With sixteen players currently on the injured list, not including the potential addition of Johneshwy Fargas after his injured his shoulder last night, the Mets have been forced to dip well below what anyone could have reasonably expected just to field a team in recent days. And while speaking to the media before the team’s game last night, acting general manager Zack Scott said that the Mets are open to adding players given the circumstances. So let’s take a quick look around the league for players who could help.
This early in the season, there probably aren’t a ton of teams looking to make moves, but there are a few teams with awful records: the Orioles, Tigers, Twins, Pirates, Rockies, and Diamondbacks. The season isn’t over for any team just yet, but of that group, only the Twins were widely expected to contend.
As for the Mets, the biggest need right now is help in their lineup, but their starting pitching is also down bad. It is possible that the team could have all of Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, Noah Syndergaard, Taijuan Walker, and Carlos Carrasco in it at some point this season, but right now it’s just deGrom—who returns from the injured list tonight—and Stroman and Peterson who are healthy. And the latest update on Carrasco was that he’ll need quite a bit more time before making his Mets debut.
The Orioles’ best hitter right now is Trey Mancini, who is also perhaps the face of their franchise at the moment—and a beloved player who just overcame cancer last year and is playing very well in his return to the team. He’s under Orioles control through the 2022 season, and while he has played in the corner outfield spots, he’s primarily been a first baseman and has only played at first so far this year. He would presumably cost a lot to obtain in a trade, assuming the Orioles would even be open to trading him in the first place, and despite having started James McCann at the position last night, the Mets are better covered there than at most other positions right now.
Aside from Mancini, some of the Orioles’ better hitters right now are Cedric Mullins and Austin Hays, both of whom are under team control for years to come, and Freddy Galvis, who is set to be a free agent after the season and is hitting .263/.329/.474 with a 123 wRC+. That is his best wRC+ in a single season by far, but the middle infielder has been a decent enough hitter with some pop over the past few years and presumably wouldn’t cost too much in a trade. And the only other Orioles hitter on an expiring contract is Maikel Franco, who the Mets considered signing at one point before the season, but he’s hitting .199/.256/.331 to start the year.
As for the Tigers, their lone player who isn’t under team control for the long term and who’s hitting well is Robbie Grossman. Detroit signed him to a two-year, $10 million contract before the season, and the 31-year-old switch hitter is hitting .259/.384/.432 with five home runs and a 130 wRC+ on the season. He plays both corner outfield positions, and outs above average has him at 0 in left field and +1 in right field so far this year, both of which rank pretty well compared to his peers at those positions.
It would be surprising if the Twins threw in the towel this early, but if they are inclined to start moving pieces, their very best hitter and impending free agent—Nelson Cruz—is unfortunately a designated hitter only at this point.
Longtime Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco is in the final year of his contract and wouldn’t figure to have his team options of $12.5 million for 2022 and $13.5 million for 2023 picked up. He’s also hitting just .217/.289/.358 this year, and his career 95 wRC+ it buoyed heavily by his two best years at the plate: 2016 and 2018. Fellow longtime Pirate Adam Frazier is off to an excellent start at the plate with a .335/.396/.462 line and a 138 wRC+, all of which are well above his career norms, and he’s under team control through the 2022 season.
C.J. Cron is the Rockies’ best hitter right now with a .297/.391/.486 line and a 129 wRC+. But while he’s a reliable source of power, he is very strictly a first baseman—and a defensive liability even at that position, as his -4 OAA ranks dead last among first basemen this year. Ryan McMahon is hitting just a tick above league average to start the year, something he hadn’t done previously in his major league career. And of course, Trevor Story is the biggest trade chip the Rockies have, as he’s set to hit free agency at the end of the year. The fact that he has just a 94 wRC+ so far this year probably doesn’t harm his trade value all that much.
And last but not least, the Diamondbacks have quite a few players who are hitting well this year. Old friend Asdrúbal Cabrera signed a one-year, $1.75 million contract with them this year, and he’s hitting .289/.393/.474 with a 137 wRC+. Kole Calhoun had a 125 wRC+ last year and is sporting a 121 wRC+ this year, but he’s on the injured list himself right now after having his second surgery of the year. David Peralta, a 33-year-old left fielder, has hit .280/.339/.470 with a 117 wRC+ and has a track record of being an above-average major league hitter. He’s making just $7.5 million this year and next year, which is the final year of his contract.
A couple weeks ago, it looked like Matt Harvey might have been establishing himself as a capable back of the rotation starting pitcher after years of struggles following surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. But right now, he has a 6.31 ERA coming off a string of bad starts, including the one he made against the Mets. John Means is the Orioles’ only good starting pitcher and presumably isn’t going anywhere.
The only Tigers starter who’s pitching well and isn’t under team control for a long time is Matthew Boyd, who has drastically cut down on home runs allowed and has a 3.08 ERA and 3.07 FIP. He’s set to hit free agency following the 2022 season and has a 4.94 ERA for his career.
Sixty percent of the Twins’ rotation is set to hit free agency following this season. Michael Pineda leads the way right now with a 2.79 ERA, though he also has a 4.60 FIP—thanks largely to the fact that he’s given up 1.86 home runs per nine. J.A. Happ has a 5.44 ERA, a significant increase from his 3.47 ERA with the Yankees in the short season last year—and an ERA that looks more in line with his 4.91 mark in the full 2019 season. And Matt Shoemaker has already made more starts this year than in any single season since 2017, but he has a 6.08 ERA.
Tyler Anderson has a 4.73 ERA and 4.12 FIP in 49.1 innings for the Pirates this year and is on a one-year deal. He’s the only starter with a sub-5.00 ERA who isn’t under Pittsburgh’s control for the long term.
Jon Gray, who has at times looked like one of the very few pitchers to conquer pitching in Denver, has a solid 3.59 ERA and 4.09 FIP for the Rockies this year and is set to enter free agency following the season. It will be interesting to see what the 29-year-old does if the team trades him out of that pitching environment.
And simply put, the Diamondbacks don’t have any appealing starting pitchers for whom to trade.