By Ernie Palladino
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In three full seasons with the Marlins, Giancarlo Stanton has become one of the up-and-coming power stars in baseball.
Going from 22 homers as a rookie in 2010 to 34 in 2011 and 37 last year, he’s definitely a star on the rise. And, according to Andy Martino’s report in the Daily News Thursday, there’s an ever-so-slim chance he could become part of the Mets’ lineup if Sandy Alderson is willing to give up the right names for him.
Two of those names happen to be Travis d’Arnaud and Zack Wheeler.
The question the story raises today is whether Mets fans want to see their most promising pitching prospect and the key component of the R.A. Dickey-to-Toronto trade go away, in exchange for an everyday right fielder who could further energize a lineup that had all sorts of trouble scoring runs last season.
The answer isn’t exactly black and white. Plenty of room for debate here, especially when talking about an organization that is struggling to get relevant again. Basically, it all comes down to how one views the value of prospects versus veterans.
Wheeler and d’Arnaud have created quite a bit of heat in their short time in the organization. Wheeler, though off to a rocky start in Triple-A Las Vegas, is a near-lock to come up at some point this season and perhaps begin a major league career as the uppercut to Jon Niese’s jab and Matt Harvey’s cross. If Wheeler can successfully establish himself as such this year, the Mets of 2014 could have that 1-2-3 combination they’ve been looking for since the Doc Gooden-Ron Darling-Sid Fernandez triumvirate titillated Shea Stadium in the mid-1980s.
The last young threesome to create that kind of buzz was Paul Wilson, Bill Pulsipher, and Jason Isringhausen. They never quite worked out here.
D’Arnaud would complete that battery. It would create a wonderful situation — a catcher who can hit, handling a quality, three-deep rotation. It would be a recipe for success.
Here’s the tricky part. As bright as that type of future looks, the fact remains that d’Arnaud and Wheeler are prospects. They haven’t performed on the big stage yet. No one, not even the most discriminating of scouts, knows for sure if these guys are produce in the majors. Add to that the fact that Wheeler works once every four or five days, and you have an instant dilemma.
The flip side is that a guy like Stanton can add juice to a lineup just by being there. He is a constant, daily threat, a hitting force that will cause others like Lucas Duda, Daniel Murphy, and others around him to see better pitches. Stanton doesn’t just hit homers, after all. He did have a .290 average last season to go along with a league-high .608 slugging percentage.
Obviously, he and, apparently, the Rockies’ Carlos Gonzalez, are two of those special players for whom a GM would consider trading two so-called can’t-miss prospects. We say so-called because there really is no such thing as a can’t-miss. Just think of all the projected five-tool players who draw raves in the minors, only to flop in the majors.
Still, you don’t make this sort of move for just anyone. Pair either Stanton or Gonzalez up with David Wright, and the Mets might just get the offense they’ve lacked the past couple of years.
As far as giving up the prospects, teams have succeeded quite well in the short-term doing just that. It’s a big part of how the Phillies turned themselves into a power. The Yankees have been doing it for generations.
It all depends on what you prefer — the excitement and mystery of watching young stars develop, or the immediate gratification of a special, young, veteran’s contributions. The former takes time and risk, the latter could turn an also-ran into a playoff team the moment he arrives.
Choose your weapon.
What would you do? Trade the young studs for Giancarlo? Mets fans, be heard in the comments!