Mets: Should Jon Niese stay or should he go?

By Rich Sparago

On Sunday, Steven Matz made his major league debut. He was outstanding, pitching 7.2 innings, allowing two runs on five hits, striking out six and walking three. He also had four RBI. Matz’s stellar performance has reignited the debate on the future of the Mets’ other left-handed starter, Jon Niese.

Reports have surfaced that the Cubs and Dodgers may have interest in Niese. Though the Mets seem committed to a six-man rotation (which makes sense for innings conservation), Niese may be expendable. For one thing, Niese has battled many physical ailments, including shoulder tendonitis, which is highly concerning for a starting pitching. Another reason the Mets may look to move Niese is his sub par performance.

So far this season, Niese has posted a 3-7 record, with a 4.12 ERA, and a WHIP of 1.52. Last year, Niese was 9-11 with a 3.40 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP. If the Mets seek to trade Niese, what they may receive in return is highly questionable. Niese does have a team-friendly contract, signed for $9 million in 2016, with team options the following two years at $10 and $11 million. However, Niese’s injury concerns, along with his declining performance (his average fastball velocity is also slightly down in 2015 at 89 mph) will reduce his trade value.

So, what might the Mets get in return for Niese? One piece of speculation is that the Dodgers may be willing to trade Jimmy Rollins for Niese. Rollins’ name alone inspires visceral reactions among Mets fans. Some hold him in disdain after the Mets/Phillies rivalries of the recent past. Others say that his veteran presence can help the current Mets as they try to compete in the NL East.

Rollins will be a free agent after the 2015 season (another reason he may be available). The 36 year-old shortstop has played in 74 games with the Dodgers, slashing at .211/.265/.333. He has 7 home runs on the season, along with 6 stolen bases. Defensively, Rollins has lost some of his game. He has a Fangraphs defensive runs saved of -3 this year, to go with a -1.8 UZR. Over his career, Rollins has a UZR of 51.8 (inflated by his early years).

What does all of this mean? Rollins is declining. He will be a free agent. However, he does have a winning pedigree, and would stabilize the Mets’ infield, and perhaps provide them with an (albeit declining) option to lead off. Rollins could play shortstop, moving Ruben Tejada (who is a better fielder) to the bench. Importantly, if the Mets are seeking to move Niese, a player of Rollins’ stature may be the best they can obtain. One more note, moving Niese will provide $9 million worth of flexibility next season.

Should the Mets look into this deal? I think it’s a tough call. What do you think?