Tuesday night I chatted briefly with Eric from SBNation site AmazinAvenue, and we discussed what is undoubtedly the trade of the off-season. We exchanged a Q & A today, and here are his answers to my questions. (Eric also gets bonus points for calling someone "the balls".)
First, congratulations on the pending acquisition of baseball's best starting pitcher, Johan Santana.
Thanks, Jesse. Assuming the contract extension and routine physical get wrapped up quickly, this is a pretty exciting day to be a Met fan.
Twins fans are gnashing their teeth and tearing at their clothes in the wake of this trade. If there is one thing you could tell us to make us feel better, what would it be?
At least he's not on the Yankees or Red Sox.
Are you surprised that Fernando Martinez wasn't included in this deal?
Relieved is more like it. I count myself among the minority who don't consider this an awful deal for the Twins. The Mets traded four of their seven best prospects, and throwing in Martinez would have made the deal unpalatable for me. Not that Johan Santana isn't the balls; he is. But considering that he is only under contract for one more year and that the Mets will have to pony up the largest contract ever given to a starting pitcher in order to retain him beyond 2008, I think Martinez would have been too much.
Besides his speed, what is Carlos Gomez's best asset?
Right now his most tangible asset aside from his wheels is his glove, which is plus or better in centerfield. Intangibly speaking, he has a lot of upside and a lot of raw talent, though I know the "R" word is being thrown around a lot now. His power isn't there yet, but if he fills out his 6'2" frame he could be a right-handed Carl Crawford. That's his upside, I think. I'm not saying it'll happen, but I can see a path that leads him in that direction.
From what you've seen and read of Phil Humber, what kind of pitcher is he likely to be--Is he closer to a number two starter, or a number four?
Oh, three or four probably. I'm sure you've read by now that his curveball hasn't come back as well as some have hoped following Tommy John surgery a couple of years ago. If he can get the sharp break again then I think he can be a solid 2-3; otherwise, 4-5 is more likely.
Mike Pelfrey was another Mets pitcher whose name came up in trade speculation on more than one occasion. He and Humber are good friends and have come through the system together. What's the difference between the two pitching prospects?
Pelfrey has a plus major league pitch - his sinking fastball; right now Humber doesn't have any plus pitches. Pelfrey is far from a proven commodity, and he has mostly struggled with the big club in somewhat limited action over the past two seasons. Prior to 2007, most scouts and analysts had the two pitchers neck-and-neck, some ranking Humber higher and others with Pelfrey a touch ahead. I prefer Pelfrey because of his fastball, but they're both in the same ballpark.
What were scouts expecting to see from Deolis Guerra over the next couple of seasons?
They want to see him continue to hold his own against much older hitters. He played a full year in High-A last year as an 18-year-old, posting a strong WHIP and so-so ERA. He's a tall kid and is very projectable, but he's so far from the majors right now that anything can happen. Of the four players included in the deal Guerra is actually the one I was the most reluctant to give up because of his age and what he has shown so far.
In the Twins system, Humber is the most MLB-ready player in the bunch. Gomez and Guerra each have some pretty solid upside. Mulvey looks like a middle-track, interchangeable piece. What can you tell us about Kevin Mulvey?
Mulvey had a really nice season last year, posting a solid walk rate and doing a terrific job of keeping the ball in the park. He isn't overpowering, but could be a back-rotation innings-eater type, which has plenty of value (see: Carlos Silva's deal with Seattle).
Which player has a better future: Carlos Gomez or Deolis Guerra?
Probably Gomez because he's so much closer to the Show. He'll be given every chance to be the starting center fielder out of spring training, and he's definitely an exciting player to watch. You've probably heard it before, but the kid is faster than Jose Reyes, which is definitely saying something.
In an alternate timeline, these four players remain with the Mets. Realistically, how do you think they'd turn out?
Gomez would compete for a reserve outfield spot this year and could have been in the starting lineup in 2009, unless the Mets went out and found someone else to play left field. I fear that Humber and Mulvey wouldn't have been given much of a shot, given the Mets' recent penchant for using has-beens at the back of their rotation in lieu of actually letting the young guys take a crack at the big time. As for Guerra, maybe he rounds out the starting rotation in 2011.
The seven names you heard the most about in speculation were Gomez, Humber, Martinez, Guerra, Mulvey, Pelfrey and Ryan Church. Is there anyone else in the Mets' system you thought could have debatable trade merits?
Maybe Joe Smith, a sidearm reliever who looked good early on last year with the Mets before running out of gas a bit. Jon Niese is a lefty who pitched in A-ball last season. He had very strong peripherals (110 strikeouts, 31 walks, 9 homeruns in 134.1 innings) but a nothing-special 4.29 ERA. His BABIP was an absurd .346 last season, so that should come down a bit. I have high hopes for him. Nothing really spectacular to speak of. Most of their better prospects are in A-ball. Triple-A is mostly scrubs and washouts, so no help there.
How much credibility is there in the statement that this trade has depleted an already thin Mets farm system?
Much. The Mets didn't have a great system to begin with, so take away three of their top four prospects, plus their seventh-best prospect, and you're looking at slim pickings. They picked up a couple of first-rounders when Tom Glavine defected to the Braves, so hopefully the Mets will start using their financial wherewithal to their advantage by paying above-slot money to restock their farm system.
Regardless of the state of the farm system, I believe this is a great deal for the New York Mets. What do you see this acquisition doing for the club this season, and in the future?
I think clearly it improves the 2008 team substantially. Anyone who says Santana is just a decent upgrade for this season is forgetting that he has been the best pitcher in baseball over the past five seasons, and still hasn't turned 29. The Mets will probably be considered the favorites to win the NL East, if not the NL Pennant, and adding Santana means that Pedro Martinez, John Maine, Oliver Perez and Orlando Hernandez will all slide back a spot in the rotation, forming one of the better starting staffs in the league. Barring injury, Santana is young enough to be an impact player on this team for the next four or five years which, despite the salary requirements, makes this a win-now and win-later acquisition.
Thanks for your time, Eric!
Any time, Jesse!