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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Davidoff: Mets’ fear of tearing it all down puts them behind Astros

As we sit on Thursday, the Astros (30-37) are percentage points ahead of the Mets (29-36). From Opening Day 2009 through the present, the Astros are 342-535, a .390 winning percentage. In the same time period, the Mets are 403-472 (.461). Few would dispute the Astros possess a deeper base of young talent than do the Mets, with rookies Jon Singleton and George Springer joining the club this year and many more coming.

You know why the Astros’ future seems brighter than the Mets’? In my opinion, it’s because the Astros committed to an epic rebuild, while the Mets tried to sort of have it both ways, even as they slashed their payroll at an unconscionable rate.

Earlier this season, I was chatting with a talent evaluator from an American League team, and I asked him if he was as high on the Mets’ organizational pitching as everyone else seemed to be. Yes, the official said, he was.

But then he volunteered: “What I don’t get about the Mets is why they didn’t sell high on guys like Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda.”

You could reasonably throw Dillon Gee, Jon Niese and Bobby Parnell into that conversation, and Ike Davis, too, back when he was a prized Mets piece rather than the human roller coaster he became.

Ironically, this is an instance in which you can fault Mets ownership for not being cheap enough. In neglecting to look at a bigger picture. And really, I’m not even sure how much we should fault them.

bobm Posted: June 12, 2014 at 06:25 PM | 50 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: astros, mets

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   1. Walt Davis Posted: June 12, 2014 at 08:51 PM (#4724577)
But then he volunteered: “What I don’t get about the Mets is why they didn’t sell high on guys like Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda.”

You could reasonably throw Dillon Gee, Jon Niese and Bobby Parnell into that conversation, and Ike Davis, too, back when he was a prized Mets piece rather than the human roller coaster he became.


Because they were/are cheap, cost-controlled players in their prime.

Also they were never very good. Duda and Murphy in particular never had any real buzz and neither had demonstrated they could actually handle any defensive position yet. You were never going to get much of anything for either -- they were never really high enough to sell. Ike Davis, sure, if you'd had the foresight to trade him in May 2011 when he had a 156 OPS+ and was about to get injured. By the end of 2012, he was just a league-average 1B about to enter super-2. He cost the Mets just $3.1 M for 2013 and just $3.5 for 2014, both of which looked like perfectly good value.

Similarly Gee is making "real" money for the first time this year and putting up his best year in ERA+ terms. If he can hold this up for the rest of the year, then he has real trade value. They probably should have tried to sucker somebody on Parnell after 2013.

As to the Astros ... this year they made a trade FOR the "expensive" "veteran" Dexter Fowler ... basically the sort of player Davidoff is asking the Mets to trade AWAY. They signed Scott Feldman ... basically the sort of pitcher Davidoff is asking the Mets to trade AWAY.

Looking at other trades the Astros made ...

They traded Jed Lowrie for Chris Carter ... oops. (also Brad Peacock who's been serviceable and Max Stassi who could turn into Miguel Olivo I suppose)

They traded Jose Veras away which is always a good idea no matter what you get back.

They traded Mark Melancon for Lowrie ... sort of like trading Parnell I guess.

They traded Happ and Lyon to the Jays for too many guys to check if any of them have been doing well in the minors.

They traded Myers for a couple of 23-year-old pitchers with decent enough peripherals but not making any clear progress.

They traded Wandy Rodriguez for a 23-year-old pitcher with meh peripherals who's not making any clear progress, Robbie Grossman who looks kinda like Jackie Bradley without the defense and Rudy Owen who looks like a former pitching prospect.

And the big trade ... Pence for Singleton and Cosart (whose stock must be falling).

There was also the Oswalt trade but (a) I'm not sure that was Luhnow and (b) it didn't really turn into anything although Villar could still turn out OK.

That's really just one good trade and it was of a player of higher quality, better track record and more expensive than anybody Davidoff is suggesting. The trades that are most similar to those Davidoff is suggesting are the Lowrie, Melancon, Happ/Lyon, Myers and maybe Wandy trades (Wandy maybe being too good for this bunch) and the Astros have received very little of value in those trades.

The question is whether the Mets should have traded Wright. That's the closest analogy to the Pence trade although obviously Wright is much better than Pence.

Certainly it's possible the long-term future of the Mets would be a bit brighter if they'd traded off Ike, Duda, Murphy, Gee, Niese and Parnell in exchange for 12 not-super prospects in that 1-2 of those prospects might have broken out. But the trades of Lowrie, Happ, Wandy, Melancon have very little to do with the brightness of the Astros' future.

Obviously losing 110 games a year for the last 3 years might have brightened the future of the Mets.

On the Astros ... you've got Dallas Keuchel a 26-year-old, 7th round pick from 2009 whose development seemed to be going backwards in 2011-12. He's striking out more guys in the majors than he did in the minors. Go figure.

Collin McHugh is interesting ... look like good minors track record to me but never given a real chance and he's 27. Could have a nice find there.

Springer has potential but the K-rate is not good, the on-contact numbers are unlikely to be sustained and he's heading for a big fall if he doesn't get the Ks under control. But, yeah, they now have solid players at C, 1B (probably), 2B, 3B, CF and RF which is a real improvement over where they were 2 years ago. But Castro and Altuve were already there and Fowler is the sort of player Davidoff is suggesting the Mets should have traded away.

Oops I missed a trade, a very good one for the Astros ... Carlos Lee for Matt Domingues. I suppose Murphy is now sorta equivalent to Carlos Lee.
   2. SoCalDemon Posted: June 12, 2014 at 08:54 PM (#4724578)
I am not going to defend the Mets, but after seeing what the A's did from 2007-11, and where they are now, I think the idea of the epic rebuild is greatly over-rated. The A's bottomed out at 74-88, and went .500 one of those years. To me, that is what a "rebuilding" team should shoot for. Watching those teams, you had hope. They always had young talent (much of which didnt work out until 2012), but you always felt like they could win any given game. Beane certainly made some mistakes, and I think a few years thought he was closer to contention than he was (the Holliday trade comes to mind), but overall, the A's were able to very successfully rebuild while still fielding competitive teams. There were several years in that stretch where I think if everything had broken right they would have been in the thick of a playoff race (which Beane basically never through away future promise for to chase). Watching those years as a fan, they weren't necesarily fun, but I always had hope going into each season while also seeing that there was a plan in place for the future. The Astros are suddenly a very, very interesting team, but they seem to have decimated their fan base to get there...that seems like a harsh trade-off. And I know that the Astros were in pretty dire straights 3-4 years ago in terms of talent coming up, but most teams should be able to field a legitimate 70-75 win team without harm to the future.
   3. Ray (RDP) Posted: June 12, 2014 at 09:59 PM (#4724598)
The Granderson signing for a team projected to lose 90 games was pointless. Sort of like a "we're serious; no, really, we're serious" sort of move.

The corner OFs are a problem, as is the SS. Duda is barely a passable 1B.

I don't fault them for the C not hitting yet.

The manager sucks, as, frankly, does the GM.

They do have good pitchers and pitching prospects. But the offense is a bloody mess. 89 OPS+ and everyone has pretty much been healthy.
   4. TerpNats Posted: June 12, 2014 at 10:06 PM (#4724601)
To Mr. Davidoff: The Mets were understandably afraid of the reaction from your paper and the area's other tabloids (the Daily News and Newsday) because of the old shibboleth, "New York teams don't rebuild."
   5. JE (Jason) Posted: June 12, 2014 at 11:05 PM (#4724631)
The manager sucks, as, frankly, does the GM.

What, no love for ownership? I have a difficult time believing it was Alderson's decision to give four years to Granderson.
You were never going to get much of anything for either -- they were never really high enough to sell.

Murph is making close to $6M. After this evening's game, his slash line is .303/.359/.424 and both FG and BR are seeing improvements in his defense. Start looking for takers.
   6. Walt Davis Posted: June 13, 2014 at 12:31 AM (#4724666)
both FG and BR are seeing improvements in his defense.

b-r isn't. (somebody else can check FG) He's at -6 in 569 innings compared to -15 in 1334 innings last year and -10 in 1127 innings in 2012. That's the same lousy defense all three years. He is hitting much better than those years though.

But all part of my point. Murphy now has established himself as an average-ish MLer -- decent bat (good for 2B, meh in a corner) and limited defense (lousy at 2B, probably fine at 1B). But that took a while and he's probably at his max trade value right now. It is a good time now to trade Murphy but now he'll be an FA after next year -- so what do you get for 1.5 years of a Daniel Murphy?

The same holds for Duda. He seems to have wrestled 1B to a draw -- average through about 1100 innings now. So assume he's a league-average 1B and they have 3 more years of control left. Isn't that exactly what a rebuilding team is looking for -- cheap, average or better talent? But then if cheap, controlled, league-average 1B had a lot of trade value, they'd have gotten more for Ike Davis.

I don't mean to suggest these guys aren't tradeable -- they're eminently tradeable. Murphy, Duda, Gee, Niese are all decent ... but they're also all under 30, cheap and under control through at least next year. These are the sorts of players you hope the prospects you get in a trade become. It's just not clear that it's a good idea to trade 4 guys for 8 prospects whose realistic ceiling is to become those 4 guys but likely only 2 of them reach that ceiling.

The main argument in favor of trading guys like this is probably Beane who does it all the time. He traded Swisher on the verge of arbitration. The main guy he got back was Gio Gonzalez who he traded on the verge of arbitration. In that trade he got Tommy Milone (average + starter) and Derek Norris (surprisingly good C) who are now on the verge of arbitration.*

Swisher gave the A's 9 WAR. Gio was terrible then broke through for 7 WAR (Swisher was terrible then bounced back to being Swisher and producing 6 WAR total over his next 3 years of control). OK Sweeney did a lot more for Oakland than I remembered, giving them 6 WAR so we shouldn't ignore him. Milone has given them 3 WAR and will be arb eligible next year; Norris has given 4 WAR but has another year before arb while Gio put up 8 WAR (at considerably more expense).

If you can manage to keep trading a 2-3 WAR arb-eligible player for 2-3 WAR worth of pre-arb players, that's obviously a good thing. But you'll note it didn't really gain the A's much in the way of WAR, it simply saved them money. Money they've wasted on Jim Johnson and other illustrious "high-priced" busts. The Mets aren't supposed to be a franchise that has to worry about saving $5-10 M in arb costs.

So, sure, if you can get a pre-arb Swisher or Gio or Milone/Norris in exchange for Duda or Murphy or maybe even Niese, make that trade. But it's not likely to make the 2015-2017 Mets particularly better unless they get great return on the $5-10 M saved on those contracts.

* He also got Peacock who was part of the Lowrie trade. And AJ Cole who never became anything but I think was part of another trade.

   7. CrosbyBird Posted: June 13, 2014 at 01:57 AM (#4724678)
The Granderson signing actually is turning out to be okay, at least for 2014. He's gotten that OPS+ to 106 despite a brutal start and he's a plus on defense. I still hate it for the length of the contract, but he's no longer killing the team like he was early in the season.

Duda has been perfectly serviceable as a 1B, and he's outplaying Ike Davis. I don't think he ever had a ton of trade value. I especially don't see him having a great chance of being traded for a player that ends up being a league-average 1B.

Most of the offensive players on the Mets have been fairly close to matching reasonable expectations. Murphy and Lagares have been really good. But two players in particular are killing them on offense: Travis d'Arnaud and David Wright. David Wright was supposed to be the best offensive player on the team, and he's slugging .368. I'll give d'Arnaud a pass this year as he develops, but Wright is really scary if he doesn't seriously rebound. The Mets are on the hook for 6 more years after 2014.

The Mets actually have a fair offense, as surprising as that may sound. They're .03 runs/game below league-average despite playing in a lousy hitting park. They lead the NL in walks. They're also 3rd in SB (50) with a little below a 75% success rate.

I think pitching is a bigger issue right now; the Mets lead the NL in walks given up. Wheeler and Mejia have been very inconsistent. Gee can't get back on the mound. Colon has been lousy. The bullpen has been wretched. And Collins is a lousy manager.

I don't want to get too bent out of shape though. This is a .500ish talent-level team with a crappy record in one-run games (8 wins, 17 losses). I expect them to end the season ahead of the Astros, for what little that matters.
   8. kthejoker Posted: June 13, 2014 at 01:58 AM (#4724679)
The Astros also traded Bud Norris for LJ Hoes who might still figure it out and a good prospect in Josh Hader.

And they got two of their pitchers from Atlanta for Michael Bourn.
   9. Arbitol Dijaler Posted: June 13, 2014 at 06:17 AM (#4724688)

What, no love for ownership? I have a difficult time believing it was Alderson's decision to give four years to Granderson.


Granderson has 1.3 fWAR and 1.7 bWAR so far, FWIW. Both systems really like his defense in right. By those measures, he's earning his contract in the early going.

his is a .500ish talent-level team with a crappy record in one-run games (8 wins, 17 losses).


And as a result their Pythag is 32-33. If Wright were hitting, they might be pretty good, but I don't know what's wrong with him or if it will get ... right [!!!]. Hopefully they get watchable again soon.
   10. formerly dp Posted: June 13, 2014 at 07:22 AM (#4724690)
Colon has been lousy.
Eh, I'm not sure about that. He's had 3 bad starts, but they've been really bad-- at least 6 ER in each. Even in those starts, though, he has lasted 4.2, 5, and 5.2 innings. He's had 5 starts where he gave up 2 ER or less, and 3 where he has given up 3 ER. He has gone 7 innings (or more) in 7 starts. He's giving them innings, and unlike the rest of the staff, he's doing it without walking a ton (12 in 12 starts). I'd be a little more worried about the 9 homers if 4 of them hadn't all come in that one disaster of a game against the Angels.

Gee should be back early next month, not sure about Lagares, and d'Arnaud is killing it since going down, Collins says he'll be back after 50 or so ABs, provided he's hitting. DeGrom has been decent-- not setting the world on fire, but holding his own and definitely stepping into the conversation for 2015 based on what he's done so far.

What's more concerning is that 2 of their prospects seemed to have stalled completely-- Flores has been on the bench and not hitting much when he has been in the lineup (though playing a surprisingly OK SS last time I looked), and Puello is showing that Vegas doesn't magically make everyone Barry Bonds.
   11. JE (Jason) Posted: June 13, 2014 at 08:08 AM (#4724701)
Granderson has 1.3 fWAR and 1.7 bWAR so far, FWIW. Both systems really like his defense in right. By those measures, he's earning his contract in the early going.

Isn't Granderson mostly in left these days?
   12. Arbitol Dijaler Posted: June 13, 2014 at 08:36 AM (#4724710)
Nope, mostly right (55 games this season).
   13. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 13, 2014 at 08:54 AM (#4724716)
I think the idea of the epic rebuild is greatly over-rated. The A's bottomed out at 74-88, and went .500 one of those years. To me, that is what a "rebuilding" team should shoot for. Watching those teams, you had hope

Concur. the total tear-down is just too damaging to the revenue streams, especially in a large market.

It doesn't make sense to gain a year or two on the pace of a rebuild if it drives your sustainable payroll from $120M to $75M, which the Astros very well may have done.
   14. JE (Jason) Posted: June 13, 2014 at 09:20 AM (#4724731)
Nope, mostly right (55 games this season).

I see that Abreu started in RF and Granderson in LF in two of the three games against the Brewers. Isn't this what we're likely to see against RHP moving forward?
   15. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 13, 2014 at 09:23 AM (#4724733)
I see that Abreu started in RF and Granderson in LF in two of the three games against the Brewers. Isn't this what we're likely to see against RHP moving forward?

I am shocked to find Abreu is actually hitting well (122 OPS+, not BABIP inflated).

How awful does his defense look?
   16. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: June 13, 2014 at 09:28 AM (#4724740)
I watched the last few innings of the Astros' game last night and they are a pretty interesting little team. Not particularly good yet but a number of players who are enjoyable to watch. You've got your good players/prospects like Springer, Singleton and Altuve and a couple of guys who may or may not be good but do some interesting and fun things like Villar and Carter. I don't know enough about the pitching to say whether or not guys like Kuechel and McHugh are actually any good but they are pitching well right now it looks like.
   17. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: June 13, 2014 at 09:29 AM (#4724741)
I think the idea of the epic rebuild is greatly over-rated. The A's bottomed out at 74-88, and went .500 one of those years. To me, that is what a "rebuilding" team should shoot for. Watching those teams, you had hope


Concur. the total tear-down is just too damaging to the revenue streams, especially in a large market.

It doesn't make sense to gain a year or two on the pace of a rebuild if it drives your sustainable payroll from $120M to $75M, which the Astros very well may have done.


Thirded. This isn't fantasy baseball where there is no meaningful impact to being completely horrible and it's not the NBA where you can pretty much count on getting a superstar who transforms your team with a high pick.
   18. Astroenteritis (tom) Posted: June 13, 2014 at 10:04 AM (#4724775)
I just don't think the two situations were comparable. There isn't much appreciation for just how bad things were for the Astros at the end of the McLane era. The baseball side of the operation was Chernobyled by McLane, and the rest of the organization wasn't much better off. I'm a big supporter of the Luhnow plan, and I think the best choice was to proceed as he did, knowing it was a good way to try and build for sustained success. Many fans disagree, but I don't see much difference in sitting through a few 60-win seasons, or a few 71-win seasons. The Mets weren't in anything close to as bad a shape, and it wouldn't have made sense to blow everything up. I'm not that familiar with the Mets ownership situation, but that does seem to be an issue. While the Astros could reason that the veterans they traded were going to be in decline by the time the team had a chance to be competitive, the Mets had no reason to believe they couldn't become competitive with the right moves, so why get rid of everyone?

In short, the Astros situation was very unusual and I don't think many teams have been in position to consider such a drastic approach.

The impact on revenue streams and payroll, as #13 points out, is an important consideration. However, when the Astros get their TV mess sorted out, and if the team shows improvement, they won't have much problem sustaining a $100M or higher payroll, IF the ownership is willing. That is the next big unknown for Houston. What will Crane do when the payroll needs to be much higher?


   19. Roger McDowell spit on me! Posted: June 13, 2014 at 10:40 AM (#4724812)
A good Beane trade that was arb related that Walt missed was Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney for Josh Reddick.
   20. formerly dp Posted: June 13, 2014 at 10:47 AM (#4724822)
It is a good time now to trade Murphy but now he'll be an FA after next year -- so what do you get for 1.5 years of a Daniel Murphy?
A contender with a desperate need might throw the Mets something decent-- and in Flores, they have a potential replacement all lined up, though he'll probably have some growing pains both with the bat and glove. I do think Murphy's trade value is higher than it was 3 months ago.

Also, wondering how much of the playing time decisions are coming from Alderson vs. Collins-- letting Flores waste on the bench so that Tejada can have another 7 games to fall back into suckitude seems like a poor use of an asset. Flores could be in AAA raking, honing skills at SS, and pushing his trade value higher. As it stands, his entire callup has looked like a waste of time-- tough for a guy who has played everyday his whole career to suddenly have to earn his job with every start.
   21. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: June 13, 2014 at 10:56 AM (#4724833)
Walt is right. It SEEMS like by trading away their entire roster, the Astros must have acquired a bunch of prospects who will be the building blocks of a new Astros generation of stars. But the players they got in the trades are mostly unrelated to their current success, either that or they should have just kept the players they traded because they weren't exactly breaking the budget (Lowrie, Melancon). Exception of course is the prospects they got from the Phillies.

This is the same thing that happened with the Brewers rebuilding project that followed the Jeffrey Hammonds era, and the more recent Pirates campaign where in 2008-09 they traded away just about everyone they had, and the only players they got back who contributed to the recent good Pirates teams were Jose Tabata, Josh Harrison, Jeff Locke and Bryan Morris. Might as well have just sent the whole roster to the Yankees along with Xavier Nady.
   22. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: June 13, 2014 at 11:02 AM (#4724841)
It is a good time now to trade Murphy but now he'll be an FA after next year -- so what do you get for 1.5 years of a Daniel Murphy?


You get more or less the same kind of offers that the Cubs were getting for Nate Schierholtz last year. Whether or not that's good enough is up to you.
   23. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: June 13, 2014 at 11:08 AM (#4724846)
and the more recent Pirates campaign where in 2008-09 they traded away just about everyone they had, and the only players they got back who contributed to the recent good Pirates teams were Jose Tabata, Josh Harrison, Jeff Locke and Bryan Morris


The Nate McLouth trade brought back Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke, and the deal that sent Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett to the Nats gave the Pirates Joel Hanrahan, who was subsequently flipped for Mark Melancon and Stolmy Pimentel.
   24. Tricky Dick Posted: June 13, 2014 at 11:10 AM (#4724847)
I agree with 18 that the tear down was justified by the state of the Astros' farm system. The farm system was in really bad shape, and the strategy was intended as a means of accelerating a rebuild of the farm system, which it has done. I'm not sure that it applies to the Mets' situation, because I'm not as familiar with the state of their farm system when Alderson took over.

In retrospect, I think the most significant impact of the Astros' mid-season trades was the negative effect on W-L%, which basically guaranteed first pick position in all rounds of the draft. This virtually guaranteed that the Astros would have the most money to spend on the draft. The draft bonus pool difference just between picking first and second is substantial, and even more significant compared to picking outside the top 10. And obviously the Mets were hurt because their top pick was unprotected for free agent compensation. In any event, the draft position is an important element to rebuilding the farm system.

With just a little winning spurt over the last month, plus buzz created by the recently called up prospects Singleton and Springer, the Astros' attendance was 35,000 on Thursday night against the D-Backs. When the Astros have a good product on the field, I think the fan base will return. (Given the fan reaction to Springer and Singleton, I can only imagine what the reaction will be when Carlos Correa is called up to the big league team.) The biggest issue for retaining the fan base and revenue stream is the screwed up broadcast situation, which has little or nothing to do with the tear down strategy. Getting the RSN out of bankruptcy and fixing the broadcast problem is probably the most critical factor for the Astros' future payroll capability.
   25. Conor Posted: June 13, 2014 at 11:11 AM (#4724849)
You get more or less the same kind of offers that the Cubs were getting for Nate Schierholtz last year. Whether or not that's good enough is up to you.


Murphy seems like a much better player than Schierholtz to me, no?

Murphy is a better hitter (career 109 wRC+ to 94 Schierholtz) plays an meh 2B compared to the OF, and can play every day. For the next few years you're probably talkign a 2.5-3 win player. Seems like a better player than Schierholtz. But I am a Met fan.
   26. formerly dp Posted: June 13, 2014 at 11:22 AM (#4724860)
Murphy is a better hitter (career 109 wRC+ to 94 Schierholtz) plays an meh 2B compared to the OF, and can play every day.
And he can run a little. The 2014 Murphy, who is drawing considerably more walks than the 2013 version, seems like quite a valuable player-- is it possible he's being underrated here a bit?
   27. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: June 13, 2014 at 11:24 AM (#4724863)
Murphy seems like a much better player than Schierholtz to me, no?


A little bit better, but 2013 Schierholtz was significantly cheaper and had more years of control remaining.

For the next few years you're probably talking a 2.5-3 win player.


Murphy was worth a little over half that much in both 2012 and 2013, and I don't think you're going to convince anyone to pay a 3-win price for him in trade.

If you don't want to trade him for less than that, and would rather hold onto him, that's fine.
   28. Conor Posted: June 13, 2014 at 12:06 PM (#4724913)
Does baseball reference hate his D? i was going by fangraphs, they had him at 2.9 WAR last year. (bbref is blocked at work for some reason, so I can't check). Since moving to second, fangraphs has him at about 2.75 WAR per 150 games. I think thats probably a pretty reasonable projection for the next few years for him.

I'd be fine if the Mets tried to extend him.
   29. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: June 13, 2014 at 12:19 PM (#4724936)
Does baseball reference hate his D?


I guess so. That's where I looked, and they have him at 1.5 in both years (with an aggregate total of -2.3 dWAR over that time, as well as -0.6 for 2014-to-date).

If his D is better than that, then yeah, he's probably worth a bit more.
   30. PreservedFish Posted: June 13, 2014 at 01:04 PM (#4725026)
In retrospect, I think the most significant impact of the Astros' mid-season trades was the negative effect on W-L%, which basically guaranteed first pick position in all rounds of the draft.


Yeah. All those trades were as much about tanking as they were about talent acquisition. That's the difference between these teams, and it's only really reflected in the extent to which Correa, Appel and Aiken improve their farm rankings.

Otherwise, there's not a ton of contrast here. Two of the Astros' best young players right now (Springer and Castro) are pre-Luhnow first round picks. The Hunter Pence trade was broadly similar to the trades the Mets made of Beltran and Dickey. The Dickey trade was, in fact, one of the best examples of "sell high" in recent baseball history. So was the Marlon Byrd trade last year.
   31. valuearbitrageur Posted: June 13, 2014 at 01:47 PM (#4725075)
It also should be pointed out that Ed Wade initiated the teardown, Luhnow took it to another level. The benefits that Luhnows approach generated include much better draft position, specifically the 3 straight #1 picks, and additional comp picks. The middling prospects picked up in trade weren't key to the plan, but they will be useful in the rebuild. Any cost controlled 1-2 WAR contributors are super useful, they either fill roster needs that allow you to focus your free agent spending better, or are great trade assets to fill roster needs/replenish farm. Essentially Luhnow took wins from the last 3 years and stockpiled them for the next 5 years when he'll finally have a cite to build around.

And I think fans will be returning as the team improves. Fans don't care about last year, GM strategies, even don't care that much about star players. The Astros win, the fans will come to games.
   32. valuearbitrageur Posted: June 13, 2014 at 01:54 PM (#4725090)
Eyeballing Houston's attendance year over year, looks like they bounced faround the 15k to low 20k range last June, and now seem significantly improved. They had a 38K game and are coming off a 33K game. Evidence is one win streak and fans started coming back.
   33. thetailor Posted: June 13, 2014 at 02:05 PM (#4725097)
One bad season doesn't ruin morale. Two doesn't either. Three is probably the line. The Mets are at five without a plan or hope.
   34. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 13, 2014 at 02:44 PM (#4725150)
And I think fans will be returning as the team improves. Fans don't care about last year, GM strategies, even don't care that much about star players. The Astros win, the fans will come to games.

I don't think this is what the research has shown. IIRC it takes several seasons of success, and usually an increased payroll, to really bring the fans back after a long drought.

Cleveland won 96 games in 2007, and attendance was meh (up <300K from the 78 win season before). Cleveland won 92 games last year, and attendance sucked (1.5M, and 14th out of 15 teams).
   35. Astroenteritis (tom) Posted: June 13, 2014 at 03:02 PM (#4725185)
Fans will definitely come back in Houston. As #32 points out, there has already been a bounce. If the team is moderately successful attendance won't be a problem.
Same for the Mets, if they start winning the fans will be there. It's just the nature of most sports fans. Agree with above that increased payroll is usually necessary.

I think the important point is that Houston's teardown/rebuild/whatever shouldn't be a model any team should ever be in a position to have to consider. It took years of negligent ownership and a fair amount of outright incompetence to get to that point.
   36. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 13, 2014 at 04:16 PM (#4725286)
Fans will definitely come back in Houston. As #32 points out, there has already been a bounce. If the team is moderately successful attendance won't be a problem.

Sure they'll come back to some extent, but they only drew 1.65M last year. Between '05 and '08 they averaged 2.9M. How long to get back to that level?

My basic point is that all consumption is, to some degree, a matter of habit. Getting your consumers/fans out of the habit of consuming your product is a bad idea.

Total teardowns do that, by letting fans completely ignore the team. Most 75 wins teams at least sustain some degree of hope of competitiveness into the summer; especially with 3 divisions and 2 WCs.
   37. Astroenteritis (tom) Posted: June 13, 2014 at 04:47 PM (#4725378)
Between '05 and '08 they averaged 2.9M. How long to get back to that level?


They don't have to get all the way back to that level, though. That would be great, but getting to 2.5M ought to be be sufficient. The problem with the tv deal is the biggest single culprit in fans forgetting about the team.
Losing and moving to the AL are also factors, but when so many of your fans can't see the team it really does impact consumption of the product. Consumption may be, as you say, partly a matter of habit, but fans are also predictable in that they will come out to see a winning product. It's far from an ideal situation, but the hyperbole about Houston permanently losing the fan base is greatly exaggerated.
   38. Walt Davis Posted: June 13, 2014 at 07:47 PM (#4725575)
Sorry I missed the Bourn trade but I see now that Oswalt, Bourn and Pence were all traded by Wade, not Luhnow. On the pitchers they got for Bourn, Oberholtzer has done OK in the minors and could develop into league-average or better I'd guess.

Which raises another point. These trades were three years ago and the Astros are only now seeing some rewards.

The 2011 Mets did not trade Jose Reyes but did trade Beltran for Wheeler, considered a real coup at the time. That offseason they made the mistake (again!) of trading away Pagan (age 29, on the verge of FA) but it's true that a big part of that mistake was getting an even older vet in return rather than some prospect. Presumably they would have loved to trade Bay. That was Murphy's "big" year but he wasn't even arb-eligible at the end of 2011, why trade him.

On the pitching side, they traded Dickey after 2012 for pretty good return. They possibly should have traded Pelfrey after 2010 but he was terrible in 2011 and hurt in 2012. Capuano was on a 1-year contract and didn't pitch well. And they did trade K-Rod who killed his trade value by going insane for a while.

So the 2011 Mets did roughly the same thing the 2011 Astros did. The only tradeable pieces they didn't trade were Reyes and Wright. Not trading Reyes was a mistake (was he hurt at the deadline or was it just fear of a PR hit?) and trading Pagan for a veteran rather than a prospect was a mistake. Possibly they should have traded Beltran earlier but he'd been hurt in 2009 and 2010 so his value was probably higher when they did trade him and they got very good return.

The notion that they would have gotten substantial value in 2011 for Murphy, Duda, Gee, Niese, Parnell seems silly.

To the extent that maybe the Mets should hold a fire sale now, it's to have some talent bubbling up in 2017 but their immediate future won't compare any better to the Astros.
   39. bobm Posted: June 13, 2014 at 08:08 PM (#4725597)
Not trading Reyes was a mistake (was he hurt at the deadline or was it just fear of a PR hit?)

PR. He was in the running for, and won, the Mets' first ever batting title IIRC.
   40. Swedish Chef Posted: June 13, 2014 at 08:09 PM (#4725598)
What, no love for ownership? I have a difficult time believing it was Alderson's decision to give four years to Granderson.

Persuading ownership about the right course of action is a GM skill.
   41. Walt Davis Posted: June 13, 2014 at 08:43 PM (#4725617)
On "teardowns" ... The Astros were a bit like the Pirates. By the time Luhnow took over, the ML roster was already a disaster and what talent there was in the minors was mainly due to the trades and recent draft picks Wade had made. Unless the owners were gonna spend big, they were probably a 70-win team at best anyway -- the 2011 Astros won only 56 and were missing Pence and Bourn. Luhnow didn't have much choice on what strategy to follow.

Huntington was somewhat similar. The ML roster was still intact I think but it was not a good team and, if I recall correctly, Littlefield had set things up such that every veteran's contract expired in the following year. So he was going to lose his entire "productive" roster in a year anyway, it's rather obvious to trade at least most of it. His radical step was to trade all of it and then some. The return was solid -- I'm sure he's gotten far more WAR than he traded away -- but not future-transforming.

On attendance ... the Pirates were bad for a very long time but not nearly as bad as the Astros 2011-13. They've also never drawn well -- even the good 90s teams were never better than 6th in attendance. But, for whatever reason, things started picking up in 2011 -- their best since 2001 (PNC debut) and 2nd best since 1991. That went up another 10% in 2012 and another 10% in 2013 but is down about 5% this year (summer still to come so it will probably be closer at year's end).

Astros attendance has cratered. Granted, it's cratered to a level that Pitt was at for 20 years. But 2012 attendance was HALF what it was in 2004. It was in steep decline before Luhnow got there and he's got it rebounding but it will take another 50% to get them back to where they were in 2008.

Baltimore seems a reasonable attendance/market comp for Houston. They bottomed out around 2011 at the level Houston is at right now and they have been back at 29,000 for 2013-14. That's still well short of the first decade of Camden but it's not far below the Astros' peak of about 33,000.
   42. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 13, 2014 at 08:51 PM (#4725620)
That's still well short of the first decade of Camden but it's not far below the Astros' peak of about 33,000.

The Astros drew 3 million a couple of time, and 2.8 a couple more.
   43. Arbitol Dijaler Posted: June 13, 2014 at 10:37 PM (#4725684)
Not trading Reyes was a mistake (was he hurt at the deadline or was it just fear of a PR hit?)

PR. He was in the running for, and won, the Mets' first ever batting title IIRC.


Maybe, but he was in fact hurt at the deadline (or at least for a big chunk of July).
   44. valuearbitrageur Posted: June 13, 2014 at 11:47 PM (#4725704)
Which raises another point. These trades were three years ago and the Astros are only now seeing some rewards.


Walt makes the key point. Houston is still years from contention, and this strategy is impossible to just referee quickly once you've committed to it. Can't imagine any Mets fans would have stomach for three years of triple digit losses.
   45. Walt Davis Posted: June 14, 2014 at 12:42 AM (#4725721)
The Astros drew 3 million a couple of time, and 2.8 a couple more.

Yeah, I meant 2008, not peak. As I noted, they fell to 50% what they were in 2004.
   46. bobm Posted: June 14, 2014 at 08:38 AM (#4725761)
[43] Maybe, but he was in fact hurt at the deadline (or at least for a big chunk of July)

He did play every game from July 19-31 and most of September. An August waiver trade would have been a fire sale after the 2nd DL trip.

2011 Batting Gamelog
                                                        
Rk    Gcar     Gtm       Date    Tm Opp  Rslt  Inngs  PA
1      925       1      Apr 1   NYM FLA  L2-6     CG   4
2      926       2      Apr 2   NYM FLA  W6-4 CG(10)   5
3      927       3      Apr 3   NYM FLA  W9-2     CG   6
4      928       4      Apr 5   NYM PHI  W7-1     CG   5
5      929       5      Apr 6   NYM PHI L7-10     CG   5
6      930       6      Apr 7   NYM PHI L0-11     CG   4
7      931       7      Apr 8   NYM WSN  L2-6     CG   4
8      932       8      Apr 9   NYM WSN  W8-4     CG   5
9      933       9     Apr 10   NYM WSN  L3-7 CG(11)   5
10     934      10     Apr 11   NYM COL  L6-7     CG   5
11     935      11     Apr 13   NYM COL  L4-5     CG   5
12     936      12 Apr 14 (1)   NYM COL  L5-6     CG   5
13     937      13 Apr 14 (2)   NYM COL  L4-9     CG   5
14     938      14 Apr 16 (1)   NYM ATL  L2-4     CG   5
15     939      15 Apr 16 (2)   NYM ATL  L0-4     CG   4
16     940      16     Apr 17   NYM ATL  W3-2     CG   5
17     941      17     Apr 19   NYM HOU  L1-6     CG   4
18     942      18     Apr 20   NYM HOU  L3-4     CG   5
19     943      19     Apr 21   NYM HOU  W9-1     CG   4
20     944      20     Apr 22   NYM ARI  W4-1     CG   4
21     945      21     Apr 23   NYM ARI  W6-4     CG   5
22     946      22     Apr 24   NYM ARI  W8-4     CG   5
23     947      23     Apr 26   NYM WSN  W6-4     CG   5
24     948      24     Apr 27   NYM WSN  W6-3     CG   5
25     949      25     Apr 28   NYM WSN  L3-4     CG   4
26     950      26     Apr 29   NYM PHI L3-10   GS-8   4
27     951      27     Apr 30   NYM PHI  L1-2     CG   4
May                              Tm Opp  Rslt  Inngs  PA
28     952      28      May 1   NYM PHI  W2-1 CG(14)   7
29     953      29      May 3   NYM SFG  L6-7 CG(10)   6
30     954      30      May 4   NYM SFG  L0-2     CG   4
31     955      31      May 5   NYM SFG  W5-2     CG   4
32     956      32      May 6   NYM LAD  W6-3     CG   5
33     957      33      May 7   NYM LAD  W4-2     CG   5
34     958      34      May 8   NYM LAD  L2-4     CG   5
35     959      35      May 9   NYM COL  L1-2     CG   5
36     960      36     May 10   NYM COL  W4-3     CG   4
37     961      37     May 12   NYM COL  W9-5     CG   5
38     962      38     May 13   NYM HOU  W6-4     CG   4
39     963      39     May 14   NYM HOU  L3-7     CG   5
40     964      40     May 15   NYM HOU  W7-4     CG   5
41     965      41     May 16   NYM FLA  L1-2 CG(11)   6
42     966      42     May 18   NYM WSN  W3-0     CG   5
43     967      43     May 19   NYM WSN  W1-0     CG   4
44     968      44     May 20   NYM NYY  W2-1     CG   4
45     969      45     May 21   NYM NYY  L3-7     CG   5
46     970      46     May 22   NYM NYY  L3-9     CG   5
47     971      47     May 24   NYM CHC L1-11     CG   4
48     972      48     May 25   NYM CHC  W7-4  CG(7)   5
49     973      49     May 26   NYM CHC  L3-9     CG   5
50     974      50     May 27   NYM PHI  L4-6     CG   5
51     975      51     May 28   NYM PHI  L2-5     CG   4
52     976      52     May 29   NYM PHI  W9-5     CG   5
June                             Tm Opp  Rslt  Inngs  PA
53     977   56(3)      Jun 2   NYM PIT  W9-8     CG   5
54     978      57      Jun 3   NYM ATL  L3-6     CG   4
55     979      58      Jun 4   NYM ATL  W5-0     CG   4
56     980      59      Jun 5   NYM ATL  W6-4     CG   5
57     981      60      Jun 7   NYM MIL  W2-1     CG   5
58     982      61      Jun 8   NYM MIL  L6-7     CG   5
59     983      62      Jun 9   NYM MIL  W4-1     CG   5
60     984      63     Jun 10   NYM PIT  W8-1     CG   5
61     985      64     Jun 11   NYM PIT  L2-3     CG   5
62     986      65     Jun 12   NYM PIT  W7-0     CG   5
63     987      66     Jun 13   NYM PIT  L1-3     CG   4
64     988      67     Jun 14   NYM ATL  W4-3     CG   5
65     989      68     Jun 15   NYM ATL  W4-0     CG   4
66     990      69     Jun 16   NYM ATL  L8-9 CG(10)   6
67     991      70     Jun 17   NYM LAA  L3-4     CG   5
68     992      71     Jun 18   NYM LAA  W6-1     CG   4
69     993      72     Jun 19   NYM LAA  L3-7     CG   5
70     994      73     Jun 21   NYM OAK  L3-7     CG   5
71     995      74     Jun 22   NYM OAK  W3-2 CG(13)   7
72     996      75     Jun 23   NYM OAK  W4-1     CG   4
73     997      76     Jun 24   NYM TEX  L1-8     CG   4
74     998      77     Jun 25   NYM TEX W14-5     CG   6
75     999      78     Jun 26   NYM TEX  W8-5     CG   5
76    1000      79     Jun 28   NYM DET W14-3   GS-7   5
77    1001      80     Jun 29   NYM DET W16-9     CG   6
78    1002      81     Jun 30   NYM DET  L2-5     CG   4
July                             Tm Opp  Rslt  Inngs  PA
79    1003      82      Jul 1   NYM NYY  L1-5     CG   5
80    1004      83      Jul 2   NYM NYY  L2-5   GS-3   1
81    1005  96(12)     Jul 19   NYM STL  W4-2     CG   5
82    1006      97     Jul 20   NYM STL  W6-5 CG(10)   5
83    1007      98     Jul 21   NYM STL  L2-6     CG   4
84    1008      99     Jul 22   NYM FLA  W7-6     CG   6
85    1009     100     Jul 23   NYM FLA  L5-8     CG   5
86    1010     101     Jul 24   NYM FLA  L4-5     CG   5
87    1011     102     Jul 25   NYM CIN  W4-2     CG   5
88    1012     103     Jul 26   NYM CIN  W8-6     CG   5
89    1013     104     Jul 27   NYM CIN  W8-2     CG   5
90    1014     105     Jul 28   NYM CIN W10-9     CG   5
91    1015     106     Jul 29   NYM WSN  W8-5     CG   5
92    1016     107     Jul 30   NYM WSN  L0-3     CG   4
93    1017     108     Jul 31   NYM WSN  L2-3     CG   4
August                           Tm Opp  Rslt  Inngs  PA
94    1018     109      Aug 1   NYM FLA  L3-7 CG(10)   5
95    1019     110      Aug 2   NYM FLA  L3-4     CG   4
96    1020     111      Aug 5   NYM ATL  L1-4     CG   4
97    1021     112      Aug 6   NYM ATL W11-7     CG   5
98    1022     113      Aug 7   NYM ATL  L5-6   GS-2   1
99    1023 132(18) Aug 29 (2)   NYM FLA  W5-1     CG   4
100   1024     133     Aug 30   NYM FLA  L0-6     CG   4
101   1025     134     Aug 31   NYM FLA  W3-2     CG   4
September                        Tm Opp  Rslt  Inngs  PA
102   1026     135      Sep 1   NYM FLA  W7-5     CG   5
103   1027     136      Sep 2   NYM WSN  W7-3     CG   5
104   1028     137      Sep 3   NYM WSN  L7-8     CG   5
105   1029  139(1)      Sep 5   NYM FLA  L3-9     CG   4
106   1030     140      Sep 6   NYM FLA  W7-4 CG(12)   7
107   1031     141      Sep 7   NYM FLA  W1-0     CG   4
108   1032     142  Sep 8 (1)   NYM ATL  L5-6   9-GF   1
109   1033     143  Sep 8 (2)   NYM ATL  L1-5     CG   4
110   1034     144      Sep 9   NYM CHC  W5-4     CG   5
111   1035     145     Sep 10   NYM CHC  L4-5     CG   5
112   1036     146     Sep 11   NYM CHC L6-10 CG(11)   6
113   1037     147     Sep 12   NYM WSN  L2-3     CG   4
114   1038     148     Sep 13   NYM WSN  L2-3     CG   5
115   1039     149     Sep 14   NYM WSN  L0-2     CG   5
116   1040  151(1)     Sep 16   NYM ATL W12-2     CG   6
117   1041     152     Sep 17   NYM ATL  L0-1     CG   4
118   1042     153     Sep 18   NYM ATL  W7-5    8-8   1
119   1043     154     Sep 20   NYM STL L6-11     CG   6
120   1044     155     Sep 21   NYM STL  L5-6     CG   4
121   1045     156     Sep 22   NYM STL  W8-6     CG   5
122   1046     157 Sep 24 (1)   NYM PHI  W2-1     CG   4
123   1047  159(1)     Sep 25   NYM PHI  L4-9     CG   5
124   1048     160     Sep 26   NYM CIN  L5-6     CG   5
125   1049     161     Sep 27   NYM CIN  L4-5 CG(13)   6
126   1050     162     Sep 28   NYM CIN  W3-0   GS-1   1
                                                 NYM 586


Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/14/2014.
   47. bobm Posted: June 14, 2014 at 08:41 AM (#4725763)
Maybe this was just to build trade leverage:

NY Times July 7 2011

When Reyes Returns From Disabled List, He Will Probably Stay a Met
By DAVID WALDSTEIN

LOS ANGELES — Wrapped into the disappointment that the Mets and their fans were feeling with Jose Reyes going on the 15-day disabled list Thursday came reassuring words from General Manager Sandy Alderson: Reyes may be out for another two weeks or so, but when he comes back, he should be a Met for the rest of the season.

“I think it’s very unlikely Jose will be traded this season,” Alderson said, “and that’s without regard to his injury.”
   48. Arbitol Dijaler Posted: June 14, 2014 at 09:14 AM (#4725767)
His trade value dropped precipitously with his July injury -- wasn't it his usual hammy type injury? Before that he was in a healthy stretch of enormous productivity. I have to think if they were offered a big return, they would have seriously considered it, but from the outside that seemed unlikely after he got hurt.
   49. bobm Posted: June 14, 2014 at 09:18 AM (#4725768)
Then this, with ownership then not probably intending or able to re-sign Reyes:

Sources: Mets to hold onto Jose Reyes

ESPNNewYork.com | July 21, 2011

The New York Mets now are certain they will not trade shortstop Jose Reyes before the July 31 deadline, league sources told ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney on Wednesday.

The Mets likely would have quite a few suitors for the All-Star, but he has been playing so well in recent weeks that the team has decided to hold onto him despite his pending free agency, sources said.

Reyes leads the league in batting average (.355), hits (126) and triples (15). He also has 30 steals, despite missing 12 games with a hamstring injury.

He returned Tuesday from the disabled list and went 2-for-5 with a run scored in the Mets' 4-2 win over the Cardinals.

The 28-year-old has spent his entire nine-year career with the Mets.

The team faces a lawsuit by the trustee of victims of the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme. With a potentially huge judgment looming, the Mets have been in negotiations with hedge fund manager David Einhorn to buy a minority stake in the team and infuse much-needed cash into the baseball operation.

The financial uncertainty has led many to speculate that the Mets would not be able to afford Reyes, who could command a Carl Crawford-like deal (seven years, $142 million).

The team did clear some money off the books by trading closer Francisco Rodriguez to the Brewers, and outfielder Carlos Beltran is likely on the block as well.


ETA: Yes, it was a hamstring injury, per the bolded above. However they managed to trade away Beltran and his gimpy legs for value.
   50. Arbitol Dijaler Posted: June 14, 2014 at 01:45 PM (#4725870)
They did, though he had been healthy all year. I'm not saying they couldn't have traded Reyes for value. Obviously they could have. But it seems equally obvious that the return was going to be less coming off his NO NOT THIS AGAIN hamstring injury.

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