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What to do with Bartolo Colon and Jon Niese?

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A rash of injuries has made Colon and Niese less expendable than we originally thought they'd be. But, given the Mets' pitching depth and need to add a bat, their back-end starters could still be on the table.

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With less than 24 hours to go until this year’s trade deadline, the Mets appear to be in the hunt for one more bat. Earlier in the season, conventional wisdom had the Mets dealing one of their surplus arms—be it Dillon Gee, Bartolo Colon, or Jon Niese, for some offensive support.

That's no longer such an obvious move. The Mets are just two games out of the division race and have exactly five available, reliable major league starters: Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Colon, and Niese. Gee’s demotion to Triple-A, along with the injuries of Rafael Montero and Steven Matz, make the idea of "surplus" starting pitching moot—at least for the moment.

That said, Montero and Matz could return soon, and Gee has pitched better in Triple-A. Plus, the Mets could still use another bat, given the uncertainty surrounding Michael Cuddyer’s and David Wright’s health. So, is it time for the Mets to seriously consider dealing either Colon or Niese?

Between the two, Niese clearly has more trade value. At 28 years old, he is much younger, has a higher ceiling long-term, is a lefty, is playing on a team-friendly contract, and is under team control for far longer (potentially through 2018, whereas Colon would be a rental).

At first glance, it appears that Niese is also having a better season than Colon: Niese’s 3.75 ERA (105 ERA-) is far lower than Colon’s 4.96 (139 ERA-) mark.

However, their peripherals tell a different story. Niese’s RA9—which includes earned runs and which some persuasively argue is a more reliable metric than ERA—is a very high 4.60, and a bit closer to Colon’s 5.26 RA9. Furthermore, Niese’s 4.32 FIP (115 FIP-) is much worse than Colon’s 3.79 (101 FIP-). The two pitchers’ ERA disparity could be driven by a difference in BABIP luck: Niese’s .294 figure is the second lowest of his career, while Colon’s .320 BABIP against is the second highest of his.

In short, judging by ERA alone, Niese appears to be having a better season. According to the more reliable metrics of FIP and RA9, however, their seasons are actually fairly similar.

Therefore, while his trade value is much higher than Colon’s, Niese might not be much more valuable to the Mets this season. With their future rotation potentially including the likes of Harvey, deGrom, Syndergaard, Matz, Wheeler, and Montero, Niese might not offer the Mets much long-term value either.

It’s unlikely that either Colon or Niese alone would net the Mets anything too substantial. But, as part of a package with some minor league talent, either one could provide value as a back-of-the-rotation innings eater. Given Colon’s age and contract, he could be marketed more as a short-term option for a team currently in a playoff race (e.g., the Yankees, Orioles, Blue Jays, Twins, and Dodgers).

The list of players the Mets could target in return is long and well documented. In addition to the higher-tier players on that list, other options could include the Dodgers’ Scott Van Slyke (.252/.343/.423, 116 wRC+), the BrewersKhris Davis (.238/.321/.432, 106 wRC+), and the Blue Jays’ Danny Valencia (.300/.331/.513, 131 wRC+). Each of those is a right-handed hitter with some pop and who can play the outfield.

If the Mets prefer to add shortstop depth, they could target players like the Brewers’ Jean Segura (.272/.301/.344, 74 wRC+), the PadresClint Barmes (.273/.320/.420, 108 wRC+), the White SoxAlexei Ramirez (.230/.257/.324, 53 wRC+), or even Alex Guerrero (.241/.265/.481, 105 wRC+) or Enrique Hernandez of the Dodgers (.272/.309/.456, 112 wRC+).

Interestingly, neither Niese nor Colon has been mentioned much in recent trade rumors. That could be telling. The Mets may be inclined to dip into their low-minors pitching depth—as they did in the trades for Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson, and Tyler Clippard—or continue to shop Zack Wheeler, as to avoid moving pitchers who could help the team this year.

The Mets face some important decisions over the days and weeks ahead. Niese appears best suited, as part of a package, to land an impact player before tomorrow's 4 PM EDT trade deadline. Colon, on the other hand, could be a strong candidate for an August waiver-wire deal to a fellow contender. The trade market appears as fluid as ever, and it will be interesting to see how the Mets play the many cards they have in their hand.