Over the past year, the Mets have made a number of trades to not only help them go to the World Series last year, but also to help them become World Series contenders again this year. With Neil Walker returning to Pittsburgh to not one but two standing ovations, and the draft scheduled for later today it seems like today is a good day to take a cursory view of how the players the Mets traded away are faring.
Robert Whalen – Whalen has made 11 starts for the Atlanta Braves AA affiliate going 4-4 with a 2.88 ERA and a 1.247 WHIP. At the time of the trade, Whalen was seen as a back of the rotation starter, and his performance this year should not change those impressions.
John Gant – Despite never having pitched above AAA before this season, Gant got a cup of coffee early on with the Braves showing off his very unorthodox delivery. He predictably struggled pitching to a 6.17 ERA and a 1.714 WHIP in seven appearances. Gant was sent back down to AAA where he has pitched better. In eight appearances, he has a 3.14 ERA and a 1.233 WHIP. He appears on track for another promotion before the year is over, especially with the way the Braves want to sell everything.
Casey Meisner – The 20 year old Meisner pitched well for Oakland’s Advance A affiliate pitching going 3-1 with a 2.78 ERA and a 1.052 WHIP in seven starts. This year, for the first time in his brief career, Meisner is struggling going 0-9 with a 4.55 ERA and a 1.645 WHIP in 11 starts. At 21, Meisner is still young for his league, and he is still walking too many batters. If Meiser can make the ncecessary adjustments, he can get back on track to being the mid to top of the rotation starter he was projected to be.
Michael Fulmer – Fulmer only received three AAA starts before the Tigers felt compelled to bring him up to help fix a beleaguered rotation that included former Met Mike Pelfrey. Fulmer has shown himself to be every bit the ace people anticipated he might be one day. He has gone 6-1 with a 2.83 ERA and a 1.175 WHIP. In his last four starts, he is 4-0 with a 0.32 ERA and a 0.635 WHIP.
Luis Cessa – Cessa was actually traded to the Yankees in the offseason, and he made his major league debut with them. In his three appearances, he had a 2.57 ERA and a 0.857 WHIP. In the minors, he has been in the rotation with less success. In his five starts (with one relief appearance), he is 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA and a 1.214 WHIP. Ultimately, Cessa has the stuff to be either a back end of the rotation pitcher or a middle reliever. His brief cup of coffee with the Yankees has shown he does have the ability to pitch in the majors.
Dawrin Frias – After the conclusion of the 2015 season, Frias become a minor league free agent. To date, no one has signed him.
Miller Diaz – Diaz is struggling mightily for the Arizona Diamondback’s high A affiliate going 0-1 with a 7.76 ERA and 2.414 WHIP in 15 games (inlcuding three starts). Diaz was seen as nothing more than a major league reliever, at best, and these statistics make that proposition a stretch.
Matt Koch – Koch is having another strong year in AA. In his five starts, he is 0-2 with a 2.66 ERA and a 1.310 WHIP. While Koch was seen as a bullpen piece, if he keeps improving the way he has, he may have a shot to stick with the back end of someone’s rotation.
Jon Niese – Niese’s early season struggles have seemed to go by the wayside. While he started the year 3-1 with a 5.94 ERA and a 1.680 WHIP, he has settled down and pitched much better of late. We just saw him pitch seven innings in beating the Mets. In his last six starts, he is 3-1 with a 2.15 ERA and a 1.141 WHIP.
For the most part, the players the Mets traded are playing well. It shows the Mets gave up valuable pieces for the quality players they received. The hope is the Mets have enough trade assets this year to swing a deal or two like they did last year.
For the second straight year, the Mets entered the season with questionable depth. The result of the questionable depth last year was the Mets were forced to raid their minor league pitching depth to build a bench and a bullpen. Overall, the Mets traded away Robert Whalen, John Gant, Casey Meisner, Michael Fulmer, Luis Cessa, Dawrin Frias, Miller Diaz, and Matt Koch. The end result was a National League Pennant and only one player under contract beyond 2015.
The Mets had the whole offseason to make sure that didn’t happen again. They didn’t. The team decided not to re-sign Kelly Johnson, and they waived Ruben Tejada. The end result was the Mets started the year with Eric Campbell on the 25 man roster. Keep in mind, the 2015 Mets which supposedly had less depth had Campbell in the minor league system.
Unfortunately, Campbell did not reward the faith the Mets placed in him. Campbell hit .159/.270/.222. The Mets were forced to move on from him. Next up was Ty Kelly, who the Mets signed to a minor league deal over the winter, and Kelly hit .111/.200/.111. Another option was Matt Reynolds, who is still up with the team, who is currently hitting .167/.231/.167. By the way, the Mets have now made it readily apparent they are not going to give T.J. Rivera a shot. Long story short there are kiddie pools with more depth than what the 2016 Mets had this season. Accordingly, the Mets were in a position where they were forced to make a move to improve their depth.
Today, the Mets traded away Akeel Morris for Kelly Johnson. This is the same Kelly Johnson the Mets thought Eric Campbell was better than in the offseason. This is the same Kelly Johnson who is currently hitting .215/.273/.289 this year.
Again, the Mets could have signed him in the offseason and not forfeited a prospect in return. Either the Mets thought Campbell was a better player and were wrong, or they made a money decision. There is roughly a $1.5 million difference between Campbell’s and Johnson’s salaries, and the Mets did release Tejada before the season in an effort to save money. Keep in mind, the Mets not only obtained Campbell in the deal, but as per Jon Heyman, the Mets also received some money in the deal as well. Because of the Mets penny wise pound foolish decisions, the Mets once again had to dip into their minor league system to address their poor depth.
This time the cost was Akeel Morris. Last year, Morris was terrific in his 23 appearance in AA. He went 0-1 with a 2.45 ERA and a 1.091 WHIP. This year, for the first time in his major league career, he is struggling. In his 22 appearances, he is 2-2 with a 4.62 ERA and a 1.382 WHIP. Lost in those stats is Morris’ stuff. He can get his fastball up to 95, and he has a good changeup. With his ability to strike people out, he could have been a late inning reliever. With the development of another pitch, like the Warthen slider, he would be. If he does reach his potential, it will be with another organization as the Mets decided they desperately needed someone who is hitting worse than Kevin Plawecki this year.
Regardless of his struggles, Johnson is an upgrade over what the Mets have been playing lately. Johnson may also benefit from returning to a team where he played well last year. If Johnson does play well, it’ll be a reminder the Mets should not have let him sign elsewhere in the offseason. It will be a reminder that the mistake the Mets made a mistake in thinking Campbell was the best choice for the bench. Ultimately, the cost of that mistake is the career of Akeel Morris.
Going into last year, the Mets were well noted for their organizational pitching depth. It wasn’t just the pitchers that were in the majors, but it was also the pitchers on the way. The thought process was the Mets could select the pitchers to keep to help the rotation and trade the others for a bat.
Well, the Mets are going into the 2016 season, and their depth isn’t the same as this regime seems comfortable jettisoning this team’s pitching depth. A large part of the reason was the unwillingness and/or inability to spend in the offseason last year. Here is the list of pitchers gone from the Mets organization:
- Greg Peavey
- Randy Fontanez
- Cory Mazzoni
- Brad Wieck
- Casey Meisner
- John Gant
- Robert Whalen
- Michael Fulmer
- Luis Cessa
- Matt Koch
- Miller Diaz
- Dawrin Frias
- Jack Leathersich
- Jon Niese
- Matthew Bowman
This list doesn’t include Logan Verrett, who was selected in last year Rule 5 draft and returned. It also doesn’t include Tyler Clippard, Bartolo Colon, Eric O’Flaherty, Bobby Parnell, and Alex Torres because, at least in theory, they all could return to the Mets next year. In any event, that’s a lot of pitchers gone and/or potentially gone from the 2014 Winter Meetings and the 2015 Winter Meetings.
After losing all these pitchers, the Mets only have two . . . TWO . . . players on their 2016 major league roster resulting from these moves: Addison Reed and Neil Walker. Also, the Mets still need a fifth starter and possibly bullpen help. You would think after losing 15 pitchers in a year, you’d be in a better position.
Now, the important caveat here is not all of these pitchers are of the same caliber. For example, Peavey and Fontanez were selected in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 Draft. Also, I did defend the trade that brought in Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson. On the flip side, I did not like the trades which brought in Clippard and Yoenis Cespedes.
I’m not in the crowd that justifies these deals due to the Mets winning the pennant. You win the World Series, you’re untouchable because you did what was necessary. However, the Mets lost all that pitching and still fell short. Think of it another way. Do you think the Tigers would’ve traded winning the AL East for John Smoltz‘ career?
With all that said, the Mets still deserve some credit here. Even though they lost all that pitching, they still have good pitching prospects like Robert Gsellman. I just wish they spent more money last offseason and kept some of those pitchers to give them more options to make deals this winter or this upcoming summer.
Keep in mind that sooner or later losing all this pitching will eventually catch up with them. I’m not looking forward to the day that happens.