By: David Weiss
Since the Mets front office got back from New Year’s break, they have been busy. They have not made any big slashes, but there have been several minor deals that could turn out to be impact moves. The biggest was the accquistion of Keon Broxton.
Before ever giving an opinion on a trade involving minor leaguers, a disclaimer is in order. Fully judging deals involving numerous minor leaguers takes years. Two of the players the Mets traded are not even old enough to legally buy beer, so this could take a while. Nevertheless, we can see the strategy the Mets are taking.
Whenever the Mets make a deal, one of the first questions is about the bottom line. Does it increase or decrease the payroll? These moves are essentially payroll neutral. Almost none of these players will make significant money this year. Keon Broxton is probably the best player who is involved here and he is still pre-arbitration. Kevin Plawecki is arbitration eligible but will probably not get much more than a million dollars.
From the Mets perspective, I think they have done well. Broxton is a top-notch centerfielder. He has no shortage of web gems. For those who like the sabermetrics, there is a lot to like. In 2017, fangraphs estimated that he saved 24 defensive runs, which made him the best centerfielder by a wide margin. He had a dWAR of 1.3 on the season and was considered to have the best range. In 2018, he lost his job when the Brewers added Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain. Regardless, no one doubts his defensive.
Unfortunately, Broxton hasn’t had much success thus far at the plate. In just under 800 career plate appearances, he has slashed .222/.314/.422 in the big leagues. There are a few things that have the saber peoples attention. Broxton hits the ball well. His exit velocity and hard hit rate are above average. His BABIP is also strong. For his career, he has some rather impressive numbers except for one. Broxton strikes out far too much. If the Mets want him to emerge as the star he can be, he needs to work on making contact far more often.
Other players the Mets got are all low-level acquisitions. Cody Bohanek was a low round pick in 2017 who shot up to AAA, but struggled in 2018. Walker Lockett is a former fourth round pick. He is at best a back end of the rotation kind of guy who has struggled at the upper levels of the minors and in his brief major league career. Sam Haggerty is a super-utility type of player. In 2017 he had a strong season at A+ but has struggled in AA and AAA. JD Davis is the only minor trade acquisition with notable big-league experience. He had a .763 OPS in 2017 before declining last season. He had great numbers in AAA but couldn’t do much in the majors. He also can pitch.
The three guys that got minor league contacts. Rymer Liriano is a guy who has struggled in the majors but hit will in AAA over the last few years. Last year he blasted 20 dingers in 102 games. The Mets also picked up Arquimedes Caminero, who was a decent relief pitcher for the Pirates in 2015 but struggled since. He played the last two seasons in Japan. The one solid major leaguer in this list is lefty Hector Santiago. From 2015-2017 he was a back of the rotation guy before being used primarily as a reliever with the White Sox in 2018. While his 2018 numbers aren’t great, he did pitch much better out of the bullpen.
Most of these ‘other guys’ have one thing in common. All had good seasons in the past but struggled in 2018. Most of them did well in 2017 before underperforming last year. In other words, there are many reclamation projects who should be starting the season in AA and AAA.
The Mets lost seven players. The most well know was Kevin Plawecki. Plawecki will probably be remembered as being a bust. The 2012 first rounder just never worked out. Once Ramos was signed, it was clear that either Plawecki or Travis d’Arnaud was on the way out. Being that d’Arnaud has the higher upside, Brodie made by cutting Plawecki. The other notable player who the Mets traded was Bobby Wahl. He became infamous as the useless player the Mets got back in the Familia trade.
The Mets also parted ways with five other minor leaguers. Luis Santana and Felix Valerio were both signed out of the Dominican Republic. Both are teenagers who played well in rookie ball this year but are a long way from the majors. Ross Adolph and Scott Manea are both in their early 20’s and has some success around the A level. Adam Hill was the Mets fourth round draft pick this year and pitched well in 9 games for the Brooklyn Cyclones.
All these players have one thing in common. All have had success but on the lower ends of the minor leagues. None are on any top prospect list nor are they projected to reach the majors anytime soon.
To sum it up, these moves fit the Mets plan. If the Mets are in win-now mode, these are the moves you want to see. Keon Broxton is a low risk high yield kind of player. He is very talented guy who may shock people. Losing Plawecki is not a big loss. In terms of the minor leaguers, the Brodie is taking an interesting approach. He basically swapped guys who are low down and far away from the big leagues for a bunch of fringe major leaguers. Many guys do well on the lower levels but start to struggle once they hit AA. The thinking is that the Mets are hitting the fast-forward button and going for guys who are more likely to reach the big leagues sooner. Had they been in rebuild mode, they’d have waited on guys in the lower levels.
Most importantly, only Broxton is expected to have any significant role on the 2019 team. Santiago may be a lefty out of the pen but will have to fight for his spot.
(David Weiss is a lifelong Mets fan. He has lived in Israel since 2008 and runs the Facebook page Jewish Mets Fans.)