Back in college I had a friend who often said opinions are like a certain part of one’s posterior. Everybody’s got one. That came to mind when thinking about the current Mets season, the underperformers, the expiring contracts and the seemingly obvious ways of improving for the future considering they’re likely going to be battling Derek Jeter’s Marlins for the dubious honor of the number one draft pick position.
It’s easy to talk about dealing away Zack Wheeler, Todd Frazier and Jason Vargas as they are all on expiring contracts and performing well enough that some other club might bite. Then you have others like Juan Lagares whose contract mercifully ends this year, but who would need to go on a tear to reach the Mendoza line. Then there are the underperformers who would be extremely tough to move given their production this year. That group would include Robinson Cano, Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia. Any of these players are a debate for another day.
Today, instead, let’s look at the more painful ways to improve the ballclub. There’s an old saying that you have to give to get. In the past we’ve seen that the market for expiring contracts doesn’t return much (well, at least if you were part of the Mets front office who would stubbornly refuse to pay down contracts or hold out for real value).
Take, for example, when the Yankees traded Aroldis Chapman in late July of 2016. Brian Cashman got back Gleyber Torres (you may have heard of him), Adam Warren and a couple of other warm bodies. That’s a solid return for someone on an expiring contract. The Mets got essentially no one in exchange for Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson, Neil Walker, Jay Bruce and Addison Reed. Perhaps Brodie Van Wagenen has better negotiating skills in trades than his predecessor, but pretty much everyone is calling the Seattle trade a disaster of Nolan Ryan/Jim Fregosi magnitude and the lesser deal for Keon Broxton almost as bad.
Those in the “blow it up” and start over camp are probably thinking you may have to swallow hard and make some supreme sacrifices if you’re going to try to set the team up for long term success. Towards that end let’s look at some of the desirable players you might have to consider putting on the block.
A classic sell-low candidate, despite his mediocre 2019 season, he’s a formidable pitcher who’s been an All-Star and has Cy Young level potential. He has one more year of club financial control, so he would fetch a much higher price than would Zack Wheeler. In fact, some have suggested the better strategy could be to extend a contract offer to Zack Wheeler at a lower price than Syndergaard would get in the future and thus help fill the future rotation vacancy.
This one would hurt and likely cause the torches and pitchforks to be carried to Citifield. However, if you want to rebuild in a hurry, selling the 2019 All Star and 2018 Cy Young Award winner should bring back at minimum 3 top-ten prospects from another ballclub and generate lots of salary relief considering the lucrative extension he just signed. Think of it as a way to correct the great David Wright mistake of the past by hanging onto him instead of rebuilding with him.
By Mets standards Michael Conforto was a great player – probably the best pure hitter since Darryl Strawberry and David Wright emerged from the minor league system. He came up from AA and made an immediate impact during the improbable 2015 race for the pennant. Since then he’s been somewhat up and down, but is on pace for a 30 HR season and .830 OPS. That’s not exactly chopped liver, but in the hearts and minds of fans he’s been supplanted by a Polar Bear. He’s about to hit his expensive years in arbitration but will be with the acquiring club for 2020 and 2021. Trading him away would then open up an outfield position for Dom Smith.
Yes, he appears to have turned a corner and if you extrapolate what he’s done with his limited opportunities, you would have a guy on a pace for a full season of over 30 HRs as well, but with a batting average more than 50 points higher than Conforto. He is not free agent eligible until 2025 so depending on whether you are dealing to a low payroll team who would like him more, or a higher payroll team who will better appreciate Conforto’s established track record, one of them could go in the right deal.
The spinmaster has put together a few really good years and has proven himself invaluable to the Mets, but again if you are going to try to rebuild then you have to look at who is the most desirable to other clubs as well. Given the sad state of the bullpen it would be doubly hard to make this kind of deal but it’s possible.
His defense has been up and down. His offense has been up and down. You have some other shortstops in the pipeline for the future. Perhaps you could consider him expendable if the right offer is made.
With another year of relatively low cost an AL team might like him for DH purposes as well as working behind the plate. Mets pitchers have already been quite vocal about preferring to work with the defensively superior Tomas Nido, so perhaps it’s time to see if Nido’s seemingly improving bat is tolerable enough on a full time basis given what he does framing pitching and throwing out baserunners.
You’ll note that the only untouchables I see are Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil. You have some untradeables like Brandon Nimmo and Jed Lowrie since they are on the IL. You have that previous group of underperformers. You might find a taker for Diaz who thinks that a change of scenery is all that’s needed since he is still striking people out at a prodigious rate. In that case, welcome back Jeurys Familia as your once and future closer. You’re stuck with him for two more years anyway.
What do you think?