Did Marc Ventus bring someone to watch the Cubs-Mets trade talks?

We often talk about how the New York Mets will fit in the Chicago Cubs this trade season, at least on big names like Willson Contreras and David Robertson, because their farm system is pretty heavy. They have a high probability of one superstar going nowhere (Francisco Alvarez), another high-headed prospect that they also keep out of bounds (Brett Patty), and then a category just below the men who are either in the top 100 considering. Some services or outside directly. Then after those three or four extra names, that’s a pretty big drop.

Sure, your mileage may vary on some of these people, and there may be developments throughout the system that don’t show up in your potential customer ratings yet (we’ve seen that before). But, overall, I think these teams are hard to deal with, and not all the Mets do is fake protest. They probably don’t want to give away many of those second-tier players, but the Cubs might not want to make a deal without them.

Anyway, one of the players in that second tier is would-be hacker Mark Ventus, and the peculiarity of this reference from Josh Friedman definitely caught my eye:

Friedman, a local sports reporter, doesn’t tend to get too involved in the gossip game, but I also know he’s a very thoughtful guy. If he’s saying publicly that he heard this – something specific – then he definitely heard it from a good source.

It seems very likely that the Mets do you like To use Vientos as the best trading chip, for the reasons explained below. Whether that means the Cubs got into it, or whether it was a situation where the Mets said to the Cubs, “Hey, no matter if we do a deal, Ventus should be a good part of the comeback,” remains to be seen.

Which is not to say that Vientos is not a legitimate possibility. The previous second round, the Vientos is only 22 and already hit .263/.345/.519/126 wRC+ in Triple-A. He has some of the biggest raw power in the juniors (score 70), and he can hit the ball off the dirt. He’s out 30.9% of the time, though, which doesn’t bode well for translating into the major leagues, as he mostly plays in first base and DH after previously being a third baseman.

For a perspective on Vientos, here’s some from Baseball America’s scouts report, with Vientos ranking fourth in their system:

Vientos has tremendous raw power and can reach the deepest recesses in left field. Its swing is designed to cause damage in the air and can take the ball out into all fields. The majority of his 2021 home runs were hit in the right field. Vientos has improved pitch recognition, especially against breaking things from the right, and after catching up to Double-A’s speed they have accumulated 1,043 OPS in their last 60 games. He doesn’t skimp on speed and could become a near average hitter with more power. Drafted as a short captain, Vientos switched to third base as a pro. It’s playable there and has a plus arm. Some scouts think his thick bottom half could force him to first base, but Vientos have shown a renewed focus on conditioning this off season. He’s tried his hand at left field, but rival scouts aren’t convinced.

FanGraphs, which has Vientos 6th in the system, offers perhaps the most pessimistic view of Vientos, which is probably worth reading as well:

Vientos has filled in to the point where it affects his range and ability to flip his hips and fire powerful, accurate throws, so now he’s planning cleanly for first base only; He’s played first exclusively for the past two weeks at Syracuse. He’s very similar to Bobby Dalbec, with the extra extra power undercut by the hits, and like Dalbec, the Vientos will likely have a few years hits well over 25 at home but still perform near substitution level. Vientos tend to be behind on the fast balls and struggle to beat balls at the top of the strike zone, but they easily have the strength to put them on the opposite court. He’s on the Mets 40, and with Pete Alonso firmly established in front of him, he’s a candidate for the trade transition, especially if the other party takes a model-driven approach. One of the young prospects in his test class, Vientos is still only 22-years-old and hitting with massive power in Triple-A. If there’s one thing that totally separates him from Dalbec and makes him less comfortable, it’s that Dalbec only reached the top levels at the age of 23/24. Younger Vientos should be given more grace in matters of strike.

So you have some sense there of someone who has a lot of power, has a lot of upside, but his value is diminished a little bit by a lot of swing and miss. looks familiar? Yes, it’s a profile where the Cubs have had some success improving on the margins, and perhaps in the Cubs system, Vientos can become a very good overall racket, and you live with a 30+% strike rate.

The problem for me is defensive limitations. If he can only play 1st base (or DH), you’re talking about the need for the bat to be very productive in order to be a valuable, or even average, player in general.

I’m inclined to think that the reason the Mets might be so eager to move Vientos right now on a deal is precisely because they see him as first base only, and he won’t be spending that time with the Mets because of Pete Alonso. So, then, take advantage of its value now.

The question for the Cubs is whether they see this as an opportunity to get more value from the Mets than they might be able to, given the potential for Ventos to be under pressure (even if you can’t choose Vientos, specifically, to add it to the Cubs system). In this case, you get as much value as possible, and then find out how you actually use/evolve Vientos later on. It also depends on what exactly the Mets are looking for from the Cubs, because if Contreras and Robertson are both, I think more deal will be needed as well.

Interestingly, Marc Ventus factored in the Mets ‘we don’t really have to trade’ vibes, as they publicly offered him as an inside option for a big right-hander:

You can choose to believe that whatever you want…

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