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Mets trade Jeurys Familia to the A’s for little more than salary relief

It’s an underwhelming return for a high end reliever. The Wilpons strike again.

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at New York Mets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Wilpons’ dedication to continued austerity never ceases to amaze me. They traded Jeurys Familia, a valuable trade asset, to the Athletics for right-hander Bobby Wahl and third baseman Will Toffey. The A’s are also including $1 million in international bonus pool money. Familia will be a free agent at the end of the year.

Familia had a 2017 season to forget. He missed most of the season due to injury involving the removal of blood clots in his shoulder. When he did pitch, he pitched poorly, even when accounting for a groundball pitcher playing in front of the Mets’ terrible defense. He had a 5.11 RA9, his strikeout rate was down, and his walk rate shot up to 13.5 percent.

According to Brooks Baseball, Familia entered 2018 deciding to rely less on his four-seamer and sinker, and more on his slider. His ground ball rate dropped from ~60 percent the past three years to 50 percent this year. That is still a good ground ball rate, and his strikeout rate rose back up to 25 percent. With this Mets’ defense, exchanging groundballs for more strikeouts is a worthwhile trade-off.

It is working for him. Familia has a 2.88 RA9 in 40 appearances, and his walk rate has dropped down to a solid 8.2 percent. With the Mets’ season having turned into a dumpster fire, trading away an excellent reliever with a consistent, proven track record (outside of an injury plagued 2017 season) is a no-brainer. Leave it to the Wilpons to screw up a no-brainer.

Obviously the Mets were not going to get a Francisco Mejía for Familia, mostly because he is a rental, and Brad Hand is under contract through 2021 for cheap. But refusing to eat the paltry ~$3.25 million left on Familia’s contract while accepting a pretty low return in talent is yet another embarrassing action to throw on the pile for the Wilpons.

The ceilings for Wahl and Toffey are low. Wahl might crack the majors as a mid-inning reliever. Toffey is reportedly a good defensive third baseman, but with the way he is hitting, he needs to be as good a fielder as Nolan Arenado. The good news is that he walks a lot, but he has a .255/.368/.365 line in 450 career plate appearances as a 23-year-old in A ball. He might never see major league action, and if he does, it will likely be as an end-of-the-bench guy who makes frequent trips between the majors and minors.

The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported that the Mets refused to eat the remainder of Familia’s contract because “they felt quality of return did not increase enough to justify including money.” Let’s break down the problems with that statement:

  • The Wilpons have no credibility.
  • The report was from an unnamed source, so you have to take it with a grain of salt the size of the Mets’ Home Run Apple.
  • Any improvement in return of talent is worth the money that the Mets saved.

In today’s MLB economy, $3.25 million is just not much money. It is not going to make a dent in signing any free agents. Even if I were dissatisfied with the improved return from including that money, I would definitely still pull the trigger on the trade. That money can be much, much more impactful if invested in improving the farm system. That is why the international bonus pool money is the best part of this trade. It saves the trade from being completely embarrassing to just being disappointing.

I am surprised that Billy Beane executed this trade. At 56-43, the A’s have been surprisingly good this year, and they are just three games back of the Mariners for the last Wild Card slot. A team should almost never make moves for half a playoff spot, especially when the chances of clinching that spot are under 30 percent. That being said, the cost for Familia was so low. Why not do it?

If anything, Beane was expected to subtract from his bullpen, not add to it. Blake Treinen, especially, is a great trade asset. Don’t be surprised if Beane still trades him. Remember the Josh Donaldson trade? He is always looking to the future. It could be that he acquired Familia as a serviceable replacement for Treinen.

Some are comparing the return to the Kelvin Herrera trade, which I coincidentally wrote about when it happened. Even when considering the potential lack of a market for relievers that I mentioned in that article, I think the Mets got a lower return for what they parted with than the Royals did. I do believe that they share a criticism: both teams should have waited until closer to the trade deadline to do better.

It does not look like the Mets even tried here. It appears that the Wilpons just cared about saving the money, and any small return would do as long as they did not have to eat any salary. It is a shameful way for a team to operate in the largest city in America. It is an embarrassment to the league as a whole.

It is time for Rob Manfred to show some courage and get the Mets some new owners. Yes, I am a Mets fan, but I sincerely believe this is in the best interests of the game. He never did anything about former Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, so I won’t hold my breath.

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Luis Torres is a Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score. He is a medicinal chemist by day, baseball analyst by night. You can follow him on Twitter at @Chemtorres21.