Being a recent college graduate whose family supported him through college, I am acutely aware of how lucky I am that my parents worked hard and saved for my college education. So I like it when the things I do—like, say, writing for a cool baseball site or going to grad school—make them proud of me and feel that the time and effort (read: money) they’ve put into me has been worthwhile.
In other words, I am exactly like the New York Mets, who are lucky enough to be situated in the nation’s largest media market with millions of fans to support their $100 million payroll. And apparently, despite their 13.5 game lead at the time, they felt the need to do something to make their fans feel good about their team by trading a yet to be named player for Shawn Green and cash. Now, Green isn’t the All-Star type player he was just a few seasons ago with Los Angeles, but given the sorry state of the Mets outfield right now with Cliff Floyd on the disabled list, Green should provide a small amount of cover and some goodwill with the fans.
Since trading Xavier Nady and placing Floyd on the DL, the Mets have relied mostly on a combination of Lastings Milledge, Endy Chavez and Michael Tucker to fill the void. Here are their stats for this season and their careers.
PLAYER ABs 2006 OPS CAREER OPS Endy Chavez 247 .769 .676 Lastings Milledge 130 .710 .710 Michael Tucker 24 .825 .764
Milledge ran into some trouble with the press the last time he was up, and he’s not exactly silencing his critics with his play. His physical tools are impressive, but there’s nothing in his stat line at the major or minor league level (hitting .273/.393/.440 at Triple-A) this season to suggest that he’s ready to contribute to a contender at this point in his career. Chavez, though hitting well in limited play so far this season, has never demonstrated the ability to hit major league pitching; his only two seasons as a regular resulted in OPS totals of .648 and .688, and he put up a paltry .507 OPS last season in 91 at-bats with the Phillies.
Tucker, recently recalled from Triple-A Norfolk, has also hit adequately in limited action with New York, but has actually hit terribly while in the minors (.786 OPS in 261 at-bats), has never been a great hitter, and hasn’t cracked an .800 OPS since 2000.
Green isn’t as good as he used to be, but he’s been a solid hitter both through his career and in recent years:
YEAR OPS 2006 .778 2005 .832 2004 .811 Career .856
So even with his below par defense, Green should still be a positive contributor to the Mets this season, albeit at the exorbitant price of $6.95 million, which includes his salary for next season.
Still, it’s hard to evaluate the Green deal without asking whether it was worth it to trade Xavier Nady, the team’s best corner outfielder, for a washed up Roberto Hernandez, and Oliver Perez, who the Mets clearly view as a long term project.
A quick look at Nady’s line quickly shows that his offense probably isn’t better than Milledge or Tucker’s, and his defense is just as maligned as Green’s. The Mets were probably wise to take a flyer on a pitcher with some upside while Nady was still hot.
YEAR OPS 2006 .816 2005 .760 2004 .717 Career .758
Still, with just 38 games left in the season, the difference between Green and any of the other potential options is likely negligible, making Green basically an expensive PR move. Even while getting little production out of their corner outfielders for much the seasons, the Mets have still managed to score the second most runs in the National League while playing in a pitcher’s park. Quite frankly, if you have Jose Reyes setting the table and Carlos Beltran, David Wright and Carlos Delgado in the heart of the order, you could probably pencil me in at right field and still have a good offense. With their lead, the Mets are going to win the East no matter what, so really, this deal will be judged by how Green performs in the playoffs, where we all know anything can happen.
Perhaps a more interesting question would be to ask whether the Mets should have gone in for Bobby Abreu. Given that the Yankees didn’t give up an real Grade A prospects for Abreu, and also got Cory Lidle in return (who the Mets could probably also use). Abreu is going to cost the Yankees aprroximately $21 million over the next two years, making him three times as expensive as Green, but his addition would have been a substantial upgrade to the Mets offense that would allow them to stand toe to toe with any other offense in the league.
Of course, Philadelphia might have balked at trading him inside the division, and the Mets were never seriously linked with Abreu, and Floyd wasn’t injured at the trade deadline, but if the Mets don’t make it to the World Series as many (myself included) expect them to, some might look at not nabbing Abreu as a grand missed opportunity.