There has been plenty of talk over the last month about how the Mets will improve their 2013 roster, especially since reports have New York’s payroll within the same $90-95 million range it was in this year. Sandy Alderson mentioned on the WFAN they will be exploring the trade market this winter, so rumors have been swirling around a number of players currently on the MLB roster that could be dealt once the final out of 2012 is recorded on Wednesday.
One player that has been the subject of conversation is Jonathon Niese. It was a breakout year for the young southpaw, as he went 13-9 with a 3.40 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and 155 strikeouts in 190.1 innings pitched, while breaking previous career highs in all of those categories. The 25-year-old signed a franchise friendly five-year extension in Spring Training, guaranteeing him $25.5 million before his two option years. After making $769,500 in 2012, he’s due for a raise in 2013, equaling $3 million. His salary increases by $2 million each season up to 2016, when he will be making $9 million. Then, the team still holds two more options on Niese for 2017 and 2018, equaling a total of $21 million.
Theoretically speaking, Jonathon Niese just came off a career year, and could be under team control for the next six seasons, at a price that is an absolute steal. Andy McCullough of the Star Ledger reported in September that outside baseball officials feel Niese could give the Mets a lot in return if traded to the right suitor. With a productive outfield bat desperately needed, Alderson may have to give up one of his young pitchers, and it’s no doubt that Niese is currently the most attractive option for other teams.
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t want him to go anywhere because he’s putting it all together after parts of five Big League seasons and he could be the anchor of a starting staff that includes R.A. Dickey, Matt Harvey, and Zack Wheeler over the next few years. The Mets have been giving Jenrry Mejia starts and Jeurys Familia will be getting a start tonight in Miami in an effort to increase their trade value (at least that’s what I think), but their results over the course of the last month has been uneven at best, and it’s doubtful they could be the centerpiece of a trade for a legitimate power bat. However, since they’re both so young, their upside is tremendous, possibly being coupled in a package with say, Daniel Murphy, to bring back an outfielder that is under team control, while having the ability to field and hit.
Speaking of the devil, MLB trade rumors just released a story yesterday saying that the Mets are not inclined to deal Lucas Duda this winter because they feel his potential development means more to them than what they could get in a trade. While that may be true, this is only being said because his current trade stock isn’t very high. A .239/.329/.392 line with 15 homers and 57 RBI in 393 at-bats doesn’t scream tradeability, especially when you throw in a demotion to Triple-A during a slump and the sulking that ensued for his first week or two back down with the Bisons before he kicked it into high gear.
The question is, which first baseman are the Mets more likely to hold onto for the next few years: Ike Davis or Lucas Duda? Despite a first half slump, Davis is a proven commodity at the Major League level, and Alderson said it himself during a Mets broadcast last week; if they’re planning on trading Ike, they’ll have to be sure they can get 31 homers and 89 RBI from somewhere else. On a team that has struggled offensively so much since the All-Star game, it’s imperative they hold on to every bit of offense they currently have. So, Duda playing some first base has nothing to do with him playing that position for the Mets in 2013 and beyond; it’s to showcase him at his natural position for potential trade suitors.
The bottom line is, for the Mets to improve their roster for 2013, they’re going to need to make some trades. David Wright just said to Adam Rubin that if the two sides can’t agree upon an extension this winter, he’s decided he will be testing free agency, as he is against in-season negotiations. So, Sandy needs to lock up the face of the franchise, and with only $10-15 million to spend this winter, he will have to get creative, which means trading a productive player to fill what they need for next season.
There are two men who are currently playing out of position, and they are Murphy and Duda. They have both worked hard to get better at positions that are not natural to them, but at the end of the day, they are the most tradeable position players the Mets have. The starting pitching depth has been the biggest strength for the Mets all year. Yes, you can never have enough pitching, but Niese is the one starter that, by himself, could yield a number of players that could help the Mets immediately because of his youth and recent performance. Seeing him being dealt is a real possibility, but I find it hard to believe he would be dealt after signing a deal like that last Spring. The Mets are trying to rebuild and win at the same time, which is tough to do, which makes it even more important to hang onto players they know can perform at a high level (i.e. Niese and Davis)…if they can.
So, who will the Mets trade this winter? If I had to take my chances and pick players will actively be shopped, I would say Duda, Murphy, Mejia, and Familia. What do you think?