Let me begin by assuring you all I am not totally crazy. Partially crazy, perhaps, but not totally. But what I am about to suggest may actually be a reasonable and logical step for the New York Mets to take in order to hep get them to (and keep them in) relevancy once again in the National League.
Cutting right to the chase, general manager Sandy Alderson should have his eyes set on Chicago Cubs' All-Star shortstop Starlin Castro. To get him, the Mets should not be afraid to trade away a young starter (just one of either Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard or Rafael Montero).
Just looking at the Mets' 2014 first half, the team has actually been getting very good starting pitching. Their 3.50 collective ERA is better than the league average, and they are allowing fewer than four runs per game. All of this has been without their ace Matt Harvey, who was lost for the season following Tommy John Surgery.
The rotation has been spearheaded by Jon Niese, who is currently on the disabled list. Niese, though he struggled through most of spring training with injuries, currently sports a 2.96 ERA—which is good for 12th in the league—and 74 strikeouts through 103 innings pitched in 2014. He hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in a start since September 7 of last season.
The Mets have also benefited from a very impressive Major League debut of Jacob deGrom. The 26-year-old right-hander made his brilliant debut on May 15 against the Yankees when he spun seven innings of one-run ball, striking out six. Although his record sits at a lackluster 3-5, that is by no means a reflection of how he has pitched—his 3.18 ERA is. And he has seemingly gotten better as the season has rolled along, striking out 27 batters over his last three starts, including 11 Braves during a seven-inning shutout on July 8.
And while Dillon Gee has missed a major chunk of the season, the Mets have gotten solid work from veterans Bartolo Colon and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Colon, who was signed as a free agent to a two-year, $20 million contract over the winter, has been somewhat inconsistent but still features a decent 3.66 ERA to go along with 89 strikeouts over 121 innings. Colon himself has been subject of a few trade rumors recently.
Matsuzaka, meanwhile, has been a nice fill-in for Gee. After starting the season in the bullpen for the Mets, Dice-K has made nine starts, including eight of his last nine appearances. For the year, the veteran has a 3.55 ERA and has looked better over his last five starts than his numbers would suggest.
Gee himself has been a solid contributor when healthy, flashing a 2.56 ERA through nine starts. After missing much of May and all of June, Gee was activated off of the disabled list and started on July 9, going seven strong innings against the Braves. In fact, Gee has pitched fewer than six innings just once this season—5.2 innings on April 5—and has allowed one or fewer earned runs four times.
Then there is Wheeler, who has been the poster boy for inconsistency so far in 2014. The 24-year-old owns a 5-8 record with a 3.90 ERA. He's shown signs of brilliance, as evidenced by his three-hit shutout of the Marlins on June 19. He closed out the first half in dominant form, allowing one earned run in each of his last three starts.
But he's also looked ugly at times, giving up five earned runs each in two consecutive starts in mid-May, while permitting four earned runs in four starts this season. He also had a forgettable start against the A's (right after his shutout of the Marlins) in which he gave up six earned in just two innings.
At just 24 years of age, Wheeler has the talent and the ability to blossom into a legitimate stud pitcher. The same can be said for Syndergaard and Montero. But with the quality pitching the Mets have in place, including Harvey, could they expend one of these young hurlers to address a much-maligned hole in their lineup, such as shortstop?
After all, Montero made his debut earlier this season and was unimpressive at best (0-2, 5.40 ERA in four starts). And the latest reports indicate Syndergaard may not make his debut until next season, as he as struggled this season in Triple-A (5.74 ERA and 11.3 H/9 allowed in 84 innings pitched).
Meanwhile, the Mets have received virtually nothing out of the shortstop position this year, with Ruben Tejada hitting a meager .237 in 2014. And while some light-hitting shortstops are known to be wizards with the glove (see Everth Cabrera), Tejada is a decent defender, at best.
That brings us to Castro, who believe it or not only turned 24 in March. After a disappointing 2013 season, Castro is enjoying a resurgent 2014 campaign, hitting .276 with 11 home runs and 52 RBI for the last-place Cubs. He was selected to his third career All-Star game and is under team control and owed $43 million through 2019 (plus a $16 million team option for 2020).
The Mets have a couple of shortstop prospects down on the farm in Amed Rosario and Gavin Cecchini. But neither of them are close to the cusp of reaching the big leagues, and even when they do, they still might not be the impact player Castro has been for the Cubs. Even still, it may not be too late to move one of them to the outfield, which is another weak area for the Mets.
Now, of course, the Cubs have made no indications they will be trading Castro. And in fact, Jon Morosi of FoxSports tweets the Cubs have no intentions of moving him before the July 31 trade deadline, despite the presence of top prospect Javier Baez and the recent acquisition of Addison Russell from the A's for Jeff Samardzija. They also have Arismendy Alcantara up with the big club right now, and he has impressed early on his career.
Regardless of the Cubs' willingness to field offers for Castro, the time for the Mets to make a bold move is now. They need to show their fans they are listening and are willing to make the hard choices to field a winning club. And the window to trade one or some of their young arms for an impact bat is closing the longer the club waits. And just to prove I'm not totally insane, John Harper of the New York Daily News seems to concur with this suggestion.