Mets GM Sandy Alderson is going to have to great creative this winter.
As many people figured it invariably would, the New York Mets' 2012 season has taken a turn for the worse.
The Mets ended June with a record of 43-36, which placed them just 2.5 games out of first place in the NL East. They're 14-32 ever since and are now 20.5 games out of first place in the division.
Still, the Mets showed earlier in the season that they do have at least some potential. If they make a few moves this offseason, they could very well get back to contending in 2013.
According to Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com, Mets GM Sandy Alderson views trades as the best way to improve his club this coming winter, which makes sense given the team's financial constraints.
That, combined with the fact that the Mets farm system is still among the weaker systems in Major League Baseball, makes it unlikely that Alderson will be able to make any mega-deals (a la a trade for Justin Upton or Felix Hernandez). Instead, he'll have to get creative this offseason.
Here's a look at six trades that he can make that would put the team on a path toward the playoffs in 2013.
Note: All stats come from Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
Adam Rubin tweeted on Wednesday that the Mets' plan is still to use Frank Francisco as their closer in 2013. It's not like he's going anywhere, mind you, as he's owed $6.5 million in 2013, and he has absolutely no trade value after the season he's had.
Using Francisco as the team's closer again isn't such a good idea. He may have 20 saves this season, but his 6.42 ERA and 1.81 WHIP are the kind of numbers that are hardly befitting of a stud closer.
The Mets can do better. Closers on their radar this offseason should include Joel Hanrahan, Rafael Betancourt and Chris Perez, just to name a few.
Of the bunch, Perez stands out as the most sensible target for a couple different reasons.
For starters, he's getting to be expensive for the Indians. His salary doubled in arbitration this past winter, and it could very well double again seeing as how he's on pace to beat his career-high of 36 saves. He already has 32 saves with another month left to play.
Plus, the Indians may not want Perez around anymore after all the various stunts he's pulled this season. He called out Indians fans in May for not supporting the team, and then he called out Cleveland fans again a month later for hating on LeBron James and for supporting the Browns despite the fact they're perennially awful.
More recently, he got into a heated exchange with an Oakland A's fan that was caught on video.
The Indians won't give up Perez for nothing despite these incidents. One thing the Mets have that the Indians need, however, is starting pitching. Mike Pelfrey (who, admittedly, is a non-tender candidate) and Dillon Gee, both of whom will be coming off injuries this winter, could be dangled.
Or the Mets could set their sights a little higher and try to pull off a bigger trade with the Indians involving one of their star players. More on that possibility in a moment.
If the Mets acquire Perez, they'll be able to use Frank Francisco as a setup man, giving them a foundation for a solid bullpen.
Alderson will still have plenty of work to do with the bullpen, however. With Jon Rauch, Ramon Ramirez, Tim Byrdak and Miguel Batista all set to come off the books, Alderson is going to need to go out and find more than just one reliever.
And considering how awful the Mets bullpen has been this season, it's in his interest to go out and find two or three impact relievers.
Perez will do for the closer's role, but at least one more impact right-hander is going to be needed. One guy who comes to mind as a solution is Alfredo Simon.
Cincinnati's bullpen is absolutely stacked. Aroldis Chapman is as nasty as they come, and the Reds have gotten great work out of Sean Marshall, Jose Arredondo, Logan Ondrusek and Sam LeCure.
They've gotten great work out of Simon, too, but he's kinda been the odd man out in Cincinnati's 'pen this season. He's only made 27 appearances, and Dusty Baker hasn't tended to use him in pressure situations.
The numbers suggest that Simon can handle pressure situations, however. He's taken to the National League pretty well, posting a career-high K-9 of 8.7 and allowing only one home run in 46.2 innings of work.
He probably could be had for a couple mid-level prospects and/or cash considerations, a trade demand that even the Mets can handle.
The Mets have needed a quality left-hander in their bullpen all season long, and they'll need one of those even more this offseason if they choose not to re-sign Tim Byrdak.
Quality lefty relievers don't exactly grow on trees, but one team that has more than enough of them is the Oakland A's.
The A's have two very talented young lefties in Jordan Norberto and Sean Doolittle (who has a lower FIP than Aroldis Chapman, believe it or not), and Pedro Figueroa also has been good in limited action this season.
Next to these guys, veteran lefty Jerry Blevins stands out as a guy who could be trade bait this offseason. In fact, trading him now would be a wise thing for Billy Beane to do seeing as how Blevins is well on his way to having his best season as a pro. Beane can sell high on Blevins.
Blevins has a 2.70 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP in 46 appearances, to go along with a solid 8.3 K-9 and a .222 opponents' batting average. He's holding lefties to a .209 batting average.
Like Simon, Blevins could be had for a couple of mid-level prospects, but one also wonders if the A's would be interested in a super-utility man like Jordany Valdespin. Throwing him in the deal could actually bring back more than just Blevins.
Either way, there's a deal to be made here.
The Mets have gotten pitiful production out of their catchers this season. Per FanGraphs, their catchers have managed just a .255 weighted on-base average, lowest in the National League and second-lowest to Oakland in Major League Baseball.
They acquired Kelly Shoppach to help solve the problem, but he's a short-term solution since he's going to be a free agent at the end of the season. Besides, he's not the kind of guy who fits the bill of a full-time starter.
The Mets will have to go find a catcher like that on the trade market. The team they should have their eyes on as a potential trading partner is the Seattle Mariners.
The Mariners could be faced with an excess of catchers this winter if they choose to exercise Miguel Olivo's $3 million option. If they do, they'll have him, John Jaso, Jesus Montero and 2012 first-round pick Mike Zunino all in the mix for 2013 (yes, Zunino is that good).
Jaso stands out as trade bait for two reasons. One, he has value because he's having a career year this season, with a .901 OPS and eight home runs in limited action. Two, he has value because he doesn't hit free agency until 2016.
If the Mariners are going to trade a catcher, Jaso's the guy they should trade. Hands down.
The Mets would have to offer the Mariners something real for Jaso. We're not talking about Zack Wheeler possibly going to Seattle, but we could be talking about Jeurys Familia or maybe Brandon Nimmo going to Seattle. Probably Nimmo given Seattle's everlasting need for bats.
Since the Mariners are desperate for first base help, it's possible that the Mets could offer them Ike Davis for Jaso and a prospect and/or Justin Smoak, who badly needs to get away from Safeco Field.
It's up to Alderson how this would get done, but it's definitely a trade that can be made.
The Mets are going to need to find at least one bat for their outfield this offseason. They won't be able to set their sights as high as Justin Upton, but they'll need to set their sights pretty high all the same given how badly they need a productive hitter in their outfield.
The best option that comes to mind is Shin-Soo Choo.
Choo has one more year of arbitration eligibility left, but he's probably not staying in Cleveland beyond 2013. Not as long as he's a good hitter and his agent is Scott Boras, anyway.
Just like Perez, the Indians aren't going to part with Choo for nothing. They'll need to get at least one young player for him, preferably one with major league experience who can slip into Choo's shoes in right field.
You know, somebody like Lucas Duda.
Duda showed promise at the plate in 100 games in 2011, hitting 10 home runs and racking up 50 RBI while posting an .852 OPS. He regressed at the plate this season, however, to the point where the Mets sent him back down to the minors in July to help him find his swing.
Duda's talent makes him a solid trade chip, and it helps that he's controllable through 2018.
It's likely going to take more than just Duda to land Choo, so this is where the Mets could dangle Dillon Gee hopes that Cleveland's desperation for starting pitching will spur them into action.
If the Indians would rather have prospects, Choo is the kind of player who is well worth parting with players such as Familia and Nimmo to acquire.
It's looking right now like the Mets' 2013 rotation will include R.A. Dickey, Johan Santana, Jonathon Niese and Matt Harvey. The last spot in the rotation will be up for grabs, with a group of pitchers including Pelfrey, Gee, Wheeler and others in the running for it.
If Pelfrey and Gee are traded this winter, the Mets are going to find themselves in need of some pitching depth. Since Santana's health is perpetually uncertain and Wheeler has yet to prove that he's ready to move beyond Triple-A, the Mets could very well find themselves on the lookout for a veteran starting pitcher this offseason.
Felix Hernandez is out of the question for the Mets, as the Mets don't have the prospects to lure him. Same goes for Josh Johnson.
Josh Beckett, on the other hand...
There were reports that the Red Sox were trying to trade Beckett at the trade deadline, and Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported on Thursday that the Red Sox have put him on waivers. He probably won't be dealt, but it's just another sign that the Red Sox are looking to be rid of him as soon as they can.
He'll be on a lot of teams' radar this offseason, and the price won't be too high seeing as how Beckett will be coming off yet another disappointing offseason. If the Red Sox are as desperate as they seem to move him, they'll be willing to take what they can get for him as long as it also means jettisoning his salary.
The Mets aren't swimming in cash like they were a couple years ago, but Adam Rubin has reported that they could have somewhere between $10 and $15 million to spend.
Beckett is owed just short of $16 million next season and in 2014, a year in which the Mets will finally be able to cut Jason Bay and Johan Santana loose. If they can get the Red Sox to agree to pick up a few million bucks, the Mets will be able to afford to take on Beckett's salary.
No, he's not the same pitcher he was a few years ago, but a move to the National League will help. Plus, he's more of a fly-ball pitcher now than he was before, and that tendency will play far better at Citi Field than it does at Fenway Park.
It will be a complicated trade to pull off, but it can be done, and it would be worth it for the Mets.
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