May 13, 2022 – Last Word on Sports: Trading Prospects for Veterans by Mets

By Joe Rini

Trading prospects for veterans can be decisive in a team’s title hopes. The New York Mets know the successes and failures of these trades.  Such trades for veterans Mike Piazza and Yoennis Cespedes earned trips to the World Series for the Mets in 2000 and 2015. However, the Mets’ trade deadline acquisition of Javier Baez for prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong couldn’t keep them from fading down the stretch in 2021. The Mets hope the Chris Bassitt trade is more in line with the Piazza and Cespedes trades. It looks promising for the Mets now but it’s still a gamble.

Mets Trade Prospects for Veteran Bassitt

In exchange for minor league pitchers J.T. Ginn and Adam Oller, the Mets obtained Bassitt from the Oakland A’s on March 12, 2022. It was a textbook trade between big market and small-market teams. The A’s can’t afford to re-sign Bassitt when he reaches free agency this offseason while the Mets can’t afford to miss the postseason again. The Mets were willing to gamble that Bassitt may leave after only one season in the orange and blue. Meanwhile, the A’s were willing to trade an All-Star in the hope one or both of these prospects will thrive in the MLB.

The very early returns show the Mets have gotten the better of this deal. Bolstering the rotation in the absence of Jacob deGrom, Bassitt has helped buoy the Mets into first place. He’s 4-2 with a 2.45 ERA and his 0.955 WHIP is a whisker behind Max Scherzer’s 0.946. Meanwhile, Ginn has struggled in his first starts in Double-A while Oller’s ERA is 11.17 in his first three big-league starts.

Beware Pete Crow-Armstrong: Trading Prospects for Veterans Is Risky

The Mets traded Crow-Armstrong to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Baez and pitcher Trevor Williams on July 30, 2021. Baez slashed a solid  .299/.371/.515 in 47 games as the Mets faded out of the playoff race. He wasn’t the blame for the team’s struggles. Ultimately, they permitted Baez to walk in free agency to the Detroit Tigers, ending his brief Mets tenure.

However, the price of Baez’s two-month Mets career could be a decade of success by Pete Crow-Armstrong for the Cubs. The Mets selected Crow-Armstrong as their number one pick in the 2020 amateur draft. He started his Mets minor league career hitting .417 in 24 at-bats before shoulder surgery ended his 2021 season. Since returning to action in 2022, Crow-Armstrong is performing like someone soon to be promoted from Class A ball. The 20-year-old centerfielder is hitting .373 in his first 25 games with the Cubs’ Class A affiliate, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. Crow-Armstrong is probably two years away from the MLB, where success isn’t guaranteed. However, should he become a perennial All-Star, it’ll be a constant reminder to the Mets and their fans of a trade gone awry.

Mets Traded Prospect Kelenic for Diaz in 2018

Bassitt’s next Mets start will be this weekend against the Seattle Mariners at Citi Field. Interestingly, he’ll likely face Jarred Kelenic at some point. The Mets traded Kelenic and four other players, in exchange, for Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano in December 2018. The rebuilding Mariners parted with an elite closer, Diaz, because they received a projected superstar in Kelenic. However, superstar star status eludes the 22-year-old Kelenic. He batted a disappointing .181 in his debut season last year but a good September seemed to have him on an upward trajectory. Unfortunately, he’s batting a weak .140 in 2022 and probably needs more minor league seasoning. It’s too early to dismiss Kelenic. Perhaps, a visit to his almost former home at Citi Field will revitalize his fortunes.  Trading prospects for veterans like Bassett is a sound strategy for teams aiming for the postseason but comes with long-term risks.

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