Did the Mets Get Enough for Beltran?

On Tuesday, I wrote:

If the Mets pay all of Beltran’s salary and the team trading for him is willing to pay a premium to make the postseason . . . that’s $10.5 million dollars of value for Beltran.

. . . $10.5 million dollars equals a couple of good-but-not-quite-can’t-miss pitching prospects. Something like Jeurys Familia and Armando Rodriguez, to name two pitchers in the Mets’ system right now. Certainly not Philadelphia’s Domonic Brown, Atlanta’s Mike Minor, or any of the other big prospect names thrown around recently. A good pitching prospect and another decent arm/young hitter is the maximum scenario for a fair trade, if the other team wants to overpay to make the postseason and the Mets pick up all of Beltran’s salary. But, again, it’s not going to be a top, top guy.

Yesterday, the Mets traded Carlos Beltran to the San Francisco Giants for Single-A pitcher Zack Wheeler. Reportedly, the Mets picked up $4 million of the $6 million owed to Beltran, meaning they sent something around $8.5 million dollars of player value to the Giants. (The on-field value of two months of Beltran, minus the $2 million dollars San Fran has to pay him.) Beltran is a bit more of an injury risk than most, which probably makes it a little less, but let’s say $8.5 million is our number.

So what did the Mets get in return for $8.5 million dollars of Beltran?

Zack Wheeler was the sixth overall pick in the 2009 draft, the third pitcher taken, after Stephen Strasburg and Matthew Hobgood. Baseball America ranked Wheeler the #49 best prospect in baseball going into the 2010 season, while Baseball-Prospectus ranked him at #88. Wheeler struggled with blister problems in his first professional season, throwing just 58.2 innings, posting a 3.99 ERA and striking out 70 while walking 38 for the Giants’ Single-A affiliate in Augusta.

Coming into this season, Baseball America ranked Wheeler as the #55 best prospect in baseball, and Baseball-Prospectus had him ranked at #52, while prospect guru John Sickels gave Wheeler a B Grade. In 16 starts in High-A this year, Wheeler again has a 3.99 ERA, with 98 strikeouts against 47 walks in 88 innings. Baseball America bumped Wheeler up to #35 in their mid-season update to the top prospect list (and the 17th best pitcher). The consensus report seems to be that Wheeler throws hard and gets a ton of ground balls, but walks far too many batters.

So Wheeler is a top pitching prospect — though not a top, top guy — ranked somewhere between the #35 and #55 in all baseball. He’s probably not an A Grade guy, and more of a high B Grade. What’s that worth?

Guesstimating again with this little chart, a prospect like Wheeler is worth, on average, between $15.9 (for a #25-50 pitcher) and $7.3 million dollars (for a Grade B pitcher), probably erring more towards the higher side of those numbers for Wheeler himself. The Mets sent about $8.5 million dollars of stuff the Giants’ way. Conservatively, it’s a solid return for the Mets, and probably closer to a win. It looks like the Giants overpaid slightly for Beltran, which is why Sandy Alderson jumped for it.

Of course, there’s very little chance Wheeler actually ends up bringing the Mets exactly $13 or so million dollars of value. If he works out as a top of the rotation guy, he’ll be worth much, much more . . . but if he flames out, he’ll be worth almost nothing. The $15.9 or 7.3 million dollar figure is the average between the guys who work out and the guys who implode. There’s a chance Wheeler does either, and that risk is figured into these estimates.

Ultimately, the Mets traded two months of Carlos Beltran for a shot at a top of the rotation pitcher in a couple of years. Beltran will be missed, but the possibility of a young ace in 2014 is more than worth it — all prospects are a gamble, but this is a gamble worth taking.

Photo via here.

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