With the trade deadline approaching, the New York Mets made a November-style move, acquiring veteran reliever A.J. Ramos from the Miami Marlins in exchange for single-A prospects Ricardo “not that” Cespedes (OF) and Merandy Gonzales (RHP).
In a season lost to an onslaught of injuries, the Mets entered play Friday with between a two and five percent chance of making the playoffs, depending on which website you ask. The team is widely expected to sell multiple veterans at the deadline in an effort to supplement an already formidable farm system.
But if the Mets are not plundered by injuries again next year, this is still a talented roster with a legitimate chance to contend in 2018. Still, there are questions about the bullpen next year, as there are about almost every bullpen in every year. Though erstwhile closer Jeurys Familia will return to the Mets from surgery to remove a blood clot in his shoulder, current stalwarts and soon-to-be free agents Addison Reed and Jerry Blevins are almost certain to be traded in the next few days. So Sandy Anderson and the Mets’ front office chose to get a jump on the offseason by sneaking in to get Ramos.
After four solid seasons in the Marlins’ bullpen, Ramos has seen a bit of a drop-off in his conventional stats, with his ERA and FIP rising from 2.81 and 2.90 to 3.63 and 3.91. But Ramos ran an unreal 1.6 percent home run rate last year, and his strikeout rate, walk rate, and DRA are basically unchanged this year. Ramos had reportedly drawn interest from as many as seven contenders, and you can see why—he is a top-end bullpen piece with one more year of cheap control.
As for the Marlins, they were able to use the significant market interest in Ramos to get two relatively highly rated prospects, though ones with a lot of work to do to contribute to the big league team.
Merandy Gonzalez is a 21-year-old right handed pitcher out of the Dominican who signed for an unreported bonus in 2012. Gonzalez has produced strong results since coming stateside in 2015, throwing a no-hitter in the GCL that year and keeping his ERA under three at all five stops so far. In his preseason report, Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs describes a low-90s fastball that can touch 94+ with some sacrifices on location. MLB Pipeline’s midseason report has the fastball sitting at 93 and touching 94-96. Gonzalez also features a curveball that Longenhagen projects as average (Pipeline has it at above average), and has a developing changeup that both evaluators consider to be an underused, potentially average pitch.
Perhaps suggesting a significant improvement in command, Gonzalez has cut his walk rate nearly in half this year, going from 9.3 percent in 14 starts last year in the New York Penn League to 4.9 percent in 28 starts this year at the single-A and high-A levels. He has achieved an impressive 1.78 ERA and sub-1 WHIP this year despite experiencing a significant reduction (8.1 points) in strikeout rate since moving up to the Florida State League. Gonzalez had reached number 8 in Pipeline’s midseason ranking of the Mets’ organization, and becomes the Marlins’ 6th-best prospect.
Ricardo Cespedes is an athletic 19-year-old left handed outfielder who has received above average grades for his arm strength and foot speed. A native of the Dominican Republic, Cespedes signed for $725,000 in 2013, and showed some promise (.322/.356/.379) last year in the Appy League after poor offensive results in the DSL and the GCL in 2014 and 2015. He has battled injury this year, appearing in only 29 games thus far. Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs ranked Cespedes 18th in the organization in a preseason assessment, putting an overall future value of 40 on him and rating his hit tool as presently 30, with a chance to reach 60 in the future. Both Longenhagen and the updated profile on MLB Pipeline describe his swing as loose and whippy, and it seems clear that the question with Cespedes is how much his power, approach, and plate discipline improve as he grows into his (still considerable) physical projection. After ranking 22nd in the Mets’ system on MLB pipeline, Cespedes enters the Marlins’ organization in the 24th spot.
So, this ends up being a solid return for the Marlins, and an aggressive, smart move by the Mets, who stand to replace the prospects they lost with upcoming trades of expiring contracts. Whether you’re a Mets fan or a Marlins fan, there is good reason to be happy with this trade.
Ross Drath is a contributing writer at Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on twitter @looselids.