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Mets winter meetings: Starlin Castro, trade target

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The Mets have a hole at shortstop, the Cubs have surplus of shortstops including Starlin Castro.

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Since Jose Reyes left after the 2011 season, the Mets have employed a group of shortstops that have left a lot to be desired. Currently, they have two options on the team who could fill the position in 2015.

Ruben Tejada is the more experienced option. After promising seasons in 2011 and 2012, Tejada's offensive production plummeted in 2013. He lost playing time to the likes of Omar Quintanilla and was even dispatched to Triple-A Las Vegas. Yet he could be a cheap option as backup infielder if need be.

Wilmer Flores is the younger alternative and offers more offensive upside but a more limited defensive profile. He was given the reins to the shortstop position toward the end of the 2014 season and hit .251/.286/.378. While his fielding as quantified by various metrics wasn't terrible, his lack of range was clear to anyone watching. A team built around pitching might not be best served by a defensively challenged shortstop. That, coupled with questions about how his bat will actually develop, makes Flores a less than exciting option for the starting shortstop role.

With the winter meetings approaching, there are teams with whom the Mets could look to make a trade. A team that matches up very well with the Mets is the Cubs, who have a stable of shortstops spanning the majors and minors that would make any team jealous. Included in this group are prospects Addison Russell and Javier Baez. Russell came to the Cubs this past season in a blockbuster trade with the Athletics and put up great numbers across two levels. Baez was drafted in 2011 and made his major league debut in 2014. While questions surround his ability to hit for average and the defensive position he will ultimately play, no one questions his prodigious power.

With these top-notch prospects on the cusp of being major league regulars, the Mets should target the Cubs' current starting shortstop, Starlin Castro. Despite being only 24 years old, Castro just finished his fifth season in the major leagues. Excluding his dreadful 2013, his lowest batting average for a season is .283. He has also shown some pop with a career slugging percentage of .410. He is signed through 2019, taking him through some of his prime years at a reasonable price.

Castro will not be cheap, but the Mets have the assets to pull off a trade. The Cubs have several holes in their starting rotation so any deal will have to start with one of the top pitchers in the Mets’ system. Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, and Jacob deGrom appear to be virtually untouchable. In particular, deGrom’s emergence as a front-line starter makes parting with top prospect Noah Syndergaard much more palatable. After Syndergaard, the Mets could offer further pitching depth to the Cubs in the form of one of their back-end starters. Either Dillon Gee or Jon Niese would make sense for the Mets owing to their crowded starting rotation, and for the Cubs as relatively cheap veteran pitchers.

Moving away from pitching, the Mets could also offer decent position prospects to get the deal done. Kevin Plawecki would be a natural choice as a good catching prospect whose position at the major league level is currently blocked by Travis d'Arnaud. Finally, an outfield prospect like Brandon Nimmo, who is coming off a solid season across two levels, could seal the deal.

A price of Syndergaard, Niese/Gee, Plawecki, and Nimmo would certainly be high, but Starlin Castro would fill a hole in the Mets' lineup that has been about as non-threatening as it gets since Jose Reyes left. Adding Castro would help the Mets take the next step to become a contender.