Yesterday, the Mets acquired 26 year-old infielder Ching-lung Hu from the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for minor league pitcher Mike Antonini. Hu becomes the third second basemen the Mets have added to their depth chart this off-season, joining Dan Murphy and Brad Emaus–which all but spells the end of the Luis Castillo era.
Hu, who was a former top-rated prospect, has toiled in the Dodgers system since 2003. After posting a .325 BA, .364 OB, .507 SLG, 14 HR, 62 RBI, 89 R, and 15 SB in 2007, Baseball America tabbed Hu as the #55 prospect in baseball. However, since his “breakout” season, Hu has failed to live up to expectations. After Rafael Furcal got injured in 2008, Hu got his first taste of starting duty in the major leagues
, however, the former prospect was so unimpressive as a full-timer, that the Dodgers sent Hu back down to the minors, and traded for light-hitting infielder Angel Berroa to take his starting job.
The infielder has now logged four seasons of Triple-A ball, and is entering the dreaded “Quad-A” zone. Since Hu was out of options, and the Dodgers didn’t have a bench spot for him, it was only a matter of time before he was either traded or DFA’d (designated for assignment). Despite Hu’s fantastic 2007 season, he projects to be a light-hitting, all-glove, back-up infielder in the majors.
On the other end of the trade, there’s Mike Antonini, a 25 year-old left-handed starting pitcher. Antonini has been consistently solid throughout his minor league career, but has earned the “soft tosser” label. The pitcher owns a respectable 4.04 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 7.0 K/9 IP, and 2.1 BB/9 IP in 490 minor league innings, but the lefty has yet to perform well at Triple-A–posting a 6.29 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, and just a 6.3 K/9 IP. At age 25, Antonini should be eating up Triple-A instead of the present reality.
It’s difficult to declare a “winner” in this trade, but at the very least, Hu gives the Mets a good cheap defensive option at either shortstop or second base, and at the cost of a pitcher who seemingly cannot dominate mature hitters. Unless Hu has a dynamite Spring Training with the bat, it would be surprising to see him start over either Dan Murphy or Brad Emaus at second base for the Mets in 2011.