Mets may make a move…but what kind of move?

By Rich Sparago

As the calendar has turned to June and the Mets have entered the middle third of their schedule, one thing has become clear. The Mets need offense. They need offense because David Wright and Daniel Murphy are on the DL. They need offense because Curtis Granderson and Michael Cuddyer have underperformed. The Mets have pitching depth from which to trade for offense. So, what will they do?

Sandy Alderson, the normally evasive General Manager, has stated the trade market is “heating up”. One can infer that Alderson is at least in part referring to his own activity. But what type of move will Alderson seek to make? Will he make a safe move, sacrificing relatively little, and bringing back relatively little? Or will he try to make the big move, trade some valuable chips to bring back a star? It’s an intriguing point for discussion.

Let’s start with the safe move. The names Ben Zobrist and Jimmy Rollins are being thrown around as possible targets. Zobrist is slashing at .214/.302/.369 with Oakland. His career slash line is .263/.353/.428. At 34, Zobrist has established himself as a versatile player, who will work an at-bat, and bring a veteran presence. He can likely be obtained for a fringe player or marginal pitcher, as the Athletics are out of the race in the AL West.

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And then there’s Rollins, long a Mets nemesis. He’s struggling with Dodgers this year (.209/.276/.348). Since he will be a free agent at the end of the season, the Dodgers would likely move him for a small return. Rollins could slot in at shortstop, with Wilmer Flores moving to second and Daniel Murphy going to third upon his return (assuming Wright is out for most of the season). This could improve the infield defense, by having a natural shortstop at the position. Rollins could also be given a chance to lead off (he can still run), which would allow Granderson to move to a run-producing spot in the order. Acquiring Rollins would not significantly improve the team, but again, he’d be a low-cost, fairly low-upside trade target.

Sandy Alderson could take an entirely different tact in his trade strategy. He could take the approach that the Mets can win this year, with a relatively soft NL East. He could go after a star player, parting with chips necessary to return that player. One such player may be Brandon Phillips. The Cincinnati Reds are not winning anything this year, and may be in rebuilding mode. They’d likely be anxious to take Phillips’ $12 milion salary off the books, as well as their commitment of $27 million to him over the next two years. At nearly 34, Phillips is a win-now type of player. He’s having a good year (.311/.349/.393). He also has 8 stolen bases and 3 home runs. Phillips is a 4-time gold glove winner. He could play second, moving Murphy to third, and allowing Flores to remain at shortstop.

Phillips could be the middle-of-the-order hitter the Mets need. However, even with salary relief for the Reds, Cincinnati will likely require more than Dillon Gee or Jonathon Niese in return. The Mets would have to be willing to pay Phillips significant money. However, could Phillips be the 2015 version of Donn Clendenon, that mid-season acquisition that makes a difference? He may or may not be, but Alderson could make a profound statement by bringing Phillips in.

With the recent (short-lived) 6-man rotation, and now Gee’s displacement to the bullpen, it’s clear that the time has come to move a pitcher. The lack of offense points to the need to import a hitter. The question is, how big will the deal be? The scope of Alderson’s next move will be an indication of what he thinks of his team’s chances in 2015.

We will all be watching.