It's tempting during the rumor frenzy of the Hot Stove to become desperate for a blockbuster trade. The avalanche of news that a deal is getting done, seeing it announced, realizing the rumors were true and watching an elite player put on your favorite team's uniform is inspiring.
However, as is often said, sometimes the best deal is the one you don't make. And this certainly applies to situations recently presented to Brodie Van Wagenen.
In the end, in each instance, he erred on the side of caution. And, while this may not be as exciting as a realized trade rumor, he made the right decision.
Jeff McNeil in a deal for Mookie Betts or Francisco Lindor
According to multiple reports, Jeff McNeil may be why Mookie Betts and Francisco Lindor did not get traded this winter to the Mets, who expressed interest in acquiring both players.
In the case of Betts, sources told New York Post reporter Joel Sherman that the Red Sox viewed McNeil as an integral part of any package going from New York to Boston. The same can be said for the Indians and Lindor.
The bad news is that yet again -- despite flirting with the idea -- a deal for an elite player didn't come to fruition.
The good news is that McNeil, who is highly valued by other teams, is on the Mets. Earlier this winter I talked with a variety of MLB insiders, all of whom said McNeil's value is more than just what he's capable of doing on the field. In addition to his talent, he's also a rare, budgetary asset.
Due to minor league injuries and surgeries, McNeil didn't make his big league debut until he was 25 years old. He'll be 27 come Opening Day. Therefore, during the ages widely considered to be the prime of a player's career, McNeil will be earning close to the league minimum salary, after which he'll be eligible for arbitration.
"If he doesn't get better and just repeats what he did in 2019 -- and I do think he can be better than he's been -- but if he isn't, if he performs only at this level, he'll still be one of the biggest bargains in baseball," an AL executive, whose team asked about McNeil this winter, recently told me.
According to FanGraphs, McNeil's 2019 provided $36 million in value to the Mets, who paid him just $550,000. He earned roughly $200,000 in 2018, during which his 2.7 WAR was worth $21 million.
In comparison, according to FanGraphs, while Betts was good for two additional wins in 2019, he earned $19 million more than McNeil. Inversely, McNeil not only earned $10 million less than Lindor, but he also outproduced Lindor, who ended last season with 4.4 WAR compared to McNeil's 4.6.
It's also worth noting McNeil missed close to 30 games last season due to injury and is under contract through 2024, while Lindor is a free agent after 2021 and Betts will be a free agent after this season.
In both situations, according to Sherman and The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal, while other combinations of players (Amed Rosario, Dominic Smith, J.D. Davis), contracts (David Price, Jed Lowrie, Yoenis Cespedes) and top prospects were discussed, it seems no deal was getting done without McNeil.
The Red Sox and Indians were right to insist on getting him and Van Wagenen was right to keep him. In a poll I ran on Twitter Thursday morning, 83 percent of 1,600 voters agreed with this decision. Similarly, four of five MLB insiders also said it was smart to keep McNeil.
Brandon Nimmo or J.D. Davis in a deal for Starling Marte
In the case of Starling Marte, Nimmo and Davis -- not McNeil -- were the primary hurdle.
I wrote multiple times, as did SNY's Andy Martino, that -- when negotiating with the Mets -- the Pirates wanted one of the above two big leaguers and at least one top prospect.
In the end, the Pirates traded Marte to the Diamondbacks for two prospects and $250,000 in international signing bonus money. In a vacuum, this seems to be a lot less than what was being asked of Van Wagenen. However, trades don't go down that way.
According to people aware of the situation that I talked with at the time of the trade, Arizona's offer had been sitting for several weeks on Pittsburgh's desk. So, during that time, the Pirates wisely continued asking other teams to offer more either in quality of prospects and/or affordable, high-ceiling big league talent. For example, Nimmo or Davis.
In a quick survey of experts and evaluators, the overwhelming majority of responders told me they'd much rather have a 26-year-old Nimmo making roughly $2 million in 2020 with another two years of team control. In comparison, Marte, 31, will earn $11.5 million this season, after which he'll be made a free agent or be paid $12.5 million in 2021.
"Nimmo gets on base, he's smart on the bases, he can play all across the outfield, he has no problem in that ballpark or playing in New York, and he's a terrific kid," a rival talent evaluator told me in January.
In regards to Davis, he continued, "It may be J.D. Davis is one of those players who dies on the vine. But, he's also one of those players a team might regret trading for a long, long time."
Among the same five insiders mentioned above, three said the Mets were right to stand pat.
The other two leaned toward agreeing, but hedged their comments by saying it all depends on how confident Van Wagenen is in the rest of his roster.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is a senior writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. His book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime.