10 Players and Prospects the Mets Should Consider Trading for Justin Upton
The Mets' most pressing need this offseason is to sign or acquire an established star outfielder. The Mets, though, will be more likely to get a superstar outfielder through a trade due to their relative lack of money. Any free-agent signings (such as Cody Ross, for example) would have to be low-cost bargains.
One superstar outfielder that could be on the trading block is Justin Upton of the Diamondbacks. Upton is coming off a down year in which he hit .280 with 17 home runs and 67 RBI. In 2011, he finished fourth in the NL MVP vote with a .289 average, 31 home runs and 88 RBI.
With many of Upton's former teammates such as Mark Reynolds, Stephen Drew and Chris Young all having gotten traded away in recent time, Upton could be the next to go. He is currently signed to a six-year, $50 million contract that lasts through 2015.
The Mets clearly need a makeover in their outfield with nearly all their outfielders in the 2012 season except for Scott Hairston underachieving. Hairston unfortunately is now a free agent and is unlikely to re-sign with the Mets. The Mets though recently released veteran Jason Bay to create roster flexibility. Thus, Bay's release could open the door for Upton to possibly get traded to the Mets within the next few months.
Of course, if Upton were to become a Met, the Mets would have to give the Diamondbacks a significant package of players in return. Here are 10 players and prospects that the Mets should consider dealing for Upton.
The potential 2012 NL Cy Young Award winner might be on the trading block himself. With Dickey's value now being much higher than ever before, moving him could certainly help the Mets in the long run.
This all depends though on whether Dickey and the Mets are able to come to an agreement on a new long-term deal. Dickey is likely to want more guaranteed years than the Mets would be willing to give. The Mets already picked up his 2013 option, which means he is still under the Mets' control at the moment.
In order to land someone like Upton, the Mets will have to trade one of their core players. With his age and long-term durability as potential long term concerns, the Mets would be wise to deal Dickey while they can. It may not sit well with Mets fans after the remarkable season he had, but with the Mets building for years to come, Dickey's value a few years from now is not likely to be at the same level it is right now.
If the Mets end up agreeing to a long-term contract with Dickey and are unwilling to trade him, Jon Niese would then be the one pitcher the Mets would have to trade in order to acquire a player like Upton.
Niese is coming off a breakout season in which he won 13 games and had a 3.40 ERA. In the past, he had struggled in the second half of the season, but that was not the case this year. Niese was more consistent and was a solid No. 2 starter behind Dickey all season.
Niese also struggled with injuries in the past, but was healthy for the entire 2012 season. This will only help his value to both the Mets and the open market.
Niese is currently signed to a five-year deal worth $25.27 million, which also includes two option years in 2017 and 2018. This relatively cheap contract could make other teams more willing to take on his salary.
All in all, one of Dickey or Niese is likely to get traded this offseason for Upton or another outfielder. The main factor, though, is whether Dickey can get the extension he wants with the Mets. If he does, Niese will probably get traded, but if not, Niese would then stay with the team.
Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy could be on the trading block as well, but only at the right price.
For someone like Upton, though, the Mets would likely consider dealing Murphy, especially with the middle infield depth they have, as well as Murphy also being a natural third baseman.
Despite the Diamondbacks now having Chris Johnson at third base, Murphy could overtake him as their new third baseman. The Diamondbacks might look to possibly trade Johnson or their own second baseman, Aaron Hill, under the right circumstances.
On the other hand, the Diamondbacks could simply deal Murphy to another team just as easily. Murphy right now is a good fit with the Mets, even though he is still learning second base. Ideally, though, Murphy would fit best on a young American League team that is in need of a corner infielder or designated hitter.
Murphy will not provide the same power and run production expected of most corner infielders, but he does put the ball in play and hit a lot of doubles. He batted .320 in 2011 and .291 this past season. His OBP in those two years, though, was .362 and .332, respectively.
Defensively, Murphy has improved noticeably, and unlike 2010 and 2011, he did not get hurt at all this year. This is a very good sign because both of Murphy's knee injuries in 2010 and 2011 occurred while trying to turn a double play.
Murphy is more likely to be packaged with Niese than Dickey because Dickey's value is now likely above that of Niese and Murphy combined. Like Niese, Murphy's trade possibilities will depend on whether Dickey gets a long-term contract from the Mets.
If other teams are looking to get another player out of the Mets to even out or finalize a trade, Jordany Valdespin is someone that should be considered.
Despite Valdespin's .241 average and .286 OBP last season, Valdespin has a lot of potential in multiple ways. First, his five pinch-hit home runs last season are an indication that he can hit well in clutch late inning situations, which other teams would probably like.
Second, Valdespin has a lot of speed when he is on base. He only had 10 stolen bases last season, but once he develops his hitting more and eventually becomes an everyday player, 30-40 stolen bases a season should be a reasonable expectation by then.
Third, Valdespin is more or less versatile. He is a natural second baseman, but he can also play shortstop quite well and spent a lot of time this past season learning all three outfield positions. At times in the outfield, Valdespin misjudged some fly balls, but with more experience and opportunities, Valdespin will probably improve in the future.
If such a starting role does not work though, Valdespin could still be a reliable pinch-hitter and pinch-runner off the bench, like he was for the Mets. He is not someone a team should build around, but could be someone that could add more depth and energy to a team. At the right price, the Mets should definitely consider trading Valdespin.
The Mets will probably have to include some top prospects in order to acquire Upton. They could even look to trade Wilmer Flores, who is now one of the Mets' top position player prospects.
Signed by the Mets in 2007, the natural shortstop has more recently been playing third base. However, with Ruben Tejada now a fixture for the Mets at shortstop, plus third baseman David Wright likely to get the big contract extension he deserves, there might not be a spot for Flores in the near future. First base will likely not be an option either due to the presence of Ike Davis.
Thus, the Mets should try to trade Flores in order to improve the organization's outfield depth, and that depth would start on the Mets' own roster. The Mets have a surplus of infield prospects, but lack the depth throughout the organization with outfielders. Flores could be a very good trade chip for a superstar outfielder, and other teams will try to inquire on him.
Between the Class A St. Lucie Mets and the Class AA Binghamton Mets last year, Flores batted .300 with 18 home runs, 75 RBI and a .349 OBP. He's expected to be a run producer down the road, but maybe not at the level that Wright has been at.
The Mets right now do not have a spot for Flores in their infield, so trading him could certainly help them in areas of need, such as the entire outfield.
If the Diamondbacks would want more third base depth, they could ask the Mets for Jefry Marte.
Marte is another top Mets infield prospect. At just 21 years old, he still has a few years until he will be ready for the major leagues. He was on the Mets' Class AA Binghamton team in 2012 and batted .251 with nine home runs, 58 RBI and a .322 OBP. His 43 walks helped get his OBP to where it was. This is a great sign that Marte has already developed patience at the plate.
Like Flores, Marte is currently blocked in the organization by David Wright's presence. Assuming Wright signs a long-term contract extension, Marte would be better off getting traded to a team that could actually give him a chance to be a major league third baseman.
Marte's value is not as high as Flores, but he could be an additional piece towards a potential trade.
Yet another Mets infield prospect that could be blocked at the major league level could be second baseman Reese Havens.
Havens has always been a good hitter, but has had quite a few injuries get in the way during his five years so far in the Mets' minor league system. However, he struggled at Class AA Binghamton this past year with just a .215 average, 10 home runs and 39 RBI in 325 at-bats and 94 games.
Havens' history of injuries would definitely hurt his trade value, but if the Diamondbacks simply want to increase their second base depth, the Mets would likely listen in. Havens can also play shortstop reasonably well, being that he played there throughout his college career.
Nonetheless, Havens still has the potential to one day be an above-average second baseman at the major league level. If he stays healthy, this potential could become a reality.
The Mets need outfield depth more than anything right now, but they could look to deal one of their top outfield prospects in order to get Upton. This, though, would depend on whether the Diamondbacks are looking to restock their minor league outfield depth.
One of the Mets' top outfield prospects would be Cesar Puello. This past season, on the Class A St. Lucie Mets, Puello batted .260 with four home runs and 21 RBI. Unfortunately, he missed most of the season with injuries, but hit well in the 66 games he played in. In those 66 games, Puello also had 19 stolen bases.
Puello could project as a base-stealing centerfielder or right fielder. He has good power even though he is more likely to be a leadoff hitter than a cleanup hitter for one.
With Gerardo Parra already on the Diamondbacks, Puello could soon be a nice right-handed complimentary hitter at the top of their lineup as soon as 2014, or 2015 at the latest.
Brandon Nimmo is highly unlikely to get traded any time soon, which would leave Juan Lagares, Matt den Dekker and Cory Vaughn as the Mets' other top outfield prospects. Any of these three outfielders could be looked at, but it's Puello's speed that will make him a more valuable trade chip.
Despite having recently acquired Heath Bell from the Marlins, the Diamondbacks could ask the Mets for Jeurys Familia if they are looking for even more bullpen depth.
Familia has been a starter for the vast majority of his professional career so far, but he projects to be much more successful as a reliever in the major leagues. This is because of Familia's high velocity and the fact that he currently has just two established pitches, which could be effective in one or two-inning appearances compared to six or seven-inning starts.
Familia made 28 starts in Class AAA Buffalo and went 9-9 with a 4.73 ERA and 128 strikeouts in 137 innings pitched. His 73 walks though were very concerning, and that is a big reason why he will likely not pitch as well in the major leagues as a starter.
During his September call-up, Familia made seven relief appearances and one start that did not go particularly well. Due to this small sample size, his 5.84 ERA is not necessarily as bad as it sounds.
If he does not get traded, Familia is likely to be a part of the Mets' Opening Day bullpen. He could even be a future closer in the making if he improves his control significantly. But being that he is one of the Mets' top pitching prospects, he could very well get traded this offseason. In fact, he is probably the Mets' top pitching prospect that could be traded, being that Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler are both considered more or less untouchable.
If the Diamondbacks are looking for bullpen depth and are not interested in Familia, a reasonable alternative would be Jenrry Mejia.
Mejia and Familia are very similar pitchers overall. Both have very high velocity, a lack of control and both now have starting and relief experience. However, what Mejia also has is more major league experience and more higher-level success as a starter.
Mejia spent the majority of the 2012 season in Class AAA Buffalo. He went 3-4 there with a 3.54 ERA in 26 appearances. Ten of his 26 appearances were starts. He also made two starts each in Class A St. Lucie and Class AA Binghamton as he recovered from the Tommy John surgery he had in 2011.
Throughout the season, Mejia was rotated back and forth between being a starter and reliever. It's important that the Mets or another organization decides whether to have Mejia as just a starter or just a reliever. But like Familia, Mejia will be better off in the long run as a reliever and already has the velocity and poise to be a dominant closer in the near future.
One of Mejia or Familia will likely be thrown into a potential trade for Justin Upton if one were to happen.