It is time for Sandy Alderson to be aggressive and make trades to improve the Mets roster.
After making some solid signings this offseason, the New York Mets still need to improve their roster significantly. According to general manager Sandy Alderson on Sunday, the upcoming noteworthy moves made during this offseason will likely come via trade, as Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports.
With holes at shortstop and the back end of the rotation, the Mets need to be aggressive during this week's winter meetings if they want to compete in both the short and long term. Along with Martino reporting that the team hopes to trade one of Ike Davis or Lucas Duda and is willing to trade second baseman Daniel Murphy, at least one roster-altering trade should occur this week.
The Mets need to take into account what they have to offer other teams as well as the different players available on the market. Here are 11 players the Mets may target during the MLB winter meetings.
All statistics are courtesy of Baseball-Reference unless otherwise noted.
Chris Owings' combination of youth and ability to help the Mets right away makes him an ideal trade target.
Acquiring Chris Owings would be a coup for the Mets, as his combination of youth and talent would solidify the team’s shortstop position for years to come.
Owings is still risky in the sense that all prospects are risky, but he is ready for the major leagues and should contribute immediately.
Owings spent most of 2013 in Triple-A, where he hit .330 with a .482 slugging percentage. Ranked as the Diamondbacks' third-best prospect by Baseball Prospectus (subscription required) coming into the 2013 season, Owings boasts a strong arm and good instincts at shortstop, as well as a plus bat speed that leads to consistent, hard contact.
Arizona has an excess amount of shortstops, which could make Owings available for the right price. A package built around Rafael Montero could potentially get it done, but it would have to include other valuable pieces as well.
The Diamondbacks may want to keep their shortstops and let them compete for the starting position, but if they can improve their roster or the depth of their farm system, they could be enticed into dealing Owings.
Gregorius' stellar defense is what makes him appealing to teams across the league.
Didi Gregorius is another one of the young shortstops Arizona boasts and may trade.
Gregorius had an up-and-down 2013 season as a 23-year-old. He made dazzling plays at short while getting off to a hot start offensively. But he ended the year with mediocre offensive numbers, batting .252 with just seven home runs. He also does not project to improve off of these numbers, as he has solid contact ability but his bat lacks impact potential.
As a defender, Gregorius has an excellent arm and very good range. He would solidify any team’s infield defense. He also has a year under his belt at the big league level, another factor that could make the Mets lean his direction rather than targeting Chris Owings.
In the end, Arizona may prefer Gregorius to Owings and end up trading Owings despite the impact potential of his bat. Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers traded Trevor Bauer, an elite prospect at the time, for Gregorius, and has stated that he sees Derek Jeter in the shortstop’s game.
The Mets should target Owings over Gregorius, but considering the need at the position, trading for Gregorius and his elite glove is a definite possibility.
The fact that Arizona is set at first and second base with Paul Goldschmidt and Aaron Hill makes a deal for one of these players less likely, as the Mets would not be able to include Duda, Davis or Murphy in a package of prospects to make the deal more enticing for the Diamondbacks.
I predict that Arizona will deal one of Owings or Gregorius, but in a package for a major piece, such as the White Sox's Chris Sale.
Nick Franklin has become available as a result of the Robinson Cano signing, and the Mets should look into the young middle infielder.
With Robinson Cano heading to Seattle, the Mariners suddenly have a glut of young and talented middle infielders, with Nick Franklin the premier hitter of the group.
Franklin, who turns 23 in March, is a natural shortstop who has been moved to second base in recent years due to below-average arm strength. His value comes not with his glove, however, but with his bat.
While he hit a meager .225 in his rookie campaign last season, he has impressive power for a middle infielder, hitting 12 home runs in 369 at-bats playing half his games in the pitcher-friendly Safeco Field. Franklin has a patient approach, as his OBP was 78 points higher than his batting average.
Franklin’s offense also projects to improve drastically from his rookie season due to his past success and raw talent. Via ESPN’s Dan Szymborski, ZiPS projects the young infielder’s WAR to be nearly equal to that of Robinson Cano over the next 10 years.
Franklin would not be the perfect shortstop for the Mets due to his defensive inefficiencies, but his bat would greatly improve the team’s lineup and give New York an impact hitter in its infield.
Cano’s signing likely means the Mariners will look to trade one of their middle infielders, making a Franklin trade likely. The Mets may shy away from Franklin, thinking he might be unable to stick at shortstop, but a deal centered around Rafael Montero is possible and would greatly improve the Mets in 2014 and beyond.
Brad Miller is a gamer at shortstop, and he could be available in the next week.
Brad Miller is another one of the Seattle middle infielders who could eventually relocate this offseason as a result of the Cano signing.
Unlike Franklin, Miller is a definite shortstop, and without question he should be able to stick at the position. He is a solid defender up the middle, something the Mets value, and has a "gamer" mentality on both sides of the ball.
Offensively, Miller showed promise in his rookie season, batting .265 with solid pop. Like Franklin, his numbers should improve as he gets more comfortable with major league pitching.
Because Miller is much more reliable defensively than Franklin at shortstop, he is less likely to be dealt. However, if the Mets can put together a worthy offer, Miller could be New York’s shortstop of the future.
Matt Joyce's effectiveness against right-handed pitching would solidify the Mets outfield.
Newsday's Marc Carig reports that the Mets will seek to trade either Lucas Duda or Ike Davis during the winter meetings. Tampa has always been a logical landing place for either of them, and Matt Joyce is a logical return for the Mets.
Joyce is far from a perfect player, but so are Duda and Davis. Joyce boasts solid power and is patient at the plate, but he has never hit 20 home runs in a season.
If the Mets acquired Joyce, he would be used as a platoon player with either Chris Young or Juan Lagares. The left-handed outfielder has a career batting average of just .194 against lefties, but .260 against righties with a .835 OPS.
Joyce is 29 and would make the Mets better in the short term as a platoon outfielder. He would be a fair return for either Duda or Davis.
Yunel Escobar has proven throughout his career that he is a major league-quality shortstop.
Yunel Escobar is another Ray who could be had for either Duda or Davis. He would improve the Mets' shortstop position significantly.
A career .278 hitter, Escobar provides solid defense and a contact-oriented approach at the plate, never striking out more than 73 times in a season.
Escobar is far from a franchise-altering player, but considering the lack of talent at shortstop across baseball, having solid production at the position is becoming a luxury.
Escobar doesn’t bring any outstanding tools to the table, but if the Mets were to deal one of their underachieving first basemen for the 31-year-old Cuban, it would improve the team immensely in the short term.
While it is unclear whether or not the Rays are interested in dealing Escobar, if they fail to re-sign James Loney they could jump on Davis or Duda’s power potential and deal their shortstop.
Escobar would improve the Mets immediately, but they would be better off seeking a younger option at shortstop.
Matt Kemp is an available superstar who would change the Mets culture immediately.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have an issue the Mets would have cried for joy about in 2013: They have too many outfielders.
The Dodgers' excess at the position could result in them dealing Matt Kemp. This is further supported by ESPN’s Gordon Edes, who reported that Kemp’s agent believes that a trade is coming this offseason.
While the Mets currently have an acceptable major league outfield following the Chris Young and Curtis Granderson signings, it could still be drastically improved. With Kemp’s market value diminished due to his injury-plagued 2013 season, the Mets would be remiss if they failed to inquire into the star outfielder’s price.
Injuries have become a major concern with Kemp. He missed 145 games over the past two seasons. His injury history combined with the $130 million owed to him over the next six years makes acquiring Kemp a very risky move.
But it could be worth the risk. Kemp is one of the most physically gifted players in the league. He is still just 29, and as recently as 2011 Kemp came up one home run shy of a 40-home run, 40-stolen base season to go along with a ridiculous .986 OPS. There are few players more talented than Kemp, and if the Mets dealt for him, the team’s culture would be changed monstrously.
While Kemp is available on the trade market, a deal to the Mets is unlikely.
Despite coming off injury-plagued seasons, the deal would cost the Mets at least Zack Wheeler or Noah Syndergaard along with a number of other valuable pieces. This, along with his massive contract, would most likely make Kemp too expensive for the Mets.
However, it is still worth keeping an eye on as a possibility.
Joc Pederson got a taste of Citi Field at the Futures Game in 2013. He would be a great long-term addition for the Mets.
Joc Pederson has never played a game above Double-A, but he could be another casualty of the Dodgers' outfield situation.
Pederson likely still needs some time in the minor leagues, but he is not far away. The California native was the Dodgers' 2012 minor league player of the year, showing a good feel for hitting along with solid power and speed. He projects as a left fielder, but he is far from a liability in the outfield.
Pederson had a productive 2013 season in Double-A, showing both patience and power, something Sandy Alderson is known to covet. He hit .278 but reached base at a .381 clip and slugged .497, showing off the impact potential of his bat.
Pederson could potentially reach the majors in 2014. While he doesn’t project as a star, as far as prospects go he is a safe bet to be an above-average major league player.
If the Dodgers dangle Pederson in the open market, the Mets should throw their hat in the ring and try to acquire the young outfielder.
Jed Lowrie proved in 2013 he was an elite MLB shortstop.
Jed Lowrie vaulted himself into the discussion of the best shortstops in baseball with his 2013 performance.
Having been a solid shortstop for most of his career, in 2013 Lowrie hit .290 with 15 home runs in the spacious O.co Coliseum. He has above-average power for a shortstop, exhibited by his 16 home runs in 2012 in just 97 games.
Lowrie’s bat and his slick fielding make him a valuable piece in the trade market.
Oakland general manager Billy Beane is never afraid to pull the trigger on a deal if he’s presented a good offer, and with top prospect Addison Russell working his way toward the majors, a deal for Lowrie is possible.
However, the Mets acquiring Lowrie is not likely. Lowrie’s value is as high as it has ever been right now, and a deal for the shortstop would cost the Mets a solid chunk of their farm system.
Ryan Braun is the kind of hitter who could vault the Mets into serious playoff contention immediately.
I wrote extensively about why the Mets should trade for Ryan Braun in November, and the recent signings change some but not all aspects of the argument.
The Milwaukee Brewers have not been openly shopping Braun, especially since the team just dealt outfielder Norichika Aoki, but dealing their slugger makes too much sense for it not to be a possibility.
The Brewers have a poor farm system and don’t appear to be serious contenders in the near future. Trading Braun would rid the team of his contract and the poor publicity associated with him. And it would help the team rebuild for the future.
Despite Braun’s transgressions, he is an elite hitter who could immensely improve any lineup in the league. While the Mets have solidified their outfield with their recent signings, Braun would add one of the best bats in the league to their lineup.
A Braun deal may not occur during the winter meetings, but it is definitely something to keep an eye on this offseason. If a team puts together an enticing package, it would be beneficial for Milwaukee to take the offer.
The Mets could be among the teams that make such an offer.
Acquiring David Price would give the Mets a devastating top of the rotation in 2015 with the return of Matt Harvey.
A David Price deal would only occur if the Mets ownership completely changes its financial approach and begins spending like a New York team again.
Price is on the trade market because his contract expires following the 2014 season and the Rays are great at collecting prospects when they don’t have the money to spend on star players.
Seattle has been rumored to be a potential destination for Price. The Mets have a prospect to offer in Noah Syndergaard, whom the team does not want to deal. Zack Wheeler could also headline a package to Tampa.
If the Mets want to trade for the lefty, they have the elite prospects that could get a deal done.
Price being traded to the Mets is unlikely for many reasons, the biggest being that they would have to pay the left-hander a huge contract, something they have avoided doing in recent history.
However, if the Mets made a deal for Price, they would be instant contenders in 2014 and have arguably the best top of the rotation in baseball once Matt Harvey returned in 2015.
Based on the Mets' recent history of (not) spending, don’t expect a deal for the ace, but it is worth keeping an eye on.
You can follow me on Twitter at @S_CunninghamBR