Gil Meche: Top Trade Target?
Posted by Jason A. Churchill on July 15, 2006
All it takes is a peak around the league to see that Seattle Mariners right-hander Gil Meche might just be one of the most sought after trade targets on the market over the next two weeks.
Whether GM Bill Bavasi sees a deal that makes sense for a club sitting three games back in a winnable division, is another story in itself. But there’s no doubt to be created – Meche is one of the best starting pitchers that could be changing addresses at the end of the month.
Furthermore, the 27-year-old might be the very best value of any of those rumored to be available this summer. Considering overall performance, age, contract status, recent trend, pure ability and stuff as well as current salary and what it might take to land each pitcher, Meche is an absolute gem.
Combining mainstream rumors and a few back channel cell feeds, I came up with the eight most likely starting pitchers to get moved by this year’s July 31 trade deadline, including Mr. Meche, for analysis purposes, of course.
Oakland’s Barry Zito and San Francisco’s Jason Schmidt top the list in pure talent, but both arms will cost a pretty penny, and the Giants have the leverage of being in the race. Athletics’ GM Billy Beane says he’d trade Zito whether they were in first place or last place, depending on what the return might be.
Milwaukee’s Doug Davis, Chicago’s Greg Maddux, Washington’s Livan Hernandez and Phillies’ starters Cory Lidle and Jon Lieber fill out the crop – with Meche.
Dontrelle Willis is not going to be moved, though Dodgers southpaw Odalis Perez, who was recently told that the club was not trying to deal him, may be on the block anyways. If the Colorado Rockies were smart, they’d deal Byung-hyun Kim while he has some value, but the Rockies are in the market for some bullpen help instead, so Kim is off the market, as Jason Jennings and Toronto’s Ted Lilly – with the Jays knocking on the door of the big two.
|PLAYERS||AGE||’06 $$||2007||2006 STATS||FIP|
|Barry Zito, LHP||28||$8.5||FA||9-6, 3.30 ERA, 131 IP, 95 K, 61 BB, .236 BAA||4.45|
|Jason Schmidt, RHP||33||$10.5m||FA||6-5, 2.78 ERA, 126 IP, 105 K, 42 BB, .216 BAA||3.49|
|Gil Meche, RHP||27||$3.8m||FA||9-4, 3.87 ERA, 116 IP, 95 K, 48 BB, .248 BAA||4.31|
|Doug Davis, LHP||30||$3.2m||ARB3||5-6, 4.95 ERA, 111 IP, 82 K, 61 BB, .264 BAA||4.81|
|Greg Maddux, RHP||40||$9.0m||FA||7-9, 4.89 ERA, 110 IP, 62 K, 20 BB, .285 BAA||4.98|
|Livan Hernandez, RHP||31||$8.0m||$7.0m||6-8, 5.94 ERA, 114 IP, 66 K, 48 BB, .308 BAA||6.49|
|Jon Lieber, RHP||36||$7.25m||$7.5m||3-6, 5.47 ERA, 72 IP, 44 K, 10 BB, .282 BAA||5.72|
|Cory Lidle, RHP||34||$3.3m||FA||5-7, 4.95 ERA, 104 IP, 83 K, 34 BB, .281 BAA||5.56|
As you can see, traditional statistics show that Zito and Schmidt are the only pitchers in the group having a better season than Meche. But the FIP numbers indicate that Zito has been greatly helped by his defense – to the tune of more than a run per nine innings. Fielding Independent Pitching is a statistic designed to judge how the pitcher performed regardless of how his defense played behind him. The formula is complicated and certainly not the point here, but there are league factors taken into consideration as well.
Meche’s 4.31 FIP is second only to Schmidt’s 3.49, which is a great beginning. But Meche’s value goes much further than that.
He’s six years younger than Schmidt, which only matters if the acquiring club is interested in re-signing their deadline acquisition. But it’s certainly in Meche’s favor with every other pitcher, except Zito, who’s just 28, a year older than Meche.
Meche’s salary is also a plus. He’s due just $3.85 million this season, assuming he reaches 190, 200 and 210 innings pitched. He can earn another $75,000 if he stretched out to 220 innings. Only Lidle and Davis are owed less in 2006 salary.
Hernandez and Lieber not only come with the baggage of horrible recent track record, but also that of another year on their contracts. Both are due more than $7 million in 2007 – not an attractive aspect of each hurlers trade value.
Lidle is 34 and certainly not a good candidate to turn his season around, while Maddux will have veto rights, via the courtesy of the Chicago Cubs.
Schmidt may or may not become available, but most industry sources think the Giants will hang on to the right-hander and make a run for the division title. Giants owner Peter McGowan and GM Brian Sabean know as well as anyone that they are at the end of the line with the current corps. They’ll likely keep Schmidt and deal with his pending free agency in December.
The Brewers are still somewhat in the race being just three games back in the wildcard race, though they have five teams to pass to make the postseason. Doug Davis is an interesting case. He’s somewhat of a power pitcher with control problems, but he’s not owed much cash (a pro-rated $3.2m) and is under club control for one more season.
Davis could be extremely attractive to clubs such as the New York Yankees, New York Mets, Texas Rangers or Toronto Blue Jays. His handedness, low salary and contract status make him a prime target — but the biggest doubt is whether Milwaukee will even be interested in trading the 30-year-old. Smart money says they hang onto him and look to trade him this winter when more teams get in the bidding.
While Hernandez, Lieber and Lidle are garbage and the former two expensive trash at that, Maddux having value only to teams he wishes and Schmidt being much more likely to stay with his currently contending club, that leaves Barry Zito and Gil Meche.
Zito is a primo front-line arm, at least that’s the way he’s seen by most clubs, including the Yankees, Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Mets, the four teams most likely to make a run at the 2002 Cy Young winner. But only one of those clubs can land him, leaving the other three to choose between the above stated junk, other junk not mentioned here, or Mr. Meche.
The question of what Meche is actually worth is not relevant here at all. The questions are whether Bavasi will trade him, knowing the chances of catching three teams in the AL West are slimmer than Tracey Gold on a diet, and what the M’s can get in return for the enigmatic-turned-ace.
I’ve talked quite a bit here at PI about what the M’s should seriously consider, and that’s taking Meche into free agency, offering his arbitration with the willingness to bring him back at a similar number to what Joel Pineiro is making this year ($6.3m), or get a minimum of a first round draft pick from the club that offers Meche two or more guaranteed years — and there will be more than one team looking to make that sort of splash on a 28-year-old with a plus fastball a plus curve and a strong 2006 effort.
But the decision won’t be easy. The M’s are just three back, and while they do sit in fourth place in a four-team division, one good week could change all that and they could find themselves in first or second place on July 31 — very easily.
The return for Meche will have to fit the needs of the 2007 Seattle Mariners. Just getting a prospect or two won’t do. The prospects involved will have to be big-league ready, or very close to breaking through. Bavasi would probably prefer to get at least one young and proven major leaguer in such a deal, in addition to a promising minor leaguer with talents that fill a hole in the farm system (hint – pitcher, power hitter).
But the M’s are in the driver’s seat this time around and if they do decide to trade Gil Meche, Bavasi will, for the first time, have a major league talent with high value — and extreme demand — in which to deal.
The voices around the game think the M’s should trade Meche while he has value, but the same baseball people don’t believe Bavasi will pull the trigger.
One NL front office executive on the idea: “If you are chasing three teams in your own division, that’s a tough choice to make. Being a few games back on July 31… you really can’t throw in the towel. But six or seven (games back) is death in that situation, or if the club falls four or five games behind all three clubs ahead of them. it’s harder to convince the fans that it’s the right thing to do, but it really is and you have to do what’s right.
“They really should be talking right now as if they are selling, and it sounds to me like Billy (Bavasi) is covering all of the bases – just in case. And Meche isn’t the only name being talked about. He may have decisions to make on a few other bigger names as well.”
Hopefully, the Seattle Mariners 25-man roster finds a way to remove the choice. Ideally, the club goes on a winning streak over the next couple weeks and solidifies their chance at staying in serious contention, in which Meche would be going nowhere and Bavasi then turns to the thought of adding help by trading some youth, or they fall flat on their faces, making it the easiest decision of the year… besides firing Mike Hargrove and designating Carl Everett for assignment.
But those are two separate stories for two separate days.