As May winds down, the Mets find themselves five games over .500, a solid position in the league standings. The Amazins have weathered the most brutal slate of injuries in all of baseball, and are winning games mostly because of dominant young pitching. Given that trade season is approaching, it's time to start thinking about possible upgrades.
Coming into the season, everyone and their grandmother knew the Mets' offense would be their biggest area of concern. That weakness has only been exacerbated by long-term injuries to both David Wright and Travis d'Arnaud. Here, we'll profile some of the better position player trade targets who could help the Mets' offense as they make their playoff push.
Guerrero has been dynamite off the Dodgers' bench, hitting .290/.323/.656 with nine home runs and a 168 wRC+. It's only a 99 plate appearance sample, but the Cuban utility player would almost certainly be an offensive upgrade over Eric Campbell on the Mets' bench. Defensively, Guerrero has been awful in left field and solid at third base, though the sample size is too small to judge. The scouting reports were never very friendly to Guerrero's defense, but he can probably fake it at second base in short stretches and cover first, third, and left field adequately.
What the Dodgers will ask in return for Guerrero is not immediately clear. They certainly have a surplus of position player talent, which will only become more apparent when Yasiel Puig returns from the disabled list and when top prospect Corey Seager gets promoted from Triple-A. The Dodgers also have a clear need for back-of-the-rotation depth. After losing Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy, the Dodgers are relying on Brett Anderson (almost a sure bet to get injured) and Carlos Frias (a struggling rookie with poor peripherals). Guerrero has an interesting clause in his contract that makes him a free agent at the end of the season if traded, which complicates the projections of any potential trade. Still, there seems to be something of a fit here and a chance for the Mets to significantly upgrade their bench while dealing from their pitching surplus.
Segura exploded onto the scene in the first half of 2013, hitting 11 home runs and posting a 133 wRC+. Since then, he has crashed back down to earth. His 56 wRC+ in the second half of 2013 improved only slightly in 2014 to 67, though he was likely influenced by the loss of his infant son. This year, Segura is hitting better with a 97 wRC+. His defense has never been particularly good, and is rated negatively this year. With his steal totals down, he has been worth 0.3 fWAR so far this season.
Of course, any warm body that plays shortstop will be of interest to Mets fans. Wilmer Flores has been slightly worse by wRC+, and Segura is almost assuredly a better defensive player. Still, the upgrade is fairly marginal, and the Brewers would probably demand a large return for their young, cost-controlled shortstop. When considering additionally that Segura is a very impatient hitter who doesn't really conform to the Mets' philosophies on offense, this fit seems unlikely.
Since joining the Dodgers, Turner has hit .331/.400/.501 in 435 plate appearances, hitting well enough to establish himself as the Dodgers' everyday third baseman. There was some significant BABIP luck (.404) in 2014 and HR/FB% luck (17.2%) in 2015, but Turner certainly looks the part of a solid right-handed bat who plays a solid defensive third base.
With their recent trade of Juan Uribe, it's not clear how willing the Dodgers would be to move Turner. Yes, they got back a replacement third baseman in Alberto Callaspo, but Turner was starting every day before the trade, and the move emphasizes the front office's confidence in him. If the Dodgers do choose to move him anyway, the Mets could again offer some pitching in return.
The sabermetric darling of the last ten years, Zobrist has consistently delivered under-the-radar value thanks to his defensive versatility and sneaky good offense. He's now 34, coming off a knee injury, and will be a free agent this upcoming offseason. His numbers are down in 79 plate appearances this year. Nonetheless, Zobrist could be an extremely valuable super utility player for the Mets.
If Wright can't make it back this season, Zobrist can fill the void by pushing Murphy to third base. If Wright is able to contribute, Zobrist can bounce around second base, shortstop, left field, and right field, spelling veterans days of rest when necessary. Every projection system believes Zobrist can get back above a 110 wRC+ for the rest of the season, so he should make some solid offensive contributions going forward.
Zobrist might not be a slam dunk to receive a qualifying offer at this point of his career, but if Oakland believes he can net them a draft pick—or if they're okay paying him $15 million next season—the Mets will have to trade a bit extra. Recent news also suggests that the Cubs covet Zobrist, and they certainly have a strong enough farm system to push the price higher. But Zobrist is the sort of piece that could really solidify a Mets team that has been hit hard by injury, and could serve as great insurance in case any other major contributor goes down. Perhaps a deal based around Rafael Montero or Kevin Plawecki could bring Zobrist to New York.
An unheralded prospect in the Astros' system, outfielder Preston Tucker never got much fanfare. Kiley McDaniel marked him as a role-four player prior to 2015, while Jon Sickels graded him as a C+ prospect lacking tools, but who could be a bench bat. Since debuting, Tucker has done his best to prove the analysts wrong, hitting .306/.377/.516 with a pair of home runs and a 152 wRC+ in 60 plate appearances. Tucker's BABIP is an inflated .354, likely because he's been hitting more than half of his batted balls on the ground. He's not quite this good, but he should hit a couple more home runs despite the drop in rate stats.
The Astros are contending a few years ahead of schedule, perhaps vindicating their much-maligned front office. Houston has something of a crowded outfield, with George Springer, Colby Rasmus, Jake Marisnick, and Robbie Grossman in the mix, in addition to Tucker. They also have top prospect Domingo Santana mashing in Triple-A, meaning that Houston clearly has outfield depth to spare. And, like the Dodgers, the Astros have a need for some starting pitching help. Dillon Gee, Jon Niese, or Montero could interest them enough to part with the surprising Tucker, who could be a good left-handed bat off the Mets' bench or even a potential platoon mate for Cuddyer.
Parra is another of many trade candidates currently on an awful Brewers team. He's batting .275/.302/.435. A left-handed platoon bat, Parra is basically useless against same-handed pitchers, but his success against righties would be welcome additions to the Mets' bench. Parra also has a long-standing reputation as a strong defensive player; that said, the metrics were not fond of his work in 2014, nor are they fond of the small 2015 sample.
Parra is a pending free agent who has an outside shot at garnering a qualifying offer if he maintains his current offensive output. If the Brewers were to make one, Parra is the kind of player that is probably better off accepting, which makes it unlikely Milwaukee will be able to get a high draft pick out of him. As such, the acquisition cost should be fairly low, protecting the Mets' best prospects for potential use in other deals.
This is definitely one of the more interesting trade targets to consider. Braun had an awful year by his standards last season and still hit for a 114 wRC+. An injury to a nerve in his thumb bothered him since 2013, but he seems to finally be past the issue: this year, Braun is hitting .264/.340/.506 with a 127 wRC+, a return to the excellence he displayed from 2007 to 2013. He would be an instant upgrade in left field, possibly providing the Mets the star-quality bat they need to be serious contenders.
Unfortunately, there are two elephants in the room. The first is Braun's history with steroids. Given that he is hated more than the average offender due to his antics after being caught, giving up talent for Braun might irk many fans the wrong way. On-field performance is all that matters, but it's understandable why other fans would be upset. The second, and bigger, issue is Braun's large contract. Already 31 years old, Braun is due $105 million from 2016 to 2020 (with some portion deferred). That's a huge chunk of cash, and it's easy to make an argument similar to the one against acquiring Troy Tulowitzki. It's worth noting that Braun plays a much less demanding position and has a much, much cleaner injury history than does Tulo. Braun could age along the lines of Matt Holliday, who has more than lived up the the large contract the Cardinals gave him back in 2009.
It's difficult to predict what sort of package the Mets would have to cobble together to land Braun. Milwaukee could believe his contract is long enough that he'll be around and productive by the time they have a good team again. Alternatively, the Brewers could look to shed the large amount of money owed to Braun at a reduced cost. In any case, if the prospect cost gets too extreme, the Mets should back away; giving up young talent for the right to pay Braun a large amount of money in his decline years is a very risky proposition.
The former Mets prospect got off to a slow start this year, but has since been rebounding. He's currently on pace for 15-to-20 home runs and a similar number of stolen bases, with an average in the .280 range and a walk rate (4.1%) unusually low, even by his standards. While the defensive metrics haven't liked him so far this year, he's been one of the best non-Lagares center fielders in baseball over the past few seasons. Undoubtedly a superstar player, Gomez would add an immediate impact bat to the Mets' lineup. Gomez is signed for $8 million this year and $9 million in 2016, an extremely affordable price tag.
The biggest problem with Gomez is his likely acquisition cost. It's hard to imagine a deal in which the Mets acquire Gomez without giving up Steven Matz—and given that it's equally hard to imagine paying Gomez come 2017, surrendering a top pitching prospect for two years of a player (plus the compensatory draft pick) is extremely difficult to swallow. Perhaps Sandy Alderson can work some of his trade magic, but there will surely be other suitors making strong offers. If the Mets are in a position where one offensive piece is the difference between making the playoffs and missing for the ninth straight season, then giving up Matz is probably the right move. Still, it's definitely something that could come back to bite the team in the long run.
Reddick got off to a torrid start in April and has since cooled off in May. He has more walks than strikeouts and a very reasonable .308 BABIP for the season. The only metric that suggests some regression could be coming is his 12.1% HR/FB rate, which is higher than his career average and the marks he's posted in the last two seasons. Reddick also has a reputation as a strong defensive outfielder, though he was mediocre in 2014 and negative so far in 2015 by defensive metrics. He needs to be platooned, but he (201 wRC+ versus right-handed pitchers) and Cuddyer (121 wRC+ versus lefties) could perform an extremely effective outfield tandem.
Reddick is making $4.1 million this year and is arbitration-eligible in 2016. He will most likely receive a qualifying offer, and any team acquiring him would also have the chance to make an offer next year. Thus, Reddick's trade value is probably a bit higher than people expect, especially given his hot start. Billy Beane is the most unpredictable GM in sports, so it's impossible to guess what prospects he'd want in return. While Matz might not be necessary, the Mets would likely have to give up at least one top prospect.