On June 18th, the Mets acquired Eric Young Jr. from the Colorado Rockies. The Mets sent pitcher Collin McHugh to Denver for Young, in a seemingly innocent swap of players who had been designated for assignment. For Mets fans clamoring for the big trade (names like Carlos Gonzalez and Giancarlo Stanton are coveted), the Young acquisition was, at best, pedestrian. And in the end, it may well be. However, given where the Mets are now, and where they’re going, Sandy Alderson made a shrewd move.
First, the Mets gave up little to get Young. McHugh had struggled in his limited major-league time, posting a combined 0-5 record, with an 8.26 ERA and a 1.76 WHIP. McHugh’s numbers are skewed by a small sample size, having only 28.1 innings pitched. And, we all remember his start against Colorado last August 23rd, when McHugh was nothing short of brilliant. However, starting pitching is the Mets’ strength, and within the depth of New York’s starting pitching, McHugh was basically a non-factor. The old adage is trade from your strength to shore up your weakness, and by dealing McHugh, the Mets certainly did tap into a very deep pool. Other prospects, such as Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard remain with the organization, to anchor the Mets’ staff, or serve as future trading chips.
Let’s look at part two of adage, shoring up weaknesses. The Mets have several offensive weaknesses, certainly among them are speed and the need for a lead off hitter. Young helps to fill both of these voids. I’m not suggesting that Young is the ideal lead off hitter, as his career average is .261 and his career OBP is .329. However, the Mets have used 10 lead off hitters in less than half of a season, including the likes of Ruben Tejada and Collin Cowgill. Young is someone who can be slotted in the one hole for the rest of the season. Now let’s look at speed. Young has 70 SBs in his career, and had been caught only 20 times. On a team that struggles for any kind of offense, adding the stolen base element cannot hurt. Then there’s the ancillary benefit of speed that Bob Ojeda discusses nightly. When a base stealer is on base, the pitcher is distracted. He also changes his pitching pattern. The increased number for fastballs can serve to help Daniel Murphy and David Wright do what they do, drive in runs.
Now to consider the long-term. Young probably does not project as a starting outfielder or second baseman on a winning team (after Tuesday, we’re allowed to use that term). However, what Young can become is a super sub, with an ability to play 3 outfield positions and second base. As a switch hitter, Young essentially gives the Mets 2 players on the bench rather than 1, and can contribute with a key stolen base as a pinch-runner if necessary (and if you don’t think stolen bases matter, I have 2 words-Dave Roberts). Sandy Alderson operated “below the radar” when he acquired Eric Young Jr. That’s fine. The best moves are often the least heralded ones. While his acquisition on Tuesday may not have made headlines, it made the Mets better today, and possibly tomorrow.