Should Mets Clean the Farm for a Pitcher?

As you know, MetsToday welcomes feedback, commentary, questions, and opinions from you, the visitor. Usually the discussion takes place in the comments section, but sometimes a question comes up that doesn’t apply to a specific post. As a result, I do on occasion receive excellent questions via email, and try to answer them here whenever possible — for the benefit of everyone.

So, from the MetsToday mailbag is this question … er, demand … from “Nicky A”:

Joe, I demand you address the trade deadline and whether or not the Mets should go all in for a starting pitcher or pick up another part to the rotation. Shouldn’t it be acceptable to clean out the farm, sans Ike Davis, Mejia, for Danny Haren?

First off, thank you for the demand, Nicky. Lord knows I don’t have enough demands placed on me over the course of a day. Second, consider the trade deadline addressed as well as a letter to Santa — because if a frontline starting pitcher like Danny Haren suits up in the orange and blue in 2010, it will feel like Christmas to Mets fans.

In all seriousness, you pose an intriguing thought that nearly every Mets fan has at least entertained at one point or another this season. If the Mets keep their current hot streak going, and stay near or at the top of the NL East come the All-Star Break, should they mortgage the future for a shot at something special in the present?

Though this won’t be a popular answer, my answer is a resounding YES. Why? Because the Mets are likely to deal away whatever prospects they have in the offseason, to address a need from the past. See: JJ Putz, Johan Santana, Carlos Delgado, Brian Schneider / Ryan Church, et al.

Ever since the fateful Scott Kazmir – for – Victor Zambrano deal, the Mets have been gun-shy in the heat of July, yet trigger-happy in the cold dead of winter. Right now, the Mets need a starting pitcher. I don’t care how well Hisanori Takahashi, R.A. Dickey, and Jon Niese are pitching right now — chances are very good that one if not all fall to Earth eventually, reopening an enormous hole (or holes) in the rotation. Guess what? That hole will remain through the end of this season and will be there to be filled at some point between October and next February. So why not fill it now?

In the case of Cliff Lee, I understand it may not make sense to empty the farm for what is bound to be a three-month rental. But that’s not the case with Haren and Roy Oswalt — both of whom would be under control in 2011. Whether the Mets have the chips to obtain either is questionable, but it’s worth exploring. Adding Oswalt or Haren would instantly make the Mets the favorites in the NL East, and give them the type of starting pitching that can take a team deep into October. Even if it means including Niese in the deal, I’d argue that such a trade makes sense — because not only does it give the Mets a legit shot at the 2010 playoffs, but it further, it sets them up to have the NL East’s best rotation — on paper — to begin the 2011 season.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. MikeTomaselli June 21, 2010 at 2:22 pm
    Ok, agreed on most points, but do you really think trading Niese is actually improving the rotation as a whole? Sure you are better 1-3 than you were before, but if you trade someone else not on the ML roster, then you are stronger 1-4 than you were before because you bump one of Dickey or Takahashi, instead of having both of them still in the rotation. Niese is what you want in a young player: young, succeeding at the ML level, and controllable for several years. Plenty of young arms in the system may actually be better than Niese, but until they prove they can do it at that level they are just another Bill Pulsipher (or any other big name arm the Mets have had that failed in the bigs).
  2. gary s. June 21, 2010 at 2:29 pm
    obtaining a haren or oswalt should get us in the playoffs…#4 starters are the long man in the playoffs.think big met fans.stop worrying about trading a prospect or 2..jon niese, as u admit is not even considered one pf the best arms in the met him him while he's hot and before he comes down to earth.dickey or takahashi can be the 4th starter the rest of the year.
  3. MikeTomaselli June 21, 2010 at 3:22 pm
    gary, since when do 4th starters not pitch in game 4 of a 7 game series? the Mets are better overall with Niese in the rotation and an acquired starter, not with an acquired starter and Dickey/Takahashi.
  4. isuzudude June 21, 2010 at 4:00 pm
    I've made it known I am no fan of acquiring Lee. His price to too high for what will ultimately wind up being a rental. Oswalt and Haren are by far more attractive, if only because of the relative longevity of their contracts. However, realize that acquiring either is asking a lot of the Mets in terms of adding payroll and giving up young talent. In either case the Mets are likely to sacrifice both Mejia and Fmart, who are arguably the two biggest jewels the farm system currently has. And who's the next biggest prospect after them? 18 year old Wilmer Flores? Reese Havens? Brandon Moore? That's quite a significant drop-off. So I can understand the Mets reluctance in wanting to trade for 1 pitcher who only has an impact once every 5 days, while giving up the two best prospects in addition to taking on $25+ million in salary to boot.

    I'm also solidly behind Mike in not wanting to give up Jon Niese. In the short term, all the Mets would be doing is filling one hole by creating another. And as excellent as a Johan-Pelfrey-Haren/Oswalt top 3 of the rotation sounds for the playoffs, I believe it to be a tad presumptuous to assume the Mets make it to the postseason in 2010. How trusting are we in the bullpen? In our secondbase options? In Jason Bay's power? In David Wright's stability? In Jeff Francoeur's steakiness? In Carlos Beltran's knees? In Angel Pagan's resurgence? In Johan's velocity? In Dickey and Takahashi? IN MANAGEMENT?? For me, there is way too much that could go wrong this season to go for broke. And who says Niese isn't one of our best young arms? He was incredibly close to throwing the organization's first no-hitter a few weeks ago, and also threw a gem against the Phillies in Philly earlier this season. Those are not the feats of just some ordinary, run-of-the-mill pitcher. Though Niese may not project to be a future ace, he's certainly good enough to win 15 games, and young enough to still have a decade of really good seasons ahead of him. He's not just hot – he's talented. And he's cheap. Why trade that away for an older pitcher who is only under contract for a couple more seasons and will cost the Mets an arm and a leg? I'm not totally against trading Niese, but in the current context, it would not be for either Haren or Oswalt. I'd much prefer to pull the trigger during the offseason, when the Mets can then patch the hole created by trading Niese with a free agent, rather than banking on Dickey/Takahashi to keep up their magic act, and having unreliable options like Maine, Ollie, and Mejia waiting in the wings.

    In comes down to: do you rather Niese & Mejia from 2011 thru (at least) 2016 (and the additional payroll flexibility that comes with them), or Haren/Oswalt thru 2012? I'll take the former in a landslide.

  5. joejanish June 21, 2010 at 12:16 pm
    I’d much rather have Oswalt or Haren for the next 2 years than Niese and Mejia for the next 4.

    Yeah it would be great if the Mets can keep Niese AND get Oz/haren but it just doesn’t seem possible.

    That near perfect game was awesome but don’t let it cloud your judgment of what Niese is now and what he’ll eventually be, which is a back end starter.

  6. Nick June 21, 2010 at 6:46 pm
    Agree with you Joe. Glad to see my near-absurd infatuation with the struggling Dan Haren isn't solitary to me and me alone. I love Jonny Niese and would HATE to get rid of him, but for putting Dan Haren at the top of this rotation, hell yeah I'd do it without thinking twice.
    I wouldn't give up Lee for Niese, I'll tell you why. Lee would be a good present and future acquisition simply because not only can he give you a playoff push, but he'll give back two first round picks. Therefore, so long as we don't have to gut the system for Lee, we're essentially trading our prospects for two shiny new ones at the end of the season. Hence that is why I am all for a Lee acquisition but why I wouldn't trade Niese or Mejia, because they are already bona fide prospects and it wouldn't make sense to trade them in for new ones. But Lee doesn't give us what Haren can give us, an ace at the top of the rotation for the next few years along with Santana, and Pelfrey making as dominate 1-2-3 as any in the leauge.
    Mejia is a fabulous prospect, Niese IS one of our best young arms, but they are no ace.

    As for the pipe dream of Danny Haren sitting atop this rotation, lets not forget when Santana coming to the Mets was an equally if not more absurd dream! You Gotta Believe!!!!

  7. Nick June 21, 2010 at 6:49 pm
    My question was more so about, is it better for the Mets to gut the system and go all in for a Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt type (btw, I don't think Oswalt is worth a bounty of prospects, he's getting old and expensive).
    do they get a middle-tier starter ala Jake Westbrook?

    I personally don't see how a middle tier starter gives us anything particularly better than what we already have, though its not a bad idea to pick one up for depth and reinforcement.
    IMO we need to stack our rotation like the Yankees and Red Sox do. When in Rome do as the Romans, and for a long time we've been Greek….
    What do you guys think?

  8. mic June 22, 2010 at 3:00 am
    In 2008 the Mets could have traded Jon Niese for Huston street, would you do that deal now? No way jon Nises or Pelfrey are traded now. They have replaced Ollie and Maine. BUT Tak really is needed in the pen. There really are no ams coming up. Kyle Allen, Robert Person…i mean Carson, Jeurys are the best we have. Jenry is back to being 2 yrs away. ____in the last 24 months Delgado, Ollie, LoDuca, Glavine, Pedro, Moses el duque have disappeared, Now there is a new team….along that line i think the Mets are propping CB up, talking him up and are ready to trade him. Who needs an all star CF with a #4 bat? Frankly Pagan has taken back CF….having lost it in 2005, when he was our best CF prospect and CB was signed. Pagan is hitting near .400 w/ RISP …not a CB like number. ____The hard part would b finding dance partners. But I think CWS, Boston other AL teams might consider Beltran for the playoff run. In turn prospects fetched could help get a pitcher…without risk of losing Jenry, who could be special.

    ____Enter text right here!

  9. matt frieda June 22, 2010 at 7:10 am
    COME ON GUYS! This is ridiculous. Look, Jon Niese is definitley not an ace right now, but i assure you, he will be as close to an ace as you can get in the next two years.A one-hitter against the then best record in the NL Padres, a gem in philly back in April, and his last two starts have been fantastic too. For some reason i seem to be one of the only ones who sees it, but even last year he looked good until that devastating hamstring injury. I have known all along that he has the ability to become a star pitcher, and now everyone has shot down his recent performances. Obviously the Mets NEED a top of the line pitcher if they want to win the NL East, but if it involves trading Davis, Mejia, or Niese, it would be stupid of the Mets to accept.
  10. John Fitzgerald June 22, 2010 at 12:54 pm
    Niese an ace? If I'm not mistaken, he has always been projected as a #3 or #4 starter and I've seen nothing to disprove that, for better or worse.

    And Padres had the best record because of pitching, not offense. A one-hitter is great, but it was still the Padres. If you think you can lock up the division by dealing Niese or Mejia, you do it. But I'm not sure the Mets are one starter away from taking the division, so I'm not so sure I would deal Niese/Mejia for a rental.

    Oswalt is a different story…