Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Modest Trade Proposal: Cuddyer for Flores

ESPN's Tim Kurkjian was right this week when he said, "After the past two Septembers, the Mets CANNOT miss the playoffs. They just can't."

Unfortunately that's exactly what they going to do if they don't do something to improve their feeble power hitting. Right now.

The Mets—as a team, mind you—have a total of 37 HRs. (Adrian Gonzalez has 22, by himself.), with Carlos Beltran leading the way with 8. Put another way, their arch-rivals, the Phillies, have Raul Ibanez with 20 HRs, Ryan Howard with 18, Chase Utley with 15. Their "Joe Average" catcher, Jayson Werth, has 8 himself. The Mets slugging percentage is decidedly middle-of-the-pack at .410, behind the Nationals, Indians and Orioles. Oh, and take out Carlos Delgado's bat for the next few months, and what you have is a line-up that doesn't have opposing pitchers waking up in the middle of the night screaming in fear.

The Phillies are already in the hunt for Eric Bedard, and are hoping Kyle Drabek can make it back from injury and to the bigs before September. The Phils have the bats, and if they get the pitching (Bedard apparently wants to return to the East Coast), they can run away with the NL East. The Mets, on the other hand, are 6th in the majors in pitching, but definitely need a power bat. OK, so go get someone, right? Well, easier said than done. The trading deadline is replete with bad idea trades made out of desperation. That said, the Mets are 3 behind the Phillies and are heading in the wrong direction—just at the same time as the Phillies seem to haven gotten on track. What to do?

The Mets should try to trade for Michael Cuddyer by offering the Twins SS prospect Wilmer Flores.

Michael Cuddyer, when healthy, is a solid RF, with a good arm and, more importantly from the Mets prospective, power. While he can play a number of positions, RF is where he is best suited—he has had season of 18 and 19 assists from RF, and can handle the new CitiField well. More importantly, he can slug the ball. As of this writing, Cuddyer is slugging .481, or what would be third of the Mets squad behind Beltran and Wright. Also, he has a OPS of .828, which, again, would place him 3rd behind Wright and Beltran.

Cuddyer would walk into CitiField and immediately solidify a weak Mets outfield (outside of Beltran). He would provide protection fro Beltran and Wright and give opposing pitchers something to worry about. His slugging is exactly what the Mets need.

What's more, the Twins have a glut of outfielders—and trading Cuddyer could clear space for other able players. Right now, the Twins are breaking in young outfielders Delmon Young and Carlos Gomez (of the Mets farm system), both young and talented and who need time to grow. The Twins also have Jason Kubel and Denard Span—productive players both as Kubel is slugging .591 and Span is batting .291 with 12 stolen bases.

What the Twins don't have is a blue-chip shortstop, either at the majors level, or anywhere in their minor league system. Nick Punto and Brendan Harris are fine shortstops, but franchise rocks they are not.

Franchise rocks like Jose Reyes. Reyes is the engine that makes the Mets go. And at 26 (his birthday is today), he will be said engine for a long time. Which means, SS Wilmer Flores, the Mets biggest prospect according to Baseball America, will be blocked by the time he is ready to hit the majors. While only 17, Flores is on the fast-track to the majors. Last year, he made Baseball America's Prospect Hot Sheet while he was 16—he had been playing professional ball a month.

As the New York Times wrote this spring:

The organization is still buzzing about how Flores, one of the youngest players in the minors last season, pummeled rookie-level Appalachian League pitching and slammed seven of his eight home runs before his 17th birthday on Aug. 6. In all, over three minor league stages, Flores hit .307 with 42 runs batted in.

“Think about it,” said Tony Bernazard, the vice president for development. “Realistically now, he would be a junior in high school. Instead, he’s playing in major league exhibition games. It’s unbelievable.”
At 6'3" 195, Flores would be around the same size as Alex Rodriguez was when he played shortstop. And he projects to have the same kind of power A-Rod or Ripken had at the shortstop position.

Make no bones about it; trading a prospect like Flores now would be a move of desperation for the Mets. But as Kurkjian said, the Mets CANNOT miss the playoffs again this year. After the past two September meltdowns, another washout would be devastating to their team psyche. And while Lord knows, Michael Cuddyer is not Albert Pujols, he would solidify a giant hole in the Mets lineup and in right field. As of this writing, the DL-List-Addition-Waiting-To-Happen known as Gary Sheffield is playing left field for the Mets and underwhelming rookie (.222 no HRs) Fernando Martinez in right. Once again, when Cuddyer walks into the Mets clubhouse, he would already lead the team in home runs, and his 9 HRs would be one-third of what the Mets have, by himself.

The Twins and the Mets have a trading history. This trade would make sense for both of them. The Twins have a glut of outfielders and need a prospect for their infield. The Mets need a power bat...NOW. They both should make this trade.


Brandon said...

Great research and insight....i love the blog and read it daily....what is your opinion on Wang? What should the Yankees do with him?

Pete S said...

I like the concept but I don't think Cuddyer is enough for Flores. It's a shame the Mets and Yankees don't like making trades, because Nick Swisher would be good for the Mets. So would Nady. And the Yankees would be wise to groom another player to replace Jeter.

blmeanie said...

sounds like a lot to give up for a small improvement.

This trade would not immediately strike fear in the Phillies.

I wouldn't do it and I don't even like the Mets...

P-Cat said...

Thanks Brandon for comments. Appreciate it. I think Wang should go back to AAA and work on his mechanics and arm strength.

And Pete and blmeanie. I agree, the kid is a big-time prospect, but he's no way a sure thing. but the Mets are in a desperate place. After spending the money on Santana, Putz and K-Rod, they need to win now. And Cuddyer could help them. I don't know. It seems like it could work. Thanks for the comments guys.