Late last week, I discussed current Yankee third baseman Chase Headley and his availability for a trade. While Headley could be a fit for the current Brewers, I would much rather see the club aggressively pursue an alternate player from the Yankees: shortstop prospect Jorge Mateo.
Mateo has been considered untouchable for the past few years as the Yankees “shortstop of the future”. There are a few reasons that there may be cracks in his untouchable status, however, and kicking the tires here might produce some interesting results.
The Yankees acquired former Cubs prospect Gleyber Torres at the trade deadline in the deal that sent Aroldis Chapman to the subsequent World Champs. Torres has not disappointed; he finished the year strong and was named MVP of the recently concluded Arizona Fall League season. He is considered a “can’t miss, future All Star” at shortstop, and nothing I have seen projects him as eventually being forced to move off of the shortstop position.
Mateo was suspended for two weeks last July for reasons only speculated on. The Yankees’ organization said it was for violation of team rules with some reports of conflict within the organization. Whatever the reason, it might indicate some disagreement between the Mateo camp and the Yankees. Or it might not. He is a 21 year old with immense talent; these things can be worked through.
Finally, after a hot start last year in A+ ball Mateo tailed off and had his worst statistical season to date in the Yankees’ system. In fact, his walk rate has steadily declined in his four years in the minors, while his K rate has steadily increased. This isn’t surprising; he is still young for the level he is playing at. You would hope to see some growth, however. If the Yankees are becoming concerned, perhaps the Brewers could benefit by gambling on improvement in the future.
So where would Mateo fit in the Brewers’ organization if by some miracle he were acquired from the Bronx Bombers? With Orlando Arcia at short, it would seem he would be as blocked in Milwaukee as in New York. His future would most likely be at second base, but these things work themselves out. The Brewers could use some depth at the keystone; as promising as Isan Diaz looks, it’d be foolish to say he's a “sure thing” at this point. Mateo is at least a year away from the majors, and in the Milwaukee system probably at least two.
What kind of player is Jorge? Fast. Very fast. His speed ranks at 80/80. That is very, very fast. In four minor league seasons he has stolen 182 bases. He has been caught 44 times (80.5% success rate), but was only 36 out of 51 (70.6%) at A+ Tampa last year, so there is work to be done. (Aside...if Tampa can have a major league team and a minor league team, what’s wrong with West Allis?)
His size and bat speed do project for better power as he advances. His speed has translated into some nice triples totals (28 total in 1284 at bats). His career OPS is .739. His future value according to his Fangraphs scouting report is at 50, and MLB Pipeline grades him at a 55 overall.
And finally, what would a trade for Mateo cost the Brewers? I would send Martin Maldonado and a prospect. The question is, which prospect?Top prospect for top prospect deals are rare. Is Brett Phillips sufficient? Too much? Would the Yankees want a pitcher? I wouldn’t send Josh Hader, and would hesitate strongly on Luis Ortiz, but anybody else would be in play. The Yankees have quite a bit of depth in their system for outfielders, so they may not want that.
Would Mateo just be another Billy Hamilton? Making the majors, but struggling to get on base enough to let his speed be a major asset? That would be easier to stomach at second base than in center, but with what it could take to bring him in via trade it still wouldn’t be a very desirable outcome.
While I’d love to see a deal like this go down, I'm not necessarily sure that I envision it happening. It doesn’t fit the way Brewers’ GM David Stearns has been building the system; it has been dealing more established players for minor league pieces. But that can’t happen forever; in fact, there are only a few assets remaining on the Brewers that will bring significant return in prospects. At some point, a shift in strategy will be necessary. If the Brewers’ brain trust sees a solid future for Mateo, it might be worthwhile exploring options like this. There are other blocked prospects out there (to whatever degree), and the Brewers do have some depth in their prospect list.
It is an interesting time to be a Brewer fan.
Statistics and other information courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference