The U Files # 55: Movin' and Groovin'

The Mets have improved the team significantly with three signings this off-season. However the team is still lacking a starting right fielder and the starting rotation could stand improvement. With the free agent market for outfielders mostly depleted, it is likely the Mets will address the outfield problem via trade. I believe I can suggest a good option to dangle as trade bait.

Stephen Christopher Trachsel appeared to have a very good year for the Mets in 2003. Many people would see a 16-10 record and ERA of 3.78 and conclude that he did. In fact Trachsel had a great deal of luck on his side in posting these statistics. His record was helped by the fact that his run support was easily the highest of any Met pitcher, over 5.3 runs per game. And his runs allowed were not in line with his run components.

Trachsel struck out 1.77 fewer batters per nine innings less than the average, and allowed .093 more home runs more than average per nine innings. His strikeout, walk, home run, and hits allowed numbers predict 101 runs allowed, but Trachsel actually allowed 90. His component RA of 4.44 is almost exactly equal to the park adjusted league average. Even in this, Trachsel appeared to have better than average defensive support in generating this record. Trachsel is about a league average pitcher for his career, and has not raised his game as it appears he has in the last two years.

In 2002, Trachsel's ERA was helped by the fact an unusually high number of his total runs allowed were unearned. His actual performance in 2002 was no better than average.

Due to his ERA (3.37 and 3.78) the last two years and +6 record in 2003, Trachsel has more trade value now than he has ever had previously in his career. His perceived performance is greater than his actual performance, and the numbers we should expect from him in 2004 should show a sharp decline from his recent "numbers." If the Mets could get something of value in return for Trachsel, and replace him with an average pitcher or better, the Mets could improve the team.

A pitcher that could replace Trachsel that is still a free agent is Sidney Ponson. The righthander struggled at times in his first four MLB seasons, but had moderate success in 2002 and a good year in 2003 (26 percent better than average – he was unlucky in ERA because only four of his total runs were unearned). At 26 years old, the first time free agent may have come in to his own. The pitcher may be asking for $6 million per year in a multi year deal, which if he can replicate his 2003 performance he would be worth. Failing that, it's not hard to find a pitcher that can fill Trachsel's shoes.

The Mets also have the option of trading a reliever. Mike Stanton should be one of the teams first choices to rid itself of, but he has a no trade clause. The most marketable pitcher, and who does not have a contractual limit on where he can be dealt, is David Weathers. Pending the performance of recently signed Braden Looper and the return of Scott Strickland he is the Mets best reliever, though this isn't a great accomplishment with the pen in the shape it's in.

A pitcher that should be ready to fill any hole in the bullpen soon if not at the beginning of the year is P.J. Bevis. The RHP struck out 108, allowed 32 walks and just four home runs in 79.1 innings at AA Binghamton and AAA Norfolk in 2003. At worst, Weather's role would be filled once Strickland returns from the disabled list.

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