The premise of this post is simple: the Mets have no clear cut solution to first base for 2014, and they need to add a big bat to their lineup. The Orioles have many of their core players facing big increases in salary due to arbitration, and they need to clear payroll. The Orioles have been subject to rumors all offseason, with many questions surrounding whether they will trade or extend many of their important pieces such as J.J. Hardy, Matt Wieters, and Jim Johnson. While Chris Davis is one of the most valuable players in Major League Baseball at the moment, upon close examination trading him might not be as ridiculous an idea as it may seem initially. He is projected to earn $10 million next year in arbitration, which is a huge increase from his $3.3 million salary of 2013.
The biggest concern for the Orioles this offseason is what to do with Matt Wieters. His annual salary is starting to near double digits, and there have been some rumors of trading him this winter; however, as a consistent source of offense and a great defender behind the dish, Wieters has cemented himself as one of the top catchers in baseball. Since 2011, he is fifth in the league in WAR among catchers, third now that two of the players above him, Joe Mauer and Mike Napoli, are strictly first basemen. Additionally, young phenom Manny Machado is already one of the top players in the league and it would be wise for the Orioles to try to lock up Machado and Wieters in order to go along with center fielder Adam Jones and have a strong core up the middle for years to come. Although Chris Davis is only set to make $10 million in 2014, which is an incredible bargain for a player of his caliber, this number will surely increase to close to $18 million in 2015, which is Davis' last year of arbitration, and after that point, there is little reason to believe Davis won't be able to secure a long term contract from a team with more money than the Orioles. Coming off a 6.8 WAR season in 2013 in which he put up 53 home runs and 138 RBI, Davis' value never has been and never will be any higher. It would be smart for the Orioles to capitalize on this now and take a king's ransom while it is available.
Mets fans everywhere would salivate over the thought of seeing David Wright and Chris Davis hitting back to back as 3 and 4 in the order. What would it take to get it done?
Looking at the Orioles roster, it becomes visible that they have several needs:
1. Starting pitching. The Official Team Depth Chart only lists 4 starting pitchers, as it deals with the loss of free agent Scott Feldman. Bud Norris is a lackluster option, and the Orioles will have to turn to busted prospects Kevin Gausman and Zach Britton for the fifth spot.
2. Corner outfield. While Adam Jones is an elite option in center, Nick Markakis in right is less appealing, coming off a season in which he posted a negative WAR. The Orioles will likely start top prospect Henry Urrutia in left, but he has yet to prove anything at the big league level.
3. First base would obviously be wide open if the Orioles did trade away Chris Davis.
4. The Orioles farm system was ranked 21st in the league by Bleacher Report. Prospects are always good to have.
I propose that the Mets put together a package of the following players for Chris Davis:
Travis d'Arnaud, C
Jon Niese, SP
Cesar Puello, OF
Wilmer Flores, IF
Rafael Montero, SP
Ike Davis, 1B
This trade works for several reasons. The Orioles are currently in a strong position in the league. They are in a position with several up and coming players such as Dylan Bundy, Jonathan Schoop, Manny Machado and Henry Urrutia that will allow them to compete in future years if they play their cards right. However, they are also in win-now mode, with many of their core players set to decline within the next year or two. Adam Jones and Manny Machado will not remain defensive stars forever, as defense tends to peak at a young age. Matt Wieters will eventually start to deteriorate if left behind the dish for too long. This trade puts the Orioles in a position to compete in future years as well as maintaining their ability to compete in 2013.
Jon Niese is a rock solid starting pitcher that is under a team friendly contract and would improve any rotation in the bigs. Ike Davis would provide a huge power potential that could thrive in Camden Yards. He would benefit from a change of scenery and could potentially be the next Chris Davis. Montero and Puello each would drastically improve the farm system of the Orioles and could potentially help the big league team as soon as this year. Montero would fit into the Orioles rotation for years to come along with Niese and Bundy. Puello could use some more seasoning in AAA this year and then would plug into right field perfectly for the Orioles in 2015 once Nick Markakis' contract expires.
Travis d'Arnaud gives the Orioles many options. The Orioles can choose to flip him in another trade to improve their outfield or starting rotation even more. What would be a better option, however, would be to make him the starting catcher, allowing Matt Wieters to get some time at first base and at DH to preserve his health over the long run.
Wilmer Flores would thrive on a team like the Orioles, where he would not have any defined role and could move all around the field to fill multiple positional needs at once. With Manny Machado out for the first few weeks of the 2014 season while recovering from knee surgery, Flores would slot in nicely at third base. He could also take over as the starting second baseman should Jonathan Schoop struggle. In the American League there is a DH, which would also be a possible niche for Flores. Not to mention he would also be able to play first long term if Ike Davis doesn't figure it out or if the Orioles decide to trade Matt Wieters down the line.
As for the Mets, it would not be too difficult to part with these players. One thing that is great about this trade is that it allows the Mets to keep together the power trio of Matt Harvey, Zach Wheeler, and Noah Syndergaard that should become the best rotation in baseball for the next 10 years.
Flores is expendable given the presence of Murphy at second and Wright at third. Niese is a tough guy to lose but we have depth at pitching. Montero is obviously a nice prospect but realistically he wouldn't slot in anywhere long term, with the first 3 slots locked down by the aforementioned trio and then guys like Dillon Gee, Jennry Mejia, Jacob DeGrom and potential free agent signings such as Bronson Arroyo rounding out the rotation.
Puello is far from a sure thing for us. It stinks to give up our best outfield prospect but given that we are acquiring one of the best hitters in baseball it is absolutely worth it.
I would bet that the one player that you guys would most against trading away in this deal would be Travis d'Arnaud. It might seem a bit superfluous and unnecessary for the Orioles given the presence of Matt Wieters, but I tried to explain the reasons d'Arnaud would help the Orioles above. It seemed completely unrealistic to expect to get Davis without giving up Wheeler, Harvey, Syndergaard or d'Arnaud, and I wanted to keep our Big 3 of pitchers together. Kevin Plawecki is looking like a very good catching prospect for the Mets and he should be able to take over the starting role by 2016. Until then, the Mets could sign a free agent catcher like A.J. Pierzynski for a 2 year deal.
The Mets could then use the approximately $20-30 million left over to sign mid-tier free agents to fill the remaining holes. Some guys they could target include Jhonny Peralta at short, Bronson Arroyo or Phil Hughes for the rotation, and Carlos Beltran or Nate McLouth or David Murphy for the outfield. Then we could also trade Lucas Duda for an outfielder like Norichika Aoki. These are just names I picked to fill the spots left over. For the purposes of this post I don't really care if you prefer Beltran or Granderson or Cruz, or if you prefer Peralta or Drew. This is not a full out AAOP. I wanted this post to be around the Chris Davis trade proposal, and I am just trying to illustrate what the team could potentially look like if this trade was made.
A potential 2014 lineup and rotation would look something roughly like this if the Mets were to follow this plan:
1B: Chris Davis
2B: Daniel Murphy
LF: David Murphy
Overall, I don't think this trade is too unbalanced or unfair, and I think it certainly benefits both teams. What do you all think?