Well, Part One of my envisioned decline of the Mets this season has come to fruition, a little ahead of time. ICYMI, I predicted them out of first place by Memorial Day, below 500 by Father’s Day and in search of a new manager by Independence Day.
Forget the Tulo and Cub rumors. The Mets aren’t trading any of their young aces (a concept I embrace). Those Dodgers rumors may generate website clicks, but there is no one in that organization that can really help the Mets the way my deal will. I propose instead that the Mets swap Jon Niese, Matt Reynolds and cash the Cincinnati Reds for shortstop Zack Cozart.
Niese is from Defiance, Ohio, closer to Cleveland but still only a two-hour drive to Cincinnati. Call it a homecoming, but call it what it really is: the Mets paying a ransom to unload an unwanted ballplayer into a place where he just might turn it around. Reynolds gets his chance at short and the cash helps offset the Reds payroll increase. I would think half of Niese’s 2016 salary plus the 2017 buyout are good starting places. The Reds are facing a long uphill slog the next few years in the stacked NL Central. This deal potentially makes them better, both now and in the future.
Cozart is no superstar and he may not even be the long-term answer at short. But…he is a bona-fide big league shortstop and he is having the best year of his career to date swinging the bat. He immediately makes their up the middle defense stronger and he lengthens the batting order somewhat, addressing two needs. This is the type of move that a contending team makes. There could be an interesting domino effect throughout the rest of the system as a result of this move.
• Steven Matz gets called up from Vegas, replacing Niese. To quote the immortal Stan Lee: ‘nuff said.
• Wilmer Flores moves to second base. GM Sandy Alderson can announce that the job is Flores’ for the remainder of the season. We all get to see, once and for all, if Flores’ bat plays in the majors.
• With Reynolds gone, Gavin Cecchini gets the call to Las Vegas, forming the potential keystone combo of the future with second baseman Dilson Herrera. This is kinda what the Mets did in the early ‘80’s with Wally Backman and Rafael Santana. They suffered through the 1983-84 seasons with several disposable middle infielders while Backman and Santana percolated in AAA or the big league bench. In 1985, the Mets swept the other guys aside and permanently installed those two. The rest is history. The salaries of Cozart and Flores make them similarly disposable if they don’t produce.
• Daniel Murphy gets traded, somewhere, anywhere. I am officially off the Murphy train. Way back in the late 1970’s Howard Cosell described then-Met outfielder Steve Henderson as “ a half ballplayer” and stated “you don’t win pennants with half-ballplayers.” Cosell’s description of Hendu fits Murphy. And unfortunately, the half of Murphy that was productive, his bat, has cooled off considerably.
BTW—tomorrow is the anniversary of the Mike Piazza trade. A deal my nephew will never let me forget actually happened. Big trades do actually happen in May.