Can The Last 12 Years Of In-Season Trades Predict What Will Happen This Season?

During the 2016/2017 offseason there were significant discussions regarding the Mets interest in dealing Jay Bruce or Curtis Granderson to clear a starting role for Micheal Conforto. While most of the talk surrounded Bruce, rather than Granderson, none of these rumors ever materialized. Even though a deal has yet to happen these names continue to surface.

With the 2017 season just over a month old and the Mets injury issues mounting, many in the fan base are pushing for the organization to make a move. However, the first two months of the season is often considered an evaluation period, making a trade of any real significance, not only difficult, but extremely rare. Since many in season trades are based on a contenders buy and non-contenders sell mentality, many teams do not yet know whether they are buyers or sellers.

Another factor that limits early season action is a rule included in the collective bargaining agreement that awards any player that signs a free agent contract a two and half month trade protection. These players cannot be traded before June 15th without their approval. This does not include the many players that have limited or full no trade clauses negotiated into their contracts, or players with 10/5 rights (Any player with at least 10 years of major league service time and at least 5 years with their current team receives a full no trade protection).

To get a better understanding of what type of trades occur in season and how common or uncommon these deals are would be to compare the moves made in prior seasons. An organizations ability or willingness to make a deal greatly depends on a variety of things, including their current resources, finding a match where both teams needs are met, where the team currently sits in the standings (buyer or seller), how a player would fit into the team (both on the field and in the clubhouse), whether he may be affected by playing in a large or small market as well as the tendencies of the general manager currently running the day to day operations.

Since the start of the 2005 season the Mets have had two general managers running the day to day operations, Omar Minaya from 2005 through 2010 and Sandy Alderson from 2011 to the present. Omar ran the team through four successful seasons before suffering through two disappointing years. Sandy Alderson inherited a team that was aging and locked into a bloated payroll. Alderson embarked on a four year rebuild leading up to the teams 2015 and 2016 playoff runs.

During the course of each executive’s tenure they pulled off a combined total of 32 in season trades from 2005 through 2016. During this twelve year period only one in season deal occurred during the month of April. On April 18th 2014 Sandy Alderson sent 1B Ike Davis to the Pittsburgh Pirates for pitchers Blake Taylor (Pirates #16 ranked prospect) and Zack Thornton. In a comparable situation to the Mets 16/17 offseason OF situation, the team had a 1B logjam with Lucas Duda and Ike Davis. Having tried to deal Ike during the 13/14 offseason, the team saw the need to make a deal at an odd time in the season.

The organization pulled off four combined deals during the month of May, all by Omar, three of which occurred on consecutive days. On May 24th, 2006 Omar sent pitcher Jorge Julio to the Arizona Diamondbacks for veteran pitcher Orlando Hernandez. The following day May 25th a deal with the Cincinnati Reds was agree on, sending pitching prospect Robert Manuel to the Reds for pitcher Dave Williams. Then on May 26th Omar capped off his three-day trading spree by sending pitcher Geremi Gonzalez to the Milwaukee Brewers for pitcher Mike Adams. Omar added another early season deal to his GM resume on May 30th, 2009, by sending veteran catcher Ramon Castro to the Chicago White Sox for pitcher Lance Broadway. Neither one of these deals fit any buyer or seller mode based on the time of the deals and the players involved. Most of the players in these deals filled back of the roster, role player positions.

June also does not appear to be an active month. On June 9th, 2006 Omar sent Kaz Matsui to the Colorado Rockies for utilityman Eli Marrero. Seven years later on June 18th 2013, Alderson dealt struggling pitcher Collin McHugh to the Colorado Rockies for speedy utilityman Eric Young and one week later on June 25th agreed to a deal sending outfielder Colin Cowgill to the Los Angeles Angels for outfield prospect Kyle Johnson. Alderson also pulled off the only other June deal sending pitching prospect Akeel Morris to the Atlanta Braves for utilityman Kelly Johnson on June 8th 2016.

In the same case with the deals pulled off in May, the June moves did not involve any core players or top prospects. All of these deals involved fringe prospects, backup role players and a struggling free agent import that the team needed to cut ties with. Matsui was a Japanese free agent import that the team invested $20.1 million over a three year contract. Matsui struggled over the course of his time with the team and had lost his starting 2B role to free agent signee Jose Valentin.

Once the calendar turns to July teams begin to have a better idea of what they have and what upgrades may need to be made. The type of additions a team will look to make will depend greatly on whether they are a contender or a non-contender. Contending teams look to add proven veterans to bolster the major league roster for their stretch run, while non contenders will look to add high ceiling prospects. With the annual non waiver trade deadline set for July 31st each year teams look to bolster their rosters for a playoff run.

During his tenure, Omar Minaya pulled off four July deals including a July 19th, 2006 deal that sent infielder Jeff Keppinger to the Kansas City Royals for infielder Ruben Gotay, a July 31st deadline day deal sending outfielder/1B Xavier Nady to the Pittsburgh Pirates for pitchers Oliver Perez and Roberto Hernandez, another deadline deal on July 30th 2007 acquiring 2B Luis Castillo for outfield prospect Dustin Martin and Catcher/1B prospect Drew Butera and finally a July 10th 2009 trade involving outfielder Ryan Church to the Atlanta Braves for outfielder Jeff Francoeur.

The Keppinger for Gotay swap was a deal involving two young infielders both in their 2nd year of major league service, both being two years away from arbitration. Nady was in his third year of service time when the deal was pulled off, thus still appealing to a non-contending team like the Pirates. Church, who was in the final year of team control was dealt for Francoeur who had two arbitration years remaining.

As for Alderson, July has varied greatly in activity. He pulled off two deals in his first year at the helm sending closer Francisco Rodriguez to the Milwaukee Brewers for two lefty relievers, Danny Herrera and Adrian Rosario. Rodriguez, who had a 2012 option for $17.5 million with a 55 games finished clause, that if reached could have activated the option year. Two weeks later he sent outfielder Carlos Beltran to the San Francisco Giants for one of the top pitching prospects at the time in Zach Wheeler. Alderson than went four years without making a July deal.

In 2015 with teams playoff hopes beginning to fade Alderson pulled the trigger on a deal with the Atlanta Braves on July 24th, dealing pitching prospects John Grant and Robert Whalen for veteran infielder Juan Uribe and utilityman Kelly Johnson in an effort to jump start a stagnant offense. Three days later the GM bolstered the pen by acquiring veteran reliver Tyler Clippard for pitching prospect Casey Meisner. In another attempt to bulk up the offense, Alderson had an agreement in place with the Milwaukee Brewers that would have sent infielder Wilmer Flores and pitcher Zach Wheeler for outfielder Carlos Gomez, only to see the deal crumble because of health concerns surrounding Gomez’s hip. After the failed deal the Mets desperately needed to make a move and with the deadline fast approaching pulled the trigger for the slugger he so desperately needed, by sending pitching prospects Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa to the Detroit Tigers for outfield Yoenis Cespedes.

A year later as the Mets attempted to reach the post season for back to back years for only the second time in their history, Alderson pulled off two deadline deals. One move included the acquisition of outfielder Jay Bruce for 2B prospect Dilson Herrera and pitching prospect Max Wotell and in a last-minute deal swapped pitcher Antonio Bastardo to the Pittsburgh Pirates for former Mets pitcher, Jonathon Niese.

Once the non-waiver trade deadline passes deals can and often do occur but a specific procedure needs to be followed for a deal to get completed. A player must first be placed on revocable waivers. If the player goes unclaimed he can then be traded to any team with no restrictions, similar to any other time during the year, in season or offseason. If a player is claimed by one team a deal can only be worked out with that team. If no trade occurs than the player cannot be traded for the rest of the waiver period. If multiple teams put in a claim than the claim is awarded to the team with the lowest record based on a same league to opposite league bottom to top ranking based on record. The league that the player plays in gets the priority. This setup allows the teams chasing a division leader or wild card leader to block the team in front of them from making a deal, while the team doing the chasing can make a deal. In August, a team can be better off being the chaser.

Of the 32 in season trades made by Omar Minaya and Sandy Alderson, 12 have occurred in August, the most of any month. The first of which occurred on August 22nd 2006 when Minaya sent the teams #29 ranked prospect, pitcher Evan MacLane to the Arizona Diamondbacks for veteran outfielder Shawn Green in your typical prospect for veteran, buyer and seller deal. Eight days later 24 year old outfielder, Victor Diaz was sent to the Texas Rangers for 23 year old catcher Mike Nickeas. One year later on August 20th 2007, Omar sent the organizations #13th ranked prospect outfielder Sean Henry and middle infield prospect Jose Castro to the Cincinnati Reds for veteran 1B/OF Jeff Conine in another buyer and seller deal. In yet another late season prospect for veteran move, Minaya sent young infielder Anderson Hernandez to the Washington Nationals for veteran reliever Luis Ayala on August 17, 2008, only to reacquire him a year later on August 6th 2009 for infield prospect Greg Veloz. On August 25th 2009 it was the Mets doing the selling when closer Billy Wagner was shipped off to the Boston Red Sox for 1B Chris Carter and 1B prospect Eddie Lora. On August 31st, 2010 in what turned out to be his last trade made during his tenure as Mets GM, Omar sent OF Jeff Francoeur to the Texas Rangers for infielder Joaquin Arias.

Sandy Alderson has pulled off five August deals, including an August 14th 2012 swap of pitching prospect Pedro Beato to the Boston Red Sox for veteran catcher Kelly Shoppach. In a buyer and seller deal on August 27, 2013 New York sent veterans Marlon Byrd and John Buck to the Pittsburgh Pirates for the organizations 9th ranked prospect 2B Dilson Herrara and their 15th ranked prospect, relief pitcher Victor Black.

As the 2015 Mets continued their push for the National League division title, Alderson, who had already acquired Kelly Johnson, Juan Uribe, Tyler Clippard and Yoenis Cespedes in July deals, continued to bolster the roster in August. In an August 4th deal he sent pitching prospect Dawrin Frias to the Oakland Athletics for veteran reliever Eric O’Flaherty and three and a half weeks later dealt pitching prospects Miller Diaz and Matt Koch to the Arizona Diamondbacks for veteran reliever Addison Reed. Then is 2016 in another move to strengthen the pen, pitching prospect Erik Manoah was sent to the Los Aneles Angels In exchange the Mets received veteran reliever Fernando Salas.

All 32 trades can be divided into two basic categories, 1. Your typical buyer/seller deal (prospects for veterans) or 2. A role player for role player, the dime a dozen back of the roster guys or change of scenery move. None of these deals were block busters, none of them included a big name everyday player traded for another.

The Mets in season trades during the past twelve years are very similar to those made throughout the sport. During the course of the 2016 season the 30 teams combined to make one April trade, nine May deals, eight in June, eighteen in July, thirty-four in August (including the August 1st trade deadline) and eleven September deals. A large majority of these deals fit under the buyer/seller mode, soon to be free agent veterans traded to contending teams for prospects.

When Yoenis Cespedes returns from his hamstring injury coupled with the solid production from both Jay Bruce and Michael Conforto the Mets will have to make a decision regarding the outfield log jam, with Curtis Granderson the likely odd man out. However, when considering the history of in season trades what realistic options do the Mets have?

Curtis has been known as a great ambassador for the sport and a well-respected teammate and leader, however with his salary and current performance his value isn’t high. We can look back at the deal the Mets pulled off in April of 2014 that sent 1B Ike Davis to the Pittsburgh Pirates for pitchers Blake Taylor (Pirates #16 ranked prospect) and Zack Thornton as an example of a deal made in comparable situation.

Ike Davis and Lucas Duda created a logjam at 1B, similar to the situation the team currently has in the outfield. The organization attempted to get adequate value in offseason trade talks, but were unable to agree to a satisfactory deal.

Nonetheless there were also significant differences in comparing Ike’s value at the time to Curtis’s now. Davis was a 27-year-old earning $3,136,612 in his first year of arbitration, thus any team dealing for him would still have three years of team control. Granderson on the other hand, is in the final year of a four contract, making a $15 million salary at age 36.

Another deal that can be used as a reference would be the June 2006 swap that sent Kaz Matsui to the Colorado Rockies for utilityman Eli Marrero. Matsui was in the final year of a three year $20.1 million deal. Matsui’s performance during his tenure as a Met was a disappointment. He was praised as a solid defensive SS. So highly touted that the organization moved Jose Reyes to the 2B in favor of Kaz. While Matsui showed respectable range at SS, his throwing arm was not major league SS caliber. He lost his SS job after the 2004 season and eventually his 2B job the following year, leading to the trade to Colorado.

While past deals can give an understanding as to what value a team can get in a deal, there are many variables that determine a players value. The above mentioned deals took place three and eleven years ago, respectively. The current market will determine what a player’s trade value is just as much as it will determine a player’s value in the free agent market.

Another possible option in finding a trade partner is to look at players on other teams that have similar stats and contract status. Similar to the deal the Mets made with the Pirates last year when struggling receiver Antonio Bastardo was dealt to the Pirates, where he achieved previous success, in return for former home grown Met Jonathon Niese, who also had previous success in New York.

Sometimes something as simple as getting out of an uncomfortable market or situation or going to an environment more suited for the player can have a huge effect on performance. Todd Frazier is a very similar player to Curtis Granderson. Both have significant power, strikeout at a high rate and are known for producing low batting averages. Both are also known for being great teammates, possess tremendous leadership skills and are known their kindness off the field. Both are in their walk years. Frazier is a 31-year-old New Jersey native, making $12 million in his final year of arbitration. Granderson is a 36-year-old Chicago resident playing out the final year of a four-year contract with a salary of $15 million.

When Yoenis Cespedes returns from his hamstring injury, Granderson will once again be blocking an everyday role for Michael Conforto. With a $15 million salary, it’s hard to believe that Granderson will be benched. The White Sox have made it known they would like to clear 3B for 26-year-old Matt Davidson, who is currently serving as their DH.

The White Sox currently have a righthanded heavy lineup, while the Mets are left hand heavy. A deal sending Curtis Granderson and Lucas Duda for Todd Frazier, James Shields and utilityman Leury Garcia could be a beneficial deal for both teams. Dealing Frazier allows the Sox to move Davidson to 3B, Lucas Duda can then slide in and form a lefty-righty, 1B/DH duo with Jose Abreu, with each splitting time in each role.

With Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Seth Lugo all currently out the Mets can use the addition of a veteran arm. Salary wise this deal just about cancels each other out. As mentioned above Granderson has a $15 million salary and Duda has a $7.25 for a $22.25 million total (1/6 of which has already been paid off in April). Shields is pulling in $21 million both this year and next year, $10 million each year is being picked up by the San Diego Padres as part of the agreed deal that sent Shields to Chicago. Frazier and Shields thus combine for $23 million in 2017 salary (1/6th having been paid in April).

While the above deal may fill current holes, there are several road blocks that would prevent such a deal. While the White Sox are off to a good start, they are currently in a rebuilding process. They would likely prefer to deal Frazier for prospects rather than another soon to be free agent. However, if they remain in the race, they would without a doubt shift to buy mode, in which case veterans like Granderson and Duda could be valuable assets.

Shields and Duda have recently started rehab assignments and both have suffered setbacks. A deal wouldn’t be likely until both are physically able to return. Or they could simply make it a Granderson for Fraizer even swap, with the Mets paying the difference in salary.

At this point the most likely scenario, if a deal does occur, is that Curtis Granderson, not Jay Bruce, will be the one dealt at some point this season. The likely return will not be significant and the timing of a possible deal, depending on variety of circumstances, likely won’t occur for another month, if at all.

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