The New York Mets have a black hole at shortstop while the Los Angeles Angels need a more proven No. 5 in their starting rotation. Both teams would benefit if the Mets trade starting pitcher Dillon Gee for Los Angeles Angels shortstop Erick Aybar.
With June around the corner, the Los Angeles Angels rank second in the American League West while the New York Mets sit at the bottom of the National League East. The Angels are deeply invested financially into 2014 and have high hopes for the postseason while 90 wins for the Mets seems more far-fetched by the day.
Although the Angels starting rotation has been stable, Matt Shoemaker is not established and spent nearly seven years in the minors. He made his MLB debut with the Angels last September and has just two starts this season.
Gee is off to a hot start in 2014 with a 2.73 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. Opponents are only hitting .214 against him. In 2013 he tossed 199 innings with a 3.62 ERA.
He is arbitration eligible through 2016 and is making just $3.625 million this season, a drop in the bucket for the Angels payroll. Once Gee returns from the disabled list and makes a few starts, it will be a good time for New York to sell high.
Starting pitching is a strong suit for the Mets. They already have young starters under team control for years. Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom joined the rotation this month and highly touted prospect Noah Syndergaard is expected to make his MLB debut in June. Even without Gee, the team has starting rotation depth, especially once Matt Harvey returns from injury in 2015.
Aybar is not an elite shortstop, but he is solid and would certainly be an upgrade over Ruben Tejada. He is batting .260/.296/.387 in 2014 with two home runs, three triples and 10 doubles with a career .276 batting average.
He played 137 or more games each season from 2009 to 2013 and posted back-to-back 4.0 WAR seasons in 2011 and 2012. Aybar won a Gold Glove in 2011.
Although Aybar is not a high on-base percentage hitter with a career .316 OBP, neither is Tejada. He may not be an ideal leadoff hitter, but he would be a candidate for the Mets. The Angels shortstop is earning $8.5 million each year through 2016 and will be a free agent in 2017, so his contract is affordable and for multiple years.
Tejada is not a viable option at shortstop. As of May 20, he is batting an anemic .183/.299/.220 with zero home runs and nine RBI. Tejada is posting a minus-0.6 WAR, and although his defense has been sturdier than expected, it is not stellar by any stretch of the imagination.
He is five for his last 41 with a .171 SLG in May. Tejada is not hitting for average or getting on base, has not stolen a base and is not even fast on the basepaths.
Grant Green or Tommy Field could play shortstop for the Angels in Aybar’s absence. The move would weaken their infield defense, but they already rank No. 5 in baseball in runs scored this season, so the Angels can afford to sacrifice a bit of offense.
Stephen Drew is now one less shortstop possibility for the Mets. He signed a one-year, roughly $10 million deal with the Boston Red Sox on May 20. The Mets have been linked to him throughout the past offseason. According to MetsBlog, they offered the shortstop a one-year, $9.5 million contract in late February.
If the plan was to wait until Drew no longer required sacrificing their third-round draft pick in early June, the Mets front office failed. Or perhaps they never had much interest to begin with. Either way, the shortstop market is thinner.
Mets fans cannot assume that the team will spend on a shortstop in the upcoming offseason. According to MLB Trade Rumors, Hanley Ramirez of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Jed Lowrie of the Oakland Athletics and J.J. Hardy of the Baltimore Orioles are amongst the top shortstop free agents in 2015. All of them will be looking for a big-time payday
What if some of those teams offer them extensions? As has often been the case in recent history, what if other teams outbid the Mets?
Most shortstops would be an improvement over Tejada, and Aybar is a considerable upgrade.
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