Where we sit today, the 2021 MLB Trade Deadline is just 45 days away, and the first place New York Mets are set to be one of the most aggressive teams in baseball. The 34-25 Mets have a healthy lead in the National League East, despite dealing with a rash of injuries to some of their key players in the first half.
With each passing week, the Mets get closer to being at full strength, as reinforcements will continue to trickle back onto the roster as we get into the dog days of the summer.
Still, any team with aspirations of making a deep playoff run will be looking to add at the trade deadline, so here are the main areas of need the Mets could and likely should address when that time comes.
The Mets top three starters are the best trio in baseball. You have the best player in the game and arguably the front-runner for NL MVP in Jacob deGrom, as well as Marcus Stroman and his career best 2.33 ERA. Then there is the biggest surprise of them all, Taijuan Walker, who has pitched to the tune of a 2.12 ERA.
However, after those three you see a serious dip. Joey Lucchesi has been pitching much better lately, but his start on Sunday was his first since 2019 in which he completed five innings of work. David Peterson, on the other hand, has been inconsistent at best and simply is not a reliable fifth starter for a playoff team, unless his great start against Chicago was a sign of more to come.
Thankfully for the Mets, the starting pitching market will be one of the heavier ones come the deadline. Immediately, several names come to mind: Washington’s Max Scherzer, Minnesota’s Jose Berrios, Texas’ Kyle Gibson, Arizona’s Merrill Kelly, and Cincinnati’s duo of Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray.
Most notable of these names is the future Hall of Famer Max Scherzer. The three-time Cy Young winner is in the final year of his contract with the Nationals, and they are a team with seemingly no direction other than down. However, he is currently hurt, in the middle of the pitching substance debacle, and owns 10-5 rights to veto any trade he would be involved in, so if he even gets traded is an unknown at this point.
The two more interesting names for the Mets are Kyle Gibson and Sonny Gray. Both have club control past the 2021 season, and offer more of a Marcus Stroman type trade: a move for 2021 and beyond.
Gray was placed on the injured list on June 9th, but Reds’ manager David Bell said “I think the best guess is missing two starts. The severity obviously could be a lot worse. To me, that was a best-case scenario. I knew when he came out of the game based on how he was feeling after the game that it was at least going to be two starts. The fact that might end up being the case is really good news.”
Gray’s injury does not seem to be too serious and more so of a precautionary IL stint, which should have little to no impact on his trade value. Cincinnati is currently within striking distance of the NL Central, but they are a few steps below the likes of the Cubs and Brewers in a National League that will seemingly have two Wild Cards come from the West division.
Kyle Gibson, however, is the ace on a cellar dweller Texas Rangers. Gibson is 33 and is signed through 2022, carrying a $7 million price tag next season. He is having a career year that has thrust him into the early American League Cy Young contention, but all signs point to him being dealt so he may be removed from those talks if he jumps leagues.
Gibson would offer the Mets a fourth legit starter, and protection for 2022 if Marcus Stroman were to leave in free agency.
Third base has been a void for the Mets since 2015. Since David Wright initially went down with a hamstring injury, before later being diagnosed with Spinal Stenosis, the Mets have quite literally had no one stick at third base.
Jose Reyes gave it a try, as did Todd Frazier, Jeff McNeil, Jonathan Villar, Asdrubal Cabrera, and a handful of others. The closest one that has come to making it stick has been JD Davis, but the slugger has been down for a few months with a hand injury that just won’t go away. For as solid as Villar has been, if the Mets want to make a deep playoff run in a stacked National League, they need to upgrade at second or third base and play McNeil at the other.
The best infielder set to hit the market is Pittsburgh’s Adam Frazier. Frazier has already posted 2.0 fWAR on the season, and has logged major league innings at every position except pitcher, cather, and first base. The versatility will fit perfectly with an already interchangeable Mets roster. His OPS is already far above his previous career-high, and Frazier is striking out at a career-low rate. Frazier is under club control through 2022.
Among other infielders potentially becoming available are Philadelphia’s Jean Segura, Minnesota’s Josh Donaldson, and Arizona’s Josh Rojas. Segura might be the most interesting name on this list, considering his strong start in 2021. He has posted a +4 DRS at second base so far to go along with a 1.5 fWAR in only 48 games. Segura is signed through 2022 with a club option on 2023.
There are no indications at the moment that the Phillies will move on from the veteran infielder, but with the likelihood of having three NL West playoff teams this year and the Mets lead in the NL East growing, things can quickly change for Dave Dombrowski and Sam Fuld.
The Mets seem to be set with their bench, especially considering the impending returns of Michael Conforto, Albert Almora, and Jeff McNeil. When those three return, you will see the likes of Jose Peraza, Almora, and one of Billy McKinney and Kevin Pillar head to the pine to join Tomas Nido and Luis Guillorme.
They can obviously still add here, but the Mets will seemingly have one of the stronger units in the National League heading down the stretch.
The Mets already have a stacked bullpen, but that shouldn’t stop them from being open to adding to that group. Edwin Diaz has re-established himself as one of baseball’s best closers, while Seth Lugo is returning to his dominant form following his elbow surgery, and Aaron Loup is quietly on pace for a 2.0 fWAR season.
That being said, the rest of the Mets’ bullpen has had their moments. Jeurys Familia was reliable for the Mets early on, but his inability to work clean innings caught up to him in a four-run inning against the Padres on Sunday.
Miguel Castro and Trevor May have both come crashing back to Earth following their hot starts, and while Drew Smith has been quietly reliable, he has yet to be asked to pitch in high leverage spots since giving up a walk-off homer in Miami on May 22nd.
Sean Reid-Foley and Robert Gsellman have settled in as long men, keeping them away from the late innings for the most part. If the Mets are to make a deep run into September and October, they might need to bring in another high leverage reliever.
Among names that could become available at the right price include Kansas City’s Jake Brentz and Scott Barlow, Los Angeles’ Steve Cishek, Pittsburgh’s Sam Howard and Richard Rodriguez, Baltimore’s Tanner Scott, Miami’s Yimi Garcia, Texas’ Ian Kennedy, and Colorado’s Daniel Bard, among others.
Some of Sandy Alderson’s best win-now moves were under-the-radar bullpen additions, such as Addison Reed and Fernando Salas. While he has definitely had some that have backfired, see old friend Eric O’Flaherty, Alderson has for the most part succeeded when it comes to adding to a bullpen.
Alderson’s move for Addison Reed turned into one of the more important ones he made in his first tenure, considering Reed turned in one of the best seasons we’ve ever seen from a Mets reliever in 2016. If Alderson can find another diamond in the rough to add to an already stacked bullpen, the Mets are in for a deep and fun ride into October.
Assessing the Mets Trade Chips
Despite the contrary narrative, the Mets have a strong farm system and interesting names that can become available at the deadline. Immediately, a few names come to mind: LHP Thomas Szapucki, RHP Tylor Megill, INF Carlos Cortes, and INF Ronny Mauricio.
Mauricio is far and away the best prospect on this list considering his Top-100 status, but the Mets seemingly have a middle infield of the future lined up with McNeil and Francisco Lindor. Obviously Mauricio is not limited to only second base or shortstop, but McNeil and Lindor open the Mets more to the idea of moving Mauricio.
Szapucki was once a Top-100 prospect, before his Tommy John surgery in 2017, and he has been off to a solid start for Triple-A Syracuse. Alongside him has been Tylor Megill, who was described to me by a Mets executive as a sleeper prospect who could explode onto the scene for the Mets.
Cortes has had a breakout year for Double-A Binghamton, and is probably the closest of any Mets’ hitting prospect to reaching the majors. The versatile lefty can play a plethora of positions, and is only 23 years old.
Further down in the system, there are several pitchers that can be labeled as having “interesting” arms that you would see moved in a type of deal that would net you a bench bat or front-end reliever.
Junior Santos, 19, is currently penciled into St. Lucie’s starting rotation. The righty can reach 97/98 with his fastball, but has been clocked as low as 92 with it. He was signed as an International free agent in 2018, and has been moving up the Mets’ system since. Other names to keep an eye on in this case would be RHP Justin Lasko, RHP Jose Butto, and RHP Robert Dominguez, who is considered to be one of the top arms in the Mets’ system.
The Mets have a top-heavy farm system with most all of their top prospects currently residing in High-A Brooklyn or lower. However, as we’ve seen in the past handful of years, the Mets have no issue moving some of their lower level prospects in favor of adding to the major league roster.
The Mets will most likely be one of the most aggressive teams come July, and rightfully so. Seemingly, the only path to the playoffs for a NL East team will be through the divisional crown, and the Mets are best positioned to claim that title. They will need to add in hopes of bringing home the ultimate prize, but remain well positioned to do so.