[Editors Note: Please ignore the following if Church and/or Schneider are flipped in a package for a top tier stater i.e. Eric Bedard]
I've had three days to reflect on Friday's Lastings Milledge for Ryan Church/Brian Schneider trade and upon that reflection, I'm still as disgusted as I was upon initially hearing news of the transaction.
I had been a staunch supporter of Omar after he made several savvy pickups, smart trades, and big name free agent acquisitions over the past several seasons. However, after two straight horrible drafts and his flirtation with David Eckstein, I started to doubt Omar's baseball IQ. After Friday's illogical trade, I have completely lost faith in Minaya's ability to be a major league GM.
Trading Milledge would have been acceptable had it brought a pitcher in return. Instead, trading Milledge, the former number one prospect in the organization, for offensively limited 29 yr old outfielder and an offensively challenged 31 yr old catcher is just plain offensive.
Omar said that he made this trade because he wants to "win now", but that argument holds as much water as my bladder (I pee about 40 times a day). If given a similar number of at bats this upcoming season, Milledge is likely to produce similar numbers to Church. Church's counting numbers might be better because he will be playing in a friendlier hitters park, but I would suspect that their respective OPS+ will differ by only a few points.
Even if Milledge turns out to be nothing more than a fourth outfielder, he will end up being exactly what Church is now, so why move a younger cheaper player with upside for a older more expensive player with little upside? I wish I had an answer to that question.
Milledge was once the key prospect discussed in deals for Dontrelle, Barry Zito, and Manny Ramirez. Now he's getting traded for a catcher with declining skills and a fourth outfielder more suitable for a platoon role? Wouldn't it have been better to hold onto the guy to see if he develops rather than trading him for cents on the dollar? What you have now in Ryan Church is the worst case scenario for Milledge production wise.
And don't even get me started on Brian Schneider. He would have been a nice pick up three years ago, but he is a catcher on the wrong side of thirty who has seen his offensive and defensive skills erode of the past few years. He has had an OPS+ of 97, 72, and 77 the past three years. That's downright Ecksteinian! I don't have the numbers at my disposal right now, but his percentage of runners thrown out has declined over the past two or three seasons as well. A combination of Johnny Estrada (76 OPS+ in 2007) and Ramon Castro (127 OPS+ in 2007) would give the team better production than Schneider will as the primary catcher.
The only reason I see for this trade is that management was sick of Milledge's attitude. All reports coming out of the locker room was that Milledge was an insufferable prick that alienated himself from his teammates. Are baseball players that sensitive that they can't play with one guy they don't like? Does the whole team have to get along? If anything maybe the teammates could bond over the common ground of disliking Lastings. Or maybe management should have just let Lastings mature and see where things went rather than trading him for league average to below average players.
Some Mets fans are comparing this trade to the Kazmir trade. That's not an apt comparison. Kazmir was a can't miss prospect who tore up the minor leagues and was traded for one of the shittiest starting pitchers in all of the baseball. That's hopefully a once in a lifetime type of boner. This trade is more akin to jettisoning Gregg Jeffries. Like Milledge, Jeffries was a top prospect who was rushed through the system and was severly disliked by his major league teammates. He was viewed as an arogant, self-important brat. After not living up to his lofty hype over his first three full seasons with the Mets, Jeffries was traded to Kansas City before having a couple very nice years with the Cardinals. Milledge will never put up big power numbers, but he has exhibited excellent bat speed and has to the chance to develop into a hitter who can spray line drives all over the field. Ryan Church? What you see is what you get.
This trade probably will not haunt the Mets like the Kazmir deal has, but at his worst Milledge is Church, so there is a good chance the Mets did not get a suitable return in this deal.