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Potential waiver wire opportunities for the Mets

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The non-waiver wire trading deadline passed by on July 31 with the Mets standing pat. Are there any viable remaining waiver wire opportunities?

Mitchell Leff

For the remainder of the season, teams are able to continue trading via the waiver wire, although players traded after August 31 cannot play in the postseason of the same season. As the waiver wire rules and process can be confusing at times, here are the general rules:

  • Any player on any team can be placed on waivers; if a player is waived, any team can claim him.
  • If a claim is made, there are three options:
    1. A trade can be made between the waiving and claiming teams within two days of the claim.
    2. The waiving team can pull back the player from waivers, canceling the waiver.
    3. The waiving team can allow the claiming team to take the player and his contract for a small waiver fee.
  • If the player clears waivers, he can be traded at any time for the remainder of the season.

During this time of the season, most players get placed on waivers; only some are intended to be traded, while the majority will just be pulled back from waivers. Let’s take a look at the Mets’ roster situation and see if any waiver wire moves could make sense for the team.

The Mets have surplus pitching and have needs primarily at shortstop and left field

Most of the buzz surrounding the Mets is in regards to their pitching—the team has both a blossoming core of young power arms and contributing veterans. The future seems to be centered around some combination of Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, and Rafael Montero, while the Mets still are carrying Jonathon Niese, Bartolo Colon, and Dillon Gee as useful, established pitchers. Throw in some more names in the pipeline, like Steve Matz and Matthew Bowman, and the Mets can arguably afford to move some pitchers. Trading the younger studs via waivers doesn’t really make any sense, while trading the veterans may make sense.

On the hitting side, the Mets are a bit empty both at shortstop and in left field. Ruben Tejada hasn’t been much better than replacement level, and as such, his playing time has yielded to Wilmer Flores’s. Although Flores is offensively talented, we haven’t yet seen the talent translate to major league success. Combined with Flores’s poor defensive reputation, if a clear upgrade exists at shortstop, the Mets should be inclined to consider it. Left field has been a rotating door with the likes of Bobby Abreu, Eric Young Jr., Eric Campbell, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, and most recently, Matt den Dekker. Although den Dekker has made some adjustments and may become a viable left field option, his potential production is still relatively unknown.

With that, let’s first begin with players the Mets may trade via waivers.

Bartolo Colon (P), New York Mets

Colon was a trade candidate for the July deadline and was not traded, but he still remains a prime candidate for a waiver wire move. With Colon’s 2015 salary of $11 million and the Mets’ pitching surplus, it certainly makes sense for the Mets to move him. Despite his age, at 41 years old, Colon has still proven to be a serviceable arm, posting a 3.85 ERA and 3.40 FIP this season in 24 starts for 2.1 WAR. There are always teams in need of pitching, so possible contenders like the Orioles and the Royals could use Colon.

Jonathon Niese (P), New York Mets

Niese has been mentioned less in trade talk, but he still makes sense as a candidate primarily due to his value. Generally speaking, Niese has been reliable for 1.5 to 2.5 WAR each season in the past few years. At the same time, he has a team-friendly contract; he is set to make $7 million in 2015 and $9 million in 2016, along with two team options for 2017 and 2018, valued at $10 million and $10.5 million, respectively, with a $500,000 buyout. Niese can be useful to not only a current contender, but almost any team that could benefit from an additional quality pitcher. For the right return, the Mets should consider moving Niese; otherwise, he can help anchor the future Mets staff as a veteran presence.

While Curtis Granderson is another Met whose name is floating around, he is unlikely to be dealt. Now let’s look at some potential acquisition targets.

Daniel Nava (OF), Boston Red Sox

Daniel Nava, primarily a corner outfielder, was recently put on waivers by the Red Sox. Nava is slashing .267/.342/.342 this year for a .310 wOBA, a bit down from his career line of .273/.363/.398 for a .339 wOBA. Nava could be a useful option because he is under team control through 2017 and has yet to even hit his arbitration years, which begin in 2015. Although he looks like a two-WAR player over a full season, the fact that he is already 31 years old must be taken into consideration.

The Red Sox can afford to move Nava because of their outfield depth, which includes Shane Victorino, Yoenis Cespedes, and Allen Craig. A necessary return to pry Nava away could include some of the Mets' pitching depth—possibly someone less heralded, such as a Matthew Bowman. The Red Sox can also use some catching help, so Kevin Plawecki remains a trade option as well, albeit a somewhat pricey option for the Mets.

Matt Joyce (OF), Tampa Bay Rays

A small upgrade over Nava, Joyce is batting this season not too far from his career line of .254/.354/.451 for a wOBA of .346 with below-average left field defense. Joyce makes sense as a short-term band-aid, as he has one arbitration year remaining. However, his isolated power numbers have been steadily declining each year since his debut, and his performance this year is buoyed by a .340 BABIP, so the value of his 2015 production is somewhat questionable.

The Rays, like the Red Sox, have outfield depth, complete with Desmond Jennings, Wil Myers, and Kevin Kiermaier. Also, because of their small payroll, the Rays may not want to pay a salary likely around $5 million for Joyce next year. Joyce likely commands a mid-level prospect to be moved.

Alexei Ramirez (SS), Chicago White Sox

An above-average contributor at shortstop, Ramirez provides a clear upgrade over either Tejada or present-day Flores. A good defensive shortstop and a consistently serviceable hitter, slashing .279/.316/.405 for his career for a .316 wOBA, Ramirez will make $10 million next year with a $10 million team option for 2016, or a $1 million buyout. An average of three WAR over each of the next two seasons appears to be a reasonable projection.

The White Sox are in a rebuilding phase right now and shedding some of Ramirez’s salary for more talent upgrades may make sense. However, they would likely need a pretty good return for Ramirez, possibly Plawecki and a pitcher. In addition, the White Sox don’t have any clear internal shortstop options beyond Tim Anderson, whose future seems to be at another position.

Will Venable (OF), San Diego Padres

Right now, Venable is a terrible hitter on a terribly-hitting team. Trading for a .226/.287/.323 hitter? Yuck! Never mind.

Well, let’s keep in mind that this has been Venable’s only down year in his career. He’s hit .253/.317/.417 for his career while playing the cavernous Petco Park. In 2012 and 2013, Venable was actually pretty good at hitting baseballs, so there’s room for optimism. Venable has been playing both center field and right field in his career quite decently, though he or Granderson would likely have to shift to left. Like Joyce, Venable also appears as a cheap 2015 band-aid, accompanied by a $4.2 million salary.

While the Padres need every hit and walk they can get, they are still clearly rebuilding. Venable likely won’t be helping the Padres long-term at all unless he gets traded. One low-to-mid-level prospect also likely gets the deal done here.

Honorable Mentions: Alex Rios (OF), Rangers, Drew Stubbs (OF), Rockies, Seth Smith (OF), Padres

These three players also warrant some attention but are probably quite unlikely targets for the Mets. Rios is due $13.5 million next year with a $1 million buyout and has had a terrible, replacement-level 2014; but he has frequently rebounded from terrible seasons in the past. This time, however, his power has vanished unlike it has in previous seasons. Stubbs is a pretty good defensive outfielder with one more year of team control left, but his value is highly tied to his volatile seasonal BABIP and ability to hit home runs. Lastly, Smith will likely come back down to earth next season and has a pretty high $13 million left on his contract through 2016 with a $7 million team option for 2017, or a $200,000 buyout.

Predicted Waiver Wire Trade Outcome: Colon gets moved for a mid-level prospect, while the Mets stand pat in terms of acquiring hitters. While some of the aforementioned hitters may be decent targets, it’s another question whether or not the Mets can even claim them off waivers.