With a little under two months until the trade deadline, the New York Mets will have plenty of time to figure out whether they really have a chance of competing and want to make a trade to put them over the top.
The Mets’ season looks like it’s in jeopardy with their recent stretch of poor play, but the reality is that they are only 6.5 games out of first place in the National League East, well within striking distance.
They should hold out on trading for a hitter to help bolster their offense until they are sure they can clinch a playoff spot. However, they could still trade for an established bat even if they are out of the playoff race, as long as they believe that the player will be a part of the long-term solution to the Mets’ offensive woes.
One player I have not included on this list is Colorado Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez. While many Mets fans have longed for a trade for the left-handed outfielder, the Rockies are not far from contention with young pitching on the horizon, and Colorado doesn’t have a player who is nearly as productive to replace Gonzalez.
Matt Kemp has gone from an MVP candidate to a forgotten entity over the past few years due to injuries and slipping performance. With the Los Angeles Dodgers’ surplus of outfielders, he could be available this season, an idea substantiated by New York Post writer Joel Sherman.
Kemp has been unable to stay on the field, and as a result, his performance has suffered. Last season, he hit just .270 in 73 games, and through 57 games in 2014, he’s hitting a meager .247 with five home runs.
Still, as recently as 2012, he hit .303/.367/.538 despite being hurt much of the year, playing in just 106 games. The year before that, he hit an amazing .324/.399/.586 with 39 home runs, placing second in the NL MVP race.
Because of his stellar performance in 2012, he earned a massive eight-year, $160 million contract. The deal lasts through 2019 and gives Kemp $21 million in 2015 and $21.5 million annually from 2016 to 2019, so it isn’t absurdly back-loaded. He is also just 29 years old.
Trading for Kemp would be risky because of his injury history, and it isn’t like the Mets to take on such a loaded contract. However, because of the Dodgers’ current outfield situation as well as Kemp’s contract and health, it would cost the Mets much less to acquire Kemp than another player with similar ability.
Trading for Kemp would also make long-term sense for the Mets, making a trade for the star possible even if the Mets are out of contention.
Like I said previously, Kemp is under contract until 2019 and is just 29 years old. The Mets made the decision in 2013 to build around David Wright, who is now 31, by signing him through the 2020 season.
If the Mets are truly committed to winning while Wright is a part of the organization, they will need to add star-level players around him. Kemp is younger than Wright and signed through a similar time frame, and when healthy, he is among the top five players in the league.
Even if the Mets are out of contention in 2014, adding Kemp this season to secure him for the next five years would give the Mets two elite hitters in the middle of their lineup for the rest of the decade.
Despite all this, it is unlikely the Mets trade for Kemp because of the risk he brings and what it would cost the team.
The Mets have been a risk-averse organization while general manager Sandy Alderson has been at the helm, and trading for a player who has declined in performance doesn’t seem like something he would do.
Also, even if Alderson wanted to trade for Kemp, it is unlikely that ownership would support such a deal because of Kemp’s large contract. Even if the Dodgers offer to pay a significant portion of the contract, they would want higher quality players in return, something Alderson wouldn’t want to do for a boom-or-bust player.
Still, Kemp to the Mets makes sense, whether it is to help bolster their lineup this season or for future years, and it is worth keeping an eye on. The Mets could target one of the Dodgers’ other outfielders, such as Andre Ethier, but Kemp’s star-caliber talent would make him a much better acquisition.
The Kansas City Royals would have to fall completely out of the playoff race if they were to trade one of their stars, but if Alex Gordon becomes available, the Mets should consider trading for him whether they are in or out of contention.
Gordon is currently 30 years old and has become an under-the-radar superstar in Kansas City. He has established himself as one of the best defensive left fielders in all of baseball while being a consistent offensive performer.
This season, Gordon is still playing great defense while hitting .288/.365/.455, numbers better than any player currently on the Mets roster.
Gordon is owed $12.5 million in 2015 and has a $12.5 player option for 2016. While he would undoubtedly make the Mets offense better this season, they would have control of him for at least the following year and have the opportunity to sign him long term.
A deal for a player of Gordon’s caliber would likely cost the Mets dearly, most likely including their top prospect in Noah Syndergaard at the very least. Still, adding Gordon would give them an elite defensive outfield as well as add an high-level bat to their lineup.
This discussion is meaningless as long as the Royals remain competitive, and even if they fall out of the playoff race, they would only trade Gordon for a supreme package of prospects. The Mets could put that package together, but overall, I would say this situation is unlikely but still worth keeping tabs on.
Ben Zobrist, like Kemp, has been slipping in performance and therefore would probably cost the Mets less in a trade if they wanted to acquire him. Also like Kemp, Joel Sherman of the Post reports that he could be available as well.
Zobrist, 33, is hitting .241 this year after hitting .275 and .270 the last two seasons, respectively. He has never hit over .300 in a season but has been pretty consistently around .265 for most of his career.
Zobrist brings value because of his defensive versatility, extra-base power and patience at the plate.
Zobrist is capable of playing pretty much every position on the field at least adequately. He isn’t the Mets' answer at shortstop, but he could still slide into their lineup at pretty much any position and not hurt them on the defensive side of the ball.
At the plate, Zobrist brings a lot to the table. He recorded over an .800 OPS in both 2011 and 2012 and has always shown the ability to take a walk while at the same time is able to drive the ball in the gap.
The Tampa Bay Rays are out of contention and would likely want to trade Zobrist for prospects. He has a club option for $7.5 million next year, so he is an inexpensive and effective veteran.
The Mets would only want to trade for him if they are in contention this season, as Zobrist is entering his mid-30s and not worth giving up assets for if the Mets are looking to the future.
Still, he fits the profile of what the Mets like as a versatile defender who walks and hits the ball in the gaps. If the front office feels like adding Zobrist could propel the team into a wild-card spot, a trade is possible, but as long as the Mets continue their poor play, they will not trade for Zobrist.
Statistics courtesy Baseball-Reference.
Contract information courtesy Cot’s Baseball Contracts.
Follow Sean on Twitter: @SCunninghamPG.