The Mets are incredibly unlikely to contend for even the National League's second wild card spot this year. They are likely, however, to attempt to trade some of their players for other players who can help the team in 2014 and beyond. Bobby Parnell seems like a player they'd be able to trade.
Drafted by the Mets in the ninth round of the 2005 amateur draft, Parnell made it to the big leagues in 2008 and became a regular big league pitcher the following year. He has a 3.71 ERA for his career, but that number is still slightly inflated by the Mets' failed experiment to use him as a starting pitcher late in the miserable 2009 season. In 255.0 career innings out of the bullpen, Parnell has a 3.11 ERA with 234 strikeouts and 90 walks. He was particularly effective last year and has continued to be this year.
Parnell is earning $1.7 million this year, the first that he was eligible for arbitration. He's due for his second and third arbitration raises in 2014 and 2015. Aside from a blood clot in one of his fingers that cost him a little over a month early in 2011, he's avoided injury.
Mets general manger Sandy Alderson reportedly isn't shopping Parnell, but there's no reason to believe that the 28-year-old right-handed pitcher wouldn't be traded for a good return. The Mets' bullpen has been a weakness for years, and there's no doubt that Parnell is the team's best reliever. But he's still just that: a relief pitcher who throws, at most, 70 innings per season. If Parnell can fetch an everyday position player—something the Mets lack outside of David Wright—there's no question he should be dealt.
The Trade Market
The Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox are two contending teams that could use help at the back end of the bullpen. Jose Valverde has been terrible for the Tigers, and the Red Sox haven't had a steady closer since the season began. On top of those teams, the Indians, Orioles, and Reds rank in the bottom half of baseball in bullpen ERA. Parnell might not be a closer on any of those teams—especially Cincinnati—but could be a setup guy for all of them.
The Mets could use help at almost every position on the diamond. They're set at third base and clearly intend to give Travis d'Arnaud the opportunity to be the long-term solution behind the plate. Outfielders, middle infielders, and first basemen figure to appeal to them.
The Red Sox have two prospects that would fit the Mets' needs: shortstop Xander Bogaerts and outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. Bogaerts is 20 years old and put up a .909 OPS in Double-A before a promotion to Triple-A. Since then, he's had just a .754 OPS, but that's not bad for such a young shortstop at that level. Bradley didn't do well in the big leagues to start the 2013 season, but he's hit .304/.395/.509 in Triple-A at the age of 23. He would instantly be the Mets' top outfield prospect.
It'd be pretty shocking if Boston parted with either player for a relief pitcher, but maybe they'll be in the mood to revisit the 1990 trade that sent Jeff Bagwell to the Astros for 22.0 innings of work from relief pitcher Larry Andersen.
As for the Tigers, John Sickels listed two outfielders as their top prospects coming into the season: Nick Castellanos and Avisail Garcia. Castellanos has an .866 OPS in Triple-A Toledo this year at the age of 21. Garcia has raked at that level with a 1.022 OPS at the age of 22, but he's done so over just 51 plate appearances and didn't hit much in the minors until last year.
Again, it would be surprising if Sandy Alderson were able to turn Parnell into either player, but most experts didn't think the Mets could acquire Travis d'Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, or Zack Wheeler over the past couple of years. If any of the four aforementioned prospects were available, Parnell would likely be on his way out.