Four hours ago, I wasn’t sure who the Mets were going to find to set up for Francisco Rodriguez, but I was pretty sure they’d use Aaron Heilman to get him. Well, I was partially right – the Mets used Aaron Heilman and a cast of thousands to help get their setup man, and his name is J.J. Putz. Here’s a breakdown of who is going where:
THE METS GET:
J.J. Putz, Jeremy Reed, and Sean Green
THE INDIANS GET:
Joe Smith, Luis Valbuena
THE MARINERS GET:
Aaron Heilman, Endy Chavez, Franklin Guttierez, Mike Carp, Jason Vargas, Ezequiel Carrera, Maikel Cleto
Breaking this down…
The Mets essentially replace Aaron Heilman in the setup role with J.J. Putz. Putz has primarily worked as a closer the past three seasons, racking up 242 strikeouts in 196.3 innings. This gives the Mets two hard-throwers working the 8th and 9th innings, guys who make the defense irrelevent by racking up strikeouts. Unlike K-Rod, he doesn’t seem to be all that walk-prone, although he had his issues last year (which could be due to injury).
But considering how horrible Heilman was in 2008, Putz brings a new look to the 8th innings, and backup in case K-Rod is injured. This has to be seen as an upgrade for the Mets. There are risks, mainly regarding Putz’s health, but as long as he’s healthy, it gives the Mets a strong, viable setup man and it helps ease the concerns of Mets fans worried about the bullpen in 2008. The Mets bullpen has become quite strong tonight thanks to this trade.
I will miss Joe Smith. I have been a Joe Smith supporter. But…the difference between Joe Smith and Sean Green isn’t that wide. They are both essentially the same player; right-handed groundball specialists. Green is older and hasn’t pitched quite as well as Smith, but will likely be limited to facing exclusively righthanded batters in the 6th or 7th innings. As far as value, it’s a step down, but not a massive one.
I’m not a huge fan of Endy Chavez. I hate watching him hit. I mean…hate, hate, hate watching him hit. But I’m not sure if I’m down with the Chavez for Reed swap. When used exclusively as a defensive sub, Chavez has real value. He’s probably one of the top defensive outfielders in all of baseball. Reed is good, but not great. There is a definite defensive downgrade here for the Mets, and considering that the 5th OF is going to play very often, it’s a bit suspect there.
He also isn’t much with the bat. He had real promise in the minors, but he’s never adapted to major league pitching. He needs to hit .300 to have any value. Who knows, maybe HoJo can work wonders, but I liked Chavez when used as a strict defensive replacement. The thing with Reed is that he does have potential, and if they can figure out how to get him to utilize his abilities, he could wind up being a steal, but for now, he’s a step down.
The Mets traded four minor leaguers in the deal. Mike Carp has been in the Mets system for a few years. He showed some promise last year, after struggling in Binghamton the year before, but he was either 3rd or 4th on the Mets’ organizational depth chart at first base (depending on how you feel about “Nasty” Nick Evans) and was expendable. He’s a good player, but redundant in this organization.
Jason Vargas was acquired two years ago as part of the Matt Lindstrom trade. He hasn’t pitched great, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see him moved to the bullpen in Seattle and for him to do well as a lefty specialist. It’s too soon to do any real evaluation on Cleto or Carrera, but neither has particularly distinguished themselves in the minors. Cleto is a hard-thrower, but hasn’t had any success yet. His strongest value to the Mariners is his youth. Carrera struggled last year, but is also quite young.
Overall, you have to see the trade as a win for the Mets. They improved the bullpen again without trading anything of real value to do so. The Mets now have two lights-out caliber relievers pitching the 8th and 9th, hard-throwing strikeout guys. Figure the two of them throw about 130-140 innings per season with about 140-160 strikeouts. That’s going to be quite formidable for other teams who used to feast on the Mets in the later innings. The Mets came into the winter meetings needing to revamp the bullpen and they have done so in dramatic fashion.