Featured Post: The Case for Shortstop Javier Baez

An article by posted on July 14, 2014 0 Comments

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On Sunday, highly-touted Cubs prospect Javier Baez drove a Lucas Giolito curveball over the right-field fence for an opposite-field, two-run homer in the All-Star Futures Game at Target Field. The homer gave the World Team a 2-1 lead at the time, but the U.S. Team prevailed and won the contest 3-2.

“It was great,” Baez said after the game. “I was just looking for a fastball, and he threw me a curveball. … I knew it was going to be in the zone, so I swung at it. It feels great. I just want to play in the big leagues and do the same thing.”

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Real quick, would like to thank Metsmerized for giving me the opportunity to come on here and share my thoughts alongside an already stellar cast of writers.  This is an exciting opportunity and I will certainly take it with a lot of pride.  Now, let’s get down to the business.

The Chicago Cubs and the NY Mets have a lot in common.  Both are storied NL franchises with a desperate need to return to post-season relevancy and both have gluts at premium positions that could prove useful in a trade with one another, should both sides agree to the right terms.  The Cubs now have three different and highly desired shortstops in order to build a trade package in return for young power pitching.  The questions is, after spending so many years marketing their many prized hurlers to the fan base, what are the Mets willing to give up to execute a trade?

Starlin Castro is the main target in trade rumors swirling around the internet right now.  A lot of teams are interested in the 24-year old, three-time All Star, but few clubs have the pieces like the Mets do to draw Theo Epstein’s attention.  Castro is having a career year at the plate cranking 26 doubles, 11 home runs and knocking in 52 RBI’s at the break. The Cubs GM will most certainly look to Sandy Alderson to see who is available, but we can easily surmise those names will include Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler or Noah Syndergaard.  The first, definitely not, no further need for discussion there. The latter two, I could possibly part with, except I’ve spent too many days pondering the likes of those names as a 1, 2, 3 punch in our 2015 rotation.  If there were no other options, I could be realistic and settle into a Castro for Wheeler or Syndergaard deal, but I’m more curious about what it would take to extract Addison Russell or Javier Baez.

Of the two prospects, I think Russell would be the more difficult to pry away.  For whatever reason, I believe the Cubs want to retain him since his quick hands and plus range make him a true shortstop.  Castro is not known for being a proverbial vacuum up the middle, so many scouts see him eventually moving to second base once Russell ascends to the majors.   I’m ok with that though because I’m not sold on all the hype compared to his AAA counterpart, Baez.

Russell had a great stint in Hi-A Stockton last year with a triple slash line of .275/.377/.885 and overall, his minor league career slash is a clip better at .299/.386/.898, but we’re talking about the very bottom of the minor leagues where pitching is nowhere near as developed.  When you isolate that same slash line between AA and AAA it comes out to .249/.318/.676.  He needs more time to develop, but he would probably still cost the likes of a Wheeler or Syndergaard to have him shipped.

Right now, the Mets need someone that will at least be MLB ready by next Spring and compete with Tejada for the job at short.  The best scenario would be to take some risk in order to lower the demand on our end to avoid giving up Zack or Thor.  So this begs the question, is Baez being overlooked?  I think so.

Baez started off very slow at AAA Iowa this year, but worked very hard to adjust to the next level and as of June 19th, he has been tearing the cover off the ball.  Over the last two calendar months (39 games), Baez has a slash line of .261/.333/.820 with seven home runs and 52 RBI and he is continuing to develop patience at the plate.

In his breakthrough 2013 season, Baez showed the power scouts have been raving about, batting .282 with a .920 OPS and combining to hit 34 doubles and 37 home runs between Advanced-A and Double-A. Coming into this season, Baez was ranked 5th best prospect by Baseball America and 4th best prospect in baseball by Baseball Prospectus.

Additionally, his defense is a shining part of his game and this is just as important as the offensive production.  With Baez and Lagares up the middle, our pitching staff will thrive even more.  And the cost?  I think moving a bulkier package of Dillon Gee or Jacob deGrom and a minor leaguer such as a Rafael Montero or Steven Matz would spark enough interest. 

Epstein wants Syndergaard because he likes to pride himself on blockbuster moves, but at the end of the day, he won’t be able to get a return like that.  The Mets have just as much to boast at pitching as the Cubs do at short.  I like Castro and could easily get past the low walk rate and average defense, but would prefer to acquire Baez and his higher ceiling, while retaining our coveted three.

Lets Go Mets!

mmo presented

About the Author ()

Dan was born and raised in Upstate, NY as a die-hard Met fan. His love for America's greatest pastime was handed down from his father who still drives his passion for the Amazins' to this day. He now works in midtown Manhattan's financial district and enjoys taking an analytic approach to the game. LGM!