Two Guys Talking: TINSTAAPP!

Jimmy:

baseball_prospectusI want to begin this conversation by establishing two reference points. Last week Peter Gammons tweeted a quote from that preeminently quotable source, the unnamed GM: “Putting all your hopes in young minor league pitching is like putting all your savings in dot.com stocks.”

The other reference point is the acronym in our headline, made famous by the tough-minded folks at Baseball Prospectus: “There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect.” Essentially, BP analysts have looked at the historic volatility and fragility of young pitching and cautioned: “Don’t count your chickens.”

Both strike cautionary notes that speak to assumptions about the rosy future. Yet here the Mets organization stands today with a disproportion of its young talent in pitching — so that the entire system looks lopsided. Outside of Travis d’Arnaud, Wilmer Flores, and Matt den Dekker, the Mets don’t have any top prospect position players who have succeeded above High-A Ball.

Mike:

I’ve heard DePodesta speak about this since he was hired and he is clear that it is not that the team believes these guys are all going to be the next big thing. In fact, very much otherwise, which led to the stockpiling. Strength in numbers. And the good news is you can begin to see the benefit to that. Meija is fading as a prospect, and to a lesser extent Familia. But Harvey is up and looks like the real deal, and Wheeler is right there. That sounds good, and it is, and is about right for a team in year three of a rebuild. But where are the hitters?

Mets fans might not recognize this, it is called a legitimate major league outfielder

Mets fans might not recognize this, it is called a legitimate major league outfielder

I’m scared that these guys seem incapable of making a trade that could backfire. I’ll call this “Zambrano syndrome.” A good reason to stockpile pitchers is to trade them. I mentioned it at the time, but if Michael Fulmer could have landed Denard Span (and he was traded for a very similar prospect), the Mets better be right about Fulmer. Span is an above-average major league center fielder with a great contract. If we won’t make these types of moves with pitching prospects, I don’t know how we ever contend by 2014.

You have mentioned that you believe that is all part of “the plan,” as Alderson is waiting for these guys to increase in value. I want to be on record as 100% against that plan. These prospects go up and down all the time in value, many times they end up exposed at higher levels. Many other times they break down. Jenrry Meija had a higher market value the day Alderson took over as GM than today. Familia was rated higher one year ago than he is today. And sure, Wheeler is up, way up, in value. But as you can see, this isn’t like waiting out some fixed rate CD to maturity, this is a commodities market. The goal is not to stand around and never do anything “wrong.” The goal is to get enough talent together at the same time, at the major league level. Until Alderson proves to me that he can make the types of trades to help accomplish this, I am concerned, very concerned.

Jimmy:

To date, I think Alderson has failed to address the lopsidedness of the organization. He’s executed part of the plan very well, and deserves credit for it, but most of that execution has been, as you implied, “Sit on your hands and wait this out.” So here we are, in a place where we’ll still need our GM to make a couple of bold moves if he hopes to jettison the team to the highest reaches of competitiveness.

One other point, about allowing prospects to mature. We disagree, somewhat. Because I think the answer is a combination of the two approaches. Let’s take Fulmer and Syndergaard for example. Today, they are worth X amount on the market. They have value, but it’s not yet outstanding, IMO. If both blow up, true, we’ll be at a net gain of zero. But if one of those guys continues on his current path, I think he could have X++ value within six months — and become the centerpiece in a trade that nets a substantial player. Admittedly, it’s a gamble. But I’m holding on to that stock for now. I mean, come on, Mike. Don’t you wish you kept some of that Apple stock you owned years and years ago?

Mike:

Sure, and I wish I didn’t have to end up using all of this Lehman Brothers stock as wallpaper too. There is a reason I’m still working. As for the Mets, some selling would be nice, we have done nothing but buy and hold for three years.

I like a diversified portfolio.

lehman-brothers-sign-007

 Update:

Mack’s Mets has reported that Michael Fulmer is flying to New York for knee surgery to repair torn meniscus.

 

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15 comments

  1. Nothing against stock-piling good young arms, but I have been wondering what ever happened to the team that once traded for Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter, HoJo, and later, Mike Piazza. The Mets used a young pitcher named Neil Allen to land Hernandez from the Cards. As Kenny Rogers used to say, (before he was dumped onto the Yankees), “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em.”

    • As you said, William, love the arms. That’s terrific. Maybe a few of them turn out to be the real deal. But we will need to address position players, too. I don’t think free agency will be the answer this off-season, not with Ike needing a big contract and maybe (hopefully) Harvey, too. Alderson is going to have to work a couple of genuine trades, not just salary dumps to the highest bidder.

      Mostly though, for me, I’m not as patient as most Mets fans seem to be this year. Over at Metsblog, 90% of fans voted to save Fred Wilpon money by keeping both d’Arnaud and Wheeler down on the farm. It’s not an unreasonable position. But 90%! Wow. The Wilpons have won the battle of low expectations. Lost in all that potential savings on player contracts is another season of blown revenue. At a time when the Yankees are down, we’re going to be worse. Again.

      I think with all this patience comes the belief that good times are a’coming! And better times almost certainly are. But the approach thus far in no way ensures the Mets of having a playoff-quality team in 2014 or ’15 or even ’16. There’s more work to be done. But mostly, as Mike has been saying all along, unless team owners get behind this thing financially, we’re left in a situation where we continually punt the present in the hope of a future that may or may not be all that rosy after all.

  2. Patrick says:

    First off, kudos to a digital content hub that is going to actually discuss, gasp, the angles of this team rather than the head in sand approach of nearly every other Mets oriented blog that might as well just be called “Sandy Says”.

    I think the pass I can give the Mets in regard to say trading a Fulmer for a Span is that the Nationals are in it now. The Mets need to show they have something actually going before moving prospects for smaller pieces. While Span is certainly better than what the Mets appear to have now, he maybe makes an 76 win team a 78 win team, and that is probably stretching the truth some.

    Whereas, if the Mets had won 88-92 games last year, and CF was the missing piece, by all means, get him.

    • Thank you, Patrick, I appreciate those remarks. Mike pushed for the theoretical Span/Fulmer move at the time, but I was very high on Fulmer and would not have pulled that particular trigger. Of course, I didn’t realize that the Mets GM would come up completely empty. A total whiff. Your point about timing is a good one. However, since the Mets still need 3 outfielders, it’s not like we can assume that we’ll get them all in one off-season. My big hope is that we add a real, athletic, under-30 OF at the July trade deadline. One real bat out there would make a huge difference. And that’s why — ta-da! — I’m glad we held onto Fulmer. In the next exchange, I want a bigger prize than Denard Span.

      JP

    • Michael Geus says:

      Good smart thoughts, you are welcome around here anytime. Or at least until you tick one of us off!

      • Oh boy, that could be easy. The truth is your general premise is absolutely right and when this team transitions from 2013 to 2014 it will be very interesting to see how it navigates those waters. They are simply going to have to make trades to bolster this roster barring some unforeseen mega developments from a few players like Daniel Murphy, Lucas Duda and one other outfielder. Common sense says if one of three of those things happen you came out on top. Three of three is a miracle, and probably a mirage that won’t last as well.

        My gut and some basic following of minor league ball tells me the 2011 draft was okay to mediocre, the 2012 draft was botched. Which gives me a lot of pause as to the ability to make the deals necessary to field a truly competitive team soon.

        • Patrick, pay no attention to Mike. He’s been wandering off lately, I’m going to tie a cowbell to his collar. Feel free to disagree. Just don’t call us names! I don’t know if you saw my interview here with Mack Ade, about two weeks back, but he came out very unimpressed with Sandy’s drafts thus far. Sandy has not been particularly astute on the fringes, either. All I’m suggesting is, hey, he might not be the Messiah.

          • I’ll have to check that out. I have read Mack’s prospect reports in the past. I do have to have my own mea culpa thus far on 2011, I was skeptical of Nimmo but he acquitted himself quite well given his age, level of play and very non-traditional path. The pitchers seemed okay too from 2011, thus far. Very interested to see what he said of 2012, because that whole draft seemed for lack of better word, poor.

  3. eric says:

    CF IS a missing Piece to a Playoff team….they don’t appear to have the player in their system. It’s a difficult position to fill, and it’s critical in Their Large Ballpark with the Young pitchers and Corner Outfield BUTCHERS that are inevitable on every team.

    Trading prospects for a 4-6 year answer is a very solid move. I won’t consider them a Big League operation until they trade some of their VAPOR fro an actual Major League Ballplayer. I’m not talking about abandoning player development…I’m hoping that they will eventually DECIDE to make a Team of this collection.

  4. Don P says:

    I agree with the Wall Street analogy to this problem. The secret is to buy low and sell high. But on Wall Street you are not allowed to trade if you have inside information. It gives you an unfair advantage.

    Well, why don’t we have an inside advantage with OUR minor leaguers? I understand that the GM may not always get it right, but shouldn’t we be the first to know that Mejia, Familia, Fullmer, etc are overrated by the other teams? As soon as they are overrated trade them! Sell high! Even if you simply exchange a minor leaguer that we have reduced expectations for another one that we think that someone else has wrongly discounted. Hell, David Ortiz was a rule 5 pick-up!

    We don’t sell, because we’re afraid that we may get one wrong and look bad. But that means we never get one RIGHT!

  5. One general comment about this discussion: Thank you, guys. I look at some sites that have 50, 100, 150 comments per post. It’s a great tribute for any blog to get those numbers. But with quantity, the overall quality takes a sharp nose-dive. I’d love to see this site one day get a regular 20-25 high-quality comments. So thanks for making that contribution.

    So come, everybody! Bring it in for a GROUP HUG!!!

    Guys? Guys? A high-five? Fist bump? Nevermind.

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