After being linked to the Mets all season long, recent rumors suggest the Mets pursued a trade for Jonathan Lucroy. With Travis d'Arnaud still not hitting and backups Rene Rivera and Kevin Plawecki providing even less offense, the fit seems logical given Lucroy's above-average offense, good defense, and cheap contract. In the Mets' current position on the win curve, every win is vital, placing them in arguably the most logical position from which to buy. The Mets reportedly offered Travis d'Arnaud, but the Brewers turned down a one-for-one swap, so we'll have to ponder what more Milwaukee would want.
Of course, it's no sure thing that the Brewers would even want d'Arnaud. While he demonstrated just how good he can be in the second half of 2015, it's impossible to avoid placing the injury-prone label on him, even if the majority of his injuries come from freak incidents—including a broken hand from a hit-by-pitch and a hyperextended elbow on a throw home. More importantly, d'Arnaud will enter his first of three arbitration-eligible seasons next year. As his price and service time increase, his value to a Brewers team that probably won't look to compete for at least the next couple of years falls rapidly.
A deal without d'Arnaud as the centerpiece would almost certainly cost Amed Rosario, and that's not a swap the Mets should make. Not only would it cost the Mets their best prospect and heir-apparent at shortstop, it also wastes d'Arnaud's value on the bench. As such, any package that doesn't include d'Arnaud really doesn't seem worth considering from the Mets' perspective.
For the moment, though, let's pretend that the Brewers would be interested in d'Arnaud as part of a deal. That's already a pretty valuable asset, as d'Arnaud is an above-average defensive catcher, both by traditional methods and when accounting for framing. The narrative that he's a bad catcher needs to die.
And he has the potential to mash, as demonstrated by his 131 wRC+ in 2015. There are warts to d'Arnaud—the injuries and soon-to-escalate salary—but he alone represents fair compensation for a significant bit of Lucroy's value.
Before we go any further, it's worthwhile to attempt to quantify the value differential between Lucroy and d'Arnaud, just to see what sort of gap exists. Projections are unfairly bearish on Lucroy given his injury-riddled 2015. For the remaining ~225 PA of the season, we'll assume Lucroy posts WAR at the same rate as he has over 2016 to date, giving him about 1.7 fWAR remaining for this season. d'Arnaud is projected for just under 1.0 fWAR with some bearish playing time projections, so we'll assume he posts 1.0 fWAR the remainder of the season.
In 2017, Lucroy will be 31. Still, to avoid accusations of bias, I'll project him for 3.5 fWAR next season. For d'Arnaud, we'll project an average of 2.0 fWAR over the remaining three years of team control. Estimating his salary through arbitration is a bit trickier given the lack of recent catcher arbitration cases, but a $3 million-$7 million-$11 million projection makes some sense when extrapolated from Jason Castro's production and arbitration salaries.
The last two variables to consider are the value of a win and the discount of future WAR. The current value of a win is estimated at $8 million, but there is no standard accepted metric for discounting future WAR. For the purposes of this exercise, we'll discount WAR by 0.8 each year—that is 1 WAR next season is worth 0.8 WAR now, 1 WAR two seasons from now is worth 0.64 WAR now, and so on. However, as I have no good justification for this measure, I've included a Google spreadsheet to let you play around with these values if you're curious.
Here are the plethora of projections and assumptions we've made in table form, with totals in the far left column:
|Salary ($ Millions)||1.6||5.25||0||0||-|
|Value ($ Millions)||11.92||22.75||0||0||30.12|
|Salary ($ Millions)||0.2||3||7||11||-|
|Value ($ Millions)||7.8||13||9||5||26.52|
With these values, the Brewers were well within logical bounds to reject a one-for-one swap, which justifies considering what else is necessary to offer. Including Zack Wheeler is an obvious overpay that the Mets can ill afford given how thin their rotation is at the moment. Wilmer Flores and Dilson Herrera would also be very hard to move given the Mets' impending hole at second base in 2017 and David Wright's continued health issues. Adding further major league pieces to the deal therefore seems unlikely.
On the minor league side with Amed Rosario off the table, the majority of Mets prospects are mediocre. Dominic Smith is the highest rated after Rosario at 76 on Baseball America's midseason list but is nothing if not divisive. Gavin Cecchini and Brandon Nimmo are probably bench players. Robert Gsellman and the rest of the upper minors arms are back-end types. Other interesting guys like Thomas Szapucki, Ali Sanchez, and Wuilmer Becerra are years away from the majors.
Therefore, the Mets' best offer is probably something along the lines of d'Arnaud, Smith, and one or two interesting minor leaguers beyond the top-ten prospects. Per the latest data on the value of prospects, this is more than enough to bridge the gap between d'Arnaud and Lucroy as well as covering the inflated cost of making deals at the trade deadline. There's arguably enough in that offer to get Lucroy and a reliever, which would cover the Mets' main stated deadline need.
This is probably much ado about nothing, as are most trade speculations. Per Alderson, trade talks with the Brewers were "dead on arrival." There are plenty of other teams that will be bidding for Lucroy—the Indians have a plethora of good prospects to offer—and the Brewers might prefer those packages. It appears, however, that a reasonable deal can be constructed with d'Arnaud and Smith as the two main pieces. If the Brewers are game, the Mets should pounce.