July 22, 2009
The Mets Should Consider Trading Frankie

Several weeks ago, I declared Francisco Rodriguez an “untouchable” member of the Mets, a player who should not be available for trade. On that day, the Mets were just twogames out of first place and the chances of the missing superstars returning from injury were better than they are now. The suggestion of trading the team’s best relief pitcher would have been foolish then, but it certainly isn’t now. “Blasphemy”, some might say. “He’s the Mets’ MVP”, declare others. With hopes of a playoff run essentially dashed, the Mets should look to trade certain players, and Frankie is one of them.

The perception of Frankie’s season is much sunnier than reality. His strikeouts and groundballs are down, and his walks are up. These peripherals are much more useful for evaluating his performance, rather than the stellar 1.90 ERA. This stat has more to do with his lucky .245 BABIP than anything, and his FIP of 3.76 and tERA of 3.47 are more precise measures. These declining peripherals, which were pointed out in numerous places, were just one reason why the Frankie signing this past offseason was a poor allocation of resources by Omar Minaya. With a limited amount of money to spend, Omar handed a three-year, $37 million contract to a pitcher likely to account for just 5% of the pitching staff’s innings. Meanwhile, an older but arguably better pitcher in Brian Fuentes signed for two years and $17.5 million. Before the season, I noted that the Rodriguez/Oliver Perez tandem signed for about the same as Fuentes/Derek Lowe, but the latter duo was far more valuable from 2007 to 2008. Nothing has changed, and here are the win values for all four pitchers in 2009 (Statcorner’s WAR is used for the starters; Fangraphs’ WAR for the relievers as it accounts for leverage):

Rodriguez: 0.5
Perez: -0.4
Total: 0.1

Fuentes: 1.1
Lowe: 1.8
Total: 2.9

I’m not including this as some sort of I-told-ya-so statement, and maybe it’s for the best that the Mets didn’t sign Lowe. This is simply a way to demonstrate that it is silly to invest great sums of money in relief pitchers. An above average position player will often be just as valuable as the most elite reliever. In his silly-good 2008 season, Mariano Rivera was a 3.1 WAR pitcher. This equals Placido Polanco’s value in the same year. Omar Minaya was hell-bent on improving the bullpen this offseason, and he accomplished that, on paper atleast. He had no funds leftover to improve the lineup, namely the black-hole corner outfield positions. Big money is better spent on position players and starting pitchers.

Next year’s free agent class is pretty weak (Matt Holliday? Jason Bay? No thank you.) How is this team going to improve? One way is to trade Frankie for major league ready talent or top prospects. Even if the Mets have to eat some of the money owed to him, it is a viable option. The key is to find some fool of a GM will be blinded by the shiny ERA and saves record and overpay for a pitcher who probably won’t come close to living up to his contract. Here are a few possibilities:

Astros: They are once again outperforming their Pythagorean Record, although their bullpen has struggled despite some decent work from LaTroy Hawkins. General Manager Ed Wade is always in a trading mood, but their farm system is one of the worst in baseball. For this reason it would be ideal to seek out a big leaguer in a trade, namely Hunter Pence. He’s an above average hitter who has improved his plate discipline, and is still just 25. His strong throwing arm makes him a solid fielder as well. Pence looks like a 3-4 win player for years to come, a Jayson Werth type in terms of value. Would Wade give him up in a trade? Who knows, but it’s worth inquiring at the least. The Mets would certainly have to sweeten the deal for a player as good as Pence, with a prospect and/or eating some of Frankie’s deal.

Cubs: Kevin Gregg has performed admirably in the closer’s role and Angel Guzman has been a nice surprise. However, Carlos Marmol is walking a batter per inning, Aaron Heilman is Aaron Heilman, and Jeff Samardzija is still learning how to get out major league hitters. The Cubs have grossly underachieved this year but are still very much in the playoff hunt. Maybe GM Jim Hendry would be willing to part with Kosuke Fukudome?

Tigers: With Joel Zumaya once again headed to the DL, the Tigers poor bullpen is looking even weaker. Current closer Fernando Rodney has not blown a save this year, but he is 32 years old and has some injury concerns. Prospects should be the target here, with OF’s Casper Wells and Wilkin Ramirez enticing options.

Finding a team with the financial resources to take on Frankie’s contract is a major obstacle. Realistically, there probably isn’t much of a market for his services, unless the Mets want to be completely ripped off by another team. However, it can’t hurt to atleast make some inquiries around MLB.

I like Francisco Rodriguez a lot. Watching his point-to-the-sky celebration after a save is a highlight of every win, although it’s a rare occurrence these days. However, I like the Mets more and welcome any trade that can improve the team.

9 Responses to “The Mets Should Consider Trading Frankie”

  1. Comment posted by Virginia Met’s Fan on July 22, 2009 at 8:57 am (#1036711)

    Why not trade him? Its not like we’ll be needing those saves anyway.

  2. Comment posted by Kneel Before Zod! on July 22, 2009 at 9:12 am (#1036726)


    you are annoying

  3. Comment posted by John on July 22, 2009 at 9:23 am (#1036741)

    There’s two lines of thinking here. One is……the mets were never a playoff team to being with (even without the injuries) and thus we should start selling and improve the team.

    The other is injuries have been a major factor and we should KEEP our major players and make incremental improvements to do team. We might not be able to get big time players in return but we might not need big time players.

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  5. Comment posted by MetsFanSince71 on July 22, 2009 at 9:34 am (#1036771)

    This season was decimated by injuries.
    Trading KRod is a knee-jerk reaction.
    Declining numbers or not, KRod is relatively cheap and better than most options out there.

    I’d hate the Mets to go into 2010 looking for yet another new closer.
    We need to rebuild other areas and the pen isn’t even a major concern for me right now.

  6. Comment posted by Danny on July 22, 2009 at 9:36 am (#1036773)

    Frankie is certainly not performing at a level that would deem him untouchable. His raw stuff tells me that his peripherals have the potential to improve and move back toward his earlier levels. So I’m a bit torn.

    If we DO trade Frankie, I would certainly hope we would get something back better than Kosuke Fukudome though. Pence, I guess. But we should try to hit a HR if you trade a guy with the reputation and effectiveness of K-Rod.

  7. Comment posted by Ed in Westchester on July 22, 2009 at 9:48 am (#1036793)

    The problem with trading Frankie is that it leaves a huge hole in the bullpen. I don’t see any internal options. And I do not think there are any FA options. JJ Putz imo, is not an option, we have no idea how he will rebound.

    And I have an issue with comparing Lowe/Fuentes to LOLlie/Frankie.

    Lowe and Fuentes are in different leagues. As a result, Lowe is facing a different set of batters. He may not do as well in the AL.

    Fuentes also got off to a bad start this year. Who knows if he would have pulled it out in NY. Add to that the abysmal play of the Mets. How would he have performed. IIRC he was removed as Rockies closer in years past.

    LOLlie of course, well, sucks.

    And I doubt the Wilpons would pay part of his salary. They wouldn’t cut Castillo. You have to think that any team would want the Mets to pay a hefty part of Frankies salary.

  8. Comment posted by attgig on July 22, 2009 at 2:41 pm (#1037128)

    I love the thought, and I would love to trade for Hoffpauir or Fox from the Cubs. The cubs NEED relief pitching. their offense isn’t spectacular, but they have no reason to believe that with Lee heating up, Aramis getting back into the day to day, that their offense will not rebound. However, their relievers have given up game after game.

    Meanwhile, I think Hoffpauir could fill in in the corner spots and take over Delgado’s spot next year. Fox has been awesome with the bat, but bats righty (with franceour now in… having 3 righties may be too much), and isn’t as capable defensively.

    I think Cubs could be desperate enough to do it with their pen the way it is.

    Btw, the fuentes/lowe comparison isn’t quite fair in matching up $$. the mets were the team that set the market. Fuentes was demanding more money from the mets vs what he eventually got with the angels.

    And besides that, if you REALLY want to do hindsight 20/20 contract comparisions, I think it’s obvious that we should’ve signed Randy Wolf for a fraction of Ollie or Lowe, and got great production out of him. And speaking of other cheap signings, would’ve been nice of we had Orlando Hudson in our lineup as well. Throw in Abreu. Go by their base contracts, put all three of them together, and you get ~13 mil… price of 1 year of ollie OR frankie? ~12 mil.

  9. Comment posted by Tim in LA on July 22, 2009 at 5:00 pm (#1037429)

    I was all for trading Frankie until people started listing who they wanted to get for him. I think we’re way underselling the value of the major league single season saves record holder, under contract and under 28. We don’t just get Hoffpauir, we get a heist.

    Of course it’s not happening anyway, but I think you’re way underestimating his value on the market. Few GMs pay much attention to peripherals. They want to say, “Hey, I got you the single season saves record holder!”

  10. Comment posted by coolpapabell on July 23, 2009 at 9:57 am (#1037799)

    I am open to the idea of unloading Frankie for a good young talent. Names like Fukudome, do little to interest me. I could see if we had a replacement for Frankie, but we don’t and we would just plug a hole and creat a new one. I doubt we would be able to find a replacement as effective as Frankie.

    As for next off-season, we could plug the holes in our line-up with .800 OPS guys(Holliday, and N.Johnson) or we could just wait to spend real money the year after with Joe Mauer, Carl Crawford, Victor Martinez, and the polarizing Adam Dunn. By then we would know what we have with Francoeur, and Murphy. Off course these guys can easily sign extensions, and assuming the Wilpons arn’t as broke as they say they are.