New York Mets: 3 Ideal Trade Targets to Focus On

Stephen SmithContributor IIINovember 21, 2013

New York Mets: 3 Ideal Trade Targets to Focus On

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    J.J. Hardy would fit in quite well with the Mets
    J.J. Hardy would fit in quite well with the MetsThearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Now that the free-agency signing period is here, it can be easy to forget that the New York Mets can also improve their contingent via smart trades.

    The Mets should, hopefully, be very active in the free-agent market—the fans are expecting nothing less. However, New York can also fortify its roster by making some trades to bolster its chances of making a legitimate run at a National League wild-card spot.

    Here are three players the Mets should key in on via the trade route during the hot stove season to help fortify their roster and become much more competitive.  

J.J. Hardy, Shortstop

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    The 31-year-old Baltimore Orioles shortstop will be a free agent following the 2014 season, so he could become readily available in trade discussions.

    The Mets are in need of a veteran shortstop who can supply some punch to an anemic offensive attack. The nine-year veteran clubbed 25 home runs and knocked in 76 runs while hitting .263 in 159 games for the Birds last season. Sure, he was hitting in a bandbox in Camden Yards. Even if he landed at Citi Field, though, 15-20 homers would be expected in a full season.

    The Tucson, Arizona native is also a fine fielder as well. In 645 chances last season, Hardy committed just 12 errors and captured his second consecutive American League Gold Glove award.

    The Mets would only have to commit to Hardy for one year. If he continues to perform at a high level, they could ink him to a long-term pact following the 2014 campaign.

    If New York can't sign free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew, they should look down to the Inner Harbor and see what the Orioles would want for Hardy.

    It may not cost as much as you think. 

Nick Markakis, Outfielder

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    The left-handed hitting Markakis is coming off a little bit of a down year for the Orioles and would not cost the Mets a bundle to acquire.

    A former first-round pick of the Orioles in 2003, Markakis hit .271 with 10 home runs and 59 RBI in 160 games for Buck Showalter's squad last season. He is in the final year of a six-year, $66.1 million contract that has a club option for 2015. He is a career .292 hitter, with a career OBP of .360.

    Not bad.

    A change of scenery might be just what Markakis needs. The Mets can certainly take a chance on the 30-year-old outfielder because he is still in his prime.

    New York would probably need to part with just a mid-level prospect or two and Baltimore can clear up some payroll space in order to pursue some free agents.

    Is it a perfect match for the Mets? Not by any means, but it may be the way general manager Sandy Alderson has to go if they don't sign a free-agent outfielder like Shin-Soo Choo, for example.

    Keep an eye on this one. 

Andre Ethier, Outfielder

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    Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

    Andre Ethier?


    Yes. Here's why.

    The Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder is signed through the 2017 season at an average salary of $16 million per year. That is obviously too rich for New York's blood, so the Dodgers would have to fork over $5-6 million per season in order for a possible deal to be consummated.

    Ethier hit .272 with 12 home runs and 52 RBI in 142 games last season. A down year, no doubt. However, he is a career .288 batter and has averaged 20 home runs and 83 RBI during his eight-year career.

    Those are pretty good numbers.

    The Dodgers appear to be interested in listening to offers for Ethier at this time. Their 2013 Opening Day payroll was over $239 million, which was the highest in baseball. Getting rid of a portion of Ethier's contract would certainly bring them some relief.

    The Mets would most likely only have to part with a couple of mid-range prospects for Ethier, who is also a fine defensive outfielder as well. His career fielding percentage is .987. 

    It might seem like a gamble at first to try to acquire Ethier. However, if the Dodgers can pick up at least one-third of his remaining salary, the Mets should dive head first into trade talks with Don Mattingly's club.