The Mets traded for an outfielder late on Thursday night. Just not have been the outfielder everybody has been clamoring for.
Just after 10 pm ET, it was announced that the Mets had acquired Tyler Naquin and left-handed reliever Phillip Diehl from the Cincinnati Reds for a pair of rookie ball prospects, outfielder Hector Rodriguez and right-handed pitcher Jose Acuña.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 29, 2022
While the move may not create waves the way a trade for Juan Soto would have, this is a strong move by the Mets to create a complete, well-rounded roster.
Tyler Naquin’s status as a non-roster invitee to training camp and his past history of getting designated for assignment have already been discussed as reasons why he’s not a worthy addition. However, that glosses over the fact that in his seven-year career, he has a career .280 average and .804 OPS against right-handed pitching.
Over the last two seasons, Naquin has a .839 OPS against right-handers. That ranks 34th in all of baseball with hitters over 500 plate appearances. That’s also better than J.D. Martinez, Trea Turner, Carlos Correa, and Nolan Arenado. Not bad company to keep.
While Naquin has played pretty much every defensive inning in right field this year, he does have lots of experience in both left field and center field over his career. In fact, defensive metrics suggest he’s been a better left fielder than anything else with a -2 outs above average (OAA) for his career in left but -8 in right field.
Yes, those are not tremendous numbers, and Tyler Naquin is not going to a plus defender. However, Mark Canha has a -3 OAA for his career in left field, so the two are fairly comparable when comparing defensive ability.
The other piece of the deal, left-handed reliever Phillip Diehl, seems like more of an insurance policy if the Mets are unable to acquire a veteran lefty before the deadline. The 28-year-old was a former 27th-round pick with the New York Yankees and has a solid 3.26 career minor league ERA. He has just failed to see that success translate to the big leagues, with a 9.47 ERA in 21 major league games across three seasons.
This year, Diehl had a 4.24 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and 30 strikeouts in 23.1 innings at Triple-A. Last year was much better, with a 2.47 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 54.2 Triple-A innings. While there is the possibility that the Mets are able to get his previous minor league performance to translate to the majors, the team is likely hoping to not have to use him in the big leagues this year.
At the end of the day, this trade seems to be all about depth for the Mets. Naquin can mix into the starting lineup against right-handed pitchers on most days, but can also serve as a pinch hitter when he’s not in the starting lineup.
Considering Hector Rodriguez is a 5’8″ 18-year-old with only 70 career minor league games under his belt, and Jose Acuna is a 19-year-old with 40.2 career minor league innings, it’s the type of low-cost move a championship contender can make to round out the roster. It also does not preclude the Mets from trading for another DH-type (Trey Mancini maybe) or adding big-name relievers.
We’d still expect another big Mets trade or two before the deadline has passed.