Grading the New York Mets’ Trade Deadline

As the July 31 trade deadline approached, many in the baseball world expected the New York Mets to be sellers. They were underachieving and had many pieces that were attractive to contenders. Rumors swirled as teams prepared offers for pending free agents Zack Wheeler and Jason Vargas, as well as for young, controllable arms Edwin Diaz and Noah Syndergaard. Surprisingly, after a brief hot streak, general manager Brodie Van Wagenen opted to only trade Vargas, and Van Wagenen stunned many when he traded pitching prospects Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods-Richardson to the Blue Jays for all star pitcher Marcus Stroman.

Trading Away Jason Vargas

Although Van Wagenen said that trading Vargas was not just a “salary dump”, it was clear that there wasn’t going to be much of a return for him. The 36-year-old Vargas had posted a 6-5 record with a 4.01 ERA, 81 strikeouts and a 1.27 WHIP across 94.2 innings pitched this year, all of which are serviceable numbers, but nothing that jumps off the page. The Mets traded him to the Phillies in exchange for 26-year-old catcher Austin Bossart, who’ was hitting an anemic .195/.303/.335 across 236 plate appearances in his second season at the Double-A level.

Considering though that Vargas’ numbers were slightly inflated by his horrific start to the season (he had a 14.21 ERA after his start on April 13), the return the Mets got was even less than most would’ve expected, as Bossart is struggling to hit Double-A pitching despite this being his second year there. The one positive note about Bossart is that he’s thrown out 35 percent of attempted base stealers, which means he could eventually make it to the majors as a defensive-minded backstop. Even though Vargas’ trade value was pretty low, this move seems to show that Van Wagenen must have not received many offers, if he traded Vargas to a division rival for very little in return.

The Acquisition of Marcus Stroman

Many contenders that are ahead of the Mets in the standings were in need of starting pitching, which is why it surprised a lot of people when the Mets acquired Marcus Stroman from the Blue Jays. Stroman made his first all star team this year, pitching to a 2.96 ERA with 99 strikeouts, 1.27 WHIP and a 56.3 percent ground ball rate over 124.2 innings pitched. A Long Island-native, Stroman is under control through 2020, giving the Mets a potential front end of the rotation consisting of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Stroman in 2020. While those numbers are very strong, the concern surrounding Stroman’s success is that he generates a lot of ground balls, and the Mets have committed the second-most errors in the National League, with almost 50 percent of those errors having come from their every day starting infielders. While this move shores about their starting rotation, the Mets will have to shore up their infield defense in order to reap the full benefits of acquiring Stroman.

The pieces the Mets gave up to acquire Stroman were left handed pitcher Anthony Kay (Mets’ No. 5 prospect according MLB.com at the time of the trade) and right handed pitcher Simeon Woods-Richardson (Mets’ No. 6 prospect at the time of the trade). Rival executives viewed the return for Stroman to be very light, with the Mets having given up two prospects that were not ranked within the top 100 in baseball for an all star pitcher.

Toronto’s New Prospects

A Long Island-native and former first round pick, Kay got off to a rip-roaring start in Double-A Binghamton with a 7-3 record, 1.87 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 66.1 innings pitched. His hot start earned him a promotion to Triple-A Syracuse and a nod to represent the Mets in the Futures Game. However, in his seven starts in Syracuse, Kay was hit very hard, to the tune of a 6.61 ERA and seven home runs allowed in 31.1 innings pitched (he allowed only two homers in Binghamton). In addition, hitters with batting .325 against Kay in Triple-A, almost double the average that they were hitting against him in Double-A (.165). While Kay could eventually develop into a solid big league pitcher and could make the majors in the near future, his struggles in Triple-A were concerning enough that he became expendable in the eyes of the organization.

Woods-Richardson on the other hand, was just drafted out of high school last year in the second round, and is still working his way through A-ball. An 18-year-old who won’t turn 19 until September 27, Woods-Richardson started off slow, but has been very impressive as of late, putting his overall line at 3-8 with a 4.25 ERA and 97 strikeouts against only 17 walks across 78.1 innings pitched. While he’s still a ways away from making the majors, many scouts have been impressed with Woods-Richardson’s performance, especially considering how young he is. Considering how far he is from the big leagues, the Mets were very aggressive with their decision to trade him, which signals that Van Wagenen wants the club to contend now.

The Grade

Despite all the rumors, the Mets did not trade their rentals in Zack Wheeler and Todd Frazier, and they hung on to their controllable assets in Noah Syndergaard and Edwin Diaz. Their trade for Marcus Stroman was bold and unexpected, which means that they believe that they can still make the postseason this year. In addition, they were able to clear some salary room with their trade of Jason Vargas. Overall, this trade deadline was a pretty solid one for the Mets, as they look to make a run for the postseason.

Overall Grade: B+

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