February 19, 2013; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers outfilder Nick Castellanos (79) poses for a picture during photo day at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Potential Mets Trade Target: Nick Castellanos

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Over the last few months, Sandy Alderson and others in the organization have been hinting that the Mets would be buyers during this year’s trade deadline.  They wouldn’t be buying with an eye on making a miracle run in 2013.  Rather, they’d be looking to acquire an impact outfield bat that’s young and under team control for a number of years.

The two names that have come up repeatedly, are Giancarlo Stanton of Miami, and Carlos Gonzalez of Colorado.  While the Mets probably have the chips to land either of them, it’s unclear as to whether or not Miami and/or Colorado are ready to move either player.  It was reported today by Ken Rosenthal that Miami almost certainly will not deal Stanton prior to this year’s non-waiver trading deadline.  The Rockies, meanwhile, find themselves in contention in the weak N.L. West, making them less likely to deal Gonzalez.  So, where does that leave the Mets?

With tens of millions of dollars coming off the books after the season ends, the Mets will likely add one impact outfielder via free agency (think Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo, or Carlos Beltran).  The problem, is that the Mets need multiple outfielders.  Spending their entire allotment of cash on free agent outfielders would be foolish, so it’d be in the team’s best interest to acquire the other outfielder they need via trade.

Even if Stanton and/or Gonzalez were made available in the next month, the Mets would likely have to part with Noah Syndergaard and other top prospects in order to acquire one of them.  A few days ago, I suggested that instead of looking to acquire an established outfield bat, the Mets should look to deal for someone who’s on the cusp (such as Jackie Bradley, Jr. of Boston, or Nick Castellanos of Detroit).

Both the Red Sox and Tigers are in dire need of a closer.  In Bobby Parnell, the Mets have a young, under control closer who’s having a fantastic year.  There have been reports that the Mets aren’t looking to shop Parnell, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t move him if the right deal came along.  According to Jayson Stark, the Tigers have made 21 year old outfielder Nick Castellanos (widely viewed as Detroit’s best prospect) available, and are willing to deal him for a closer.  Writes Stark:

It’s all about the ninth inning in Detroit, because the Tigers sure have those other innings covered. They lead the league in batting average, on-base percentage, starting pitching ERA and run differential. So they have just about all of their win-the-World-Series pieces in place — except for one. Now the mission is finding the right closer to shut down those big games in October that this team is almost destined to play. Unfortunately, at this point, there appear to be only two potentially available arms who would meet that description — Papelbon and Jesse Crain (he of the 29 consecutive scoreless appearances for the White Sox). “They’ve got the pieces to cash in for what they need,” one exec said. “And they’ve got the motivation. They really want to win for [owner Mike Ilitch]. And I think they’d just about back up the truck for the right piece.” If that means dealing one of their two most coveted young bats — Nick Castellanos or Avisail Garcia — other clubs say they’re willing to pay that price. And if they are, it’s hard to imagine the Tigers won’t get what they want.

In the above blurb, Stark mentions Jonathan Papelbon and Jesse Crain as the “only two potentially available arms” who would interest Detroit.  Stark has either forgotten about Bobby Parnell, or believes that the Mets will refuse to trade him.

Papelbon, 32, has blown 4 of his last 6 save opportunities, and is owed $13 million per year in 2014 and 2015.  Crain, 31, has been tremendous this year, but is a free agent after the season.  If I’m the White Sox, and Parnell is dangled by the Mets, he’s the piece I’d look to acquire.

Parnell, 28, is making $1.7 million this year.  He’s also under team control through 2015 (he’s arbitration eligible after this season).  Parnell has had a breakout season this year, coming into his own as the Mets’ closer.  He has 13 saves, a 2.45 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP.  He’s several years younger than both Papelbon and Crain, under team control, and much less expensive.

If the Tigers truly are willing to deal Nick Castellanos for a closer, the Mets should be all over it (even if they have to throw in another piece to get it done).  Parnell has been great and I’d hate to see him go,  but it’d be the right move.  If the Mets dealt Parnell for Castellanos, it would allow them to hang on to both Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero (among other prospects) instead of potentially dealing one of them for the impact outfield bat they desire.

Nick Castellanos, 21, is currently playing for Detroit’s AAA affiliate in Toledo.  In 80 games (while mainly playing left field), Castellanos is hitting .296 with a .375 OBP, 10 home runs, 38 RBI’s, and 55 runs scored.  Listed at 6’4″, 195 pounds, the righty hitting outfielder/third baseman was ranked as the 21st overall prospect in the game by Baseball America prior to the season.  If he were to be acquired by the Mets, he’d be utilized in one of the corner outfield spots.  Here’s a scouting report on Castellanos from before the season:

Castellanos is one of the purest hitters in all of the minor leagues, and earns plus-plus grades from scouts on his hit tool’s projection. He combines outstanding hands with excellent hand-eye coordination, excellent barrel awareness, and excellent natural ability to have the potential to hit over .300 consistently at the MLB level. Right now, he has some issues with pitch recognition which can lead him to expand the zone, and this is what he struggled with down the stretch in 2012. He has been quoted as saying that the biggest difficulty he faced in AA was that pitcher’s could command the ball on the edges of the zone better than he had ever seen, which caused him to chase pitches on occasion. This is understandable, and I think he’ll work past these issues in time. He has plus power potential as well. His bat speed and swing loft both speak to future plus power potential, and he showed increased HR power in 2012. It’s just a matter of him getting stronger so that he turns some of his doubles into HR’s. Overall, he’s a stud in the batter’s box, and you should be excited about him.

While Castellanos’ bat is special, he’s still a work in progress in the outfield.  Over the last few years, he’s been moved from shortstop, to third base, to the outfield.  Clearly, some hiccups along the way are to be expected.  Still, if he’s made available by the Tigers, the Mets should be all over it.

Parnell is an extremely valuable piece, and is someone the Mets should hold onto unless the right deal comes along.  If Castellanos can be had, that would qualify as the right deal.

 

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