In 2009, the Mets and Phillies made two decisions which have been debated with fervor throughout baseball. The moves have helped to shape the current state and, quite possibly, the future of the NL East. As the NL East race continues to remain tight, these transactions find themselves subject to dissection.
Move #1: Phillies decline to pair Cliff Lee with Roy Halladay
In December of 2009, frightening reports were coming in all over the baseball world. The rival Phillies were putting together the right package to acquire the the dominant Halladay from Toronto. One of the most feared offenses in baseball would now have a rotation which would feature Doc Halladay and Lee. Lee was just off a run which included blanking the Yankees in Game 1 of the fall classic. Just as Mets fans were reaching for double shot of something strong, the final details of the deal came through. The deal was a three-way move which had the Phillies flipping Lee to Seattle to bring in their top pitching prospect in an attempt to replenish their farm system.
The deal had many Mets fans breathing a sigh of relief and likewise scratching their heads. There is no doubt that having Halladay in our division was a nightmare, but the idea that Ruben Amaro resisted the temptation to make the ’08 champs the outright favorite to grab another ring was startling. If the Phillies did not intend to sign Lee to an extension, they still had the ability to retain him through the season. They would also receive picks in the offseason for his signing elsewhere. The Phillies signed Doc to an extension and declined to keep Lee for the 2010 season. Amaro explained his reasoning for the three-way deal as not only preparing his team for 2010, but the future as well.
Therefore, if the Phillies fail to reach the playoffs in 2010, much of this move will rest on the success or lack thereof from pitching prospect Phillipe Aumont. As we near the halfway mark for the season, Philly is looking up at two teams with deeper pitching staffs. Their 39 losses are in direct correlation to an inability to win when scoring less than 3 runs. The two teams above them, Braves and Mets, have won with pitching. The Braves have the deepest rotation in the division and the Mets are tied with San Diego for a league leading 12 shutouts on the season. To make matters worse for Amaro, the Mets have been rumored in connection with Cliff Lee. There is no question New York is looking for another big starter at the deadline and Lee is the most attractive on the market. If the Mets are able to pickup Lee from Seattle, Phillipe Aumont will certainly need to prove worth it, especially if the Phillies are left out of the 2010 playoffs.
Phillies Rotation (Without Halladay)
W-L 23-22 ERA 4.79
W-L 8-3 ERA 2.34
W-L 10-7 ERA 2.33
Move #2: Mets give Billy Wagner to Red Sox and receive Chris Carter – Wagner to Braves
The bullpen for the 2009 Mets was pitched as a drastic improvement. Pairing K-Rod and J.J. Putz would make the back end of games a sure thing. After the longest season of our lives, we all know that wasn’t the case. With the whole team going on the DL, we received news that a familiar and trusted face was returning to health. Billy Wagner was way ahead of schedule and would be able to return to service. The Mets had understandably filled his role with the single season record holder for saves. The question had become: what do we do with Billy Wagner? Do we let him pitch in useless innings and then give him his walking papers in the offseason? Do we ship him to a contender for a potential piece for the future? These were the two options for the Mets front office.
If the Mets retained Wagner, any team that wanted him would need to surrender a high pick for his signing. This would give the Mets two first round picks. The best option for the future of the franchise most likely was to hold onto the former dominant closer and sit back to receive the draft pick. Nevertheless, the disappointing year had the Mets in a mood to save money. Instead of spending money on a second first round pick and possible commodity, the Mets chose to save $3 million and send Wagner over to Boston.
Boston would get a premier bullpen arm and send back a developed bat “without a position”. This we know to be the firstbaseman/outfielder/lollipop armed Chris Carter. The 27 year old Carter has been a callup this year and has had some very nice games for Amazins’. He is our lefty bat off the bench and served as an admirable DH in interleague play. “The Animal’s” most noteable series was in Baltimore where he beat up on an inferior Orioles pitching staff. This would have been seen as a minor note if not for a shift of power in the east. The Braves acquired Wagner in the offseason as a free agent for one year and $7 million. The Red Sox received the 20th and 36th picks and Atlanta picked up a closer who has reemerged as his former self.
Because the Red Sox offered Wagner arbitration, they received the first round pick along with a supplemental pick between the first and second round. The move has been part of the success for Atlanta which has them sitting two games above the Mets heading into a series at Citi Field. If the Mets had chosen to receive the highest value for Wagner, the Braves might have been deterred. Giving your NL East rival a first round pick is a move which could be seen as too high a price and one that may hurt long term. If Atlanta had chosen to sign him anyway, the Mets could at least look to their second first rounder as prize enough. Likewise with Aumont, the failure or success of this deal will rest on the outcome of the Braves’ season, the production of Carter, and the outcome of the Red Sox draft. Wagner has already determined that 2010 will be his last year in baseball. Therefore, the deal could lose it’s potential burn if the Mets are able to overcome the Braves in the east. Carter may never emerge as more than a role player, but Boston’s draft picks could be something to watch as the potential back breaker.
Red Sox 2010 Draft picks from Wagner
1. 1st Rd. Pick 20 (From Braves)
2B Kolbrin Vitek
2. Supplemental Rd. Pick 36 (From Braves)
OF Bryce Brentz
W-L 5-0 ERA 1.31 SVO 21 SV 18
AB 89 AVG .247 HR 2 RBI 12