Yes, we’re only three games into the season. Yes, it’s a way too early for anyone to truly panic. However, that hasn’t stopped Greg Kaplan and Nick Sweeney from being just a little worried about the start to the New York Mets season.
Greg and Nick have five moves the Mets should make that not only will help this season, but for the near future as well. Honestly, these moves should’ve been made in the off-season (and a few won’t be total surprises to the casual fan), but let’s practice a little better late than never philosophy.
GK: Just three games into the 2014 season, and every Mets reliever not named Jose Valverde has surrendered an earned run already. Three games! That’s absurd! The Mets organizational strength is the gluttony of young, powerful arms they have coming through their system, with the second wave almost ready to break in New York (Wave #1 was Harvey, Wheeler and Mejia). I truly believe Rafael Montero is a starting pitcher for the 2015 Mets, and will argue with anyone who says he doesn’t have the build to do it. However, if he’s going to be on a innings limit anyway, he should be getting Major League reps in the parent club bullpen, with the ability to spot-start when injuries happen during the season.
As for Jacob deGrom, even if you think he can be a useful starting pitcher, the Mets rotation is crowded and loaded already. If Montero and Noah Syndergaard are added in 2015, plus the return of Matt Harvey and at least two holdovers in Jonathon Niese and Bartolo Colon, you already have six overly qualified starters for five spots. DeGrom’s sinker/slider combo is perfect for someone to come on with runners and and coax a double play. And if the Mets are going to stand by their 90-win goal this year, they’ll need an impact arm like Vic Black in the ‘pen, control issues and all.
NS: When Greg and I originally discussed this article, I said I wanted to sign Ryan Madson and Joel Hanahran because they would be affordable and have experience pitching in the big leagues. Could they solve the problems of the bullpen? No. I’m thinking it’s time to go down the route the St. Louis Cardinals went (although it’s blasphemous to think so as a Met fan, they run one of the most efficient organizations and that should be noted regardless of what fan base you are part of) and load the bullpen with young fireballer pitchers. There is very little downside to promoting these three as the bullpen (Jose Valverde should not be trusted) can’t be worse than it is already. The Mets have too many pitching prospects in their system to throw out there, it’s about time they proved their worth. And while we are on the topic, be ready for Jack Leathersich. Expect him to be a late summer/September call up.
GK: If we’re being honest with ourselves, this is a move the Mets should’ve made in the off-season. Sandy Alderson said it’s not an expectation but a goal for the team to get to 90 wins. With that being the case, they need to put the best qualified players at each position. Whatever your feelings are on the Mets public comments about Ruben Tejada, there is no denying that Stephen Drew is a better shortstop. At the cost of a third round pick (the Mets first rounder is protected and the Yankees have collected their second rounder for Curtis Granderson), Drew’s added value to the Mets over the next two years is higher than any possible pick they could have their eyes on in the third round. There’s also more guarantee in what Drew will give you, as opposed to a prospect drafted and stashed for the next four or five years. Drew can serve as a bridge for the next crop of Mets shortstop prospects to be MLB-ready (namely Gavin Cecchini, who is in Low-A Savannah, and Amed Rosario, who is still in extended Spring Training). It’s not the huge payday Scott Boras was looking for, but it’s a better deal than Drew can get right now, which is nothing.
NS: Let’s make something perfectly clear here: Stephen Drew is not a “great” player. He’s a decent player coming off a good year. He’s in a position that with high demand and short supply. He played within a killer line up in Boston last year. We must remember this. That being said, is he an upgrade over Ruben Tejada? Definitely. Personally, I would rather send some pitching over to Arizona and get one of their shortstops (although Kaplan may disagree), but if the team is not willing to move any of their pitching, I suppose I’d be fine with Drew at the cost of a third round draft pick. He’s not the final piece to the puzzle though. He could go a long way to creating a better future.
GK: It has always made sense for the Mets and Pirates to be trade partners at first base. The Pirates want to add a power bat at first to replace Gaby Sanchez and Friends. The Mets want to unload one of their two first base bats for any type of pitching depth. The Pirates would get Ike Davis, who has hit 30 homers in the past and can at least draw walks and play above average defense. In Cumpton, the Mets are getting a 25-year old pitcher with some Major League experience that isn’t tantamount to the Pirates future. He’s the type of piece a team would trade to address a weakness, and a team with surplus would look to acquire. It’s a perfect marriage between the Mets and Pirates, with both teams walking away from this trading thinking to themselves that they got everything they wanted. That doesn’t happen often.
NS: It seems that Pittsburgh and New York are great trade partners. If Lucas Duda is promoted (fairly or unfairly) to full time first base duties, it’s time for Ike to leave. Brandon Cumpton is a nice pitching piece who’s young enough to have a ceiling and just enough experience to make things interesting. Not much else to be said here. Ike need a new home and we need a “play-now” piece for 2014. Especially if Move #4 happens…
GK: When Nick came to me with the idea for this piece, I told him one of these moves needed to surprise people. This is that move. I’ll start with trading Dillon Gee, which is the pill most Mets fans can swallow more easily. The hard truth is that come 2015, the Mets starting rotation will in all likelihood be Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero and one of Bartolo Colon or Jonathon Niese. That makes both Gee and Jenrry Mejia expendable. Gee has more value right now than Mejia given his track record, and could fetch a decent return in his own right. Pairing him with Murphy to a team that is still looking to improve their own rotational depth will only improve the return.
As for trading Murphy, look, he is beloved by Mets fans. I love Murph, I love what he stands for and I love how he plays. However, he is also one of the few pieces the Mets can move that has any established value attached to his name. Daniel Murphy isn’t paramount to the Mets success in 2015, but he does have the value to bring back a player or two that could be. The Baltimore Orioles fancy themselves contenders in the AL East, and have built their team as such. They still have significant holes in the rotation, which Gee will help fill. But, they also have a hole at second, where prospect Jonathan Schoop isn’t ready yet and Ryan Flaherty is likely to be overexposed. Murphy also has the ability to play third in the short-term with Manny Machado coming off knee surgery, and having Murphy could let the Orioles trade J.J. Hardy for more pitching, and shift Machado back to shortstop. Baltimore trading Eduardo Rodriguez is a high price, but it’s a price they’ve already considered in a straight-up trade for Murphy in the off-season. This move allows them to keep high-impact arms Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy while drastically improving their chances to win in 2014. For the Mets, it keeps the eyes on 2015 and really doesn’t hamper the Mets 2014 plans all that much, given the next move…
NS: I love Daniel Murphy. I’ve always believed in him and I’ve always admired his work ethic and his determination to do his best. I think he’s a huge part of this team. This is the one move I hesitate the most on (more so than the Stephen Drew signing) because Murphy has been a solid contributor to this team. But, he has is of high value to other teams, specifically to teams in the American League. He can hit and play multiple infield positions and right now the Baltimore Orioles have little depth in their infield. Gee is another solid piece the Mets have developed and he too can be useful to other teams. He has peaks of brilliance at times but the Mets rotation is going to be awfully crowded by the end of the year and we could use some new offensive talent. We can always use good pitching as Eduardo Rodriguez is one of the top prospects in the Baltimore farm system and can be part of the next wave of young Met pitching and Francisco Peguero is a speedy outfielder that has power. Not only that but he is closer to being MLB ready than most of our own hitting prospects. This move is definitely one for the near future.
GK: This has to be done, if only for the reason to know what we’re dealing with come 2015. Can Wilmer Flores be an everyday second baseman? He’s graduated from AAA, we know he can hit there. He needs 140+ games in the Majors to see if he can sink or swim. And I understand the need to delay the free agency clock on Syndergaard, but having an arm that good and not having it in the Majors is criminal. Both players can help in 2014, but more importantly, we’ll know what they’re all about for 2015.
NS: If 2015 is the year we are waiting for, the least we can do is prepared for it. Flores needs a full time role to get the reps in (not only for him to potentially improve but for the Mets so see if they need to find someone outside the organization) and develop. I want to see what he’s made of, especially if Move #4 was to happen. As far as Syndergaard goes, I understand keeping him down due to the Super 2 dilemma. I do. But I also remember the buzz of Harvey coming up and Wheeler too. I remember that double header in Atlanta last year when they pitched back to back. I remember that following month when the Mets seemed to have some kind of momentum. Could “Thor” be that spark for this year? If they won’t make a run at the wild card the least they can do is go down swinging. 90 win season or not, the Mets need to put themselves in a position where they can compete now and later.