Opinion: Parlaying Pitching Depth For Outfield Depth

wheeler harvey

Someone the other day brought up the fact that in a little over a year’s time we could see a rotation of Harvey, Wheeler, deGrom, Syndergaard, and Matz. With that tantalizing projection comes the realization that Colon, Niese, Gee, and Montero, are expendable. That’s three serviceable veteran starters and a top 100 prospect, all essentially excess baggage. When you add all-star second baseman Daniel Murphy to that list, that’s an awful lot of value up for grabs. It occurs to me that there is almost no way to screw this up. Any team that can afford to unload this many pitchers should get something in return, and we don’t need much, one or two decent hitters could put us over the top.

The Mets can’t possibly use all the starters they have and so they will have to find a way to get rid of some of them. They can’t move all of them to the bullpen and they’re not just going to release them. They have to find some trade partners. Other teams know this and the Mets may be at a disadvantage if their potential trade partners know they have to get rid of so and so.

The question becomes who? Who do we target?

I don’t see this front office unloading any prospects for established players. When you look at their history acquiring major leaguers it isn’t pretty. They should stick to what they know. Swapping major league veterans for prospects. We are more likely to see the sort of trade recently completed for Wil Myers, or, an even better example would be the Cubs landing Anthony Rizzo for Andrew Cashner — that rare trade that appears to have helped both clubs.

The Mets will be looking for emerging hitters who are close but but not established. It’s a risk to be sure, but it’s less of a risk if you have the scouting apparatus in place to make informed determinations.

The Mets have an excellent record scouting the minors as demonstrated by the Byrd, Beltran, and Dickey trades.  In fact they’ve done so well over the past few years they’ve all of a sudden found it difficult (as Joe D. pointed out in a couple of pieces a few weeks ago) to unload the likes of Gee and / or Niese or Colon. Teams are hesitant when they look at a roster infused with players like Wheeler and d’Arnaud (products of previous such trades) and are asking for the moon.

Nevertheless, the Mets should stick to their guns. Attrition is our friend, and eventually teams will need pitching and they will trade unproven up and comers to get it. All the Mets need to do is make sure they trade for the right ones, how hard could that be?

The Mets of course on their end need to figure out what their needs are. Flores may very well play a passable shortstop (he was by and large serviceable last year – never mind what the bandwagon “didn’t actually watch the games”  consensus concludes). He had one horrible game and a couple of flubs but was otherwise just fine.

Second base looks like it will eventually belong to a kid named Herrera … first base is Duda’s to lose and third is locked up by The David. So the infield looks set with a possible exception at shortstop, and even there we’ll know soon enough what we have. I suspect Wilmer will hit and I wouldn’t be surprised if he takes the job and runs with it.

The outfield is a different story. We’ve got Conforto and Nimmo on the way but they may not be ready just yet and they may yet hit snags along the way. Lagares looks like he’s entrenched in center, but our corner outfield spots are manned by aging stopgaps.

By all accounts it would appear that this Mets team would benefit most by trading for corner outfielders … there’s really no question.  Corner outfield is problematic in a more immediate sense because should Granderson or Cuddyer get hurt, the Mets really don’t have a ready replacement. You can’t say that about 3B (Flores – move Tejada to short), shortstop (Tejada), 2B (Herrera/ Flores), 1B (Cuddyer), or CF (den Dekker). Sure some of the replacements aren’t ideal, but injuries at these spots are not insurmountable.

The corner outfield spots on the other hand would present the Mets with legitimate holes in the event of an injury. I like den Dekker and Nieuwenhuis as bench players, but as regulars? I have my doubts. MDD in center is a different proposal because his defense would play well, but the corner outfield spots are worrisome.

So who do we go after given our Gee, Niese, Colon, Montero surplus? Montero is under control for quite a while and his value is yet undetermined. We’d be selling low if we traded Montero as I believe (in a piece I penned a few weeks back) that he was injured for a good part of last year. I’d be hesitant to trade him unless we clearly were to receive fair value.

The other available Mets pitchers are all veterans who promise to be more expensive to the receiving teams and therefore may not land a top organizational prospect, but they could net us a corner outfielder who might be ranked outside an organizational top 10 threshold.  A team with good depth in the outfield might be able to offer us a decent return, especially if they are on the margins of contention and have that need for a starter.

You probably won’t get a player without some blemishes, but if you look hard enough there are diamonds in the rough out there who may warrant a further look. Guys like Steven Moya come to mind … Moya has great power, decent speed, and he’s a good fielder.  He is “on the outside looking in”  as a 23-year old corner outfielder in the Detroit system. His only blemish is his plate discipline which unfortunately runs afoul of our organizational dictum for patience. He strikes out a lot and hardly ever walks … oh well.

Another guy is a 150‘s-ish ranked MiLB Shortstop who is #15 overall in the Mariners system, Ketel Marte. The Mariners have a lot of depth at short and should they find themselves with a need for a starter this is the guy I’d go after. Switch hitter, good contact, potential 2-hole type hitter, who is fairly advanced with his full season debut in AAA at the age of 20.

Teams on the cusp of contention with stacked outfields like the Orioles could very well come into play as a source of MLB ready prospects (Dariel Alvarez would be tremendous although it might take Montero and then some), however their rotation looks deep at the moment so they don’t quite profile as a partner with the Mets. I might have also included a guy like Steven Souza (the other end of the Myers swap) but the Rays already snatched him up. Souza is precisely the sort of player the Mets need to target … in fact that Rays deal is an excellent blueprint in principle for the Mets.

Some other names are Lane Adams of the Royals, James Ramsey of the Indians, Carlos Asuaje of the Red Sox, Peter O’Brien and Nick Ahmed of the Diamondbacks, and Jason Rogers of the Brewers.

Granted some of these guys are risky and might need to be packaged with longer term higher upside prospects, but there’s lots of talent out there and I have a feeling the Mets are going to need to address depth in the outfield if they are truly to have a shot in 2015. There is definitely a class of close to the show prospects that the Mets could exploit if they can ever find a team desperate enough for a starter. It’s a waiting game to some extent. Right now everyone’s rotation is stacked and healthy … that probably won’t be the case come opening day.

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About Matt Balasis 151 Articles
A Met fan since August 1969 when the Red Cross placed my family on the 6th floor of a building in Willets Point because of a fire. I could see Shea from our balcony. I missed the fall of 86 because I was in Boot Camp and I've been serving penance ever since in Minnesota. I write about the Mets to share with a tradition that made much of my childhood worthwhile. Follow me on twitter: https://twitter.com/MatthewBalasis