The trade deadline, as a baseball fan, was exhilarating. Major players like Ubaldo Jimenez, Mike Adams, Hunter Pence, Michael Bourn, Koji Uehara, Edwin Jackson, Colby Rasmus, and more switched hands in a very short period of time. While the Mets successfully traded Carlos Beltran for a top prospect, the team’s decision to not deal Mike Pelfrey, Angel Pagan, Tim Byrdak, Jason Isringhausen, and Chris Capuano was puzzling to say at least.
Given the Mets apparent need to cut salary for 2012, it was shocking to see both Pelfrey and Pagan still in a Mets uniform. While trading the pair would certainly be selling-low based on their 2010 seasons, both players are eligible for hefty, and undeserved raises through arbitration in the off-season. Pelfrey and Pagan’s current salaries of $3.925 million and $3.5 million, respectively, could touch as high as $6-7 million a piece.
Keeping the 27 year-old Pelfrey, who’s 4.55 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, and 1.82 K/BB is arguably passable for a fourth or fifth starter, has some legitimacy. The Mets will have Johan Santana back, as well as R.A. Dickey, Jonathon Niese, and Dillon Gee–but that still leaves an open slot. Chris Capuano will most likely leave for financially greener pastures, and unless you have a lot of faith in Chris Schwinden making the jump, the Mets will be forced to take a flier on a bottom-of-the-barrel free agent. Pelfrey will always have his up-and-downs, but if slotted in the bottom of the rotation, expectations would be significantly lowered.
Unlike Pelfrey, the 30 year-old Angel Pagan is simply too old (or no longer young enough) to acceptably regress as much as he has in 2011. Some of the center-fielder’s offensive woes (.239/.309/.341 line) can be blamed on an unlucky .254 BABIP, but Pagan has still posted a dismal -3.7 UZR/150 in the field. Despite owning a .290/.340/.425 line with a combined 14.9 UZR/150 between center and right-field last season, his sub-standard 2011 could lead to him being non-tendered in the off-season.
Prospective teams might not have wanted to take a chance on Pelfrey or Pagan, but the trio of lame ducks–Tim Byrdak, Jason Isringhausen, and Chris Capuano–should have garnered some interest on the block. Byrdak has been mediocre overall (3.46 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, and 2.38 K/BB), but as a lefty specialist, that’s expected. The lefty hasn’t been nice to his own kind, owning a .242/.294/.387 line against left-handed hitters with a 4.40 K/BB ratio. With about $295,000 of his salary remaining for the rest of 2011, any team in need of an extra lefty reliever conceivably could have been interested.
On a similar subject–but different hand–Jason Isringhausen appeared to be one of the most obvious trade candidates in baseball. After only pitching 8 innings between 2009 and 2010, Izzy has enjoyed an injury-free renaissance in 2011, pitching to the tune of a 3.58 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and 2.13 K/BB–all better than his career averages. Despite a personal plea to stay with the Mets, trading Isringhausen (and his now 298 career saves) to a contender should have been signed and sealed. However, the deadline came and passed, and the former Generation-K member was still in orange and blue. His mentor-ship of Bobby Parnell was used as an excuse for his extended-tenure, but netting a decent prospect should have been the real focus for the Mets.
Lastly, despite endless rumors linking a variety of starting arms, Erik Bedard, Doug Fister, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Edwin Jackson were the only starting pitchers of substance who were dealt during the deadline. Most other deals fell apart due to high demands, yet Chris Capuano should have been had for comparatively peanuts. Capuano, who has endured a long-list of arm injuries over the past few seasons, has finally enjoyed his first healthy full-season since 2006. The left-hander has posted a respectable 9 Wins, 4.51 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, and 2.68 K/BB in 121.6 innings. The Mets signed the former-Brewer to a one-year, $1.5 million deal, which means there’s just $490,000 remaining on his already under-compensated salary. In fact, FanGraphs calculated that Capuano has been worth $5 million (1.1 WAR) this season. Capuano might not be as exciting as Edwin Jackson, but then again, he wouldn’t cost Colby Rasmus.
Few fans will argue that the Mets didn’t hit their trading priorities by sending Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez packing, but failing to trim the fat a little more might prove to be an error in judgement by the Mets. The Mets are a long-shot to win the wild card this season, so why hang onto 2011 when improving the team for next season should be the real focus?