Look — I’m no GM. But it is fun to play one, especially this time of year. So when considering the Mets’ needs in advance of Tuesday’s Trade Deadline, I thought to myself, “What would I do in Billy Eppler’s shoes?”
Figuring some of my colleagues were thinking the same, I reached out to them with an idea: Let’s make a deal. I proposed a series of trades to my counterparts who cover potential sellers around the league, trying to find one that might work. Here’s where we landed:
POTENTIAL TRADE NO. 1: Mets get a catcher
Mets receive: Willson Contreras, David Robertson
Cubs receive: Calvin Ziegler, Joel Diaz
While giving up Diaz and Ziegler — the Mets’ 10th- and 11th-ranked prospects — would hurt quite a bit, it’s hardly an overpay for two players who could really help. Contreras in particular fits the Mets’ needs perfectly as a right-handed bat who can catch, too. He could split time with James McCann behind the plate and DH on days when he’s not catching. It’s exactly what New York needs. Robertson would be a nice tack-on addition, but if his presence makes things too expensive, I’d be inclined to drop him from the deal and seek relief help elsewhere.
Cubs reporter Jordan Bastian’s response: “On the surface, it feels like the Mets would need to add one more piece. I think Willson will command at least two. The key line that makes it work for me is, ‘I’d be inclined to drop [Robertson] from the deal and seek relief help elsewhere.’”
Verdict: Fine, let’s nix Robertson and do Ziegler and Díaz for Contreras alone. It’s a blow to the Mets’ organizational pitching depth, but they can buy their way out of that predicament this offseason.
POTENTIAL TRADE NO. 2: A backup plan to Contreras
Red Sox receive: Dominic Smith, Jose Peroza
Mets receive: J.D. Martinez, Christian Vázquez, cash (about $1.5 million, to cover Smith’s remaining salary)
The Mets would love to acquire both a right-handed bat and catching help, and while this trade is less efficient than the Contreras swap — Vázquez simply doesn’t possess the same type of pop as Contreras, so the Mets would need to rely on Martinez for that — the deal would be cheaper. Smith is a prime change-of-scenery candidate without much chance to contribute the rest of the season in New York; he could blossom in a place like Fenway Park. Peroza is the Mets’ 29th-ranked prospect, giving Boston a fallback option to find value if Smith doesn’t provide much. The Mets would take on a lot of money here and be happy to do it.
Red Sox reporter Ian Browne’s response: “You can have J.D., but I’m keeping Vázquez. Catchers who can contribute offensively are hard to find. Vázquez has quietly been a leader for the Red Sox the last two to three years, and I’m going to take a stab at re-signing him to a reasonable deal this winter. But, yes, J.D. is yours. Just take the rest of his salary [around $7 million], and we’ll pay Smith’s balance. Deal?”
POTENTIAL TRADE No. 3: Pie in the sky
Mets receive: Juan Soto
Nationals receive: Francisco Álvarez, Brett Baty, Matt Allan, Alex Ramírez
Forget the idea of the Nationals not wanting to trade Soto within the division. If the Mets offer the best package, the Nats will have to consider it, and including the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball seems like an excellent start. Álvarez has a chance to be the rarest of players: a catcher who is a clear offensive difference-maker. He, Baty, Allan and Ramirez are four of the Mets’ top six prospects, and it’s fair to think that might not be enough. But it’s at least close. What say you, Nats?
Nationals reporter Jessica Camerato’s response: “The package is enticing, and it could deliver the Nationals pieces to build the foundation of their future. But swapping a proven, young star in Soto for the potential of standout prospects within the division isn’t a decision to be taken lightly — especially with how well Soto hits at Citi Field. I’d go for a package that includes prospects and players with early Major League experience outside of the NL East.”
Verdict: The NL East thing does seem like a problem. I’ll hold out hope until Soto is traded elsewhere, but I’m not going to hold my breath.
POTENTIAL TRADE No. 4: Stocking up the bullpen
Mets receive: Gregory Soto, Joe Jiménez
Tigers receive: Tylor Megill
Few lefty relievers have been nastier than Soto, who throws 100 mph. He’s produced reverse splits this season but hasn’t done so in the past, indicating it’s probably more due to a small sample size. Soto is far from a rental, under team control for three more seasons, and the Mets will be happier to pay his escalating arbitration salaries than the Tigers would be. Certainly, losing Megill would hurt, especially considering the Mets’ plans for him as a bullpen arm down the stretch. But Jiménez (who’s under team control through 2024) appears to have figured things out and would soften that blow. If this deal is too large, maybe there’s something smaller we could negotiate for Andrew Chafin?
Tigers reporter Jason Beck’s response: “I would not do the deal. The Tigers are looking for bats in pretty much any deal they might do. They really, really need young hitters. I believe they’re looking for multiple prospects back on Soto based on his three years of control.”
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