Trading A Starting Pitcher Would Be A Mistake

With the Cy Young Award being announced tonight at 6:00 p.m. EST, and R.A. Dickey the favorite to win the award, I feel now is a good time to address the ongoing speculation that the Mets are looking to trade one of their starting pitchers. It’s clear the team is weak in certain areas (catcher, outfield) and does not have much money to spend in free agency, so the only sensible way to improve would be via the trade market. However, there are two reasons why trading one of their regular starters to fill those needs would end up hurting them more than helping them.

Lack of Depth

Many are calling the Mets staff a “strength,” but that might be overstating it. As of now, the 2013 rotation would most likely be: Dickey, Jon Niese, Matt Harvey, Johan Santana, and Dillon Gee. This is a good rotation, but there are still concerns.

R.A. Dickey is amazing. He should win the Cy Young Award, and his success in 2010 and 2011 shows that 2012 was no fluke. That being said, I’m not sold on him as a true #1 starter. He’s a great #2 starter and I think the Mets can get by with him as their ace this year, but a rotation with Dickey anchoring it is not ideal for a team hoping to contend. If the Mets were to trade Dickey, though, that would leave them with virtually no top-end starter for 2013. Harvey certainly has the stuff, but let’s give him another year or two before we annoint him an ace. Niese is a formidable #2/3 option, but he’s not a #1. Gee is a #4 starter at best. Finally, 2013 Johan Santana is not 2008 Johan Santana. In fact, I wouldn’t even count on him being first half-2012 Johan Santana. Nor would I count on him being healthy all season, so immediately you need another viable starter to take his place.

If the Mets were to trade one of their current starters, that would leave a spot open for one of the following: Zack Wheeler, Jenrry Mejia, Jeurys Familia, Jeremy Hefner, or Collin McHugh. As much promise as Wheeler has, he’s most likely going to begin the year in AAA so he’s out. The more things play out, the more it seems both Mejia and Familia are destined for the bullpen. That leaves Hefner and McHugh. I like Hefner and think he is a fine long reliever/spot starter, but there is no way I want him making 10-15 starts. As for McHugh, he showed last year he still has some work to do.

Of course it is possible for Sandy Alderson to sign a cheap back-end starter, but can you really expect to get anything of value given the team’s finances? And sure, there’s always a chance someone could include a back-end starter in a trade for Niese or Dickey, but would they include anything of note? I wouldn’t think so, seeing as any team acquiring a pitcher would be doing so to improve their depth.

The Future

While there is hope for 2013, the Mets best chance for success probably starts in 2014. So with that in mind, let’s look ahead.

For the sake of this piece, let’s say the Mets are able to re-sign Dickey to a multi-year extension and don’t trade any of their other pitchers. Their 2014 rotation would look like this: Harvey-Wheeler-Dickey-Niese-Gee. If that doesn’t get you excited as a Mets fan, then you’re probably either dead or in a coma. This rotation has the potential to be great. And since we’re peeking into the future, let’s take a look at a bullpen that includes Bobby Parnell, Josh Edgin, Mejia and Familia. Those are some nice power arms that can dominate the late innings if all goes well. On top of that, everyone (aside from Dickey) will be under team control for the next 4-7 years. Maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but I think they can easily build a contender around those guys.

There are some enticing names on the trading block, and in order to get talent in a trade you have to give up talent in return. But when discussing trades involving assets like Niese or Dickey, you have to look at things in both the long and short term. Dickey could bring back some nice pieces for the future, but are the Mets really that far off from contending for a Wild Card next season? Though it’s not deep, their current rotation should keep them competitive, and all they really need is one guy to step up offensively and give David Wright and Ike Davis some help in the middle of the order. And while Niese may bring in that piece, what will they do to replace a 25-year-old left hander with a career 7.54 K/9 total? The Mets have a good thing going with their pitching. It would be a shame to see them break away from it.

We want to welcome Adam to the MMO Community, where I am certain his insights will make for plenty of interesting debates on our threads. We are happy to have his talents here at Mets Merized Online. Welcome Aboard, Adam.