It is no secret that the Mets will be looking to improve in two areas in 2015. They either need a shortstop or an outfielder, but the Mets most likely won’t pursue both. Shortstop has young options in Wilmer Flores and Matt Reynolds, or they could fall back on Ruben Tejada. And there’s always free agency, but the best options will go to higher bidders than the Mets, so we should get that thought out of our heads. The Mets could try and trade for another shortstop, but at a premium infield position, the cost will be high.
The outfield is a different story. The only young in-house options are Matt den Dekker and Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Both showed improvement in the last weeks of 2014’s regular season, but neither is a clear heir to the everyday job, and neither can provide the type of power most fans are looking for. In order to find another power hitter that can do damage either ahead or behind Lucas Duda, a major trade will be needed, as free agency is again likely out of the question for the likes of Nelson Cruz and Melky Cabrera.
If 30 home runs and 100 RBI are the threshold we want to in an outfielder, as mentioned in previous comments, the pickings are slim. Only 10 players in all of baseball hit more homers than Duda’s 30, and only four of those are outfielders. Mike Trout isn’t going anywhere, and probably neither is Giancarlo Stanton, at least not to the division-rival Mets. That leaves the aforementioned Cruz, who will be after a huge pay day via free agency, and Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Blue Jays president and CEO Paul Beeston recently told fans that the team payroll for 2015 will likely be higher than this season’s, and that money stands a good chance of being spent on one of the three power pitchers at the top of MLBtraderumors.com’s Power Rankings. The team was competitive this year, and the idea of getting one of the league’s elite power hitters for anything short of a king’s ransom is absurd. Not only would the Mets have to part with one-time Blue Jays prospect Noah Syndergaard, but likely another top pitcher, and two or even three position players. But there are risks.
Since coming to the Blue Jays in 2009, Bautista has played more than 120 games just three times in his six years. Also, Rogers Centre has always played well for power, and ranked first in the American League in home runs allowed, and second in baseball for 2014. Bautista’s health and power transfer to Citi Field do not make such prospect sacrifices advisable. To boot, Bautista will be making $14 million next year. Normally that would be an outstanding value, but sadly this might be too expensive for the feebly financed Mets.
Acquiring Bautista could end up working out well for the Mets, but there are younger, cheaper options certainly out there. J.D. Martinez hit 23 home runs and drove in 76 in pitcher-friendly Tiger Stadium in just 123 games, and is arbitration eligible. Yoenis Cespedes hit 22 home runs and drove in 100 between Oakland and Boston, and as reports have stated, the Mets and Red Sox match up well for trades this off-season. He’s owed $10.5 million. And there are less well-known options, like Oswaldo Arcia of the Twins. He hit 20 dingers and drove in 57 runs in just 103 games, and could be one of the least expensive options the Mets find anywhere.
The point being that while 30 home runs and 100 RBI are wonderful, in the post-steroid era we are witnessing, they are few and far between and usually unavailable. If the Mets truly want to be competitive for years to come, they need to avoid trading for Michael Cuddyer, Marlon Byrd or even Jose Bautitisa, guys with lots of mileage and money owed. If the Mets are going to unload any group of prospects to get someone, it would cost less and be more prudent to get someone who’s on the way up, rather than the reverse. Acquiring a young hitter involves immense risk because of sample size and the like. However, there is also upside in making guys like Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto earn a job in the outfield rather than simply give it to them in a year or two because there aren’t any other options.
The Mets have the pieces to be very good for a long time, but careful moves must be managed. Now is not the time to spend frivolously, but rather save and acquire young talent on the rise, to the best of our ability. Spending should come in a return bid to the playoffs, not in a desperate attempt to make them.