12.01.07

The Mets’ Disposal Of Lastings Milledge : Worst Deal Of The Winter Or The Dumbest Trade Of All Time?

Posted in Baseball, Blogged Down at 3:39 pm by

Well, neither if you ask Gotham Baseball’s Mark Healey (“can’t blame Minaya for trying to maximize the value of a player that he didn’t draft…not even the Royals, who are scouring baseball for a toolsy OF with pop, were even the slightest bit interested.”)

Omar Minaya knew what he was trading away; a once-promising CF prospect, miscast as a corner OF with little power projection, a poor baserunner with precious little baseball savvy, a smallish frame that has yet to make it through a season without a stay on the DL, and a Timo Perez-sized ego to boot.

This isn’t to say that Minaya traded Milledge because he didn’t like his game, or as some suggest, his off-the-field eccentricities. In fact, I know for a fact that Minaya has the greatest affection and respect for Milledge as both a person and a ballplayer. The reality is that Minaya didn’t have room on his roster for a .280 hitter with limited power and a reputation for annoying his teammates and manager.

Furthermore, the baseball execs that Minaya tried to peddle Milledge to this past month didn’t feel the need to create any space on their roster either. It’s most likely that the only regret in making this deal is that Minaya didn’t deal him sooner.

The New York Observer’s Howard Megdal (link swiped from Baseball Think Factory) would beg to differ with Healy, both in terms of what the Mets have given up (“this is the worst move by the franchise since Scott Kazmir was dealt for Victor Zambrano”) and what they’re receiving in return (“Milledge is a similar player to Church, only he is still years from his peak. Church is, by any measure, on the tail end of his peak or leaving it altogether.”)

In Brian Schneider, who is due nearly $10 million over the next two years, the Mets have also acquired a catcher who is a bit better than Ramon Castro defensively, but miles worse offensively.

Schneider™s slugging percentages the last two seasons, .326 and .336, average out to .331”which was Ramon Castro™s on base percentage last year. Castro™s slugging? .556.

Put it another way. Schneider threw out roughly 30 percent of runners last season, Castro 10 percent. Even though this appears to be a fluke (Castro was at 34% in 2006, for instance), over a full season that ends up being about 15 extra bases for the opposition.

Now compare that to the offensive difference. In 2007 Schneider had 137 total bases, Castro 80. But Schneider had three times as many at bats! Give Castro Schneider™s playing time, assuming the same production, and Castro was roughly twice the offensive player Schneider was, a difference of well over 100 total bases. If Castro didn™t thrown out a runner all year in 2008, he™d still have been about 35% more valuable behind the plate than Brian Schneider.

œBrian Schneider™s going to be our everyday catcher, Minaya said. œWe™ll have as good a combination as you have in baseball.

As a bonus, the Mets now have three catchers on the roster, and will almost certainly have to release Johnny Estrada, who offered a switch-hitting option to pair with Castro without a commitment beyond 2008. When asked by MLB.com™s Marty Noble why any team would trade the Mets anything for Estrada, now that it was clear they had no place to put him on the roster, Minaya replied, œI don™t know how to answer that question.

As always, the last word on this deal oughta go to Metstradamus (“this was a bad trade when I thought Ryan Church was 25. He’s 29.”), who sounds angrier than Phil Mushnick the time he found a CDR of “Bend Ya Knees” in the family station wagon.

Here’s the kick in the head out of all of this: People are going to respond to this blog, and other Met blogs and say something along the lines of “Milledge was a dog, he didn’t run hard after that Dontrelle Willis hit in the corner during the last game of the season.” To those people I say, don’t even bother. Because guess who was benched last season for not running out a ground ball?

For those who said Ryan Church, collect your door prize.

So now, in addition to Johan Santana being pretty much out the window because Omar is at least smart enough not to put Jose Reyes in that deal, now Dan Haren is out the window. If Billy Beane was cooling a bit on Lastings Milledge, you think he’s going to take a package that includes Ryan Church and Johnny Estrada? But never fear, because Omar is probably going to sign Livan Hernandez and tell us he’s every bit as good as Santana, Haren, and Joe Blanton. Great. Let’s reunite the rest of the 2004 Expos that went 67-95, shall we? Tomo Ohka doing anything these days

To which I can only add, a source who-cannot-be-revealed (ie. not Too Short) the A’s deny they were offered Milledge this time around. Curious, Omar Minaya claimed otherwise.

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