As predictable a sign of midsummer as the solstice, trade season for the Mets has arrived early. An improbable run of success in the coming days and weeks could change the narrative, but with rapidly diminishing postseason odds Brodie Van Wagenen should be taking calls on a handful of promising candidates.
The most prominent of the team’s free agents, Zack Wheeler has the appeal of a former top prospect just a year removed from an elite stretch of pitching that showed he still has heaps of potential despite a mixed track record and time lost to injuries. He’s also a financial bargain, owed just about $3 million for the remainder of the season.
The catch with Wheeler is, of course, that his 2019 has failed to live up to the flashes of brilliance that characterized the back half of his 2018, as he has been more hittable and particularly vulnerable to the home run. Still, his walks to strikeout ratio is actually better than last year and with the whole league struggling to keep the ball in the yard, it’s hard not to see someone jumping at the chance to capture lightning in a bottle at best, or a young, league-average arm at worst.
Rentals aren’t as lucrative in trades as they once were, though, so expectations should be tempered. Mike Puma reported that an average team’s number 7 or 8 prospect would be the expected get, so someone along the lines of the Mets’ David Peterson in terms of overall value.
After a brutal and injury-delayed start to his season, Todd Frazier has turned in around in a big way and brought his season line back to roughly his career average. He’s not a star and won’t command a high price, but a strong corner defender who can put it over the fence reliably will definitely appeal to contenders, even if just in a bench role.
Frazier’s remaining salary is somewhere around $5 million, and the Mets would do well to eat some of it to improve offers. He might also be a good candidate to package with another Mets to potentially bring in a higher value prospect. Moving Frazier would also make it easier for the Mets to accommodate both McNeil and Smith in the lineup as they play out the season with their younger, team-controlled talent.
After 2018 and his ugly start to 2019, it was difficult to imagine Jason Vargas would be worth even considering in a trade deal. And certainly other teams will be wary of his injuries and his mixed results, as well as his declining strikeouts to walks ratio. Assuming he doesn’t show any ill effect from his recent calf tweak, the Mets should look to move him before he turns back into a pumpkin.
Still, Vargas has done a solid job of giving the team innings as well as tamping down the home run numbers against him and as the season wears on, more teams will find themselves in need of a warm body to take the mound every fifth day. His remaining team option for 2020 could be a selling point if he proves the last six weeks are not a fluke, though the Mets may want to throw in some cash to cover the buyout on that option if they want to get something back that isn’t in the player-to-be-named-later value range.
Another member of Team Trade Them Before They Get Bad Again, Adeiny Hechavarria isn’t going to bring back anything significant, but he’s proven that he’s still a great defensive infielder and that the bat might not be a complete black hole. That, combined with a price tag every team can appreciate, should net a thoroughly unexciting prospect and that’s still of better use to the Mets than Hechevarria.
The Mets have balked at trading controllable players at the deadline before, but Lugo represents their best shot at bringing in some legitimate minor league talent this season. He’s been one of the best relievers in the game this season, with a WHIP under 1 and more than 12 strikeouts per 9 innings.
The big risk with Lugo, which other teams will certainly be aware of, is that he is pitching with a partially torn UCL, which could lead to Tommy John tomorrow, next year, or never. It’s probably the only reason the Mets would consider moving him, and probably the only reason other teams wouldn’t pay top dollar for a pitcher that offers a closer-type ceiling as well as the possibility of multi-inning stints with three more years of team control.
Will Lugo find his way to a contender this year? The smart money says no, but he’s the one to keep an eye on.