J.J. Putz Trade

Jim Bates - Seattle Times

Jim Bates - Seattle Times

The current headline on the Seattle Times website says it all (with some hyperbole): “Mariners trade J.J. Putz, receive 7 players in return.” Let’s lay out the addition and subtraction…

Mariners trade
RP J.J. Putz (Mets)
RP Sean Green (Mets)
OF Jeremy Reed (Mets)
IF Luis Valbuena (Indians)

Mariners get
OF Endy Chavez
OF Franklin Gutierrez
RP Aaron Heilman
+4 minor leaguers that I won’t bother to name

The Optimist’s View
The Mariners traded a junk second baseman, two relievers, and an outfielder without any above-average qualities for seven players, including an outfielder (Gutierrez) in his prime with serious potential. Heilman soured in New York, but that might have more to do with the New York atmosphere than his abilities as a pitcher. He certainly replaces Green, who really faltered in the second half of last season (albeit due to overuse). Chavez provides defense and a reliable, speedy veteran at the fourth outfielder position. He’ll be the pinch-runner if Willie Bloomquist goes elsewhere.

The most important overall point is that any trade dealing away Putz was a win for the Mariners. In the last few years, analysts have finally begun to realize what I’ve been saying all along: relief pitchers don’t matter. Closers go from good to bad within a season. Putz moved from a setup role to the closer’s job, performed admirably, and within two years his value skyrocketed. The GMZ sold high. Remember the saga of Francisco Cordero? He had a great season with the Rangers a few years ago, signed a sweet extension, bottomed out the next season, lost his closer’s job and eventually got traded to the Brewers, where he had a resurgence for a season and then faltered again. Closers are like mediocre quarterbacks in the NFL – they’re always someone just slightly worse waiting to take their job.

The Pessimist’s View
Note: this will be shorter. Try to guess what I think about this trade. We didn’t get a power bat. Green was our most effective reliever all last season. This is about all I have – though the power bat issue is a big one. Read “The Big Picture” for more on that.

The Big Picture
Good teams retool through trades and their farm system. I make that statement without years of statistical analysis, but we can all note that grandiose free agent signings, like spending $161 million for a guy who isn’t totally sure he wants to be in New York, or $37 million on a closer, don’t make the same impact as solid all-around organizations. Note the Tampa Bay Rays. Trades and farm system. Their early strategy of free agent signings (remember Fred McGriff, Jose Canseco and Wade Boggs?) didn’t exactly pan out.

Plus, Mariners fans needed a trade. They needed a trade after the Erik Bedard deal, the only notable deal of Bill Bavasi’s tenure. Bavasi seemed content to take the easy route: sign free agents rather than risk public opinion in a trade. Then he sent five players for one in the Bedard deal. You can’t trade that way. This is a refreshing change, I must say.

Finally, the GMZ probably isn’t done. Maybe this precedes another trade, involving either Beltre or Ichiro (please). Gutierrez has some power – he might hit 15-20 home runs projected over 450-550 at-bats, but he’s not quite the same answer as Matt Joyce of the Tigers would’ve been. Russell Branyan, if his production is anything like last year’s showing in limited at-bats, could be the answer. Remember that the Mariners played with ghosts as first base and catcher for nearly all of last season. ANYTHING is an upgrade.


~ by ericmonek on December 11, 2008.

4 Responses to “J.J. Putz Trade”

  1. Finally! Someone else who understands that closers aren’t worth the cash! You’re right: we sold high on Putz. I had originally thought we wouldn’t be able to move him for anyone decent with all these other closers on the market and here come the Mets who want two!

    Seriously, if there’s one thing the M’s have always been able to do, it’s find a bullpen from nothing. God at least loves us in that respect. I would much rather have a “gap” at closer than in the outfield. Here’s hoping we can snag that big bat we need next.

  2. Agreed. The Mets have an unbelievable amount of money tied up in closers (if you include Putz) next season – almost $30 million. One of them is injured, but still – $30 million on relief pitchers? Most bullpens should cost $8 million tops.

  3. […] In other words, the Mets’ bullpen was so bad last year that Law thinks they made this signing based off fear of their fans. Certainly Mets fans have a legitimate gripe about last season’s bullpen, but would Omar Minaya really spend $37 million on a closer with decreasing velocity on his fastball just because he feared fan backlash? Again, closers occupy a prominent position because they finish games. It’s easy to see what they’ve done. But beyond this “stopper” attitude that everyone discusses, they’re not much different than other relievers. I wouldn’t ever pay $37 million for a closer (or $30 million for three, if you read my comment on my last post. […]

  4. […] Closer/Quarterback Corollary 18 12 2008 In my recent post about the J.J. Putz trade, I wrote that closers are a lot like mediocre NFL quarterbacks. If […]

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