The days of power hitters are over. Those that do remain are in such high demand that the thought of acquiring one will cost you an arm or a leg. If the Mets want a realistic shot to upgrade on offense, they will have to explore all options and alternatives available in the market.
Here are four types of hitters the Mets can consider trading for this offseason.
- Top Tier Stars
- Buy Low Former Stars
- Elite Prospects
- Under The Radar Players
But before we dive into available players from each category, let’s look at the trade chips the Mets have available, broken down into three groups. For this discussion, we will define “prospects” as players with under two years of major league service time.
Group A – Cost controlled starters with experience
Group B – Major league ready top prospects
Group C – Other top prospects
The Mets have no shortage of pieces to work with. This organization has arguably the best combination of young players and prospects to intrigue other teams. We should also note that it is reasonable to assume that the Mets will be a better team without making any significant moves at all. There is no rule of thumb that dictates that we have to make a big trade this offseason but it is certainly worth our time to review all of our options.
Group 1 – Top Tier Stars
The two biggest names that are rumored to be available are Giancarlo Stanton and Troy Tulowitzki. Stanton is said to be available due to the Marlins non competitive nature at the moment and Loria’s unwillingness to invest his own money into the team. Tulowitzki is rumored to be unhappy with Colorado’s inability to compete and the club’s lack of direction. So what will it cost to attain each one and would they be worth the hefty haul?
Here are a few points to note on Stanton vs Tulowitzki.
- Stanton is younger and hitting his prime
- Tulowitzki is the better defender, an elite one at a premium position
- Tulowitzki has missed about 25% of games due to injury since his rookie year and will miss the rest of 2015.
- Tulowitzki has 6 years/$118 mil guaranteed on his contract spanning to his age 35 season
- Trading for Stanton will likely mean an extension starting at age 26. This could be a 10 year/$250-$300 mil deal or a short term 4 year/$120 mil deal with player opt outs.
Let’s pretend for a minute that we are in an alternate universe where the Mets are capable of taking on a large contract. From the list above, I believe the Mets would be willing to part with two players from group A, B and C as well as another one or two non top prospects for an elite player.
Before Tulowitzki’s season ending surgery, I could see the Mets willing to part with DeGrom (Colorado must be salivating at his ability to keep the ball down) and Nimmo for the elite shortstop. But with Tulo showing us another way to get on the disabled list, this thought can be classified in the “what if” section.
As for Stanton, I believe a fair return would be along the lines of Wheeler, Plawecki and Herrera. However, I expect Miami to ask for one player from group A and three or four prospects from groups B and/or C. Additionally, if Stanton gets dealt, it will not be to a team within the division. Add this thought to the “what if” section as well.
Trading for a big time slugger is one option and the Mets have more than enough trade chips to get it done. But considering all the factors necessary to make this blockbuster deal, I see next to no chance of either trade happening.
Group 2 – Buy Low Former Stars
The second type of hitter that can be acquired is a former all-star that has struggled and/or dealt with injuries in recent years but still have potential to regain their previous forms. The Dodgers have two outfielders that fit this mold, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. Despite the posing that GM Ned Colletti has done, we know that LA would be quick to move either or both. The Dodger outfield will be quite crowded in 2015 with Joc Pederson (more on him later) and Yasiel Puig slated in center and right field. Even if they go with a four man outfield rotation as they did this year, it will leave them with Crawford, Kemp, Ethier and Van Slyke (more on him later as well) fighting for two spots.
An acquisition for either Kemp or Ethier will require the Dodgers to eat at least half of their salaries. Kemp could probably fetch one player from groups A, B or C as well as a couple of lesser prospects. Ethier is probably not worth any of the players listed at this point but for a couple of lower level prospects, I would gladly take a risk with him if his cost will only be 3 years/$15 million.
less damaged option (update* Cargo may miss the rest of the season as well) is the much talked about Carlos Gonzalez. As Connor O’Brien has pointed out already, Cargo appears to be a league average hitter away from Coors Field. His contract is not long, at 3 years/$53 million ending at his age 31 season so the package for Cargo would likely be in the range of Degrom or Montero plus a few lesser prospects. Any demand higher than this should signal Alderson to hang up the phone.
We know the risks that come with this group of players and they are available for a reason. All three can end up being nothing but a live body with a large contract. Yet, with a dearth of impact bats in the market, it is intriguing to consider picking up a .275 – 20 – 75 player for a single top prospect.
Group 3 – Elite Prospects
This is the group that is most financially realistic for the Mets to explore but for some inexplicable reason, general managers have always hesitated to exchange prospects. Hopefully, the chances of striking a deal are slightly improved when working with a new school GM such as the Chicago Cub’s Theo Epstein.
The Cubs have two major league ready shortstops in Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara. Baez is the can’t miss prospect with projected plus power and hit tools and he will be ranked higher than any prospect on the Mets list. It would likely cost Zack Wheeler or Noah Syndergaard plus another lower level top prospect to heat up conversations.
While Baez is the big prize, I would actually prefer to acquire the lead off hitter Alcantara. You can start him at short or second and reevaluate during the 2015 season as Matt Reynolds and Dilson Herrera progresses in triple A or you can use him to compete with Tejada or Flores for a position. Scouting reports indicate he has a plus arm, plus footwork and a decent glove so he has the tools to stick at short but is prone to rushing and committing errors. He has also logged time in center field and has looked solid in limited action out there. Would there be interest in Alcantara for either Murphy, Flores or Montero?
The Cubs and Mets are perfect trade partners. There are dozens of scenarios and names that can be discussed. Do the Cubs want to compete in 2015 and acquire Murphy? Would they be interested in established starters such as Niese and Gee or prospects such as Syndergaard and Montero? At the same time, I can see Theo Epstein taking a big chunk of the winter to gauge the market before deciding to trade or keep Baez. With time being a factor, it may be wiser to strike a quick deal for Alcantara as opposed to the presumed back and forth it would take to acquire Baez.
In the outfield market, there are two major league ready OF prospects that would make an impact on the Mets next season. They are Joc Pederson of the Dodgers and Oscar Taveras of the Cardinals. Both are ranked in the same elite class as Baez and unfortunately, neither of them are likely to be available. Pederson, a California native, slots right in as the true center fielder that LA has been missing while Taveras should also find himself starting everyday for the Cardinals now that Allen Craig has been traded to Boston.
Group 4 – Under The Radar Players
These are the group of players that are overlooked by most teams and turn out extremely valuable for the one that give them a chance. I only have one name to offer in this group so allow me to re-introduce a favorite of mine, first baseman/outfielder Scott Van Slyke of the LA Dodgers. The son of former Pittsburgh all-star Andy Van Slyke, Scott is a solid defender in the outfield and at first base. At 6’5″, 220 lbs, he comes with plus power and even splits against both righties and lefties.
In three seasons with the Dodgers, he has been limited to part time duty due to a crowded outfield and Adrian Gonzalez at first base. This won’t change as long as he is in LA but I believe he is as deserving of a shot to start as any player in the league. Van Slyke projects to be a .250/.350/.500 type of hitter, capable of 25 HRs a year.
Last season, I suggested Van Slyke, Dee Gordon, Jordany Valdespin and Josh Satin as names the Mets and Dodgers could discuss. While Gordon and Valdespin are no longer relevant to this year’s conversation and Van Slyke and Satin’s stocks have traveled in opposite directions, I think a package of Vic Black and Juan Centeno would get the two sides pretty close. If the Dodgers choose not to re-sign Hanley Ramirez, could they possibly entertain Van Slyke for Tejada and Centeno? This allows them to start last year’s Cuban signing, Alex Guerrero at shortstop with Tejada backing up both Guerrero and Dee Gordon.
The Mets don’t have to hand Van Slyke a starting spot but he would be a perfect option to fill in as a fourth outfielder and platoon first baseman who can earn his way to more playing time. This is one unheralded name that I believe can be a game changer for the Mets.
Baseball fans have been treated to longballs and gaudy home run totals for two decades while general managers dreamed of landing that big slugger in the middle of their lineups. But as the game changes, strategy in acquiring and maintaining players must change too. We have already seen early adopters such as the Braves adjusting to the new CBA rules by extending their younger players much earlier than past years.
I believe the next shift will be in teams replacing power with other skill sets, whether it is the ability to draw walks, hit line drives, play defense or the very underrated skill of flexibility. This is the ability to play multiple positions, to hit in different spots in the lineup and reduce the impact of the loss of a starter to injury.
The Mets are finally in a position where their foundation is set. In the past, trading for a star would have meant the need to fill in other positions or risk not having adequate depth. Our circumstances are different now, we have the personnel to absorb the loss of 4-5 players and have those slots fill right in without missing a beat. Personally, I don’t believe the Mets have to acquire a power bat and that we would be better served with a high potential lead off hitter. While I would love to see the name Tulowitzki or Stanton in our lineup, I believe the Mets are going in the right direction and will be a better team regardless whether a star is acquired.