reason, the boo birds rained down on Heilman in 2008 and he just wasn’t the same guy.
The Mets also gave up Endy Chavez in the deal, who was far more popular with Mets fans than his skills dictated. Yes, he was fast, yes, he hustled, and yes, he made one of the greatest catches in Mets history (in a season-ending loss, but that’s just a detail…). But his suited role is as a late-inning defensive replacement, which is certainly useful, but hardly irreplaceable.
In addition, the Mariners picked up another defensive specialist in Franklin Gutierrez from Cleveland, who is a younger, right-handed, and better version of Chavez. I honestly don’t know why Seattle wanted two no-bat, all-glove guys, but their acquisition of some Mets farmhands makes sense. Mike Carp is a 22 year-old first baseman whose skills I like quite a bit. He’s never going to be a defensive asset and his future may be as a DH, but he’s got little pop and has already demonstrated good plate discipline. Unless his power develops quite a bit as he matures, he won’t be a star.
Why was Cleveland even a part of this deal – unless their scouts are high on Valbuena? But I’m glad they were. Consequently, J.J. Putz is now a Met.
Putz’ 2008 season was an injury-fueled wash out. But if he’s healthy, he’s probably a better pitcher than K-Rod right now. He misses just as many bats but walks much fewer. Although Rogriguez will undoubtedly be the closer for the team, Putz is a great insurance policy and should be one of the best 8th inning pitchers in baseball. And on top of it, the Mets also get reliever Sean Green, a ground ball pitcher (3:1 GB:FB ratio) whose skills were not exactly enhanced by the poor Seattle defense. Green will fill Smith’s spot as a righty arm from the pen.
It is not, however, a total slam dunk for the Mets. Unless the team exercises his 2010 option for $8.6MM, Putz is a free agent after the year. His agent must be fuming that his client has to be a set-up man in a contract year. So there’s a pretty good chance that the Mets paid for one year of Putz. The team can do without Heilman, Chavez and Smith without much problems, but both Carp and 19-year old Maikel Cleto have a chance to be average big leaguers (and Cleto has more upside).
Seattle did the right thing by dealing Putz for a cachet of spare parts and prospects. The team probably wasn’t going to contend in 2009 so who pitches their ninth inning is fairly irrelevant.
And if someone can explain to me why Cleveland felt compelled to be a part of this deal, I’m all ears.