If the Mets Are Going to Be Sellers, They Might as Well Start Now

Following their devastating loss in Pittsburgh on Saturday evening, the New York Mets currently sit at 20-27.  They are 9.5 games behind the Washington Nationals for the National League East lead, and 8.5 games back for the second wild card.  There is still time to turn things around for New York, especially considering the nearing returns of Yoenis Cespedes, Steven Matz, and Seth Lugo.  But when you look at the current Mets roster, there are more holes than returning players to plug up those holes; Steven Matz won’t be pitching in the 8th inning on a nightly basis.  If the first two months of the season have been any indication, the New York Mets will likely be sellers this summer.  If they’re smart, they will start to pounce on the market as soon as possible, maybe even in the next week or two.

In past summers, teams who have traded earlier have been the big winners more times than not.  Just look at the respective trades in July 2014 that the Oakland A’s made for Jeff Samardzija and the deal that sent David Price to Detroit.  The Chicago Cubs sparked the market by sending Samardzija to Oakland, and in doing so they received a huge haul, headlined by current all-star Addison Russell.  On the other hand, the Tampa Bays Rays patiently waited for the trade offer they felt Price warranted, and it never came.  The Tigers sent Drew Smyly to Tampa along with now top-prospect Willy Adames.  While the Rays certainly didn’t do all that bad in hindsight, one would think that David Price would have fetched a greater return.  If Tampa attacked the trade market earlier, perhaps they could have gotten more for the 2012 Cy Young Award winner.

The summer trade market has always been a sellers market in recent years, as six or seven buyers must compete with each other to acquire impact players.  This summer is shaping up to be no different, with roughly 14 clubs all looking to increase their odds of winning the World Series.  The Mets may not have any major impact players available this summer, but they have plenty of upgrades that could serve as upgrades for contenders.

Lucas Duda

Duda may not have the greatest track record of staying healthy, but the 31 year-old has been putting together his best season so far in 2017.  Duda has only racked up 86 at-bats, but he has six home runs and a .975 OPS to go along with his .267 batting average.  Duda is on pace for the best season of his career, and it couldn’t have come at a better time as the longtime Met is set to hit free agency this winter.  Duda brings lofty power to the plate that could benefit a contender such as the Minnesota Twins, who rank in the bottom third in home runs in Major League Baseball.  Despite having less at-bats than any Minnesota starter, Duda has more home runs in 2017 than all Twins except Brian Dozier and Miguel Sano.  The Twins would not need to send any major prospects back to New York in the potential trade, and minor league closer Nick Burdi would be a piece the Mets should be ecstatic to receive.  Burdi was a second-round draft pick in 2014 out of Louisville, but has dealt with some serious injury problems including Tommy John Surgery earlier this month.  Burdi was surging prior to the injury, though, giving the Mets reason to take him for Duda.  Trading Duda would also allow the Mets to give Wilmer Flores more at-bats to see if he can hit for a full season, or call up prospect Dominic Smith and let him take over first base for the foreseeable future.

Jay Bruce

Trading Bruce would signal the team has given up on 2017.  Bruce has been a revelation in 2017 after his embarrassing finish to 2016 with the Mets.  He has slugged 12 home runs in 44 games with 31 RBI’s.  The three-time all-star could’ve been had this offseason for a low cost, but now the value is surely higher after his solid start.  Bruce profiles similar to Duda, except he has a much better track record and is a more refined hitter as a whole.  He would likely command a mid-level prospect if traded now, even though he would be a rental whose contract expires after the season.  One team that may make a play for Bruce could be the St. Louis Cardinals.  St. Louis has lacked consistent offensive production from corner outfields Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty.  Neither of the aforementioned players has an OPS above .700, which could prompt St. Louis to make a move in the competitive National League Central.  St. Louis has a deep farm system filled with potential impact players, and two names that New York could target are Harrison Bader and Jack Flaherty.  Bader was a third-round selection in the 2015 draft out of the University of Florida, and he has risen rapidly through the minors.  Bader is putting together an impressive season in Triple-A Memphis, hitting .293 with 8 home runs in 47 games.  Flaherty was a first-round pick in 2014.  He has dominated the Texas League in Double-A in 2017, and has further room to improve if he can develop more speed on his fastball.  Either Bader or Flaherty could make an impact for the Mets next season, which should be their focus if 2017 continues to trouble them.

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