Fernando Martinez Rumors
Fred Wilpon's media blitz was actually a two-part plan. Jeffrey Toobin's article in The New Yorker was the big story Monday morning, mainly because the Mets owner was so candid about his players and team. As informative as that article was, SI's Tom Verducci has more from an interview conducted with Wilpon last week.
- The Mets are "bleeding cash," possibly $70MM this year according to Wilpon.
- Wilpon talked about investing $100MM properly, an indication that the 2012 payroll may drop about 30% to that level. This isn't a surprise; I wrote on May 2nd that a $100MM payroll next year would still give GM Sandy Alderson around $20MM to play with before accounting for minimum salary players. So while Wilpon confirmed that the Mets are not likely to reinvest the money coming off the payroll after the season, it would have been nice if someone asked him how they'd handle a potential $10MM+ saved if veterans are traded during the season.
- Verducci says the Mets "have studied the success of the Boston Red Sox in letting top veterans play out their contracts and taking the compensatory draft picks," and would only trade Jose Reyes if they receive a first-round type talent who is close to the Majors, similar to when the Athletics acquired Brett Wallace for Matt Holliday. Does this mean the Mets won't consider trades built around top prospects who are not big league ready, such as the Giants' Zack Wheeler?
- On the Reyes topic, Wilpon said, "I know there's a great question about whether we can keep the shortstop, so we're preparing for that if that should happen." He admitted that Carlos Beltran "will be elsewhere" and the Mets hope Fernando Martinez could fill his shoes. Of Martinez, Wilpon said, "He's fragile, but he can hit."
- The Mets' new investor will be treated as a partner and will have some say, even though Fred Wilpon will remain the team's designated "control person" and Jeff Wilpon will remain the COO.
- On former GM Omar Minaya, Wilpon said, "It was painful to see what Omar did to himself. Why did he do that?" I'm not sure what Wilpon is referring to specifically here.
In a move that has amused those who follow the New York Mets closely, Jeff Francoeur has gone public with his demands to be traded following New York's decision to platoon him with young outfielder Fernando Martinez.
Despite a season line of .241/.294/.385, Francoeur apparently believes a major league team would play him regularly at a position, right field, that averages production of .271/.344/.447. Indeed, Francoeur's line is well below the MLB average at second base (.266/.331/.393).
But we have yet to see how Francoeur's demand for a trade stands up to history. It isn't easy to find comparable performance among right fielders in recent years, and it's even harder to find any who were traded after performing as poorly as Francoeur.
Since 2000, just 31 of the 165 right fielders to amass at least 300 plate appearances posted an OPS+ below 100. Of those 31, only four checked in lower than Francoeur's 2010 OPS+ mark of 82: Richard Hidalgo's 2005 (81), Jeromy Burnitz's 2002 (80), Austin Kearns' 2008 (67) and Jeff Francoeur's own 2008 (72).
Kearns followed his 2008 with a similarly poor 2009 before the Nationals let him walk after last season. Burnitz followed 2002 with a half-season of a 139 OPS+ for the 2003 Mets, earning a trade to Los Angeles for Kole Strayhorn, Jose Diaz and Victor Diaz. Hidalgo never played in the majors again, and Francoeur followed his 2008 with a half-season of 68 OPS+ hitting in 2009, earning a trade to the Mets for Ryan Church.
In other words Jeff Francoeur is the only one from that group to be traded for anything at all. Incidentally, four of the 31 player seasons in right field below 100 OPS+ are from Francoeur. Only three others are on the list more than once: Juan Encarnacion (three times), Alex Rios (twice), Hidalgo (twice) and Burnitz (twice).
Encarnacion is an instructive comparison. His career OPS+ of 97 is better than, but similar to, Francoeur's 91. Encarnacion had additional value because he lacked a platoon split (amazingly, his OPS against both lefties and righties was .758) and had the ability to play center field.
In the middle of an 84 OPS+ season in 2004 at age 28, a year after he posted a 97 OPS+, the Marlins acquired Encarnacion as part of a six-player deal from the Dodgers. He went on to start 46 of Florida's remaining 58 games. His salary ($3.6MM) was roughly equivalent to the $5MM Francoeur earns in 2010.
So there is precedent. It happened one other time.
Among those under 100 OPS+ in right field, Alex Rios had a 96 OPS+ last year when the White Sox took him from the Blue Jays and agreed to pay his entire salary (at $61MM, many times as much as remains on Francoeur's deal). But Rios had three seasons of 120, 122 and 112 OPS+ in 2006-2008 under his belt, success Francoeur hasn't seen since his half-season debut in 2005.
Overwhelmingly, the players performing as poorly as Francoeur, or even demonstrably better, are simply let go, often never to surface again. Trot Nixon's 96 OPS+ in 2006 represented his last season as a regular player. So did Danny Bautista's 85 in 2004 and Derek Bell's 98 in 2000. Jose Guillen's 89 in 2000 got him sent back to the minor leagues by Tampa Bay, then released.
There's also that pesky question: who would Francoeur replace in another team's regular lineup? Of the 20 right fielders in MLB who have played more than half their games in right field this year, Francoeur ranks dead last in OPS+ with 82. The four closest to him? Jay Bruce (96), Ben Zobrist (98), Hunter Pence (102) and Ichiro Suzuki (107). It is safe to say Francoeur won't be replacing any of those players. He'd make a decent platoon partner with Bruce, but... right. Platooning led Francoeur to demand a trade in the first place.
In short, the answer to the title of this piece is: not reasonable at all. Not reasonable in light of his 2010 performance, not reasonable in terms of other right fielders, not reasonable comparatively through recent history.
Sunday night linkage..
- Jay Gibbons, who retired from baseball a season ago, is grateful for his latest opportunity with the Dodgers, writes Evan Drellich of MLB.com.
- Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times wonders why the Dodgers waited until now to designate Garret Anderson for assignment.
- The Pirates fired pitching coach Joe Kerrigan and bench coach Gary Varsho, writes Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- Mets manager Jerry Manuel told reporters that Fernando Martinez and Jeff Francoeur won't platoon all of the time, according to Michael Baron of MetsBlog. Yesterday we learned that Francoeur was unsatisfied with the arrangement and was ready to meet with GM Omar Minaya to discuss trade possibilities.
The Mets scratched Fernando Martinez and Ruben Tejada from their Triple-A lineup last night, leading to speculation that a trade could be in the works. Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reported that the team was "in dialogue" with the Mariners, but for now, no trade is imminent.
As FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweets, Martinez or Tejada have not been placed on waivers, so neither player could be traded at this point. Rubin indicated that Martinez may have been one player on the move in a hypothetical deal with Seattle, but Rosenthal suggests that the late scratches just involve "internal stuff." Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes confirms (via Twitter) that both players will join the big league club in Philadelphia.
Baseball America ranked Martinez and Tejada third and ninth respectively among Mets' prospects heading into this season. The 20-year-old Tejada earned some time in the majors earlier in the year, hitting .212/.297/.250 in 122 plate appearances, while Martinez has spent the season in high-A and triple-A, posting an overall slash line of .256/.321/.458.
Jose Reyes told Constantino Viloria at the Spanish-language New York paper La Opinion that he is open-minded about his future with the Mets. As in past interviews, Reyes dismissed the possibility that he would play anywhere but with the Mets, the organization that scouted and signed him as a teenager in the Dominican Republic. The team holds an $11MM option on Reyes for 2011, which seems a no-brainer given the options on the free agent market.
However, Reyes added a new twist by telling Viloria that while he would prefer to stay at short, he "hasn't ruled out" changing positions. More specifically, Reyes mentions that "I played several games at second base for the Mets," referring to the 43 games he logged at the keystone in 2004.
Reyes' preferences aside, there is an argument to be made for bumping the 27-year-old one slot to the right. First of all, one of the team's top position prospects (along with Fernando Martinez and others) is 18-year-old shortstop Wilmer Flores, who has been showing promise at the lower levels of the Mets system—though some see his future outside of the infield. In any event, once the Mets are free of their commitment to Luis Castillo at the end of 2011 (or sooner by trade), there is no ready replacement within the upper levels of the system save Ruben Tejada, a natural shortstop like Reyes but without his speed or offensive ceiling.
In terms of offense, Reyes' .735 OPS this season compares little better to other second basemen than it would have back in 2004, when the likes of Jeff Kent and Alfonso Soriano were setting the power bar. For now, his production puts him firmly on the Orlando Hudson watershed line (.729 OPS), well below boppers like Cano/Pedroia/Kinsler/Utley but still above the slappy types like Schumaker/Theriot/Barmes.
However, after a few more months of an injured Castillo, Alex Cora and fliers like Tejada, Reyes' willingness to switch could resurface as a topic of discussion, especially as it may give the team the flexibility to either finally trade Castillo or package one of the shortstop prospects for pitching, as has been bandied recently.
Let's continue our top trade chips series today with the NL East...
- Braves: The Braves aren't going to move Tommy Hanson and/or Jason Heyward, and they already traded away their top piece of bait this winter when they sent Javier Vazquez to the Yankees. What Atlanta does have is cache of big time pitching prospects in 20-year-old Randall Delgado,19-year-old Julio Teheran, and 19-year-old Arodys Vizcaino that they could dip into if needed.
- Marlins: Florida has been reduced to flipping players before they get expensive through arbitration, nevermind get close to free agency. Dan Uggla is the team's highest paid player and also one of its most productive, but he's perpetually on the block because he's owed $7.8MM this season and will make even more in 2011 through arbitration. The Marlins could trade him, put Chris Coghlan back at second (his natural position), and call up super-prospect Mike Stanton to fill the vacant outfield spot.
- Mets: Even though Carlos Beltran's knee is problematic and Jeff Francoeur is a perennial non-tender candidate, the team's best piece of trade bait is 21-year-old outfielder Fernando Martinez. Lefty reliever Pedro Feliciano could be used as trade fodder, but if ownership decides to part ways with GM Omar Minaya, then they could be in for a full blown firesale. Everyone not named David Wright would be available.
- Nationals: Forget Stephen Strasburg, it's obviously not happening. However, GM Mike Rizzo has a valuable piece in Josh Willingham, who is no stranger to the trade rumor circuit. He is under team control through 2011, and his production isn't far off from Bay's. Relievers Matt Capps and Brian Bruney could be dealt as well.
- Phillies: Philadelphia unloaded most of their top prospects to acquire Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay in the last nine months, so the cupboard is pretty bare. They could shop hard-throwing and oft-injured reliever Scott Mathieson, but the doomsday scenario could find Jayson Werth on the block if the Phils don't think they can re-sign him after the season. Of course that's highly unlikely, he's only the second or third best player on the top team in the league.
Links for Tuesday...
- Twins assistant GM Rob Antony told Parker Hageman of Over The Baggy that the team just hired a stats guy. Also, Antony reads MLBTR every day!
- According to Tom Gage of the Detroit News, pitcher Casey Fien asked the Blue Jays why he was released and was told he was a liability.
- Scott Podsednik told MLB.com's Scott Merkin there was miscommunication between his agent and the White Sox this offseason, but Sox assistant GM Rick Hahn disagreed.
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post wonders if the Mets will be thinking about trading Fernando Martinez for a top-notch starter come July.
- Ed Price of AOL FanHouse tweets that the Rangers are still looking at bringing Ramon Vazquez back. Vazquez is a prime candidate to be traded or released by the Pirates before the season begins, though the Rangers added Hernan Iribarren ten days ago.
A wrap-up of some items as we head into the weekend...
- Susan Slusser of The San Francisco Chronicle wonders if the Athletics erred in dealing promising outfielder Carlos Gonzalez to Colorado.
- MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli says that the Orioles are holding off on any potential Luke Scott trades until they see if Felix Pie and Nolan Reimold are healthy and can handle regular roles.
- Phillies assistant GM Scott Proefrock tells MLB.com's Todd Zolecki that the team isn't looking at free agent relievers to fill in for the injured Brad Lidge and J.C. Romero: "We're keeping our eyes open, but we're not actively pursuing. People are calling us more than we're calling them."
- The Indians have no interest in the recently-released Elijah Dukes, reports The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Paul Hoynes.
- Speaking of the Tribe, they announced in a press release that seven players were optioned to their minor league camp, the most notable of these being top catching prospect Carlos Santana. Indians GM Mark Shapiro told Hoynes that Santana was being sent down to work on his defense, but noted that Santana will "be on an accelerated program" due to his impressive bat. The ESPN Insider Rumors page speculates that the club may have made the move to delay the start of Santana's major league service time.
- In the wake of Cliff Lee's suspension, abdominal strain and possible DL stint, Dave Cameron of the U.S.S. Mariner blog notes (via Twitter) that signing Jarrod Washburn as a replacement wouldn't work since Washburn wouldn't be fit for the start of the season anyway.
- MLB.com's Marty Noble covers several topics in a reader mailbag, including how Mets prospect Fernando Martinez "is less likely trade bait now" than he has been in the past two years.
- Arn Tellem, Hideki Matsui's agent, was originally told by the outfielder that he wanted to play in the majors for 10 years, reports Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. Matsui is about to enter his eighth season, and though his current contract with the Angels is just for the 2010 campaign, I suspect the 2009 World Series MVP will last that full decade.
The incomparable Marty Noble answers many of the fan inquiries with his usual mixture of information and wit. Among other ideas, he considers:
- Just what would it take, hypothetically, to bring Adrian Gonzalez to Queens? Noble believes a package of John Maine, Fernando Martinez and Ike Davis "and perhaps more would be one to consider seriously."
- Noble likes Joel Pineiro more than Jason Marquis, adding that "I know the Mets are interested in [Bengie] Molina."
- He says that while Mark DeRosa wouldn't be a top priority, "If they can't bring back Alex Cora, DeRosa would an even better fit."
- He counters a fan's proposal to trade "Jose Reyes, Luis Castillo, Oliver Perez and Omir Santos to the Angels for Erick Aybar, Gary Matthews Jr., Ervin Santana and Jeff Mathis" with one of his own: "How about Perez for the rights to Albie Pearson?" Pearson was the 1958 AL Rookie of the Year, of course.
Some links on this Monday evening...
- The Giants have hired Hensley "Bam Bam" Meulens as their hitting coach, writes Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. Meulens - who previously held the same position with San Francisco's Triple-A affiliate - recorded an OPS of .641 in his Major League career.
- MLB.com's Chris Haft brings us a look at Bam Bam's resume. Meulens was the only candidate manager Bruce Bochy spoke to before he and GM Brian Sabean made their choice, writes Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News.
- In a radio interview this morning on WGN-AM 720, Cubs owner Tom Ricketts said that he wants the Cubs' payroll to remain in the top three in baseball. Signing John Grabow to a new deal would help towards that goal.
- MLB.com's Mets beat writer Marty Noble answered fan questions in his latest mailbag installment and says that he is not sure that the club wants to rid themselves of John Maine or Fernando Martinez. However, the Mets would be willing to part with them in a deal to acquire a much needed number two starter or power hitter.
- More Mets news from Noble as Jeff Francoeur is expected to be ready in time for spring training after undergoing thumb surgery. Francoeur, who is entering his second year of arbitration, will likely be retained by Omar Minaya & Co. However, it remains a slight possibility that the Mets do not tender the 25-year-old an offer.