The New York Mets are still in rebuilding mode.
This long, torturous rebuilding process, though, seems to be nearing its end. Big-name prospects like Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler are already contributing to the major league team, and many more prospects are on the way in the next couple years.
Assuming a majority of these high-ceiling prospects become quality major leaguers, the Mets could be contenders within the next couple years.
Therefore, if the Mets make a trade this season, the return piece should be a player or players who will help the team in the near future.
Marlon Byrd has been one of the biggest surprises in all of baseball.
Byrd signed a minor-league contract before this season, and since then has put up numbers better than fellow right fielder Justin Upton, who is in the middle of a 6-year, $51.5 million contract.
Byrd has an excellent .277/.322/.519 line with 15 doubles, two triples, 17 home runs, 56 RBI and 42 runs.
At this pace, Byrd would finish 2013 with 29 home runs and 97 RBI.
The Mets have struck gold with Byrd this season. He is playing spectacularly in July, too, hitting .338/.360/.620 with an RBI in five straight games.
However, the Mets have no reason to keep Byrd.
Byrd is a 35-year-old who does not fit in the Mets’ future plans, and also has a soaring trade stock. The Mets also have little to no chance to contend this season. If the Mets can trade a red-hot Byrd for a quality package, the team must pull the trigger. The team is far more likely to contend in 2015 than in 2013, and Byrd is not a long-term solution.
Byrd’s current form only makes him more enticing to general managers around the league, and perhaps Mets GM Sandy Alderson could convince a contending team to overpay for Byrd.
As for this trade, Jesse Winker is a very solid outfield prospect, which is a deep position for the Reds and a weak position for the Mets.
Winker is already becoming a pure all-around hitter at just 19 years old in Class-A.
He currently boasts a well-rounded .276/.371/.470 line with 15 doubles, five triples, 13 home runs, 62 RBI and 56 runs in 88 games. Winker dominated the Pioneer League (Rookie ball) last year with a .338/.443/.500 line in 62 games, so this year’s production is clearly no fluke.
Also, Winker has a solid arm and plays above-average defense, meaning he won’t rely solely on his bat to reach the majors.
Winker is more advanced than most 19-year-old prospects. He is already getting experience in a full-season league, along with plenty of international experience.
Winker played on the gold medal-winning 2012 18-U USA National team, as well as the 2011 Junior Pan-Am Games. Interestingly, due to a shortage of pitchers, Winker was forced to pitch the Pan-Am Games and eventually was named the top pitcher at the tournament.
The Mets have developed a farm system in recent years that is loaded with incredible pitching prospects and few notable hitting prospects.
Barring injury, Winker is a safe bet to become a good major league outfielder by around 2015, which (coincidentally) is when the Mets can seriously plan on contending again. Winker has an advanced hitting approach, especially for his age, which fits Alderson’s patient hitting style perfectly.
Furthermore, trading Byrd opens up a spot for other promising young outfielders to gain valuable playing time, such as Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Juan Lagares or even the red-hot Cesar Puello.
From the Reds’ perspective, they can afford to lose Winker.
While Winker is clearly an above-average player and projectable prospect, the Reds’ major league team and farm system are stacked with high-ceiling outfielders. Players like Ryan LaMarre, Kyle Waldrop and Billy Hamilton project to be solid major league outfielders one day, and the Reds already have quality outfielders like Shin-Soo Choo and Jay Bruce.
However, the Reds have been employing a platoon of players in left field, and none of them have stuck.
Currently, Reds’ left fielders have hit a combined .245 with nine home runs in 98 games this season.
The original starting left fielder, Ryan Ludwick, has not played since he separated his shoulder on Opening Day.
While Ludwick is scheduled to finally begin an extended rehab assignment this week, the odds are highly stacked against the 35-year-old repeating his surprising 2012 season, where he hit .275 with 26 home runs.
Thus, it is essential that the Reds acquire a cheap player like Byrd who can hit for power.
While either Byrd or Bruce must end up moving to left field, this trade is still worth it and both players need to be in the lineup. Byrd’s surprising right-handed power outbreak this season, as well as Brandon Phillips’ bat, will perfectly complement the left-handed power of Bruce and Joey Votto, who is one of the best players in baseball.
In the end, the trade is a win for both sides.
The Mets are a team planning for 2014-15, and Byrd does not fit that plan. Acquiring Winker gives the Mets a valuable prospect in a position of need in their farm system. While the current team will undoubtedly suffer without Byrd’s lineup presence, the organization is more likely to contend in 2015 than 2013 and must act accordingly.
On the other hand, the Reds are currently just 5.5 games back in the tough NL Central, and they have a very legitimate chance of contending. The team is incredibly talented and should add Johnny Cueto back into the rotation in the coming weeks, too. Their lineup needs a power-hitting corner outfielder that doesn’t break the bank, and Byrd fits both needs.
This trade is by no means a blockbuster trade.
The Mets are not willing to trade any of their blockbuster-worthy assets, nor do they have a desire to trade a package of their own prospects in a blockbuster deal.
But this trade is a smart one for both sides, and one that adds great value to both organizations. Byrd will significantly help the Reds win now, and Winker will help the Mets win in the future.
While Mets fans may be saddened to see Byrd go, the trade must be done.
Stats and/or info via ESPN.com, baseball-reference.com, mlb.com, milb.com
Stats updated as of July 22, 2013