The New York Mets’ season can still go a number of ways, and whether the team is in or out of contention come July will dictate the trades it makes this year. The Mets could either cling to the hopes of a wild-card spot, remaining in contention through the trade deadline, or fall short once again with their eyes on 2015 and beyond.
Even if the Mets make a trade to improve their major league roster this season, it will also be geared to help the team in the long term.
Most of the possible trades this year would involve the Mets dipping into their pitching depth in order to bolster their offense. It is the organization’s greatest strength and is the easiest area to part with in order to acquire talent in trades.
I have not predicted any trades in which the Mets acquire a superstar such as Troy Tulowitzki or Giancarlo Stanton. While they could still acquire a star in the coming offseason, I don’t believe the Mets would be willing to part with the necessary assets to acquire one during the season.
New York Mets Trade Starting Pitching to Los Angeles Dodgers for Joc Pederson
The Mets' greatest area of organizational depth is starting pitching, and the Los Angeles Dodgers have too many outfielders to fill their three outfield spots.
The Dodgers are also the epitome of a “win-now” team, and despite having Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke at the front of their rotation, they could use an upgrade on the back end.
Because the Dodgers are looking to win and win now, trading one of their starting outfielders for prospects, even if the prospect in waiting is major league ready, is unlikely. A trade between these teams only makes sense if the Mets are out of contention and gearing up for the future.
The Dodgers starting outfield is currently comprised of established players Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Yasiel Puig, which leaves zero spots for prospect Joc Pederson.
Pederson is a 22-year-old outfielder who has the chance to be an impact player for a long time. He’s a left-handed power hitter with plus-athleticism for a corner outfield spot. After hitting 22 home runs last season in Double-A, he has started his Triple-A career in 2014 with a .426 batting average and 1.295 OPS to go along with 5 home runs in 68 at-bats.
Kemp is signed through 2019, Puig through 2018 and Ethier through 2017, which leaves no room for Pederson in the majors outside of an injury or trade.
Replacing Ethier with Pederson may seem to make sense, but it isn’t necessarily likely.
Ethier is already hard to trade as an aging outfielder with declining skills and an escalating contract, and he presents little value to the Dodgers if he is not playing everyday. If Los Angeles benched or demoted him, he would become virtually impossible to trade.
Also, for a team geared at making a World Series run, the Dodgers are unlikely to put faith in a prospect like Pederson to play every day when they have a veteran option like Ethier at their disposal. Winning teams tend to view their top prospects as tradable assets, which is where the Mets could come in.
Jonathon Niese is one of the Mets’ most valuable trade assets when healthy because of his friendly contract and consistency. Dillon Gee has also become a much more enticing trade asset as he has performed remarkably well since the middle of last season. Both would greatly improve the Dodgers’ rotation immediately.
The Mets and Dodgers could build a deal around Niese or Gee and Pederson, which would solidify the Dodgers rotation while giving the Mets a promising young position player to build around for the future who would also contribute immediately.
Around the middle of the season, top prospects like Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero should be ready to make their major league debut. The Mets should not seek to trade Gee or Niese if they don’t have to, but with top prospects ready in the wings and a player such as Pederson available, they should consider making a deal if they fall out of contention.
New York Mets Trade Starting Pitching to Arizona Diamondbacks for Didi Gregorius or Chris Owings
This is an option that has made sense for some time now. The Mets and Arizona Diamondbacks both have clear needs in areas where the other organization has depth.
The Mets were able to witness the albatross that is the Diamondbacks’ starting rotation last week. Arizona currently looks like one of the worst teams in baseball, yet its offseason moves indicated that it is a team geared to winning now. Currently sitting at 5-18, general manager Kevin Towers should feel the pressure to make a deal soon to improve the team's rotation and any chance it has of being relevant this season.
Ruben Tejada has been mediocre as expected thus far, and trading for Arizona’s Chris Owings or Didi Gregorius would give the Mets a young shortstop to build around for the future.
While the Mets still have hopes this season and would likely not deal a solid rotation starter such as Niese or Gee at this point, a deal could still occur later in the year.
If a deal occurs in the near future, it would likely be centered around one of the Mets' more major league-ready starting pitching prospects, most likely Rafael Montero. Montero could be plugged into Arizona’s rotation immediately and would be a nice complement to their future ace Archie Bradley.
Over the offseason Gregorius was penciled in as Arizona’s starter while I implored the Mets to target Owings, but Owings won the job in spring training and is now the less likely of the two to be dealt. The Mets should still target the more offensive-oriented Owings, yet the slick-fielding Gregorius would still be a marked improvement for New York.
If the Mets are still contending and the Diamondbacks are able to overcome their poor start, Montero could be included in the trade, but if the Mets are out of it, a trade centered around Gee or Niese would make more sense. However, because of Gee and Niese’s values as established major league commodities, the Mets should hold out for the superior option in Owings in that situation.
Regardless of how either team’s season pans out, the facts still remain: Arizona has young shortstops, New York has young pitching, and a trade makes sense. While a deal is far from inevitable, a match makes sense from both sides.
New York Mets Trade Starting Pitching to Seattle Mariners for Nick Franklin
Rumors about a deal involving Nick Franklin and the Mets have circulated ever since the Seattle Mariners signed second baseman Robinson Cano this offseason. With Brad Miller established as Seattle’s starting shortstop and Cano entrenched in the middle of its lineup, there isn’t room in the middle infield for Franklin.
The questions surrounding Franklin as a player have always been about his defense and ability to play shortstop. If the Mets have internally decided that they don’t think he can handle shortstop full time, a deal won’t happen as they already have multiple offensive-oriented second basemen in their organization.
If the Mets do feel like Franklin can be their shortstop of the future, it’ll cost them some of their starting pitching depth. Montero is off to a hot start in Triple-A and deemed fair value for Franklin, but as long as Montero is pitching well and Franklin doesn’t have a role in Seattle, Sandy Alderson can be stingier in his negotiations.
Jacob deGrom is also off to a great start in Triple-A. In a package combined with a lower-level prospect, deGrom could be enough to pull away Franklin.
Right now the Mariners are acting as if they are fine with using Franklin in a utility role and giving him some outfield experience, but as long as Miller and Cano are on their roster, he will have more value with another team.
The Mets still need a shortstop, and Franklin is in limbo in Seattle, so a deal involving both parties is definitely possible in the coming months.
New York Mets Trade Pitching Prospects to Chicago Cubs for Position Player Prospects
Let me preface this by saying that trades involving prospects being exchanged rarely happen as neither side wants be wrong and give up a star. However, a deal between the Chicago Cubs and Mets exchanging prospects makes enough sense to garner discussion.
As I have previously discussed, the Mets are loaded with talented pitching prospects on the verge of making the majors, but they lack position-player prospects with the same ceiling.
The Cubs have the opposite predicament; they have filled their system with a magnitude of positional prospects that have star-level ceilings yet lack any pitchers with that same potential.
The Mets covet power hitters, and the Cubs' prospects like Javier Baez and Kris Bryant are among the best power-hitting prospects in the game. They also have players like stud outfielder Albert Almora, who is younger than Baez and Bryant but arguably has less risk attached.
The issue for the Mets is that while pitchers like Montero and deGrom are nice assets, it would take a prospect the level of Syndergaard to pry one of the elite prospects away.
While the Cubs do not plan on contending in 2014, they could still find Gee and Niese as appealing options. Both are entering their prime years, and while neither is a true ace, they have plenty of value as cost-controlled and consistent mid-rotation starters.
The one pitcher who could make the most sense for the Mets to send in a trade to Chicago is Zack Wheeler. As a promising young right-hander who just one year ago was a top-10 prospect in baseball, he would immediately join Jeff Samardzija at the front of the Cubs’ rotation.
The Mets would like to avoid trading Wheeler under any circumstance, but if it netted them an elite prospect like Baez or Bryant, they would have to consider it. Wheeler is promising but still has concerns surrounding his command and development of a third pitch.
As an organization loaded with pitching depth, selling high on Wheeler might be the right move, and he is the most likely to be dealt to Chicago if the two clubs work out a trade. In the end, a trade is possible but very unlikely as neither team will want to deal one of its cornerstones.
New York Mets are Sellers at Deadline, Trade Daniel Murphy, Chris Young or Bartolo Colon for Prospects
If the Mets are out of contention, Daniel Murphy, Chris Young and Bartolo Colon are the players most likely to be dealt at the deadline for prospects.
In the case that the Mets are sellers, it is difficult to pinpoint an exact trade partner (outside of the Dodgers). The needs of teams come July will change depending on who is still contending and if players go down with injuries.
The Baltimore Orioles expressed interest in Murphy this offseason, and they could still want him if they are contending in July. If its current second baseman Jonathan Schoop performs this year, a deal is unlikely, but if he falls flat and second base is its greatest need, Baltimore could crack and part with a solid prospect for Murphy.
The Mets shouldn’t expect a prospect as good as Dylan Bundy or Kevin Gausman, although a pitcher like Eduardo Rodriguez could potentially be pried from the Orioles.
Colon would be an enticing piece for a contending team in need of starting pitching, and teams such as the Dodgers and Diamondbacks could be interested near the trade deadline. However, Colon’s age and the fact that his contract is guaranteed through the 2015 season make him less valuable than pitchers like Gee or Niese, and the Mets wouldn’t net a return as good as Pederson or one of Arizona’s shortstops.
Young could also be traded for prospects if the Mets are out of the playoff race. He is only signed through the 2014 season and will have little utility for the Mets if they aren’t competing for a playoff spot.
Even if Young performs at a high level prior to the deadline, the fact that he is only signed through this year lowers his value to other teams. The best-case scenario for the Mets (other than being competitive and not wanting to trade Young) would be to net a return similar to the one they received for Marlon Byrd last year (Vic Black and Dilson Herrera).
The prospects the Mets would receive for any of these three players hinges upon how each performs this season as well as how desperate other teams are for established veterans at the deadline.
While Murphy, Young and Colon are the most likely to be dealt, this conversation becomes null and void as long as the Mets are still winning games in the summer months.
All statistics courtesy Baseball-Reference.
Follow Sean on twitter: @SCunninghamPG.