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Scouting the Mets

February 28, 2011

On Athletics Nation a favorite pasttime this offseason was to discuss how the A’s were going to get one David Wright, third baseman, New York Mets. As we continue to learn more about the Wilpon and Katz financial mess, we learn that the Mets may have trouble making payroll and may be borrowing money from Major League Baseball again. From today’s New York Times comes this report:

“Without that lifeline [another loan from MLB], the club could face daunting and immediate hurdles. The Mets have one of the largest payrolls in baseball, and several of their highest-paid players are unproductive and nearly impossible to trade; the tens of millions of dollars in loan and bond payments the Mets have on their books will not go away; and Commissioner Bud Selig, having already lent the Mets $25 million, may be unable to continue quietly backing the team.

Moreover, the one potential bright spot — the start of games at Citi Field, the selling of tickets, the sale of hot dogs and beer — appears clouded as well. One person close to the team said that advance ticket sales for the 2011 season were going so poorly that a sense of panic had begun to take hold in the team’s front office…

… It is unclear whether the Mets’ owners have bumped up against the league’s limits for how much debt a team can hold. The Mets also have debt on the team and their cable television network…

… At the time, Selig said that if the Mets did not improve their financial health, he could put the Mets’ share of Major League Baseball revenue like television and merchandising money into an escrow account and appoint a custodian to manage the team’s finances.”

Given the dire predicament the Mets find themselves in I have to wonder whether is a sell-off is imminent in Flushing. If so, is there anyone including the aforementioned David Wright who would be of interest to the A’s? I am going to keep this realistic here, number one if the Mets are in sell-off mode they aren’t going to get rid of players who are being paid the league minimum or near the league minimum. Also, the A’s being the A’s, we aren’t going to be able to pick up the $70M left owed to Johan Santana, so there’s no point in even humoring that proposition. So let’s go in order of how much we’d need to pick up, who the Mets could offer the A’s. (Salary figures care of Cot’s Baseball Contracts)

David Wright ($30.5M) - While Wright represents the most money of any of these players, the $30.5M gets you 2011 and 2012 with his services. Pretty good cash savings for the Mets if they can’t afford payroll but he is a player who is in high demand and would require, I’m guessing Major League ready high-upside prospects to acquire, if not one of our young starters and then some. This trade couldn’t simply be a salary dump, because Wright is the face of the Mets and they would need to be desperate (yet still require a huge return – because other clubs will compete to get him) to deal him. He has averaged 5.75 WAR since he spent a full year in Queens so his contract is good value, even assuming he plays like he has since the Mets moved to Citi Field (3.5 and 4.1 WAR respectively) and not like he did at Shea the last two seasons there (8.6 and 7.6 WAR respectively).

Carlos Beltran ($20.07M) – Do I think it is likely the A’s pick up a $20M player? No. But I think it is possible later in the season if we are contending and one of our three outfielders (all of whom were injured for good chunks of last season) goes down. Billy Beane has been creative before and getting Beltran would require some creativity. For $20M plus we want Beltran to be a four WAR player something he hasn’t been since 2008 even Mets fans at Fangraphs only expect him to deliver 3.6 WAR. Beltran isn’t likely, but wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibility either. Potentially this is a deal where the Mets could save a good chunk of money and not have to eat the entire salary where it’d be worthwhile.

Jose Reyes ($11M) – Like Beltran, Reyes is set to become a free-agent this offseason, unlike Beltran he has a very reasonable contract. If Cliff Pennington or Adam Rosales aren’t at full form this year and shortstop somehow is up for grabs, Reyes would be a nice addition. Reyes is not going to be a third baseman, he has played all but 43 of his career’s 875 games at shortstop with those 43 coming at second base in 2004, so it isn’t clear exactly how he’d fit in, and he is not a slick fielder. Last year he put up 2.8 WAR for the Mets making his contract a good value.

Angel Pagan ($3.5M) - Pagan likely is the Mets center-fielder of the future. He will be eligible for his fourth year of arbitration following the season so the Mets may be reluctant to move him unless boweled over. No one on the Mets represents a greater value. Last year he put up 4.9 WAR in his first full season in the majors, in 2009 he put up 3.0 WAR despite only playing in 88 games so he ist he real deal. Like Wright, the prospects for Pagan would have to be top notch, as he doesn’t represent a huge financial relief and also has one more year of arbitration left – if it weren’t for the financial situation its likely Sandy Alderson would be looking at extending him as we speak.

So there you have it, that’s all the Mets really have to offer. If you somehow think either Oliver Perez ($12M) or Luis Castillo ($6.25M) are worthwhile it seems you can have those for the league minimum as it is expected they don’t leave Florida with the club. For Perez his outing against Atlanta on Saturday didn’t help his cause either as he went two innings during which he walked three (though he did strike out three) and allowed four runs (all earned) on four hits. While Spring Training numbers don’t mean much for guys who will make the team, for guys trying to make the team they to a degree do more so as you don’t want tinker with a new pitch, you want to prove you can play. Perez didn’t do that. Castillo has just been terrible and has been rumored to be released for quite some time. Neither of these players have any value to the A’s though, maybe Perez to shove at Sacramento for next-to-nothing see if he can somehow reclaim the ability he last displayed in 2004 when he posted a 3.45 FIP, struck out 10.97K per nine-innings and earned 4.5 WAR. Funny how pitchers are always getting those third, fourth and fifth chances?

The Mets and A’s don’t line up particularly barring a change caused by injury in Oakland – sadly that is always a possibility. While Wright makes sense on the field, it doesn’t seem like there’s anyway that Oakland would have the prospects required to make it happen but as I’ve said many times stranger things have happened. If the Mets do sell-off it looks like their wares will be most likely be peddled elsewhere.

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