By now we are all aware of the tantalizing conga line of pitching prospects dancing their way up the ladder to Flushing. The litany of names is familiar: Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero, Luis Mateo, Steven Matz, Michael Fulmer, Hansel Robles, Jacob deGrom, Jack Leathersich, Domingo Tapia, et al. It is only natural to consider how some of this apparent surplus of talent might be spun off in exchange for pieces needed to shore up the more glaring weaknesses of the Mets. Accordingly, I have engaged in a common baseball reverie and imagined a trade or two or three that could help speed the team toward post-season relevance.
I set some standards for the kind of talent I would want the team to target. Older players are acceptable, just not too old. In other words, free-agent-to-be Shin-Soo Choo is a viable option at 31, but 34-year-old Josh Willingham is best left to teams looking to add some frosting to the cake. We’re looking for young players with real potential or players in the prime age range for performance (27-32).
Some assumptions have been made in an effort to keep things realistic. Although every team targets young pitching, much of the Met talent involved is at the AA and A level so possible trade partners have been narrowed a bit to organizations with a longer timeline to contention (i.e. rebuilding), teams with a clear surplus at a position which they would be willing to swap for organizational depth, and teams that have a potential match but would require some major league ready players to complete a deal. In the latter case, I can foresee the inclusion of players such as Wilmer Flores, Daniel Murphy, Lucas Duda, or Ike Davis as they represent areas of overlap for the Mets. With these criteria in mind I have imagined a few trades that just might help speed the Mets that much faster toward post-season relevance.
Well, this is the obvious one. The Marlins have stated that they will not trade him, but what else would you say if you wanted a decent return? You would expect that given a rich enough package, some team will pry him away. For the Mets, I imagine that this would involve at least four or five players including Zack Wheeler and/or Travis D’Arnaud. Before you go nuts, remember that you have to trade prime talent to get prime talent and that Stanton has pretty much proven himself at the major league level, something that can’t be said of Wheeler or D’Arnaud.
The Rays are a cost-conscious organization that always looks to get younger. At 31, Zobrist should still have several good years ahead, and his defensive versatility paired with his switch-hitting ability makes him a valuable component in a lineup. He’s a good talent but not an elite player so the package to obtain him might include pitching plus a young player with similar skills (Valdespin?).
The most expensive outfielder on the Orioles’ roster, his production has tailed off in the past two seasons and Baltimore might be willing to part with him to gain salary relief. Close to shedding the albatross of Jason Bay’s contract, management may not be enthused about picking up a similar expense with the tab for Markakis but with a career slash line of .295/.363/.453 and in his prime at age 29, it seems a gamble worth taking. He’s signed through 2014 (with a 2015 team option) and would likely try to pick things up a bit in his walk year.
What? A pitcher? Yes. Dominant lefties in the prime of their career do not become available all that often. Price is arbitration eligible in 2014 and is likely to command a pretty penny indeed. It’s almost a universal assumption at this point that the Rays will deal him rather than shell out for a massive contract. Could this be Johan Santana all over again? Possibly, but there are also the examples of C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee to consider when looking at pitchers in their late twenties. Perhaps a blockbuster including Zobrist could be engineered.
This is a case of one team’s surplus filling another team’s need. The Rangers will need to find a spot for wunderkind Jurickson Profar now that Elvis Andrus has been locked up and second base would look to be the spot. Kinsler is only 30 and has produced big-time out of the leadoff spot for most of his career. His combination of speed and power would add a dynamic force to a Met lineup that could sorely use more consistency. Naturally this move would turn Daniel Murphy into trade fodder, but his ability to play third makes him a valuable commodity in today’s market.
This is the type of young player that teams in the position of the woeful Astros generally hang onto, but they obviously need so much that you would have to think that they would listen to reasonable offers. He is still largely potential at this point, but at age 25 is likely to start putting things together soon. His minor league numbers show him to be a high OBP guy like the Mets brass prefer with midline power from the right side. At the very least he would expand outfield options for the Mets without costing too much.
Ultimately, we will likely need to wait for the off-season to see any major moves made by which time trade targets and expectations may well have changed considerably. Regardless, the Mets’ glut of quality arms in the organization should be considered a potential trigger for what could be some significant changes to the lineup.