For The Right Deal, Tulowitzki Makes Sense For The Mets

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Jeff Passan put a match to the impatience of Mets fans yesterday, reporting that the Mets are “prepared to offer” Noah Syndergaard in a deal to acquire Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. Passan did not say the Mets had offered a deal involving Syndergaard, only that they would be willing to part with him in a trade for Tulo. Even that made headlines and divided the Mets fanbase.

There is a “right deal” for almost every player out there. Most trade proposals from Mets fans are “the right deal,” but they are almost always too light (except for that WFAN caller yesterday who suggested DeGrom, Syndergaard, Wheeler, and Gee…). The reason for that is quite simple: fans always assign way too much value to their own prospects. In the broader picture, a deal that looks fair to the rest of the league will almost always look unfair to the team giving up its top prospects, at least according to its fans.

The Mets have roughly five big-name, tradeable pitchers in the organization right now: Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Dillon Gee, Rafael Montero, and Jon Niese. These pitchers can be broken down into categories. If the team deals Syndergaard or Wheeler, they may be able to get away with not giving up another pitcher from that group of five. Otherwise, I see two from that group being dealt.

As highly rated as he is and as highly as I think of him, Noah Syndergaard is the odd man out. DeGrom has been a beast in 14 starts, showing nasty stuff. Wheeler has shown flashes of being really good and can be, at minimum, a dependable league average pitcher. Gee and Niese have done the same, with Niese often being well above average. Montero hasn’t given me much to grasp on to, but again, if you dealt him, you would need to give up another pitcher from that group. (And of course this is all theoretical.)

Falling in love with prospects is a dangerous game. The odds are stacked against them, even those in the top of the rankings. Take a look at this study by Royals Review, which looked at the success rates of top 100 prospects (Baseball America). It categorized players as busts, successes, or stars based on their WAR. If a player was below average, he was labeled a bust, and up it went from there. Even at the top of the list, the likelihood of success, and stardom, was slim, especially for pitchers. Take a look:

Decile_Pitchers_Table (1)

Syndergaard was recently ranked number 13 overall by MLB.com. While there are no other major midseason lists out there right now, it is safe to say, considering Syndergaard’s performance through four months in Triple-A, that he falls in the 11-20 range. Should the Mets really reject a trade for a superstar in favor of a player who has less than a 40 percent chance of being above average? The percentage may be even lower for prospects who have struggled at Triple-A the way Syndergaard has. Mets fans are exposed almost exclusively to news of their own prospects, so in our own bubble, they are often almost sure stars. There isn’t anything wrong with that… until it is time to make a deal.

Every Met fan salivates over the possible rotation next year, but even without Syndergaard, it still looks incredible. Say the Mets deal Syndergaard, Brandon Nimmo, Dominic Smith, Gabriel Ynoa, and Logan Verrett. Take a look at the Mets rotation next year (assuming Colon is traded) without Syndergaard.

  1. Matt Harvey – Ace
  2. Jon Niese – Above Average
  3. Jacob deGrom – Above Average
  4. Zack Wheeler – Average to Above Average
  5. Dillon Gee – Solidly Average
  6. Waiting in the wings: Rafael Montero, Steven Matz

That extra group “waiting in the wings” sure looks a lot less appealing than it otherwise would with Syndergaard, but at the end of the day, only five pitchers are going to make the rotation. It would be a tough decision to give up Syndergaard, but to get the big bat Mets fans are clamoring for, they must give up a big package.

*   *   *

There has been so much debate over whether Troy Tulowitzki is worth it, his home-road splits, his contract, and more. Let me put it simply: he is, without question, worth a hefty haul.

When healthy, Tulowitzki is a top ten position player. This season, he is second in fWAR only to mike Trout with a 5.1 mark. He leads the National League in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. He has hit 21 home runs, put up an ISO of .263, and has played tremendous defense to boot. This guy is legit.

There will, of course, be debate over the effects of Coors Field on his statistics. There is no doubt that the hitting environment there contributes to his incredible numbers, so let’s take those out of the equation for a minute. Before we look at his road numbers, keep in mind one thing: his numbers will likely be better than this. Hitters always do better at home than on the road, so even if Tulowitzki really is only as good as his current road numbers suggest, his statistics will be better with half of his games at Citi Field. For his career, here are Tulowitzki’s road numbers:

.274/.349/.469, 480 G, 77 HR, 94 2B, amounting to an 84 tOPS+

That looks somewhat disappointing when compared to his home splits, but in reality, those statistics are still incredible for a shortstop. Here are the shortstops who have equaled his road OPS (.818) this year:

Now here are those who have done it in any single season since 2010:

Even on the road, Tulowitzki is an incredible hitter for his position. His 118 wRC+ away from Coors Field shows he is well above average for the league (not the position) when not aided by the thin air of Colorado. Getting a league average 100 wRC+ from a shortstop is rare, but being 20 percent higher is extremely hard to come by, and Tulowitzki has done it consistently.

The next two hurdles are his health and his contract. Looking over his injury history, it is easy to say he is fragile. While I am not going to say anything either way on this, I will point out that a few of his injuries (like a cut he got on his hand) aren’t the type that reoccur frequently, and almost ll of his injuries are in different body parts. It is hard for any of us as average fans to say that Troy Tulowitzki‘s bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscles are ALL physiologically more breakable and tearable than the average baseball player. Being frequently injured does not mean you are injury prone. If you are constantly injuring your legs like Jose Reyes is, then it may be safe to say you are injury prone. However, as someone who doesn’t have a medical degree and hasn’t done tests on Troy Tulowitzki, I am not going to say one way or the other.

Circling back to Tulowitzki’s numbers in relation to his contract… Tulo is owed $20 million each year through 2019, and another $14 million in 2020 with a $15 million team option ($4 million buyout) for 2021. If the option is declines, he will end his contract at 35 years old. Based off his road batting splits, he is likely a 5-6 WAR player going forward, even while playing at Citi Field. In the free agent market, the value of 1 WAR worth of production is north of $5 million. (Some have even pinned it at $7 million.) For most of the contract, which will only last until his mid-30s, he will certainly be worth the deal.

Adding Tulowitzki and another above average outfielder could push the Mets into playoff contention next season. With a full season of Jacob deGrom, a new-and-improved Travis d’Arnaud, a great platoon at first base, and a good bullpen from Day One, the Mets will likely see improvements from the players currently on the active roster. Then add in Matt Harvey. Getting him back will be equivalent to trading for an ace, but without the loss of other pieces. Add in Tulo and another piece and the Mets are suddenly a dangerous team.

It is always extremely tough to part with players you have grown to like and be hopeful for, but the Mets offense desperately needs help, and shortstop is the perfect place to upgrade. There will never be a perfect player out there and if there were, why would that player’s team trade him? There are going to be lumps and flaws with almost every player the Mets acquire. And the fewer lumps and flaws there are, the more the Mets will have to give up. Tulowitzki isn’t perfect, but he has a very favorable balance of flaws and potential rewards and most importantly, he makes the Mets substantially better.

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About Connor O'Brien
I'm a 17 year-old blogger, high school student, and lifelong Mets fan. I've been blogging about the Mets in some form or another for about four years. I embrace the new age, sabermetric way of thinking, but also recognize the importance of scouting and player devlopment.

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