New York Mets starting pitcher Jonathon Niese garnered interest at last week's MLB winter meetings, but ended up staying with the team. According to ESPN's Adam Rubin, trade talks never reached an imminent stage, which is good because the Mets shouldn't be looking to trade him anyway.
Although his basic statistics don't show it, Niese made big strides toward becoming a very good pitcher last season. While battling injuries, he still managed to lower his walk rate while increasing his strikeout rate. Any time a pitcher can show improved control without becoming more hittable, it's a great sign.
Niese also increased his groundball percentage to 52, which helped him keep more balls in the park. His sub par ERA can be attributed to bad luck (.333 BABIP) more than anything else, and that's not a factor which should be overlooked.
His SIERA, an ERA estimator which tries to give a better look at a pitcher's actual performance, was 3.42. That's a much better representation of what Niese has become. He's not an elite pitcher by any means, but for a team that has struggled in the pitching department of late, it's worth keeping.
If he's able to shake his injury woes, his numbers will probably get even better. He's only 25 years old, which leaves a lot of time to grow, and is signed to a reasonable contract. That makes it even more curious that the Mets would even consider moving him.
However, the Mets have already lost Jose Reyes to the division rival Miami Marlins and could be on the verge of a complete rebuilding project if David Wright is moved at some point before next season's trade deadline.
Even if that ends up happening, Niese should be a player to build around, not one to trade away. There's been more than enough glimpses of potential to warrant keeping him around.
With the NL East becoming tougher seemingly every season, the Mets are quickly falling behind. Between the Marlins' spending spree, the Nationals youth movement starting to take full effect and the perennial contenders (Phillies and Braves), the Mets could very well finish last in 2012.
The front office needs to take a serious look at where they want to go in the future, because the present isn't looking to bright.
Niese should definitely be a part of those plans.
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