Baseball's winter meetings begin next Monday, December 8, in San Diego. The Mets have several positions of depth to potentially deal from in pursuit of building the 2015 team into a playoff contender. The following is an overview of those positions, with a particular focus on players who are established major leaguers or are or close to major league-ready.
There is nothing new to say here. The Mets have a surplus of starting pitchers, most of whom any team would love to have. As such, any one of Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom, or Noah Syndergaard could probably serve as the centerpiece of a blockbuster trade—and the Mets would still have the depth to address the loss, with the possible exception of Harvey (because players like Harvey really can’t be replaced). Blockbusters aside, the Mets could also deal from any one or several of Bartolo Colon, Jonathon Niese, or Dillon Gee, to say nothing of Rafael Montero or the several promising starting pitchers who will likely play next season in Single-A and Double-A.
Relative to years gone by, the Mets' outfield is an area of organizational depth. Fan favorite Juan Lagares just won his first (well-deserved) Gold Glove award and appears to be firmly entrenched as the Mets' center fielder for years to come. Lagares is one of the best—if not the best—defensive center fielders in baseball, he is young, and he is under team control. In other words, in view of this exercise, his trade value is probably high.
Lagares's modest offensive output last year—.281/.321/.380, with a customarily low 4.4 BB% and customarily high 19.2 K%—was driven in large part by a .341 BABIP that may or may not be sustainable going forward. Thus, the Mets could be tempted to sell high, sacrificing Lagares's elite defense in order to upgrade offensively at a position of need, like shortstop. In such an event, either Matt den Dekker (an outstanding defensive player in his own right) or Kirk Nieuwenhuis would probably be expected to take the reins of center field for the time being.
A less drastic—and possibly more palatable—scenario would see the Mets trade away one of den Dekker or Nieuwenhuis. Both players appear capable of stepping in as a fourth or fifth outfielder on a big league team; but, as they are both left-handed hitters, they represent a redundancy on the Mets' roster.
Another outfield chip for the Mets is 2011 first-round pick Brandon Nimmo. Nimmo had an encouraging season in 2014 that, among other things, yielded the long-anticipated uptick in his power game. Nimmo is likely to begin 2015 in Triple-A and is only a call away from contributing at the major league level. Nimmo's loss would undoubtedly sting, but would also be assuaged somewhat by the presence of 2014 first-round pick Michael Conforto, who, as an advanced college bat and left fielder, is a fast-track type of prospect who could soon match or eclipse Nimmo’s production.
Whether you’re a member of the Irish Hammer Fan Club or consider him an overrated hitter with a lamentable lack of power and patience, the fact remains that Daniel Murphy is an above-average major league second baseman. Murphy's defense at second base is subpar, but he makes up for it with his bat, as evidenced by his 2.8 fWAR in 2014.
Murphy's durability, consistency, and positional versatility could make him an attractive option for teams seeking help at second or third base. Were the Mets to deal Murphy, they could replace him with either Wilmer Flores or Dilson Herrera—either of whom could probably play comparable second base defense while falling short of Murphy's offensive output in 2015 (although, of course, anything is possible). Given the Mets' aspirations for contention in 2015, they probably do not have the luxury of making a Daniel Murphy trade in a vacuum, i.e., without a substantial upgrade elsewhere to make up for the loss of his bat in the lineup.
Teams in search of young starting catchers with strong offensive profiles could very well seek to pry away one of Travis d'Arnaud or Kevin Plawecki, and the Mets could very well listen, depending on the offer. Plawecki lacks d'Arnaud's power and, by most accounts, is an inferior defender, but he is also two years younger than d'Arnaud, has been healthier, and is no slouch as a hitter. The Mets' front office is said to be very high on Plawecki, who, among other things, is a reassuring organizational hedge against the very real possibility of future injuries to d'Arnaud.
In d'Arnaud, the Mets have a promising catcher with elite pitch-framing skills who availed himself nicely at the plate following a brief demotion to Triple-A in 2014. If d'Arnaud stays healthy, continues where he left off offensively, and holds steady or improves behind the dish, he will be an All-Star and an invaluable player for the Mets in 2015 and beyond. The price for either Plawecki or d'Arnaud will be appropriately high, but if the return on such a deal enabled the Mets to substantially improve the team for 2015, they could be tempted to pull the trigger.