On Monday, the Mets traded left-hander Michael Antonini for the Dodgers’ future shortstop of the past – Chin-Lung Hu. Though the move didn’t include any top prospects, it may have real implications for the Mets going forward.
Antonini does pitch with his left hand, and may be close to the major leagues (the 25-year-old just finished his second stint at Triple-A), but he looks like he’s headed to the bullpen. His fastball tops out around 89 MPH and though he controls it well to both sides of plate – as evidenced by his 2.1 career minor league walk rate – he owns only a mediocre changeup otherwise. He also hasn’t been able to rack up the strikeouts you’d like to see out of a future major-league rotation stalwart (7.0 K/9 career, 6.1 at Triple-A Buffalo). Perhaps he can be a LOOGY. Here’s a little more about him from Toby Hyde at MetsMinorLeagueBlog.
From the Dodgers’ perspective, they may feel that they have traded a backup shortstop for a left-handed bullpen option that might be able to help them this year.
Hu’s career .191/.241/.283 line does not inspire visions of future dominance at the position, and the team is veteran-inclined. Then again, Hu’s line comes in only 191 plate appearances, and his minor league line (.299/.341/.418) is more exciting. If his powerless work at Triple-A turned his former team off (his ISO has hovered around .100), that’s unfortunate. Instead, a focus on his strengths – his defense and ability to avoid the strikeout (11.2 percent career) – might have been in order considering his limited major league resume.
The Mets’ perspective is where things get interesting. While the Mets have some organizational depth at second base, and in the outfield, there’s not much in the cupboard when it comes to shortstop. Wilmer Flores plays there now, but the consensus is that he’ll end up at third as he fills out. The new regime has talked about building for the future and creating sustainable success, and organizational depth can be part of such a plan. It’s not a sexy goal – to find competent and semi-exciting options for lower on the depth chart – but it’s an important one. Hu can be a cheaper Alex Cora at the worst, and acquiring him allows Ruben Tejada to simmer in Triple-A.
The best-case scenario for Hu? The Mets struggle along in 2011 and find themselves below .500 near the break, sell Jose Reyes for a considerable package of prospects that can revitalize their minor league system, plug in Hu, and find that he can be a glove-first slap hitter that provides value while he’s cheap. That would work for the team, too, except for all that “struggling in 2011 stuff.”
With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.