The Mets Were Even Bigger Trade Deadline Cowards Than We Knew

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The Mets Were Even Bigger Trade Deadline Cowards Than We Knew

Chicago Cubs

I assume most of you need no background at this point, but for any of you that do, I’ll try to keep it brief: the Cubs and Mets were in substantial trade talks in the lead up to the Trade Deadline, but it became clear in the aftermath that the Mets decided not to trade any top prospects – anywhere – for upgrades to their big league roster, because they didn’t want to regret it later (a la Pete Crow-Armstrong and the Cubs). It was cowardly, and it may have cost them down the stretch, as they lost the NL East by a tiebreaker with the Braves.

OK, so the update here is that now we know just how tight the Mets were being with their prospects in talks for Willson Contreras and David Robertson:

Per Jon Heyman’s report:

Still, it’s possible the Mets may have overreacted to their obviously deep regret giving up Pete Crow-Armstrong to the Cubs for Javier Baez. “Electric,” one rival exec called Crow-Armstrong. Multiple teams did think the Mets were very cautious, curious since they are a win-now team with several 30-something stars who are free agents this year or next ….

Rivals say the Mets mostly offered third-tier prospects. Two players they were said to dangle were pitcher Jose Butto and outfielder Khalil Lee. One question is why not offer Mark Vientos, whose No. 5 ranking in the organization made him valuable at a time some Mets themselves question his overall value due to his position issue?

If that’s the level the Mets were going for both Contreras and Robertson, it’s really unsurprising that the Cubs stopped calling.

Lee, 24, is seen as something of a depth prospect (FanGraphs, ranking him 15th in the system, described his upside at midseason as a three-true-outcome platoon corner outfielder), struggled this year at Triple-A in his second go there. He would not be remotely close to a reasonable return for either Contreras or Robertson.

Butto, 24, ranked a little higher at midseason (12th, to FanGraphs), but he was a 40 FV pitcher putting up mediocre results at Double-A and Triple-A at the time. You can read the FanGraphs midseason writeup and squint to maybe see a better prospect than Ben Brown, whom the Cubs got for Robertson, but I’m not sure I see it:

Butto has a plus changeup and throws lots of strikes, though he has adopted more of a power pitcher’s fastball usage style in 2022, bullying hitters at the letters. While he’s averaged fastballs in the 92-94 mph range across the entire year, Synergy Sports has him reaching back for 96-97 and sitting 94 more recently. The control-over-command style extends to Butto’s secondary stuff, as he’s imprecise but locates well enough to start. His fastball doesn’t have huge carrying life that would enable it to play in the strike zone, so he has to nibble up above it, which might be contributing to his slight uptick in walks in 2022. While he perhaps lacks the special command that would elevate a fair starter’s repertoire into the middle of a rotation, Butto is a high-probability back-of-the-rotation option.

So, you would have to squint to argue that Butto would be a better return on Robertson than the Cubs got from the Phillies. And Lee would be nowhere remotely close to acceptable for Contreras, so … this is just not close. Not at all reasonable. Cowardly. I knew their offers must’ve been light, but this is far worse than I would’ve guessed.

Let’s see what happens in the Wild Card round for the Mets against the Padres. Maybe Darin Ruf will actually hit. Maybe Mychal Givens will get some key outs. Or maybe the Mets will wish they had a better bat available and another great arm in the bullpen.

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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.