It's becoming a tradition - when a team gives up on a highly-touted young player, they send him away for Ryan Church.
First the Mets traded Lastings Milledge for Church and Brian Schneider. Now the Braves have acquired Church for Jeff Francoeur. In both cases, the flashy young player's star had fallen so far that his team was willing to trade him within the division.
When the Mets traded Milledge after the 2007 season, they probably had no chance of getting Francoeur, only a year older than Milledge but coming off back-to-back 100-RBI seasons during which he hit a total of 48 homers. Now Milledge has been sent to the minors and traded yet again, while the Mets have Francoeur and Schneider to show for him.
So from the point of view of the Milledge deal, this latest deal is a good one. But it is far from clear that the Mets would not have been better off keeping Church, who hit .307 in 75 at bats in June and was one of the few solid parts of the lineup - that is, when Jerry Manuel deigned to play him.
Trading Church for Francoeur is a desperate gamble. The Mets badly need a power hitter, but Francoeur's 29-homer season was three years ago. Last year, Church actually out-homered Francoeur, 12 to 11. And Francoeur had twice as many at bats as Church - 599-319. Omar Minaya touts Francoeur's arm and defense, but Church was strong enough on defense that the Mets sometimes used him in center.
Ryan Church got a raw deal with the Mets when they mishandled his concussions. Then he seemed to end up in Jerry Manuel's doghouse. Let's hope this move was exclusively to improve the team and not in part to get rid of Church.
But desperate times do call for desperate measures, so gambling on the upside of Francoeur may not be that bad an idea. You never know when a team gives up on a young player too soon.
Friday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the Giants were apparently willing to trade pitcher Jonathan Sanchez to the Pirates for second basemen Freddy Sanchez. The Giants had dropped Sanchez from the rotation and the article described him as a reliever.
Last night, Sanchez was summoned back to the rotation after three weeks in the bullpen because Randy Johnson was placed on the DL. And he pitched a no-hitter. Bet the Giants are not trading him now!
Sanchez, by the way, is a young lefthander who gets a lot of strikeouts but gives up a lot of walks. Kind of like another young player whose team gave up on him - and traded him to the Mets.
It's been three years since Omar Minaya acquired Oliver Perez and saw him follow a 3-13 season by going 15-10 the following year. Even the prospect of a similar turnaround from Francoeur has already made this dismal season more interesting.