Normally when it comes to trades, you get an evaluation immediately. In the case of Ike Davis, we had to wait for the player to be named later, which ended up being announced today as Blake Taylor. The deal couldn’t be official prior to today, because Taylor couldn’t be dealt until one year after he was signed. Now that it is official, we can fully evaluate the move.
For a recap, the full move was Ike Davis in exchange for Blake Taylor and Zack Thornton.
The inclusion of Thornton isn’t really a big deal here. He’s relief pitching depth, which is easy to acquire and doesn’t carry much trade value. His value hasn’t been high around the league this year. He was passed up in the Rule 5 draft, and hasn’t been able to crack the majors for the Mets, despite them having a horrible bullpen.
The deal mostly comes down to Davis for Taylor. The focus on any trade is always about the “win”, which is a flawed approach. It’s an approach that assumes there is going to be a clear winner in the deal, and a clear loser. Sometimes the best trades are where both sides win and fill a need. I believe that’s what happened in this deal.
The Pirates needed a first baseman. They entered the season with Travis Ishikawa as the starter, and that was never a good idea. Andrew Lambo struggled during Spring Training, missing out on his chance at the position. He turned things around in Triple-A, but the Pirates added Davis shortly after the season started. So far, Davis has been a good addition, platooning with Gaby Sanchez.
The Mets had a first baseman. They entered the season with Davis and Lucas Duda as their starting options, and Duda got the job. That made Davis expendable.
The Mets need pitching, and prospects in general. The Pirates have plenty of pitching available. They don’t have much left-handed pitching, which is one area where the loss of Taylor hurts. However, if you don’t worry about lefty/righty considerations in the rotation, then this is just a deal where the Pirates are giving up one of their many projectable pitchers.
We ranked Taylor as the 16th best prospect coming into the season. He’s got a good fastball, sitting 89-92 MPH, but touching mid-90s in the past. He has the projectable frame to be able to improve his velocity in the future, and possibly sit in the low-to-mid 90s. He pairs that fastball with a curveball that could be considered a plus offering.
That’s a great starting point for a lefty. The downside is that he lacks command of his fastball, and doesn’t have a changeup. I liked the pick of Taylor last year, because the Pirates have had a lot of success teaching fastball command and teaching the changeup. With those two areas being the main weaknesses for Taylor, he looked like he could have a very bright future.
Taylor is a very talented pitcher and has a lot of promise. But he’s not close to being guaranteed. He has only pitched 21 innings in pro ball, with all of those coming at the rookie level. He’s got some serious work to do with his fastball command and changeup. He’s got a chance to make it to the majors, and possibly become a number three starter. But the odds of Taylor reaching that middle of the rotation upside are much, much lower than the odds of someone like Nick Kingham reaching the same upside. Taylor is a lottery ticket, and far from a sure thing.
This deal works well for both sides. The Pirates have plenty of “lottery tickets” in their farm system, including a few other guys from the 2013 draft. If you can trade one of those guys away for a first baseman who can platoon at the position in the majors for 2-3 years, then you make that trade. It would be different if they didn’t have a lot of depth in prospects. As for the Mets, they need prospects and had too many first basemen. The trade is as simple as that.
Overall, the Pirates filled a need without giving up a piece they’d miss. The Mets got rid of excess to get something that would provide them more value. Both teams traded from a strength to address a weakness. This deal wasn’t about winning or losing the trade. It looks like it was fair for both sides.
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