Since my last post on this subject, trade rumors have continued to swirl around the Mets pre-arb players. They primarily have fallen on Jon Niese who was linked to potential deals with both the Blue Jays and the Rockies, before those rumors were quashed by Jerry Crasnick. You can take any or all of that for what it's worth, but it makes sense that most teams would be checking in on Niese. I argued in my previous post that it is very difficult to get equal value back for your pre-arb starter, but then the Padres went and made me look bad by getting a very nice haul for Mat Latos, who I think is clearly a tier above Niese as a pitcher and has similiar service time. I still think Niese ends up in Flushing next year, if only because the Mets lack of rotation depth makes Niese more valuable to them then he would be to any other team. But it does seem at least possible now that Sandy Alderson could get an offer that would 'blow him away.'
That said, with the Mets facing a serious roster crunch if they want to add a back-up shortstop and fourth outfielder before Spring Training, I do think they have a couple young players they should move in an attempt to improve the 2013 and 2014 Mets.
I like Lucas Duda as a hitter. He's pretty patient, and for a guy with 20+ HR power, he makes plenty of contact. I could easily see him rolling out a .825 OPS (something like .280.360/.465) for the next few years, as long as you keep him away from too many starts against LHP. So you are looking at a bat that is about 30% better than league average with a bit of upside still left in it. That should play just about anywhere.
Unfortunately, there's not much black ink elsewhere in Duda's profile. For starters, he runs like a catcher. His arm won't play in RF, and I don't think he's going to be all that much better in LF. His UZR/150 is horrendous, but that is admittedly a tiny sample. Still, I don't think any of us think he is good in RF. I'd say 10 runs below average is a reasonable, maybe even conservative, estimation of his true talent level in the OF. Combine that with below average baserunning and a still fairly high offensive baseline for the corners, and a lot of the benefits of the bat get wiped off the ledger. Really, the problem is he's not going to hit like Adam Dunn, but he may do everything else like Adam Dunn.
Now, if both leagues go to the DH starting with 2013's perpetual interleague play, there would definitely be a spot for Duda. But I think what we have here is the opposite of the Jon Niese situation. Other teams will get more value out of Duda as a 1B/DH than the Mets will as a RF. While we think of the DH as a bat-first line-up slot, the fact is that in 2011 American League teams struggled to find designated hitters that put up that .825 OPS I projected above. The fact that Duda can also play 1B, as well as the corner outfield spots in a pinch, means that you can keep the DH slot open a couple days a week to rest a veteran player here and there. Duda doesn't have to be a DH-only player, but I think he has to DH a bunch to really get maximum value out of him. The Mets simply don't have that luxury. You probably only get two-thirds the haul you get for Ike Davis, but some simple algebra (1b Davis + RF Nieuwenhuis + Return for Duda > 1b Davis + RF Duda) seems to suggest that a Duda deal is the right way to go here. Even if, you know, that's just, like, my opinion, man.
Hoo boy, I am sure I will get letters. Look, Murphy had a heck of a year last year, but neither you, nor I, nor Terry Collins have a clue if he can be an everyday 2B. UZR is useless here, there's basically no minor league scouting reports, because he hasn't played enough 2B, and the best we can say about his athletic tools is that they are average. And that was before two knee surgeries. The fact that we only have one recent comp for the defensive move he is about to make should concern you, and the fact that it is Skip Schumaker doesn't improve things. Schumaker has basically been about -10 as a 2B, and that seems like a reasonable projection for a healthy Daniel Murphy. If this was an easy move to make on the defensive spectrum, more managers would have tried it outside of that crazy old coot Tony LaRussa.
Now, you can live with -10 at 2B. That's basically what Justin Turner was in 2011. But the reason I would look to sell high on Murphy is not just his glove. That .320 batting average is nice and shiny, but there is little in the way of secondary skills backing it up. Although he walked a decent amount in the minors, since his MLB cup of coffee in 2008, Murphy has stopped walking. This year he also stopped hitting flyballs and watched his ISO drop from average to below. The .320 BA is propped up by a .345 BABIP, which is unlikely to be sustainable. Now Murphy does hit a fair amount of line drives, but if we even regress him to an above average .320 BABIP (which would be higher than any BABIP he posted in the minors), a lot of the oomph drops out of his batting line. Let's say we get something like .300/.345/.430. That's pretty decent for 2b, but again, we have a player whose defense will eat into a lot of that value.
Much like Duda, we have a scenario where another team could get more value out of Murphy than the Mets can. I would say Murphy could be close to average at 3b, and the offensive difference between the two positions isn't as large as you might think. So a team looking for a stopgap third baseman for a couple years (say the Rockies or Reds) could certainly use Daniel Murphy.
There's also the issue of depth. The Mets simply have a lot of second basemen on their 40 man roster right now. In addition to Murphy, there is Satin, Turner, Havens and Valdespin, and let's toss in a non-zero chance that Flores ends up there as well. Murphy is the only one with real trade value (you could argue for selling high on Valdespin, but this team isn't really in a position to move prospects for MLB talent yet, and prospect for prospect trades rarely happen). The Mets can afford to move Murphy, and other teams can extract more value out of him than we can anyway.
Now, reading all that you might be inclined to say "Well, why don't we just trade David Wright and move Murphy to 3b full-time." Certainly that is a consideration, but I don't know that Wright has THAT much more surplus value than Murphy at this point. You get four years of team control on Murphy, and he'll be paid about the same for those four seasons as Wright will for this one. Wright does still have the superstar cache, but I don't know that there is enough difference in trade value there to really justify making that move. And regardless, that option doesn't seem to be on the table right now as far as Sandy Alderson is concerned.
James Kannegeiser took me to task on twitter for writing in my last post that the Mets shouldn't solely be trying to maximize value from their offseason moves. And frankly, he's not wrong. However attached I might be to Duda, Murphy, Niese and Davis, the Mets FO can't let that type of sentiment get in the way of building the next Mets playoff team. They've been essentially tasked with turning the Yankees into the Rays, to completely remake the way the organization builds their roster. It's not something you can partially committ to, or else you end up doing crazy things like signing Jay Bell. The fact of the matter is, whoever is on the 2012 roster, they will endear themselves to me quickly, because, in the end, they will be wearing Mets jerseys.
That said, they can't trade R.A. Dickey. That's where I draw the line.