This always happens around Labor Day with sub-500 baseball teams. Having realized that the current season is a lost cause, the hardcore fans join the team scribes, broadcasters and even some front office types in the therapeutic process of speculating about next year’s roster. Therapy started a bit early for the Mets this year, when GM Sandy Alderson appeared on the Mike’s On radio show in late August and clearly stated that major changes are coming to the 2013 team. He added that most of the changes would come via the trade market. This fueled a wave of speculation in the blogosphere, which soon reached the so-called mainstream media, culminating in last weekend’s Joel Sherman NYP article recommending trades of David Wright, R.A. Dickey and Jon Niese.
While I agree with Alderson that the time for change has come, I reject Sherman’s notion that the Mets could trade Wright or Dickey for some blue chippers that could be plugged right into the lineup and return the team to respectability. Think about some of the deals made in the last five years involving big name players and what shape the teams that surrendered those players are in now. Since 2008, Texas, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Cleveland, Seattle, Toronto, San Diego, Oakland, Houston and Minnesota have all unloaded star players for bushels of minor leaguers. With the exception of Texas and possibly Oakland, none of these teams will see the 2012 post season and most of them will likely finish with a record just as bad (if not worse) than the Mets this year.
It’s no secret that the Mets need to strengthen ¾ of their up the middle defense, jump start their offense by adding both speed and right-handed power, and acquire at least two reliable relief pitchers. That’s a tall order. Extracting a Wright or a Dickey from the roster only makes more work. So not only should the Mets retain Wright and Dickey, they need to work on extending them both before Spring Training.
If Wright and Dickey are the “Elite Mets”, then Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada fall into the category of “Successful Mets,” a group of players whose 2012 production cannot be replaced with an-house option. It’s not unreasonable to expect that the best from Ike and Rueben is yet to come. I would also put Niese in this category, as well as Matt Harvey. If I’m Alderson, I would hold out a king’s ransom in any trade that involves those aforementioned six players as well as minor leaguers Zack Wheeler, Michael Fulmer or Brandon Nimmo. So I don’t expect any blockbuster deals.
On the flip side, I don’t think the Mets could even give away Frank Francisco, Jason Bay or Johan Santana, let alone get anything of value in return. They also have no leverage with Chris Young, Scott Hairston, Kelly Shoppach, Jon Rauch, Ramon Ramirez, Ronny Cedeno, Andres Torres and Mike Pelfrey, as they all have expiring contracts. I suspect Shoppach gets a nice contract extension to stay here and it isn’t too farfetched to suppose that Josh Edgin and Robert Carson are already penciled in as the bullpen LOOGYs. Rauch and Hairston might also be approached about a return.
So who’s left to trade? Surprisingly, for a team that has fallen as far and as fast as the Mets have, there are a few intriguing names. The challenge facing the brain trust is not only deciding on how accurate the 2012 performance is as a barometer of future results, but also exactly what metrics to use when making those measurements. Dreamt up trade proposals in which my team trades garbage for your team’s treasure are beneath this site and its readers. It is possible however, to have an intelligent discussion on just what the Mets realistically have to offer other teams. I would be very surprised if any more than two are moved. In other words, I didn’t believe Alderson when he talked with Jeter Booster Mike. That aside, here is my speculation on who is available, ranked in order of my perceived value:
1.Dillon Gee: In retrospect, Gee’s injury was the first major crack in the façade of the 2012 season. He may never be a top of the rotation starter, but he has shown long stretches of serviceability and could have a long and useful role in a contending team’s rotation. The injury that ended his season shouldn’t scare off teams as there was no apparent structure damage from the clot. I think he will have better seasons, but I wonder just how high his ceiling is.
2.Jennry Mejia or Jeurys Familia: Two enigmas, but also good reasons to pay attention to the Mets this September. Each has a good arm and can either relieve or start. Both have minor league numbers that are good, but not great. It may be a case of offering them separately around both leagues and taking the best package in return for one of them, with the other heading to the 2013 bullpen. One of them for Peter Bourjos perhaps? (Sorry– can’t resist).
3.Bobby Parnell: Looking at the glass as half full, the Mets do have some interesting arms to dangle. I love the fact that Parnell can throw as hard as he does and fear that once he escapes Dan Warthen, he will blossom into the shutdown reliever many of us thought he always would. But we have been waiting on Bobby to take the next step for four seasons now. Is he being poorly mentored/utilized or does he lack the necessary elements to be a consistently successful relief pitcher? He is heading for arbitration this year so it will now cost more to find out. I believe the latter fact makes both Parnell and Daniel Murphy, who is also arbi-eligible, near locks to be moved this offseason.
4.Daniel Murphy: Wasn’t it Branch Rickey who said he always wanted to move a player a year too soon rather than a year too late? In retrospect, Alderson should have made the trade rumored in 2011 with Detroit involving Murphy for outfielder Andy Dirks. I like Daniel, but I now think the time has come to move him. This winter, Alderson should go back to the Padres and ask if their offer of reliever Luke Gregerson for Murphy still stands. Gregerson would certainly be an improvement over anything the Mets have in the bullpen now. The Mets also have several potential replacements for Murphy in Wilmer Flores, Jordany Valdespin and Justin Turner, although either Wilmer and Jordany could be a blog post all by himself. There is always the possibility that the Flores/Jordany market heats up this winter, meaning one or both of them go and Murphy stays. Boy, being GM is complicated!
5.Lucas Duda: I almost put Jeremy Hefner on this list instead. Duda’s power potential is definitely there, but that may take a few years to develop. He also looks overmatched in the outfield, either at left or right. I could see Lucas being dealt for what he one day might become, a slow footed outfielder, one capable of hitting 20-25 homers. In a less imperfect world, this outfielder also hits right-handed.
This is a key offseason for the Mets; decisions made in the next few months could very well impact the direction of the franchise for the rest of the decade. Time for Sandy to earn his salary, don’t you think?