Remember those halcyon days when 'El Hombre' actually was The Man? Back in 2012, when he belted five pinch-hit home runs -- each one seemingly bigger than the last? Back in spring training when he batted .313 with an .883 OPS? In those days it was easy for starry-eyed bloggers to dream about what the highly-talented, oft-misunderstood rookie might be capable of -- and they (read, I) did. It truly was an era of milk and honey. It would never be that good again.
The perplexing 25-year-old just hasn't done it in 2013. Namely, he hasn't hit a lick. He's currently batting .191/.254/.321, with four home runs and four stolen bases. Even worse, most of that was done in the earlier part of the season with his trajectory decidedly on a downward slope (he's batting a lowly .105 with one home run in his last 28 games).
Estimations (by yours truly) about his improving approach at the plate were also seemingly for naught; despite the fact that he's been striking out less, walking more, and seeing more pitches than the league, it's ultimately about the hits and JV1 hasn't gotten enough of them. Perhaps the .208 BABIP is to blame, though 'd say that's more symptom than illness. The true culprit is likely the sporadic playing time; he's started back-to-back games just ten times in 2013 -- just once in three or more. It isn't entirely difficult to understand why he's lost his timing at the plate.
That isn't to suppose misuse. Baseball is a meritocracy. Unless you're Ike Davis, the only way to guarantee more playing time is to actually play better and Valdespin hasn't. In his one extended look back in mid-June -- after Ike was sent down and Murphy shifted to first -- Jordany went 4-for-26 with zero walks in seven games. One can criticize Terry Collins a bit for his insistence on exclusively pinch-hitting Valdespin -- because he was 'too valuable to start' -- back before he got lost at the plate, but that's nitpicking.
Now, the worst sign for Valdespin is not that his critics won the day. It's that they just don't care about him anymore. There was a time -- not that long ago -- when fans and beat writers alike ebbed and flowed with the tide of Valdespin's every mood. So much ink had never been spilled over a pinch hitter. He did just enough to concurrently entice as well as incite. By July, that (ink)well has apparently run dry. Likely, so has his chance with the Mets.
Seriously? It's Valdespin, he's available. In fact, the polarizing figure has never been a favorite of the front office, for his attitude and flair -- as Keith would put it -- as much as his reckless style of play. For that reason Valdespin was probably available back when he was still considered a top prospect and looked like he could at least provide some pop off the bench. Now that he seemingly serves no purpose on a Mets club loaded with bench pieces, it's very fair to say that he could be had for a song.
The Trade Market
It's sort of a pointless exercise to determine who might be in need of Valdespin's services. For one, he's bounced around the field so much that it's hard to pinpoint his true home defensively. The other issue being, you know, the fact that he hasn't hit. The team that will trade for him will be one that randomly saw him on a good day -- now or in the minors -- and feels that the undeniably talented player represents a potential diamond in the rough.
There's no doubt that a Valdespin trade would represent the classic, unfortunate sell-low situation. Remember, it was only just over a year ago that Valdespin was firmly entrenched on Mets top ten prospect rankings, following a season where he posted a 124 wRC+ from a middle infield position in Double-A. And despite the up-and-down nature of his first season, he did swat eight homers in just over 200 plate appearances.
Still, it's hard to imagine the Mets returning anything of value for Valdespin currently. Likely the only way to potentially derive any value from a deadline move -- assuming his offensive game doesn't suddenly come around -- would be to target another failed prospect experiment and make a swap of frustrating players, hoping each benefits from a change of scenery.
If you want a name, a personal favorite of mine -- as far as reclamation projects go -- is Colorado's Drew Pomeranz, a one-time fifth-overall selection who was already traded at the deadline back in 2011, in the Ubaldo Jimenez blockbuster. The big lefty (6'5", 240 lbs) obviously has ability but has long been lamented in Colorado as a guy that couldn't 'figure it out' in his various shots with the Rockies, posting a 5.33 ERA in 25 career starts over parts of the last three seasons. He's managed a mediocre 4.20 ERA in 15 starts at Triple-A this year -- but the 3.13 FIP and 10+ strikeout per nine mark keep me interested.