The Price for McCutchen

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Pirates GM Neal Huntington is making it clear with his between-the-lines statements that he’s willing to trade Andrew McCutchenThe Sporting News.

Given the Pirates circumstances as a perennial laughingstock and that McCutchen would have to be just as overwhelmed to stay long-term as the Pirates would be to trade him, it makes sense to listen to what other clubs have to say.

McCutchen is not closing in on free agency (it’s not until after the 2015 season) and he’s going to be arbitration-eligible until next year. He’s 25, is not reliant on his speed to make a living and he can play center field.

He’s an MVP-quality talent.

It’s somewhat unprecedented for a young, established position player to be available regardless of the demand.

Most of the huge deals for packages of young players that aren’t closing in on free agency involve pitchers. We saw this with the Athletics’ latest housecleaning in dealing Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez. The Rays are always ready to do business with any player on their roster and the Rockies made a bold move in trading Ubaldo Jimenez last summer.

McCutchen is a franchise cornerstone and exactly the type of player for whom an interested club should be willing to overpay as Huntington implies.

Let’s take a look at some big trades that were made with a lot of young talent exchanged for a young position player to get a gauge on circumstances and boundaries.

1982: Indians trade OF Von Hayes to the Phillies for INF Julio Franco, RHP Jay Baller, 2B Manny Trillo, OF George Vukovich and C Jerry Willard.

Hayes was 24 and saddled with the nickname “5 for 1” after the trade, but turned out to be a very good player for the Phillies. He had power and speed and if he played today, he’d be comparable to McCutchen.

Franco was an excellent hitter and lasted in the big leagues until he was 48.

Hayes’s career was over at age 33 after the Phillies had traded him to the Angels in a trade that brought them…Ruben Amaro Jr.

1990: Padres trade 2B Roberto Alomar and OF Joe Carter to the Blue Jays for 1B Fred McGriff and SS Tony Fernandez.

Alomar was 23 and I don’t think anyone predicted he’d blossom into a Hall of Fame player with power. Two old-school GMs—the Padres’ Joe McIlvaine and the Blue Jays’ Pat Gillick—pulled off this drastic maneuver that worked out better for the Blue Jays, but was productive for the Padres. In retrospect, they would have preferred to keep Alomar, but no one knew what Alomar was.

Veteran general managers got together and cobbled out a major trade that helped both sides.

1992: Brewers trade INF Gary Sheffield and RHP Geoff Kellogg to the Padres for RHP Ricky Bones, OF Matt Mieske and INF Jose Valentin.

Sheffield was miserable in Milwaukee, couldn’t handle the expectations and pressure stemming from being in the big leagues at 19 and the nephew of Dwight Gooden. In later years, Sheffield claimed to have intentionally thrown balls wildly from third base as some form of retribution for perceived slights.

Sound familiar?

The self-destructive petulance was chalked up to youth.

It turned out not to be youth. Gary was just Gary and that’s simply what he did.

From age 19-40, Sheffield imploded and exploded in his subsequent stops (six after Milwaukee and San Diego) and alienated anyone and everyone along the way. He got away with it because he could hit for power and get on base—no other reason.

The Brewers got rid of Sheffield because he was a ticking time bomb.

2007: Rays trade OF Delmon Young, INF Brendan Harris and OF Jason Pridie to the Twins for RHP Matt Garza, SS Jason Bartlett and RHP Eddie Morlan.

Young was a former first pick in the draft, but the new Rays front office wouldn’t have drafted him first had they been in charge and were in the process of clearing out players who didn’t behave appropriately—Young had acted up in the minors and majors resulting in suspensions and confrontations with manager Joe Maddon. It helped the decision to move him that they didn’t value what it was he did because he hit a few homers, didn’t get on base and played poor defense in the outfield.

Garza was a young pitcher with a temper similar to Young’s, but that temper was tolerable to get his power arm.

This was a mutual-interest/need deal and not one to clear salary.

Barring free agency, financial constraints and ancillary factors, players like McCutchen are rarely available.

Is he “available”? Or are the Pirates tossing it out there to see if anyone bites and gives up the house?

Teams should inquire and be serious about getting him.

The Royals have the prospects and the need. With McCutchen in center field flanked by Alex Gordon and Jeff Francoeur, their outfield defense would be superlative and their rebuilding process would be sped up markedly.

The Nationals need a center fielder, have the young talent to deal and are looking to improve quickly; the Braves’ farm system is loaded; and the Mets should accept reality and give the fans something to bank on while getting a marquee youngster.

If teams have to overpay, so be it.

For a player like McCutchen, everyone should contact the Pirates and see whether or not they’re serious about moving him. If they ask for seven players including four who are perceived as “can’t miss”, then they’re not serious; if they ask for four or five, then it’s something for an interested club to pursue because McCutchen is worth it.

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Deface Of A Franchise

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David Wright is the Mets most valuable asset on and off the field.

He’s their recognizable star; an upstanding citizen; still a top tier player at a hard-to-fill position; signed long-term to a reasonable contract; a stand-up player and leader in the clubhouse while others have shied from the responsibility.

That’s why the Mets should trade him.

Let’s take a look at the reasons why.

“Da core” is broken.

Don’t think for a second this is akin to Mike Francesa’s tired and self-serving attempt at attention-grabbing after the 2008 season in which he insisted the Mets had to “break up ‘da core”.

There is no longer a core to break up.

The remnants of the title-contending Mets from 2006-2008 are either gone, aging or preparing for departure. Omar Minaya and Willie Randolph were fired; Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo have been released; Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes are free agents at the end of the year and will either be traded or allowed to leave; Johan Santana is a forgotten man as he rehabs from shoulder surgery; Carlos Delgado, Jose Valentin, Billy Wagner and Duaner Sanchez are gone and long since forgotten.

Since the injuries to teammates mounted in 2009, there’s been a sense of lone man on an island surrounding Wright. As the Mets have collapsed on and off the field, Wright has endured; asserted his desire to stay; played hard and through aches and pains; withstood the unfair vitriol from frustrated fans as the sole remaining target for their abuse—and he’s behaved classily and professionally.

There’s no longer a core of anything. This season is degenerating rapidly into a disaster and the Mets most marketable asset is Wright.

They could extract a bounty for him.

With their current weaknesses, financial situation and season spiraling as it is, they could bring in a large haul for Wright.

He’s signed to a reasonable contract through 2013 that pays him $14 million this season; $15 million next season; and a $16 million option for 2013 with a $1 million buyout. He does not have a no-trade clause.

He plays a premium, hard-to-fill position and a change-of-scenery to a more friendly home ballpark and surrounded by better players in a more positive atmosphere would return him to MVP contending status.

Given these factors, a starting point in any trade talk would have to include a blue-chip pitching prospect; a blue-chip infielder who can hit and run; an innings-eating, relatively young starting pitcher; and another young bat with an attribute—speed or power.

Everyone and everything should be on the table.

No team should be excluded from soliciting an offer for Wright and that includes the Phillies, Braves, Marlins and Yankees.

All have prospects to deal; all could put Wright somewhere; all could fit him into their salary structure at least for the short-term.

How would the Phillies—who are going to need a bat—look with Wright at third base bashing in Citizens Bank Park and Placido Polanco moving to second? If and when Chase Utley comes back, they could shift he or Wright to the outfield.

The Yankees and Braves also could send him to the outfield; the Marlins are desperate for a third baseman and if they’re in contention, would they include Matt Dominguez to get Wright? They’ve got the nerve to do it.

The Dodgers, Angels, Athletics (who were suggested as a possible destination for Wright on Bleacher Report a couple of days ago), Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Padres—all are locations that could use Wright and have the goods to get him.

It’s best for both sides.

The new Mets baseball operations crew, led by Sandy Alderson, made their name in objective analysis and an absence of fear. The current club circumstances won’t be affected by dealing Wright. Fans aren’t coming to the ballpark; they’re going to lose 90 games with or without Wright; they have multiple needs and financial issues hindering their flexibility; he—as opposed to Beltran, Reyes and Francisco Rodriguez—isn’t carting a load of baggage or impending free agency to dilute the return in a trade.

In making a smart, aggressive deal, they could be ready to start anew by opening day 2012 with the Wilpon financial morass (hopefully) settled; a load of money off the books; and a stable of young players with fresh legs, unsullied by the residue of past failures.

Wright is 28-years-old and the frustration of losing and drama is wearing on his once-sunny disposition.

He’s tired and you can see it.

Knowing how things are clearly getting worse before they get better and that his compatriot Reyes—who was meant to be the other half of the dual-cornerstones for years of contention—is heading out the door, makes this an obvious call for everyone.

Perception and reality make the time right.

Wright isn’t the type to ask for a trade, but then neither was Roy Halladay.

Halladay stayed in Toronto as long as he could stand it, but finally asked out. It was one of those rare deals that worked for both sides. The Phillies got a star pitcher still in his prime at a financial discount; the Blue Jays acquired an ace starting pitcher and future Cy Young Award candidate in Kyle Drabek.

The Mets aren’t contenders for anything this year aside from a high pick in the 2012 draft—they look terrible; they are terrible. Clinging to the past and hoping that Wright can lead the next wave of young players into viable contention—something that won’t happen until 2013—is a mad shortsightedness in the interests of current perception and is exactly what they’ve tried to get away from with the hiring of Alderson.

Keeping Wright is the equivalent of refurbishing a dilapidated house by holding onto a valuable painting hanging on a crumbling wall.

It’s pointless when the same painting can be dealt or sold for great value.

Rather than patch a defaced and collapsing property, they need to reach the root of the problem. The Mets have to rebuild the foundation entirely.

There’s nothing left for Wright with the Mets.

It’s diminishing returns if they keep him.

They need to start over.

And the best way to do that is to trade David Wright.

Now.

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