MLB Trade Talk: Why Eduardo Nunez for Jonathon Niese Deal Works for Both Teams
In baseball, making trades with other teams is never an easy task. Making trades with a team from the same city, though, is an even more difficult task and rarely happens these days. However, the Mets and Yankees each have certain needs and a trade between the two teams could potentially benefit both teams in the future.
With Jose Reyes having signed with the Miami Marlins, the Mets have a gaping hole to fill at shortstop. A few in-house candidates could take the job, such as Ruben Tejada, or even Justin Turner if he is willing to change positions. However, the Mets could also sign a free agent or acquire a shortstop through a trade. One person that could be a good fit with the Mets is Eduardo Nunez, the Yankees' backup infielder. He won't be able to start with the Yankees due to the presence of Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez and has enough skills to become an everyday shortstop.
The Yankees, on the other hand could use some depth in their starting rotation. Beyond C.C. Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes, the rest of the rotation is rather inconsistent. Furthermore, with Sabathia as the only left-handed starter, the Yankees could use a second southpaw in the rotation. One pitcher that could fit the description is Jonathon Niese of the Mets. Niese has developed into a solid middle rotation starter and is likely to keep improving in 2012.
A trade between the Mets and Yankees regarding Eduardo Nunez and Jonathon Niese could definitely work out for both teams: here are a few reasons why.
Why This Trade Could Benefit the Mets
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With Reyes gone, the Mets desperately need a new shortstop to improve the offense and to provide reliable defense. The free agent market for shortstops is thin, so there won't be many solid options for the Mets to look for.
Nunez batted .265 with five home runs and 30 RBI in 309 at-bats during 2011. He filled in at second base, shortstop and third base to give Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez respectively a breather once in a while. He also filled in while Jeter was injured and did well during his stint as a starter. In the long run, though, Nunez will not have an opportunity to blossom with the Yankees until either Jeter or Rodriguez move on to another team or retire. Furthermore, the Yankees already have a lot of infield depth with Ramiro Pena and the newly signed Hiroyuki Nakajima, who is expected to serve as Jeter and Rodriguez's understudy. Thus, it is likely Nunez will be on the trading block.
Nunez is only 24 years old and has a lot of time to really develop into a solid middle infielder. Although he is a similar type of player to Ruben Tejada, the Mets could use a good young shortstop and with a full season's worth of at-bats, Nunez should be able to become one of the better shortstops in the league.
Why This Trade Could Benefit the Yankees
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It's no secret that the Yankees' lynchpin is the back end of their starting rotation.
Beyond C.C. Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes, the rest of the rotation is rather inconsistent. A.J. Burnett has been very inconsistent in the past two seasons and could find himself on the trading block if he does not get it together in 2012.
The veteran Freddy Garcia doesn't have much left in the tank and could find himself being relocated to the bullpen. With Sabathia as the only left-handed starter, the Yankees could use a second southpaw in the rotation. One pitcher that could fit the description is Jonathon Niese of the Mets.
Niese has been in the Mets' starting rotation for the past two seasons and won a career-high 11 games in 2011, despite a 4.40 ERA. However, he reduced his walk totals to 44, compared to the 62 walks he gave up in 2010. Niese has always had a lot of potential, but in some of his games, the Mets' offense has failed to provide legitimate run support. If he were to pitch for a team like the Yankees with their explosive offense, he could definitely win a few more games just from that. The Yankees' bullpen is also more stable than that of the Mets, so Niese would be less likely to have some of his wins erased due to blown saves.
If Niese comes to the Yankees, he could slide in between Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett as the Yankees' No. 4 starter. Again, this could lead to Garcia moving to the bullpen as a long reliever.
Why the Mets and Their Fans Would Like This Trade
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It is obviously a very tough task for any shortstop on the Mets to replace Jose Reyes, who became arguably the best shortstop in franchise history. However, the Mets and their fans would most likely not want an aging shortstop that is past his prime and only capable of making decent contributions for the next season or two. A young player would be better for the team in the long run.
Nunez is not the biggest and strongest baseball player out there, but if he hits a lot of doubles, a good number of triples and steals some bases, he will bring the fans at least a glimpse of what they were used to seeing with Reyes on a consistent basis.
On the other hand, having someone like Ruben Tejada as the everyday shortstop is not someone that many of the fans would prefer to see for an entire season. Many Mets fans probably remember Rey Ordonez, who was the Mets' shortstop from 1996-2002. Ordonez was great defensively and had a great arm, but he was never able to hold his own at the plate, and that was what separated him from better shortstops in his era, like Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. If Tejada becomes the Mets' everyday shortstop, he will more or less become the second coming of Ordonez and many fans would probably prefer to avoid that. To Tejada's credit, though, he most likely would never present any attitude problems like Ordonez did at the end of his Mets' tenure.
Thus, Nunez would definitely be a better fit for the Mets than Tejada.
Why the Yankees and Their Fans Would Like This Trade
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The Yankees and their fans would probably like this trade as well, mostly because they could ship out some excess infield depth in order to bolster their rotation, which is always under a lot of pressure.
Many Yankee fans have become very impatient with A.J. Burnett and his inconsistent pitching over the past two seasons. When Burnett signed with the team prior to the 2009 season, there were many questions about his health. Burnett has turned out to be healthy, but his pitching has not lived up to expectations. Thanks to the emergence of Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova, Burnett is now projected as a fourth or even fifth starter for the Yankees.
Freddy Garcia is another question mark for the Yankees. He pitched well enough in 2011 for the team to re-sign him for 2012. However, can he stay healthy? Can he pitch well on a consistent basis? Will his age catch up to his pitching? The Yankees will need to hope that Garcia can still pitch in order to compete with teams like the Red Sox and Rays in the always-competitive AL East.
If Niese joins the Yankees' rotation, it could definitely alleviate some pressure not just from Burnett but from all the Yankees' starting pitchers as well. He would give the team another southpaw and would likely benefit from greater run support than he has gotten with the Mets.
If Niese stays healthy, pitches well and wins over 10 games, there is no reason as to why the Yankee fans would dislike him in particular. Then again, all that matters to the Yankees are wins. If Niese brings wins to the Yankees, the fans will love him. If he struggles, he will hear boos in a heartbeat, but then again, so would any other player on the Yankees.
Will This Trade Even Happen?
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This is not the most likely trade to occur, and such a trade has yet to make major headlines across both New York and national newspapers. Furthermore, other teams like the Blue Jays and Rockies have already contacted the Mets about Niese, but so far, the Mets have been reluctant to include Niese in any trades.
As for Nunez, his name has been brought up with Braves pitcher Jair Jurrgens for a potential swap, being that the Braves need a new shortstop with the departure of Alex Gonzalez. However, if the Mets offer Niese in exchange for Nunez, the decision making about this could get interesting.
All in all, a swap between Niese and Nunez could work for both the Yankees and Mets, but such a trade is not particularly likely to happen. The Mets seem to be more inclined towards keeping Niese for 2012 and beyond, while the Yankees could easily trade Nunez to another team that is willing to deal a developed starting pitcher. For all anyone knows, a Niese for Nunez could end up happening, but it would not wise to put money on this potential occurrence.