Double plays in New York are about to be much, much sexier (and 50 percent more Puerto Rican, too).
The Mets made a big splash on Friday afternoon, acquiring Cubs shortstop Javier Báez and pitcher Trevor Williams in exchange for minor leaguer and former first-round pick Pete Crow-Armstrong.
The deal was a smaller one with bigger ramifications for both sides: the Mets in the immediate, and the Cubs long-term.
Here’s how it works out:
Javy Baez trade grades
There are a couple of things Javy Báez does incredibly well: Play defense and mash home runs.
The free-swinging Baez (2.0 fWAR in 2021) has never been a high on-base guy, and at this point in his career he probably never will be. But Baez does give New York that big-time power, which the first-place Mets (with the last-place offense) certainly need. He’s also been very good against lefty pitching, and the Mets haven’t been great against lefties this year. It’s just a good fit all around, even though he’s a free agent after the year.
They also get Trevor Williams in the deal, who’s kind of “JAG” at this point, but given the state of the Mets’ rotation, they could use all the help they can get moving forward until Jacob deGrom is back (and Taijuan Walker, hopefully, rights the ship).
The Mets understand that their window is right now and didn’t sit back to wait for guys in the lineup to start hitting. While they’re going to need a decent amount of things to break right for the next two months to really get in a groove for a World Series run, Baez will only help: He’ll give them a jolt on the field, add to their defense up the middle — whether it’s at shortstop or over at second — and produce more power for a lineup that really needs it.
While the Cubs won big with the Craig Kimbrel trade earlier in the day, it really feels like they could have gotten a little bit more for Baez than just Crow-Armstrong. But it’s still a very good return for a pending free agent.
Crow-Armstrong was the Mets’ first-round pick in 2020, but he recently had major shoulder surgery (albeit on his non-throwing shoulder) and there are questions about how well he’ll develop at the plate. Still, giving up a free-agent-to-be for a former first-rounder is a smart, savvy, good move.
There’s no doubting his defensive capabilities, which is good, since it’s one less tool to have to worry about in a young player. Getting a young, moldable outfield prospect a year removed from a first-round selection is good business for the Cubs, and at the added benefit that he’s a pretty sweet-swinging lefty, too.
There’s not much more you can do here unless you really fleece a team, so consider this a solid trade for the Cubs with a lot of upside if PCA heals well and develops as expected.
The bottom line
The Cubs are tearing it down and doing what they can to get some impact major leaguers (like Nick Madrigal) and some future lineup fixtures (like PCA). They’re leveraging these free-agent guys well, and that certainly helps.
The Mets letting go of another young, stud outfielder will hurt, potentially in the long-term (maybe), but they’re making a run at the division and playoffs this year. Báez can only help that quest.