The Mets are not likely to be players in the high stakes free agency sweepstakes. The trade market fits the team better – but getting value means giving value…
While Mets fans stand by hoping the team is willing to break the chains of fiscal constraint this winter, it wouldn’t be a good idea to hold your breath waiting for it to happen.
However, there is an alternate route Brodie Van Wagenen can follow to strengthen the team. If pursued wisely and with a little bit of luck, the trade market offers a quick and (usually) inexpensive way to a key player or two to the Mets roster.
Rumors come in waves, but the trouble is there are no patsies out there anymore. All teams have personnel devoted exclusively to analytics.
Every team knows the value of what they have, and they also see the value of what they are being offered in return.
The Angels don’t get Nolan Ryan for Jim Fregosi in a deal made today. And the Red Sox do not give Babe Ruth to the Yankees for cash.
Straight up one-for-one trades like the Ryan/Fregosi swap are no longer commonplace as well. General managers tend to hedge their bets, thinking there’s a better chance of their trade being judged a success if (at least) one of the three players they receive turns into a budding star.
So, how does this all relate to the Mets today?
Breaking the Mets roster down by trade value
Tier Zero: Let’s begin by establishing a list of “untouchables” on the team. No surprise, only Jacob deGrom, and Pete Alonso make the “don’t even bother me with calls about these guys” grade.
Tier One: Michael Conforto and Amed Rosario receive an honorable mention, but with the understanding “you can talk to me, but to get either of these players, you’re gonna have to bowl me over.”
Tier Two: From there, Noah Syndergaard, Jeff McNeil, and Seth Lugo slide into the next category characterized by “he’s not on the market, but we’ll listen, and your offer better be a good one. And no, we won’t take prospects for him”.
Tier Three: From there, it’s open season on the remaining Mets players. From that list, Steven Matz, J.D. Davis, Edwin Diaz, Wilson Ramos, Justin Wilson, Brandon Nimmo, Jed Lowrie, and Marcus Stroman form the nucleus of players who will generate interest from teams.
Tier Four: And finally, there’s the “God, please take him off my hand’s list” that includes Yoenis Cespedes, Robinson Cano, and Jeurys Familia.
Dealing these players must include a team picking up a sizable portion of the money owed, which makes the July trade deadline when teams are looking for that one player who can put them over the top, a more convenient time.
A Cadillac begets a Lincoln
Using the above as a framework, and there is room for disagreement, we can now get to the meat.
First, it’s not likely that Van Wagenen will make calls trying to trade Tier One and Tier Four players. He will, however, field calls on this group.
It’s Tier Two, where the action is for the Mets to exchange quality for quality.
Syndergaard and a player from Tier Three could, for example, land Mookie Betts from the Boston Red Sox. But without Syndergaard in the deal, the Mets would need to surrender three players from Tier Three – and that would leave Van Wagenen wide open to criticism for giving up too much.
A Chevy for a Chevy
Trading Brandon Nimmo for the Yankees Tyler Wade, while an easy deal to execute, gets the Mets nothing. In betting terms, it’s a push. What the Mets hope to do, though, is uncover another nugget like J.D. Davis in a trade for Nimmo.
Things change, though, and a Chevy for a Chevy becomes a winner if, for instance, Steven Matz lands Pirates center fielder, Starling Marte. It’s value for value still, but at a lower level.
Mets – Seek and ye shall find…
The Mets can and should be forgiven if they refrain from the big-spending needed to corral a Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, and you know the rest.
But – and it’s a big but – Van Wagenen must find suitable trade partners to fill the void. Reflex trades like the Cano deal set the Mets back, and he can’t make that mistake again.
Value for value is the only way trades are made today. The Mets have plenty of talent. Some of that talent will need to be surrendered to acquire more – or maybe just different talent that is better suited to team needs.
Leaving us to wonder – what will the Mets look like in February at Port St. Lucie…