The Mets have acquired right-hander Adrian Houser and outfielder Tyrone Taylor from the Brewers for right-handed minor leaguer Coleman Crow, per announcements from both clubs. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic first reported that Houser and Taylor were going to the Mets for a minor leaguer. Robert Murray of FanSided reported that Crow would be that minor leaguer.
David Stearns is plenty familiar with Houser and Taylor, having spent many years calling the shots in Milwaukee before becoming president of baseball operations for the Mets a couple of months ago. In both cases, the player has had some major league success but had reached arbitration and was in competition for playing time in Milwaukee. Instead, they will head to a Mets club that has been primarily focused on depth moves this offseason, while allowing the Brewers to clear a bit of payroll.
Houser, 31 in February, has been a solid contributor for the Brewers in the past five seasons, mostly as a starter. From 2019 to the present, he’s appeared in 120 games, 97 of those being starts. In his 523 2/3 innings pitched, he has an earned run average of 4.04. His 19.2% strikeout rate and 9% walk rate aren’t especially strong but he’s kept 52.5% of balls in play on the ground.
He has just over five years of service time, meaning he’s slated for free agency after 2024. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects him for a salary of $5.6MM next year. Houser might project as merely a back end starter with just one year of control, but that’s still a relative bargain compared to free agents. The Mets paid $13MM to get Luis Severino for one year, while other clubs have given out comparable deals. Jack Flaherty got $14MM, Kyle Gibson $13MM, Lance Lynn $11MM, Wade Miley $8.5MM and Martín Pérez $8MM.
In Milwaukee, Houser was slated to be behind Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta and Miley, battling pitchers like Colin Rea, Joe Ross, Janson Junk, Aaron Ashby and Robert Gasser for starts. But instead, he’ll jump to a somewhat similar spot with the Mets. His new club has Kodai Senga, José Quintana and Severino in three spots, with pitchers like Tylor Megill, Joey Lucchesi and José Butto options for the back end. The club has been heavily linked to Yoshinobu Yamamoto and everyone would move down one spot if they successfully land him, but Houser should be in line for a role at the back of the rotation either way. He will have a leg up on Megill, Lucchesi and Butto in the sense that they can still be optioned to the minors but Houser cannot, as a player with more than five years of service time.
Taylor, 30 in January, seemed to establish himself as a viable big leaguer in 2021 and 2022. He got into 213 games for the Brewers over that stretch, hitting 29 home runs and slashing .239/.300/.448 for a wRC+ of 104. He also got strong grades for his outfield defense in all three spots and produced 3.4 wins above replacement, according to FanGraphs.
But he dealt with an elbow sprain in Spring Training this year, which caused him to miss the first month of the season and then another month-plus in the middle of the year. He only got into 81 games and had diminished production when in the lineup, hitting .234/.267/.446 on the year.
He reached arbitration for the first time this winter and is projected to make $1.7MM, with two years of control beyond that. He was also going to be part of a crowded outfield mix in Milwaukee that includes Christian Yelich, Jackson Chourio, Garrett Mitchell, Sal Frelick, Blake Perkins, Joey Wiemer and Chris Roller.
With the Mets, they have Brandon Nimmo in center but the corners are more questionable. Starling Marte was dealing with groin issues in 2023, missing roughly half the season and struggling when on the field. DJ Stewart finished the season on a hot streak at the plate but is a poor defender and better suited to be rotating through the designated hitter spot or pinch-hitting duties. Taylor’s righty bat could also potentially platoon with the lefty Stewart. Taylor has fairly neutral splits in his career but Stewart has been far better with the platoon advantage.
Crow, 23 later this month, was drafted by the Angels. He was traded to the Mets in the Eduardo Escobar deal in June but underwent Tommy John surgery in August, meaning he may miss most or all of the 2024 season. At the time of the Escobar trade, he was ranked the Angels’ #17 prospect at Baseball America and #8 at FanGraphs. He’s currently listed 25th in the Mets’ system at BA and 20th at FG. He tossed 128 Double-A innings in 2022 with a 4.85 ERA.
Aside from their pursuit of Yamamoto, the Mets have mostly been focused on adding depth this winter. They have claimed Penn Murfee, Zack Short, Tyler Heineman and Cooper Hummel off waivers. They have given one-year deals to Severino, Joey Wendle, Michael Tonkin, Jorge López and Austin Adams. They have also given minor league deals to Cole Sulser, Kyle Crick, José Iglesias, Taylor Kohlwey, Rylan Bannon, Trayce Thompson and Cam Robinson. Now they have bolstered their rotation and outfield with a couple of solid regulars.
For the Brewers, they are cutting a projected $7.3MM from their 2024 payroll. They are subtracting a bit of depth in the process but still have plenty of other options for their rotation and outfield even after this deal, while taking a flier on a long-term prospect in Crow.
Roster Resource currently pegs next year’s payroll at $104MM, well below last year’s Opening Day mark of $119MM, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts. There have been plenty of trade rumors this winter surrounding guys like Burns and Willy Adames, but it doesn’t appear as though the club needs to make a move of either of those guys just for payroll purposes, assuming they are willing to have a similar payroll to 2023.
As for the Mets, they are taking on that $7.1MM but could end up paying more. RR currently has their competitive balance tax number at $298MM, just above the fourth and highest threshold of $297MM. As a third time payor, their tax rates in each bracket are 50%, 62%, 95% and 110%. But the tax isn’t calculated until the end of the year. If the club isn’t competitive at the deadline and they trade some players with notable salaries, they could change their final position. Though signing Yamamoto for something in the $250-300MM range would obviously push them even further beyond their current level.