It’s safe to say for now that the Mets got the better end of the Jon Niese trade. By dealing away the left-handed pitcher, who still has two years of club options left on his deal after 2016, New York acquired its starting second baseman Neil Walker. The switch hitter might not be as hot right now as he was in April, but by hitting .254/.322/.437 with 16 home runs and solid defense, he has a prominent role in the lineup that was left open when Daniel Murphy turned down his qualifying offer during the offseason.
Meanwhile, Niese has allowed 20 home runs — the same amount he let up in 29 starts with the Mets in 2015 — en route to a 5.13 ERA and a recent demotion to the bullpen. Pittsburgh general manager Neal Huntington even said in a radio interview that he should have taken fringe prospects from the Mets instead of the left-handed pitcher.
Even though Walker is having a better year than Niese, that doesn’t mean the Mets wouldn’t be able to use him if given the chance. With the way Logan Verrett has struggled while filling in for Matt Harvey and considering that Zack Wheeler doesn’t seem close to assuming a starting role this year, New York appears to have a job available in the back of its rotation.
According to Marc Carig of Newsday, the Mets aren’t ruling out a reunion with Niese, even though as recently as a week ago, they had "no appetite" for such a discussion. The move of Niese to the bullpen, however, as well as Huntington’s comments have certainly lowered the price on the southpaw.
If Verrett continues to give up runs the way that he has, the Mets will have to do something about their fifth rotation spot in the near future. Niese has had his problems as well, but the rate that he’s given up home runs is unusual for someone with a 53-percent ground ball rate. There’s always the chance that he’s able to turn things around and provide quality innings for the rest of the season, but it seems like Pittsburgh has seen enough. That doesn’t make Niese the most attractive option, but he’s not going to cost much, either.