Following their sweep at the hands of Washington, the Mets are in a strange position as of Thursday afternoon, almost exactly a month before the deadline. Six out in the division race, the Mets are right in the midst of an emerging hodgepodge of four teams with exactly 37 losses vying for the two berths in the Wild Card Game. Fighting for a Wild Card berth would be something like a coin flip to get into a literal coin flip game to get into the wider playoff bracket.
Should the Mets be buyers or sellers considering that? I still think they’re probably in a soft buy mode, looking mostly for assets that either cost little or have substantial further team control. But what if they’re a soft seller, or even a hard seller? I don’t think most Mets fans have considered the possibilities of what a selling Mets team would look like, so let’s run down some possibilities.
Yoenis Cespedes: Cespedes would be immediately the biggest chip on the market, likely to return a prospect or player even better than Michael Fulmer would’ve been considered a year ago. And I’m also nearly one hundred percent sure this isn’t happening. Cespedes has a full no-trade clause. He has repeatedly expressed his desire to remain a Met—and frankly shown such by being on the 2016 Mets to begin with—and the Mets are hardly out of contention entirely. I think there’s a very good chance he’s on the 2017 Mets, whether it be through a reworking of his current deal or an extension. The Mets probably can’t afford to let him get away.
Neil Walker: Perhaps the most obvious trade candidate on the team, Walker could plausibly be on the move even if the Mets aren’t selling, to make room for some combination of Dilson Herrera, Jose Reyes, or, if we really want to shoot the moon, Yuliesky Gurriel. As with Cespedes, there’s an obvious catch, though it isn’t a no-trade clause or even an organizational desire to keep him. Walker is likely to receive the qualifying offer, which means the Mets have to beat the value of a 2017 draft pick somewhere around the 20s, plus the value that Walker provides in any potential 2016 playoff run. Is someone really dealing that much for a half-season of Neil Walker? I’d be listening here, but skeptical.
Bartolo Colon: Colon has quietly turned in an All-Star quality half-season—and with Terry Collins as the National League’s manager, he’s got a real shot to make it–tossing up 88 innings of 2.86 ERA baseball. Were he to somehow keep it up for the whole season, that’d be the second-lowest ERA of Colon’s illustrious major league career. Between his role in the clubhouse, his ability to soak innings on a staff otherwise full of youngsters, and a likely low return owing to Colon’s age, he’s probably more valuable to the Mets than anyone else, especially if they move someone like …
Matt Harvey: Yeah, I’m going here. With the 2017 class of free agent pitchers being an absolute disaster—other than Colon, top free agent pitching options include Rich Hill, 36, currently on the DL, and 15 starts removed from being an itinerant lefty reliever, and Andrew Cashner, also on the DL and carrying an ERA near 5 in PetCo—there isn’t going to be a lot out there on the rental market. Harvey won’t be a free agent until after 2018, but does anyone think there’s a snowball’s chance in hell he’s a Met in 2019? One can easily wonder whether a team out there would still pay the ace price and convince themselves that the deal is for two-and-a-half years of a surefire bulldog number one. I mean, look what Billy Beane gave up for Jeff Samardzija. While this may seem like the craziest name, I’m also the most sure it’s the one the Mets should listen on to see if they can beat the Samardzija and Cole Hamels returns of recent years. I suspect we’ll be revisiting this topic in greater detail before too long.
Curtis Granderson: It’s hard to say whether Granderson would attract much on the trade market. He’s basically a hot couple games away from the typical Curtis Granderson season—a bit above-average offensively, still very good defensively in right if you ignore that he can’t throw—but he’s not hitting as much as in 2015, and at 35 I suppose you start wondering if the end is near. He’s signed for his age-36 season in 2017 at $15 million, which seems like a lot until you look at the free agent position crop for the upcoming offseason and realize he’d easily beat that on the market. The Mets do have a little bit of a logjam in the corners, but this would be moving the second-best hitter in an awful lineup. Perhaps if they fall further out of the Wild Card, this might make more sense.
Jeurys Familia: Given the trade returns on Ken Giles, Craig Kimbrel, Craig Kimbrel the other time, and even Fernando Rodney just this week, Jeurys Familia might be the most tempting trade bait of all. Under team control through the 2018 season, but likely to start getting big awards in arbitration, Familia’s surface-level numbers remain excellent this season—26-for-26 in save opportunities, 2.89 ERA, 35 strikeouts in 37.3 innings. But the velocity is a bit down, the slider is a bit less firm, and the splitter, which turned into a dominating weapon down the stretch in 2015, has all but disappeared. Sabermetric orthodoxy is starting to split a lot on the value of relief pitching, but the Mets have an excellent, fairly deep bullpen, and Familia isn’t even the most experienced closer on staff …
Addison Reed: … an honor belonging to Addison Reed, the closer for the White Sox and Diamondbacks circa 2012-14. Reed has been reborn as a Met, turning into one of the National League’s premier setup relievers. Less than a year older than Familia, it’s no longer obvious that if the Mets were to pick one, it should actually be Familia, but I think either could go if the price is high enough. Reed is controlled through 2017, and it’d be a nifty move to get a big piece back for him after trading such a little piece to get him last August.
Jerry Blevins: Every team needs a good lefty reliever, right? Blevins has been consigned to LOOGYdom this season in ways that he really wasn’t in Washington and Oakland, seeing only 21.7 IP spread over 34 games. He’s been excellent dating back to 2015. Again, the return here probably isn’t going to be great, and you’re going to feel really terrible if you’ve got Antonio Bastardo or Sean Gilmartin against, say, Matt Carpenter or Adrian Gonzalez in the Wild Card Game because you moved Blevins for a catching prospect.
We’ve reached the point in this article where I’d be talking about dumping money on Alejandro de Aza or Antonio Bastardo, so let’s just call it a day, shall we? The running thread through most of these potential moves is that the return probably doesn’t enhance the likely outcome for the 2017 Mets more than it hurts the 2016 Mets, who, remember, aren’t quite out of it yet. Holding steady and aiming for the Wild Card might not be fun to talk about, and it might not even go anywhere, but it’s probably the spot the Mets are in, unless they want to start shopping more controlled assets like Harvey and Familia.
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