As the calendar turns to July, GM’s around the league will be stepping up their assessment of available options to strengthen their rosters. As a team that has publicly announced it will look to be more of a “buyer” than a “seller,” the Mets nevertheless find themselves in an interesting position where choices may become available that could push Sandy Alderson to make a move that would otherwise appear somewhat counterintuitive.
When taking into account the combined factors of the state of the team’s farm system, the overall strengths and weaknesses of the roster, and the potential trade chips held by contending teams in a position of need, some truly intriguing possibilities arise that should not be dismissed as wishful thinking. The one that seem most interesting and realistic to me is as follows:
BOBBY PARNELL TO THE TIGERS FOR NICK CASTELLANOS
Having finally developed what appears to be a legitimate home-grown closer after years of having to rely on imports, one would think that the Mets would have to be nuts to deal him away just as he enters what is likely to be his prime. But this is precisely why a trade of this nature could command a premium return to address an area of greater need for the future. Granted, there is no obvious heir apparent to step in to Parnell’s shoes immediately, but with prospects like Jeurys Familia, Jack Leathersich, and the unheralded Jeff Walters in the system to go with what the free agent market may offer, the Mets would have to consider dealing the NC native if the prize to be gained in return were great enough.
The most obvious candidate here is the Detroit Tigers who, after attempting to assign the critical role to the untested Bruce Rondon, ultimately wound up sending him down and even resigning Jose Valverde, the cause of so much late inning agita who was deposed during last season’s run to the Fall Classic. Rondon has been recalled, but has yet to show any consistency at the big league level and predictably, Valverde proved ineffective again and has been sent down to AAA. The Tigers are offensive world-beaters with a lineup featuring the incredible talent of Miguel Cabrera, but as everyone knows, in a short series pitching rules the day and the memory of the Giants’ Sergio Romo shutting them down last fall while they were forced to rely on journeyman Phil Coke as their stopper is still fresh in their minds.
The prize to be had here is outfielder Nick Castellanos, a 21-year old converted infielder whose offensive skills are well beyond any comparable talent currently in the Mets’ system. After a slow start, Castellanos has begun consistently spanking AAA pitching, showing real power and a good eye at the plate. As Detroit’s number one prospect and one of the better hitting prospects in baseball, it would likely require a somewhat expanded trade package to get the deal done, but Parnell’s relative youth, experience, and controllability make him just the type of component that could get Tigers’ GM Dave Dombrowski to pull the trigger. Offense wouldn’t seem to be a problem in Motown, anyway, so given the opportunity to solve what has been an ongoing problem with a feasible long-term solution, one would expect him to jump at the chance. The Mets’ brass has already stated that they intend to keep Parnell, but teams don’t generally advertise the fact that they might be willing to deal a valuable asset. If this deal was on the table, it would have to be considered.
Now, we could certainly anticipate some “sweetening” or expansion of the deal to make it more palatable to the parties involved. If Parnell were headed to Detroit, one could see Rondon headed back to New York as well as an outfield prospect such as Cesar Puello going to Detroit as part of the package. On its face, it would probably take more than Parnell and Puello to pry away the Tigers’ top hitting prospect and a AAA level pitcher who can regularly hit 100 mph, but I think the ingredients are likely there.
This is a simple case of dealing strength for strength. The Mets have a plethora of pitching prospects coming up through their system and are still unlikely to legitimately contend for a title before 2015. The Tigers have offense to spare, a top-notch rotation and a need to strike while the championship iron is hot. All they lack is a legitimate, reliable closer. The Mets have one, but can’t create enough opportunities for him to be truly valuable to them. This deal simply makes too much sense to ignore.