By Ethan Marshall
The Mets’ trade of Jay Bruce to the Indians speaks a lot about the state of the organization right now. Ownership appears to be focused more on saving money than getting valuable prospects in return. While the trades of Lucas Duda to the Rays and Addison Reed to the Red Sox allowed for the Mets to save money too, the prospects received in return may prove valuable pieces of the Mets bullpen in the near future. All of the young arms the Mets acquired in these trades are described as throwing in the mid-to-upper-90s by scouts. All three of the pitchers acquired for Reed are hard-throwing 22-year-olds. However, some of the pitchers are further along in their development than others.
The pitcher the Mets received for Jay Bruce, Ryder Ryan, wasn’t even a ranked prospect in the Indians’ system. A 30th round pick, Ryan has posted a 4.50 ERA in two minor league seasons. Considering how solid Bruce has been this season, this trade is mind-boggling. According to Ken Rosenthal, the Mets were focused more on getting a team to pick up the $5 million remaining on Bruce’s contract than to receive decent prospects in return. This is further shown by the fact that the Yankees were willing to give the Mets multiple prospects who were much better than Ryan in exchange for Bruce if the Mets were willing to take on 4/5 of his salary.
For several years, Mets fans have complained about the Wilpons preferring to pad their own wallets rather than improving the team they own. This trade has only added more fuel to this notion. As far as MLB contracts are concerned, $5 million isn’t that much money. If the goal is to save money for free agent signings in the upcoming offseason, the Mets could’ve (and should’ve) taken the Yankees offer, which allowed them to save some money while also gain valuable prospects in return. By trading Bruce for what likely amounts to a player who will never see the MLB, the Mets wasted one of their most valuable trade chips. They likely would’ve received a better return by keeping Bruce and giving him a qualifying offer at the end of the season.
Drew Smith was Tampa Bay’s 30th ranked prospect when he was traded, with a fastball that could reach 98 m.p.h. He has pitched well at each level in the minors, posting a career 1.74 ERA with 141 strikeouts in 129 innings. While he was assigned by the Mets to AA Binghamton, Smith could play a valuable role for the team in 2018.
Stephen Nogosek may be the furthest from being major-league ready among the young arms the Mets received from Boston. However, he was also the highest-rated among the three pitchers acquired for Reed, at number 18. He was assigned to High-A St. Lucie upon his acquisition. He’s posted a 3.27 ERA with 99 strikeouts in 85.1 innings pitched in the minors. The main point of concern for Nogosek right now is that he has control problems, with a career 3.5 walks per nine innings. While he clocks in as reaching 96 miles per hour, his fastball has no movement whatsoever.
Jamie Callahan may debut for the Mets as early as September. He’s currently pitching for AAA Las Vegas. In 376 career minor league innings, Callahan has posted a 4.79 ERA with 365 strikeouts. His velocity typically sits in the mid-90s. He was ranked as the 23rd-best prospect in the Red Sox system. Since being moved from a starter to a reliever, his velocity has increased from the low-90s to the mid-to-upper-90s. He has a great splitter that has become his out-pitch. However, like Nogosek, Callahan has very little movement on his four-seamer and has control issues, with 4 walks per nine innings in 28 innings pitched this season.
Gerson Bautista has a 2.73 ERA with 167 strikeouts in 198 innings in his minor league career thus far. He was ranked as the 28th-best prospect in the Red Sox farm system upon being traded. Along with Nogosek, Bautista was assigned to High-A St. Lucie. He’s shown the ability to reach 100 miles per hour at times, but also has control problems, with 4.1 walks per nine innings in his career. While he does have a slider that sits in the high 80s, he hasn’t mastered the pitch yet. The slider can prove to be very effective if he can get better control and movement from it. Another issue is that he was suspended in 2013 for testing positive for PED use.
The trade of Bruce may also signify the Mets may not be that interested in attempting to re-sign him in the offseason. While the Mets recently said they believe Michael Conforto could play centerfield in the long term, this trade may mean they will be pursuing a centerfielder in the offseason and move Conforto to rightfield. As a result, the Mets may be more focused on pursuing Lorenzo Cain than Jay Bruce this winter.
The Mets basically traded Bruce for money. Players who are usually traded for cash are usually minor leaguers who may have had cups of coffee in the majors, not star players. The one positive thing to come out of this trade is that, unlike the Rangers with Ernesto Frieri, the Mets didn’t trade Bruce for $1.