A 101 Course In Nuking The Value Of MLB Top Prospects
Mets closer Bobby Parnell is hurt. Cue Jose Valverde, although we’re invested in Jeurys Familia wrestling the job away. The back of the New York bullpen is a mess, and Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal believes the answer is promoting MLB top prospects including Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero. From an organizational standpoint, this makes little sense. The idea of nuking the value of top-100 prospects for immediate gain won’t bring a World Series, or even playoff appearance to Flushing.
In a brief Twitter exchange, Jared mentioned the Mets, “trying to win now” as reason to copy the Cardinals blueprint of converting former MLB top prospects Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal to the pen. But St. Louis also had Shelby Miller, Michael Wacha and Joe Kelly in the fold, totaling five quality young arms. Plus, both converted power arms were not on the opening day roster, protecting service time. In general, the less service time accumulated, the more valuable MLB top prospects are. The Cardinals did the same with Miller, although I’d argue utilizing a starter who’s nearing innings limits out of the pen a handful of times is different than a planned conversion.
A healthy Matt Harvey would help the argument, but he’ll miss all of 2013. A fully developed Jenrry Mejia works too, but he has lost significant time due to injury. Zack Wheeler is a healthy and productive young starter. Add Syndergaard to the fold and they have two, elite young arms. Montero is less than that. Jacob DeGrom is lesser still. The group simply isn’t as good in terms of MLB top prospects as the Cardinals.
In recent years, multiple MLB teams have attempted to convert starters – to relievers – back to starters again, resulting in Tommy John Surgery. Neftali Feliz, Arodys Vizcaino, Kris Medlen, Felipe Paulino, Rubby De La Rosa, Joba Chamberlain, Mejia and others all bounced between roles and wound up going under the knife. Of this partial list, only Medlen regained his previous level of excellence (before requiring a second TJ procedure). The longer Martinez and Rosenthal relieve, the more it becomes likely they’ll be bullpen arms for the duration of their careers.
Whether or not the role switch increases the risk of Tommy John surgery isn’t important. Perception is what matters. Making Syndergaard and Montero relievers damages the value of each because it makes the transition back to starting pitcher more difficult for the acquiring team. Plus, relievers just aren’t as valuable as starters anyway. While former White Sox closer Addison Reed nets Matt Davidson, the Doug Fister deal (universally bashed by the baseball media) yielded a similarly ranked top-100 prospect (Robbie Ray) a second cost-controlled reliever (Ian Krol) and utility infielder (Steve Lombardozzi).
Earlier in the piece, service time considerations were briefly mentioned, but it’s of vital importance. Managing (manipulating) service time is key to an organization’s long term health and greatly influences arbitration time clocks and the cost of player extensions. A rebuilding Mets franchise needs every cost-controlled asset it has to compete in the future, whether promoting from within or dealing for upgrades — much like the Toronto Blue Jays attempted to do when the Mets received Syndergaard and Travis D’Arnaud for Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey.
How Good And Bad Teams Leverage MLB Top Prospects
The Cardinals have won between 86 and 97 games in each season since 2008. Consider them the definition of perennial contender. Meanwhile, the Mets won 89 games in 2008, but haven’t reached 80 wins since. Between the lack of talent at the MLB level and little prospect depth throughout the organization, New York has been rebuilding since Barack Obama won the Presidency.
At the time Rosenthal and Martinez transitioned to the bullpen, the Cardinals were in the hunt for a World Series. The Mets probably won’t surpass 70-something wins again this season. From an organizational standpoint, the motivation is different. For New York to chase two or three more wins makes little sense compared to St. Louis. To risk the optimum health and future trade value of two, MLB top prospects in the process is even harder to fathom.
2 Apr 2014 / Mike Newman /
Categories: MLB Analysis
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