Three Shortstops the Mets Can Acquire and Afford Now


Shortstops are at a premium right now. It seems that every MLB team has at least one shortstop who exhibits one above-average MLB tool — except the Mets. But don’t trust me, look around at MLB rosters and see for yourself. No, not every club has a Troy Tulowitzki or Jose Reyes, but nearly every club has a shortstop who is either a very strong defender (i.e., Brandon Crawford, Zack Cozart) or contributes offensively (i.e. Ian Desmond, J.J. Hardy). Additionally, there is a slew of young two-way shortstops who are starting to make their mark (i.e., Andrelton Simmons, Jean Segura, Starlin Castro).

And then there is the Mets, who have neither an exceptional fielding shortstop anywhere in their organization, nor do they have a shortstop with a plus offensive skill. No, the Mets have Omar Quintanilla and Ruben Tejada.

What makes matters worse is they don’t have much to offer in trade for what a decent MLB shortstop costs. Oh sure, they COULD trade someone like Noah Syndergaard and/or Jonathon Niese, but can they afford to?

I found three potential MLB shortstops who can probably be had for what the Mets can afford to trade. Note the second half of that sentence. So nope, not one of them is Jed Lowrie. We keep hearing buzz in the blogosphere about Lowrie (as well as Asdrubal Cabrera, among others), but I really don’t believe the A’s are going to give away Lowrie for whatever garbage Mets fans think Billy Beane will take. These are more realistic targets, and none without a flaw.

Danny Espinosa
I don’t know if the Nationals would be willing to make a trade inside the division, but it’s worth a shot. If I could have any shortstop in the Nats organization, I’d take Zach Walters, a big switch-hitter who is coming off a 29-HR, .803 OPS campaign in the pitching-rich International League. But the emergence of Walters, as well as that of Anthony Rendon and Stephen Lombardozzi, has made Espinosa expendable. Before you say, “he’s a second baseman, and he can’t hit,” let me remind you that Espinosa came up as a shortstop, and displayed very good defensive skills there, including a plus arm, before moving to second base to make room for Ian Desmond. Espinosa is coming off a terrible 2013 — one in which he was demoted to AAA — and will have a hard time making the Nats out of spring training. Yes, he strikes out a ton. Yes, his OBP is low. But, he’s extremely durable (he played 158 and 160 games in 2011 and 2012), he’s a switch-hitter who hits with 15-20 HR and 30-35 doubles power, he’ll steal 15-20 bases, and he’ll provide above-average defense. Complain all you want about his deficiencies, but chances are good the Mets can acquire him for a song, they won’t have to pay him very much, and he’ll outplay any shortstop the Mets currently have in their organization.

Dee Gordon
It’s official: I have an unusual fixation for Gordon. It was around this time last year that I also suggested the Mets make a deal for Gordon. I think it’s because of his speed and raw athletic ability that makes me continue looking at him as an option. One year later, Gordon seems more expendable and his stock has dropped — which means the Mets can probably pick him up for players they can afford to part with. Now that the Dodgers have signed Cuban infielder Alex Guerrero and already have Hanley Ramirez, they have Gordon experimenting in center field in winter ball. In 92 AAA games last year, Gordon hit .297 with a .385 OBP, stealing 49 bases and swatting 9 triples. He’s never going to hit homeruns, and he’s still erratic in the field (18 errors). But, if he were perfect, the Mets wouldn’t be able to put together a package for him, would they? Gordon turns 26 in late April, and is still young when you consider how late he began playing baseball (in other words, there could be room for him to continue improving). I’m not suggesting he’d be an All-Star, but he has one unteachable skill (speed), and at the very least, I’d like to see him in spring training to provide competition (read: motivation) for Ruben Tejada.

Jeff Bianchi
Who? You may or may not remember seeing Bianchi when the Mets played the Brewers. Personally, I remember him mainly because every time Howie Rose mentioned him, I thought he was saying “the Yankee.”

Bianchi is Milwaukee’s version of Reese Havens: a second-round draft pick with high hopes of eventually filling a middle infield spot for years to come, but never realizing his potential due to chronic injuries. Unlike Havens, Bianchi finally made it to the bigs, but now, the 27-year-old is blocked by the aforementioned Juan Segura. Bianchi has played 120 games in a season only once (2009), but when he has played, he’s hit — in 92 games in 2012, he batted .325 with a .809 OPS. Last year, in 100 MLB games, his offense was less than impressive, but he was in a bench role, serving as a pinch-hitter and utilityman. Defensively, he’s no Ozzie Smith, but his average range is enhanced by an above-average arm, sure hands, and strong fundamentals. On offense, he won’t hit homeruns and won’t walk very much, but his short stroke provides plenty of contact. His toolset reminds me of Bucky Dent; not spectacular, but you know what? I think the Mets would take Bucky Dent in his prime right now. Like the other two suggestions, Bianchi is not without his flaws, but he’s a shortstop who is probably better than what the Mets have now, at worst will provide much-needed competition at the position, and can be acquired from something the Mets can afford to lose, AND fits into their small-market budget.

What say you? Do you like any of these ideas? Have any better ones? Answer in the comments.

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. DaveSchneck December 2, 2013 at 9:41 am
    The mere suggestion by Alderson or the Met front office that market conditions may force the Mets to settle on another year of Tejada is proof that this ownership/management can’t be taken seriously. The GM has already publicly proclaimed that they need to upgrade at SS. It is hard to win when your SS position is the worst of the 30 teams in MLB. Tovar is an intersting kid but still too green to be counted on for 2013. I don’t think they should give up on Tejada, but he is more of a 2B or backup infielder. Unless they add Choo and Cargo, they absolutely need to upgrade the SS position. I’d take each of the guys you mention above, and in the order that you mention.
  2. izzy December 2, 2013 at 9:47 am
    Espinosa would be a good risk guy as he can definitely play both middle infield positions well. Plus, he has the trait that Mets front ofice likes best. He wiffs a lot but hits a few HRs and definitely can match Chris Young’s 200 average, maybe if he bounces back. But, given that he is coming off a real down year, the guys he would be equal to in a trade would be Davis, duda, Valdespin, none of whom would be of any interest to the DC boys. Maybe a lefty releiver would work, but I don’t see Liarson doing that. Gordon sounds great as speed is what the Mets should strive for but it seems the Dodgers want to movoe a high paid outfielder and make gordon a super utility guy, I don’t know BiYankee but if the Brewers can’t get Hart to come they’d probably take a flyer on Davis or duda for him,
  3. Joe Gomes December 2, 2013 at 4:31 pm
    The Mighty Mets already have the shortops they can afford.
    Tejada and Quintanilla. But Quintanilla is getting expensive for these Mets so he was released and will be replaced by Tovar who makes only the mlb minimum.
  4. argonbunnies December 2, 2013 at 4:53 pm
    Hey Joe, it’s JEAN Segura, not Juan.

    I think Espinosa and Bianchi would be clear upgrades. Good call. I’d happily trade role-players or organizational filler for those guys.

    At this point in his career, Dee Gordon is a pinch-runner, but I agree that a .385 AAA OBP is a reason for hope. I wouldn’t give up much for him, but if the price is low enough, sure.

    Supposing the Nats, Brewers or Dodgers want Den Dekker or Nieuwenhuis — which one should we trade? We probably don’t need both.

    • Joe Janish December 2, 2013 at 5:55 pm
      Jeez Louise, you’d think I wrote for that other Mets blog … My mind was thinking “Jean,” typing “Juan.” Thanks for the mistake, it’s been fixed.

      The more I think about Espinosa, the more it’s a no-brainer — considering, of course, the Mets’ desperation combined with their seeming inability to pay for a decent SS and lack of trade chips.

      If Dee Gordon is a pinch-runner, what does that make Omar Q. and Ruben Tejada? Guys you can change the barrel on the water cooler? Though, I’m not sure either are strong enough to lift those things …

      Den Dekker and Nieuwenhuis are the same person to me — much like when the Mets had both Jeremy Reed and Cory Sullivan at the same time. From my perspective, I’d prefer they trade Captain Kirk, as it takes me an extra minute to type out his last name and re-check to make sure it’s spelled correctly (is it?).

      • DaveSchneck December 2, 2013 at 6:29 pm
        I’d prefer they keep Den Dekker. From my untrained eye, he looks a little faster, plays a little better D, has a little more pop, is a little younger, and I can’t spend Captain Kirk’s name so I can save time writing MDD in the future.
        • argonbunnies December 3, 2013 at 1:39 am
          I thought Kirk was younger, so I looked up their ages. Den Dekker is indeed younger — by 3 days.

          Agreed on the speed and pop, plus Kirk has had longer to show that he might not belong in the majors. On the other hand, Kirk’s minor league numbers indicate a much better eye. If I were a scout from another organization, I’d prefer Nieuwenhuis.

          So, with Lombardozzi and Bernadina gone, and Moore coming off a terrible year… would Washington do Espinosa for Kirk?

  5. david December 2, 2013 at 6:29 pm
    I’d trade Jeff Wilpon and cash considerations for Espinosa. Seriously
    • NormE December 2, 2013 at 10:34 pm
      Fred Wilpon doesn’t have enough cash to convince anyone to take li’l jeffy.
      Seriously, I like the thought of Espinosa, but with Lombardozzi traded to Detroit I wonder if the Nats might want to keep Espinosa as insurance?
      Izzy makes a good point about the Dodgers wanting to keep Gordon for his utilityness if they trade away an outfielder.
  6. argonbunnies December 3, 2013 at 1:31 am
    I hate trades like the one the Nats just made. They give hope to all the idiot-trade-proposing fans out there, and the team doing the fleecing is never the Mets.

    Apparently we could have had a #2 starter (that’s what Fister will be in the NL) for Young Jr, Edgin and Familia. But Sandy missed the boat.

    • DaveSchneck December 3, 2013 at 3:42 am
      Fister would have fit the Mets perfectly. Don’t know the kids the Nats gave up but the price certainly looks really low for 2 affordable years of a #2/#3 pitcher.

      I guess Sandy was too busy dining with Grandy and other players he can’t afford.

  7. Optimetstic December 3, 2013 at 10:55 pm
    I like all of the ideas, I think you could also add Tim Beckham from Tampa to the list, although he may actually end up costing more to get than the others on the list.
    • Joe Janish December 4, 2013 at 1:02 am
      I like Beckham, too, but I get the feeling the Rays are likely to jettison Yunel Escobar to make room for Beckham. In which case, as you suggest, he’ll be more difficult to pry away. Plus, it seems Tampa never loses on a trade.
  8. Metstheory22 December 4, 2013 at 10:04 am
    Kind of want to be able to be a fly on the wall and actually hear and see what goes on in our GM’s office. Are they checking on every player available? Are they watching MLB Network? Are they playing checkers?

    In terms of your post, I would take them in the order you posted, Espinosa for his power, gordon for his speed and then Bianchi.