Yesterday on Twitter I issued my first bad trade proposal of the offseason. I suggested shipping Adam Ottavino to the Mets in exchange for Robinson Canó and cash. Yes, my trade proposal sucks. There are a litany of reasons that such a trade makes little sense for either side. I merely was looking for a solution for the Yankees’ second base situation if DJ LeMahieu departs.
After deliberating on how to make this trade work for both sides, I also realized that the Mets actually make for a pretty nice trade partner with the Yankees. At least, from the Yankees’ perspective. The Mets have a ton of left-handed hitters that the Yankees could use to balance out the lineup. Aside from Canó, there’s Dominic Smith, Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, and Jeff McNeil. Whether or not the Mets are willing to move any of those players is another story, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth pursuing. Considering the ownership transition and likely front office shakeup over in Queens, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume a lot of player changes could come too.
In the past, making a deal with the Mets for a significant player wasn’t worth thinking about. The trade history between both sides is incredibly limited, especially since the Wilpons took control of the Mets in 2002. A few minor trades have snuck through, but nothing really consequential. What’s more: there was bickering between both front offices about separate trades in 2017. Jay Bruce and Neil Walker were nearly sent from Queens to the Bronx. But now, with Steve Cohen presumably getting approval in the coming weeks, things could change.
Now, some of the Mets position players I ran off before are more available than others. Let’s do a quick breakdown on each:
Robinson Canó: Perhaps the Mets would like to get out from Canó’s contract ($72 million due through 2023, although the Mariners will cover $11.25 million). Still, Cohen will be the richest owner in MLB by no small margin and shouldn’t be in the business of salary dumps. Of course, we’ve seen rich owners cry poor many times before. Also worth noting: Canó’s availability could also hinge on the designated hitter remaining in the National League. He still grades out pretty good at second base per Statcast, though how much longer can 38 year-old hold up in the field?
Dominic Smith: The first baseman (and sometimes left fielder, but eh) has broken out in a big way. He’s got a 149 wRC+ dating back to last season in just under 400 plate appearances. He’s not a free agent until after 2024, so the Mets may not be motivated to move him. But, if they don’t feel good about his ability to play left field and are committed to Pete Alonso at first base, something would have to give.
Brandon Nimmo: The on-base machine (15.1 percent career walk rate and ,390 lifetime OBP) has mostly played center field for the Mets, though he’s much better off in a corner. He’s not a big power threat, but he has a very good 133 wRC+ in over 1,300 big league plate appearances. He’s under team control for two more seasons.
Michael Conforto: Here’s the guy who might be most attainable. He can become a free agent after 2021, and though the Mets absolutely could afford to keep him, it’s fruitless to predict big league ownership behavior (even as rich as Cohen is). Most teams like to deal away players like Conforto, who is a Scott Boras client, rather than letting them walk in free agency.
Jeff McNeil: The infielder is an extremely good hitter (139 wRC+) and has four years to go before becoming a free agent. I think it’s safe to assume he’s as close to untouchable as it gets. Would be an awesome fit in the Bronx, but yeah. Don’t count on it.
Many of these players are in direct competition with each other for playing time. The group I listed above, along with J.D. Davis and Pete Alonso, are seven players duking it out for playing time at positions other than catcher and shortstop. And considering that Smith really should play first base, Davis is a bad defender everywhere, Nimmo isn’t a true center fielder, and Canó probably can’t play second base everyday, you can envision the Mets trying to shuffle the deck.
It takes two sides to tango, of course. I anticipate that starting pitching and relief help will be priorities 1A and 1B for the Mets. That might be a tough match for the Yankees, who could also use those things. The Mets would probably ask about Deivi García, Clarke Schmidt, Jordan Montgomery, and Jonathan Loaisiga, just to name a few. Probably Clint Frazier and Miguel Andújar too. But those names shouldn’t cause talks to break off. Gotta give to get, of course.
Anyway, the point is: the Mets sure do have a lot of players who’d fit the Yankees’ lineup nicely. And for once, maybe the timing for a trade is finally right with the Wilpons selling the team.