With all signs pointing to little to no payroll increase for the 2013 season and Alderson hinting that the team will likely try to improve through trades this offseason I decided to look at some of the Mets tradeable assets. This is part of a series I am trying to do one per week until I run out of options or get bored. I have several players in mind, but if anyone has a suggestion for a player they would like me to review post it in the comments. Throughout the process I am trying to stay objective in that I don't necessarily think the Mets should trade someone just because they have value. I mainly want to try to get an idea of what each players value is to the future of the Mets or to some other team. The last two posts can be found here on Daniel Murphy, and here on Lucas Duda.
This week we'll be taking a look at Bobby Parnell. While it might seem counterintuitive to trade one of our better bullpen arms when our bullpen has been awful the past two years, but it all depends on what your philosophy is on bullpen construction. Obviously an arm like Parnell's is something you want to have around, but that is also why he would be a decent trade piece. In another year where the team has little money to spend on premium relievers the Mets will have to depend on some combination of internal options and bargain bin free agents to rebuild their bullpen. Of the returning pitchers in 2013 Parnell is probably the best bet to maintain his consitent production. Edgin should be a good lefty with maybe the stuff to handle the occasional right handed batter. Frank Fransisco you have to hope regresses to his career norms after the worst season of his career. Then you have a bunch of rookies who have not proven they can consistently get ML or in some cases minor league hitters out. Also Manny Acosta is a wildcard, but after seeing the bad Acosta for more than half a year I don't think you want to risk having the Acostalypse on your opening day roster again. With Jeremy Hefner penciled in as the swingman that leaves four bullpen spots to fill if Parnell is traded. While it might be refreshing to see as little of the 2012 bullpen as possible returning, that might be a lot of holes to fill with retread relievers.
Lets take a look at where Parnell stands with regard to the league average reliever. Stats courtesy of Fangraphs, dated 9/13/12
245.1 IP 4.00 ERA 20.7 K% 9.3 BB% 2.21 K/BB 7.7% HR/FB .268 AVG 1.50 WHIP
57.2 IP 2.97 ERA 21.3 K% 7.9 BB% 2.70 K/BB 10.0% HR/FB .262 AVG 1.40 WHIP
League Average (Relivers only):
3.65 ERA 21.8 K% 9.0 BB% 2.42 K/BB 10.3% HR/FB .239 AVG 1.30 WHIP
3.69 ERA 20.6 K% 9.4 BB% 2.18 K/BB 9.0% HR/FB .239 AVG 1.32 WHIP
Parnell profiles pretty close to the Major League average reliever for his career with above average HR rates, but slightly more hits allowed. While the extra hits might be in part due to some bad defense it hardly matters with regard to how teams will value him. The main thing that will increase his value is that he is allowing fewer walks this year which seems to be a result of him throwing a curveball instead of the slider that he used in years past. He is also reportedly taking a little velocity off of his fastball which allows him to command it better and throw more strikes. Meanwhile he still throws mid to high 90's with his fastball so he is still striking out batters at roughly the same rate.
Given that reliever ERA and overall production can be somewhat erratic from season to season Parnell has chosen the perfect time to give the Mets arguably his best performance for a season. With the improved peripherals and an ERA under 3.00 and still three more years of team control Parnell's trade value is probably at its highest right now. Now the question remains as to how much a slightly above average reliever can bring back in a trade. Well if we look back to just this past offseason we have a pretty good comp in the Angel Pagan for Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez trade. Actually Parnell has much better peripherals than Ramirez had although before this year Ramirez had the better results. Add to that the cheaper cost and more years of Parnell entering into just his first year of arbitration and you could see a potential trade of Parnell and some roleplayer bringing back a league average outfielder at least.
I'm not going to present potential teams to trade with becasue lets face it everyone needs pitching in particular the bullpen variety. So the question we are left with is how much do the Mets need Parnell. Trading Parnell would make a big hole a little bigger, and that hole will have to be filled with some yet unknown quantity. Dealing in relievers might be one of the most random markets in baseball because besides a few exceptions you just never know what you might get in return. Parnell has been relatively consistent throughout his career though and has shown improvement recently so it would hardly be a bad choice to simply keep him to try to solidify the 2013 bullpen. On the other hand his value is probably as high as it is going to get and with the Mets being well endowed recently with pitching prospects it might not be too long until there are some more guys like Edgin or Familia trying to break into the bullpen. Once again there does not appear to be a clear cut answer to trade Parnell or not, and it will all depend on the returns and what looks fair to both teams involved.