The Mets, having probably read Steven Martano’s post about their not-very-good offense from yesterday, have acquired Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson from the Atlanta Braves for (stop me if you’ve heard this before) a couple of minor league pitchers in John Gant and Rob Whalen.
Of course, third base has been a position of strength for the Mets since 2004 or so, but David Wright has been out of commission for the majority of the season after being diagnosed with spinal stenosis, which isn’t a good diagnosis, of course. That doesn’t mean the end of Wright’s career, as Bryan Grosnick noted when that news came out two months ago, but it might mean the end of his season — but there is some good news regarding Wright.
David Wright to begin baseball activity in NY early next week. Done limited stuff in LA.— Adam Rubin (@AdamRubinESPN) July 23, 2015
There are likely a few reasons why the Mets went with a move like this. Namely, Wright is out for at least a little while longer, the team is just three games back of the Nationals and two-and-a-half games behind the second NL Wild Card spot, and this is the group of third basemen they’ve been playing with so far. That’s an underwhelming group to say the least.
Using playoff odds at FanGraphs, the Mets are expected to play roughly .500 baseball the rest of the way and finish a few games behind the Cubs and Giants. Current odds give the team a 10.6 percent chance to win the NL East and a 7.0 percent chance to get a wild card spot. In short, a move needed to be made if the Mets wanted the needle to move their way, so the Mets made a move.
In the Mets’ worst-case scenario, Uribe provides good defense at the hot corner, and that’s it. If Uribe can keep up the pace he has been on since being traded to the Braves, however, he would be worth about 1.5 fWAR over the final two months or so, which would be a nice improvement over the collective production of Eric Campbell, Ruben Tejada, Daniel Murphy, and Daniel Muno.
The ZiPS and Steamer projections at FanGraphs expect Uribe to be somewhere in between, providing a little less than a full win for the Mets and posting a roughly league-average bat with good defense. Also consider that those same projections expect Campbell, Muno, and Murphy to be better than they have been offensively, with Murphy’s expected 102 wRC+ being the rosiest rest-of-season projection of those three.
While Johnson has been worth just 0.3 fWAR for Atlanta, he’s improved his offense this year by posting a 113 wRC+ in his first 197 PA this season — a 28-point increase from last season. The projections don’t love Johnson by any means, and both Steamer and ZiPS expect him to be just above replacement-level for the rest of the way.
In a sense, Kelly Johnson could be thought of as a poor man’s Ben Zobrist. If you like him less, consider Johnson as a homeless man’s Ben Zobrist, I guess. I bring that up because the Mets seem to have been in talks with the A’s about getting Zobrist, and the two are at least somewhat similar: defensive versatility, better-than-average power, and on-base skills, with all three of those categories favoring Zobrist.
A big difference is the cost it would take to get either of them, both in talent and money. Zobrist’s contract pays him $7.5 million over the course of this year, while Johnson signed a one-year deal with the Braves for $200,000 at the beginning of 2015. If the Wilpons and the Mets front office are terribly concerned about pinching pennies and don’t want to pay much (or any) of Zobrist’s contract, they could do worse than getting Kelly Johnson.
From the Braves side, this trade is pretty simple. Atlanta unloads a couple of veterans, sticks with its rebuilding plan, and picks up more minor-league pitching. MLB.com ranks Rob Whalen as the 18th-best prospect for the Mets, while John Gant isn’t ranked at all. Rather than copy and paste what I’ve been reading about the two pitchers, I’ll defer to lead prospect writer at FanGraphs, Kiley McDaniel, and his tweet:
Both are solid 40-45 FV guys, likely MLB contributors in a 1-2 years, could both be (upside) league avg starters or (downside) long/setup RP— Kiley McDaniel (@kileymcd) July 25, 2015
The main takeaway from the trade is that the Mets needed an upgrade somewhere, and Uribe provides that at third base. The deal was made to help bolster a weak offense for a team trying to make a playoff push, and the Mets did that without paying too much in talent to make the exchange. It’s probably not enough to put the Mets in the playoffs right now, but they’re at least moving in the right direction.
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Murphy Powell is a contributor at Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @murphypowell.