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Trade Analysis: Benson to the O's

The restless Metropolitans were at it again the other day, completing a deal that had been rumored a month ago as the Mets shipped Kris Benson down the Grand Central, Van Wyck, Belt Parkway, Staten Island Expressway, West Shore Expressway, Rt. 440, the Garden State Parkway, the NJ Turnpike, and I-95 to Baltimore in exchange for Jorge Julio and John Maine.

Several things need to be kept in perspective about this deal:

  1. Kris Benson seems to have proven that he is what he is.
  2. Jorge Julio had an ERA approaching 6 last year.
  3. John Maine was once a very highly-touted prospect.
Let's take those one at a time.

1. Kris Benson's season can best be described by this table. Bear with me.

            HR/9    BB/9   SO/9   BABIP   ERA
First 16    0.96    2.18   5.40    .248   3.14
Last 12     1.65    3.04   4.18    .285   5.66
Everything went swimmingly for Benson for the first 16 games; he was helped by defense and luck and he kept the ball in the yard (for the most part) and guys off base. That led to a 3.14 ERA, and it was easy to think that Benson was starting to put everything together, finally fulfilling the promise that so many saw in him when Pittsburgh selected him #1 overall back in the days of Eisenhower. Er, Clinton. But it feels like a lot longer than Clinton, doesn't it?

Of course, as the numbers indicate, his last 12 starts were a horror show and everything came crashing down. Balls starting flying out of the park, he started walking more guys, and his strikeout rate teetered around 4.

Benson's overall year reflected the stats of a 3 or 4 starter, as they say, and I would be surprised if his numbers were any better than that next year, especially considering that Benson just switched leagues. Sure, promise is promise and its easy to buy into it when you see some good things, but our eyes can deceive us. Benson's league average at best these days. If he gives you 200 innings, that's really not bad. But that's never a guarantee, and no one should expect more than that.

  1. Julio feels like a Proven CloserTM, so that could have been one of the reasons for his acquisition. In reality, Julio was awful last year, victimized by the longball. He's still young, so he has that going for him. Julio for Benson straight up would be heavily favored for Baltimore, even considering the salary relief that will be heading to New York with Julio.
  2. John Maine is the X-factor in all of this. He was once highly touted; his 2003 in A-ball certainly turned some heads, even as a 22-year old (that year, he struck out 185 in 146.2 innings across two levels of A-ball). Maine rocketed through the system and has stayed in AAA for the better part of two seasons. His major league track record is terrible, but the sample size is small. Maine is no longer a top prospect and no one would mistake Maine for a future ace, at this point, but he could still serve a role and is still a prospect worth considering. John Sickels ranked him as the #6 prospect for the O's before last season, and after the season, he said, "6-11, 4.56 in 23 starts for Triple-A Ottawa, though his component ratios were up to previous standards. Hit hard in 10 games in the majors, with a poor 24/24 K/BB in 40 innings. I still think he will be a useful pitcher but I don't like him as much as I used to."
The Mets need to figure out what they're doing with their rotation now, but they're loaded with righty arms in the 'pen (although I can't help but think that Heath Bell could do similar work to many of the new guys). They do need a lefty out of the bullpen, and the rotation remains dangerously old (Pedro, Glavine, Trachsel, and Zamby, the four "definites," are all 30+, and the average age is right around 35). But otherwise, this is a sensible deal. They cleared some money and opened up a potential spot for Aaron Heilman in the rotation (Heilman has requested a chance to start). We'll see how it goes for the Mets.

For the O's, Benson could be a candidate for this year's Mazzone MiracleTM, but he's not going to push the O's to the playoffs.