As reported just about everywhere on the internet, the New York Mets are highly unlikely to sign any more players before pitchers and catchers report to Port St. Lucie in a couple of weeks. Fortunately, that is not the only way to add talent to the roster. There are also trades (or TRAIDS if you prefer). So let's take a look at the Mets' current 40-man roster and rank them in order of trade value.
Fungible middle relievers
40. Akeel Morris
39. Dario Alvarez
38. Erik Goeddel
37. Sean Gilmartin
36. Jack Leathersich
These aren't the five players most likely to be punted off the 40-man roster by Opening Day (though Alvarez, Gilmartin, and Goeddel certainly might be on the chopping block), but they all fit into a tidy tier of pitchers that don't have much trade value because every other organization has similar arms clogging up the back end of their 40-man roster; or, as in Akeel Morris's case, featuring in their Carolina or Florida State League bullpens. If you want to throw a precise trade value on these guys, Gonzalez Germen brought back "cash considerations" after he was designated for assignment. That's also the point in time when this type of player typically gets traded.
Fungible bench guys
35. Eric Campbell
34. Anthony Recker
Like the arms above (or, according to value, below) them, there just isn't much need to trade for Reckers and Campbells. You can find a backup catcher or righty four-corners bat among the usual non-roster-invitee types, or again around Opening Day as teams cull their 40-man. That's not to say they have no major league value, especially at pre-arbitration salaries, just that they're not a pressing need for most organizations.
33. Wilfredo Tovar
Tovar lands at the top of this tier because he is a good glove at a premium position, but you can apply the above comments about Recker and Campbell to him as well.
Your 24th and 25th men?
32. Josh Edgin
31. Matt den Dekker
A pair of players who have had a bit of major league success, but are older than you think. And again, most teams have guys like this hanging around camp on the fringes of their 40-man roster.
Would be higher if not for that pesky elbow
30. Bobby Parnell
Based on his "stuff" and track record, Parnell would be in the mix with the rest of the Mets' late-inning bullpen arms on this list, but teams aren't going to trade for a guy still in the midst of Tommy John rehab, especially not at the price they settled on for his final season of arbitration..
Useful bench pieces
29. Ruben Tejada
Once and future MLB relievers with a lot of team control left
28. Hansel Robles
27. Cory Mazzoni
26. Vic Black
These are potentially better bullpen arms than the group at the top of the list. Again, most clubs have pitchers like this, but you can always use an extra arm with a plus fastball. Any of the three could be an "extra guy in a deal."
The fourth-outfielder brigade
25. Kirk Nieuwenhuis
24. Cesar Puello
23. John Mayberry Jr.
Puello could be ten spots higher or ten spots lower depending on how you feel about his tools (or how likely you think it is he turns into John Mayberry Jr. in a few years). Kirk is the more established version of den Dekker. You still get plenty of team control with Bonesaw along with a bit more evidence he can hit major league pitching. We are still in "extra guy in a deal" range here. Maybe Puello could be the third piece in a blockbuster if a team really buys in.
The veterans with questionable contracts
22. Curtis Granderson
If you want to use a strict $/WAR framework, Granderson is probably too high here. His contract with the Mets was slightly backloaded, so he is still owed $47 million through 2017. He was worth about a win by all your favorite WAR metrics in 2014, and both Steamer and ZiPS project only a small bounceback. That's suboptimal. However, he is a proven major league commodity with power from the left side. That makes him more valuable than all the cheaper options behind him on this list. The Mets would have to eat some money, but teams would probably at least be intrigued at three years and $30 million.
21. Michael Cuddyer
The Mets can't trade Cuddyer until we're well into the season, but right-handed power is currently in demand. The Rockies at least were willing to commit one year and $15 million for him, so $16 million over a year and a half might be agreeable to a team needing a bit of pop in July.
Cheapish back-end starters
20. Dillon Gee
19. Bartolo Colon
Mets fans probably believe Colon and Gee will bring back more than they actually will. Both are best off in bigger (ideally National League) parks with a couple of speedy outfielders behind them. That theoretically (Hi, Colorado!) limits your suitors. Even so, it sure looks like at least Gee won't make it to Port St. Lucie, but don't expect a return along the lines of "intriguing arm in short-season ball."
Cromulent MLB relievers
18. Carlos Torres
17. Jeurys Familia
Useful relievers with a lot of team control left. I might be underestimating Familia's value some, but there are some red flags in his 2014 numbers, a history of health issues, and a short major league track record. The usual caveat about projecting the next 50 innings of any reliever applies here as well.
Pitching prospects that won't make Top 100 lists
16. Gabriel Ynoa
15. Rafael Montero
Ynoa is the toughest ranking on this list. He's a prospect, but he's not a Top 100 type. He's reasonably close to the majors, but the stuff needs a bit more refinement. I've compared him to Montero for years, but there is likely still a sizable gap in trade value between the two. Then again, it only takes one team to really buy in. If they do, I could see Ynoa being the second piece in a deal for a major league regular.
Like Ynoa, Montero is not going to bring back a huge haul by himself, but combine him with a top-five prospect in the system, and you can probably get something pretty nice. He's Gee with a bit more upside and more years of control, but more risk for the buyer given his lower floor.
The square pegs
14. Wilmer Flores
Flores is in a weird spot: No longer a prospect, not yet an established major leaguer. A team that can fit him in at third and let him develop a bit might get rewarded, but they might not. Still enough prospect sheen he could probably be the second guy in a deal even though we have started to see some of the warts.
13. Jon Niese
"But look at Niese's contract," you all yell at me. Here is the thing about his deal: At the time it was signed, Sandy Alderson said they came to the dollar figures based on the idea that Niese wouldn't improve. If he didn't, the deal wouldn't be an overpay, and any improvements would make it a steal.
Well, Niese hasn't really improved since then. He has thrown 520 innings over the first three (very cheap) years of the contract. During that time, his strikeout and walk rates have hovered around league average, and the velocity drop in 2014 should scare teams off given his injury history. He's owed $15 million over the last two guaranteed years of the deal, and we might just need to call him what he is now: a number-four starter with some durability questions. As with Colon and Gee, I think Mets fans will be disappointed with what the market will bear for Niese.
12. Jenrry Mejia
You could argue that the only difference between Mejia and Familia is a handful of saves. You'd probably be right (though I think Mejia is a better pitcher), but the industry still pays a premium for 'proven closers.'
11. Daniel Murphy
Like Niese, Murphy's $8 million deal this year, his third and final season of arbitration, isn't a "steal." You also only get him for this year, and he's not a great qualifying offer candidate. But if you are going for it in 2015 and need to upgrade from a black hole at second or third base (Hi, Toronto!), Murphy is one of the safer bets out there to be a solid-average major leaguer with no onerous long-term commitment.
10. Steven Matz
I really like Steven Matz. I considered putting him at #1 on my Mets prospect list this year, but I can't say for certain how other front offices rate him. He does seem to be the consensus #2 prospect in the system, and will likely land somewhere in the 50-90 range on national Top 100 lists (or not at all). However, he's a bit further from the majors than the prospects ranked ahead of him on this list, and I don't know if he's the centerpiece of a deal that brings back an impact major leaguer. He might be, I just don't know.
Ask me again after 2015
9. Lucas Duda
Someone (we won't name names) might have suggested back in April on the flagship podcast of this site that there was no way Lucas Duda would be the Opening Day first baseman for the 2015 Mets. That dude is pretty dumb. However, one good season does not necessairly conjure a bustling trade market, and anyway, Duda is more valuable to the Mets than he would be to most other teams.
8. Dilson Herrera
I have found that the people who like Herrera, really like Herrera. I like Herrera, but I'm not quite ready to sign on for 'really like.' I wonder if the high-hand load and overly mechanical swing get exposed over more major league time, and he's not a great defensive infielder at present. But for the purposes of this list, he is a global Top 100 prospect, close to major league ready, and didn't look overmatched in his 2014 cup of coffee. Herrera's trade value may never be higher.
7. Juan Lagares
That last sentence applies to Juan Lagares as well. He has more of a major league track record than Herrera, but the vast majority of Lagares's "value" is tied up in shiny defensive metrics. If you believe Lagares is a historically great center fielder (seriously, like top-five in history by baseball-reference's dWAR), then it doesn't really matter if he hits .242/.281/.352 like he did in 2013. If you see him as "merely" a plus-plus defender, he's going to have to hit more like his 2014 season. Either way, glove-first guys with team control tend not to bring back as much in trade as you would think based on the raw WAR totals.
6. Noah Syndergaard
I might be a bit of an outlier having Syndergaard ranked below the big three young arms, but major league outs matter. Until Syndergaard starts racking them up, count me among the guys that would rather have the major league arms, even if you are sacrificing a year or two of control.
He's not getting traded, but...
5. David Wright
An aspect of string theory holds that there are finite combinations of atoms possible and an infinite universe. Thus, every possible universe must exist somewhere within our own universe (at least that is what I gleaned from the RadioLab episode about this). Anyway, that means there is a universe where the cash-strapped Mets committed to a full rebuild and traded David Wright in the 2012 offseason instead of offering him an extension.
I am fine with my lot in universes, because David Wright is awesome, but the Mets have already wasted the two years of the deal where he was most likely to be very good. Now his trade value is at a relative low point (on my hypothetical 2014 rankings David Wright ranks ahead of everyone other than Matt Harvey, and even that might be negotiable). He still ranks this highly in 2015 because he was one of the 20 best players in the game a year ago, and the contract isn't all that bad for a team with an actual nine-figure budget.
So you want Troy Tulowitzki
4. Travis d'Arnaud
He could also fit into "Ask me again after 2015" due to his long injury history and short major league track record, but he's a catcher. Nobody has enough catchers.
3. Jacob deGrom
2. Zack Wheeler
If you want to flip deGrom and Wheeler, I have no real quarrel with you. deGrom has an extra year of control and in a limited sample has been the better major league pitcher. He's shown more fastball command and a more advanced changeup, and those are pretty good markers in favor of his being better going forward. deGrom might have already had his best major league season, but even if that is the case, I'd expect him to settle in as a good #3 starter. That is incredibly valuable.
So why can't I pull the trigger on him at #2? A lot of this is my wishcasting on Wheeler the prospect and hanging on to the old scouting cliché that power pitchers can take longer to put it together than others. So I may end up a year too late on this totally non-binding trade value list. I suppose I will be able to sleep at night.
1. Matt Harvey
Yes, he is coming off Tommy John surgery. I don't want to hand-wave that even though it is more routine than it once was. Harvey is the only player on this list that is both cost-controlled and has recent elite-level performance on his résumé. That gets you here without too much rumination on the author's part.