This is all speculation, not a rumor, but we know that the Padres and Mets have been talking about a trade for Syndergaard since before the trade deadline last season.
The Mets three-headed GM asked for more than the often injured Syndergaard was worth to the Padres last year, so I am ignoring nearly everything we heard back at the 2018 deadline because it obviously did not result in a trade being made.
I am going to start with some basic, down and dirty facts.
#1 – The Wilpons, the Met’s owners, are not inclined to spending big.
The Met’s had over $340 million in revenue in 2018, the 8th highest, but spent just $150.56 million on major league payroll. No one else spent a lower percentage that I could find.
#2 – Any trade for Syndergaard is not only going to require the Padres to send some quality MLB players to the Mets, it’s also going to require them taking on significant salaries.
That is what Jeff Wilpon meant when he said the trade would have to be lopsided. He could care less about the players coming back. Its all about the money for him.
#3 – GM Van Wagenen has said that the team had needs at these positions –
OF – he didn’t specify which position, Cespedes is out for at least the 1st half, Jay Bruce was brutally bad at the plate and in the field and is moving to 1B, Rosenthal mentioned that they wanted a CF
Catcher – Plawecki, who was injured part of 2018 and hit .210 in 79 games and .218 in parts of 4 seasons in the majors, is the presumptive starter as of today. D’Arnaud is injured again and will start the season on the DL.
Bullpen – the Mets bullpen produced a 4.96 ERA, the 2nd worst in the NL in 2018. Closer Jeurys Familia is now a free agent and the best two remaining members of that bullpen, Gsellman and Lugo, will undoubtedly spend time in the rotation again in 2019.
Possibly 2B – McNeil played very well over 63 games in 2018, his rookie season. I guess they want something better than .329/.381/.471/.852. Maybe more pop in the bat? He only had 3 HR. Maybe they are just skittish about laying that much responsibility on a sophomore player.
What other Holes do the Mets have?
Honestly, Van Wagenen should have included 3B where the rapidly declining, 33 year old Todd Frazier is currently the teams only option. Considering the Mets still owe Frazier $9 million for 2019, Van Wagenen may have just have been tactful. Frazier hit .213 with a .693 OPS in 115 games last season and .218 with a .748 OPS in 420 games over the past 3 seasons. That production equals a huge hole in your roster.
So OF, C, the Bullpen, 2B, and 3B are the holes that the Mets are looking to fill this offseason. And the Wilpons wants their trade partners to take on more in salaries then the Mets do. Working from that premise, let’s make a trade happen.
So how can the Padres fill some of those areas of need for the Mets?
Let’s start with the Mets biggest hole, Catcher
The Padres have indicated both at the deadline last season and this offseason that Hedges is their starting catcher and expected to be behind the plate 100+ times in 2019. That takes him off the table.
The Padres still have two good, MLB ready catching prospects on their 40 man roster.
The Padres traded Brad Hand to acquire Mejia, a bat only catcher. Mejia hit .293/.338/.471/.809 in AAA last season but struggled in 21 games in the majors for the Padres and Indians hitting just .179/.258/.375/.633.
The Padres have a 2nd MLB ready catcher in Austin Allen. He hit .290/.351/.506/.857 in AA San Antonio last season and played in the AFL this fall. Long known as a bat-only guy, Allen improved both his game calling and pitch framing in 2018 while throwing out 36% of baserunners over 90 starts at catcher. He also played 19 games at 1B and DH in 8 games.
Mejia is the #26 overall prospect in baseball according to MLB
Pipeline. To acquire a player of his caliber in trade at a position with so few other quality options available in the market the Mets would get fewer/lower quality pieces from the Padres in any trade situation.
Allen is not a top 100 prospect (#25 in the Padres system, but he is likely the Mets #9 or #10 prospect. He is MLB ready and would certainly compete for the starting position with Plawecki, although he would probably start the season in a backup role.
Next biggest hole for the Mets is in the OF
Nimmo and Conforto can both play CF, but Van Wagenen is on record as saying he would prefer Nimmo play RF. That means they are looking at Bruce as primarily a 1B.
Ken Rosenthal in his Nov 18 article on The Athletic has said they are looking for a CF which means 29-year-old Juan Lagares is not seen as a viable option even though he is owed $9.5 million for 2019. The oft-injured Lagares has played in just 103 games over the past 3 years and just 30 games in 2018.
Let’s look at what the Padres have to offer at both corner OF and CF.
The Padres have an abundance of OF.
- Wil Myers will likely move back to LF in 2019.
- That leaves Hunter Renfroe and 2018 breakout Franmil Reyes competing for a spot in RF.
- Franchy Cordero will also return from an injury that cut short what was a promising 2018 season. Cordero hit 7 HR in just 139 AB including several that ranked among the longest and hardest hit in baseball.
- 2018 4th OF, Travis Jankowski hit .259/.332 with 24 SB in 101 starts across all 3 OF positions.
- Manuel Margot is the incumbent starter in CF and has tremendous tools. In a down offensive year(.245/.292/.384/.675), he put up a 1.5 WAR on the strength of his defense.
If Mejia is not traded, the Padres will undoubtedly want to get him additional AB by playing him in RF and possibly at 1B in 2019.
That is a lot of players vying for a limited amount of playing time.
So which ones would the Mets see as an option at the corner OF?
Renfroe would provide the more proven bat having produced 26 HR in the majors in both of the past two seasons. His .248/.805 line and HR every 15.5 AB in 2018 was very comparable to Conforto’s production.
Reyes showed tremendous potential in 2018 hitting .280/.340/.498/.838 with 16 HR in 261 AB in 2018. Reyes defensive limitations would obviously weigh in any decision to trade for him.
What would do the Padres have to offer in CF?
The main player would be Margot. A very promising CF that plays exceptional defense, but his bat has not caught up with his level of talent.
Franchy Cordero showed tremendous promise to start the 2018 season. He is playing well in Winter Leagues after returning from an injury.
The other option would be fleet-footed but powerless Jankowski. To me, he seems like a younger and much cheaper Lagares for the Mets.
What do the Padres have to offer that would help the Mets bullpen?
Like in their OF, the Padres have a plethora of options in their bullpen. Closer Kirby Yates, Craig Stammen, Phil Maton, Matt Strahm, Jose Castillo, Robert Stock, Trey Wingenter, Brad Weick, and swingmen Miguel Diaz, Robbie Erlin, Bret Kennedy, Brian Mitchell, and Jacob Nix.
So which Padres Relievers would be a fit for the Mets
With the loss of Familia the Mets’ biggest hole in their bullpen is at closer. Parting with Yates is probably out of the question, but several Padres have the capability of being a closer.
Phil Maton, a 25-year-old righty, throws in the mid-90s and put up a 3.24 FIP and 10.5 K/9 in 45 mostly high leverage innings in 2018. He also walked 4.4 per 9, so there is a down side. Maton racked up 33 saves over 3 seasons in the minors and majors.
Power pitchers Brad Weick, Trey Wingenter, Jose Castillo also have experience closing out games at the upper levels of the minors.
What other relievers do the Padres have that the Mets would be interested in?
Craig Stammen put up a 2.94 ERA over the past two seasons in a setup role with the Padres and a 2.77 ERA with a 10.0 K/9 in 2018. He would be the type of solid veteran setup man that all contending teams seem to have in their quiver.
Matt Strahm, a lefty swingman, put up a 2.06 ERA in 2018
What players salaries would the Mets most like to part with?
- Let’s start with one guy we already mentioned that is not part of the Mets plans. Juan Lagares who is owed $9.5 million in 2019.
- 35-year-old starter Jason Vargas is guaranteed $10 million ($8 million in 2019 and $2 million option buyout) and struggled to a 5.77 ERA over 20 starts in an injury-filled 2018.
- 33-year-old reliever Anthony Swarzak struggled through an injury-plagued season while putting up a 6.15 ERA in 29 appearances in 2018. He is owed $8.5 million in the final year of a 2-year deal.
- 33-year-old 3B Todd Frazier is owed $9 million in 2019.
What salaries would the Padres be willing to take on?
The Padres cannot be expected to take on all of those contracts. The more of them the Padres are willing to take on the less the Mets would receive in return in any trades, so the Mets would not want to include all of them in one trade in any case.
It’s a balancing act.
Let’s eliminate Frazier. The Mets have no other options at 3B. Wilmer Flores can play 3B, but his defense is atrocious. He is more of a utility player and spent more time at 1B in 2018 because of his defensive liabilities. Even with Bruce moving to 1B in 2019, Flores is not an everyday 3B.
The Padres have an overflowing OF even if they send one OF to the Mets, so Lagares is probably off the table as well.
So that leaves Vargas and Swarzak.
The Padres starting rotation was the worst in the NL in 2018. Adding Vargas would give them a veteran starter to eat up innings in the first half until Dinelson Lamet returns from TJ surgery and prospects like Chris Paddack, Logan Allen, and Quantrill (if he is not traded) are ready to make the jump to the majors.
The Padres bullpen is a strength for them. Adding Swarzak would do little for them, but they have the depth that he would not hurt them and they could hope that their resident reliever whisperer, Pitching coach Darren Ballsley, could help Swarzak bounce back if he did not succumb to the persistent shoulder injuries that derailed his 2018 season.
Let’s outline a blockbuster 6 for 3 trade that would help both teams
To the Padres
To the Mets
Manuel Margot – Starting CF
Austin Allen – He would compete with Plawecki for the starting job in 2019
Craig Stammen – Quality veteran setup man
Phil Maton – Setup man or closer
Jacob Nix – Promising former 2nd round pick is MLB ready and would take the place of Vargas at the back of the Mets rotation
Cal Quantrill – A former 1st round pick, Quantrill is a high upside starter that is near MLB ready and who would become the #2 pitching prospect in the Mets system
A win-win for both teams
The Padres take on $25 million in additional salary in order to get Syndergaard.
The Mets fill holes in their MLB roster with 5 players with long-term team control in CF, Catcher, in their rotation, and in the bullpen plus one year of Stammen and also get payroll flexibility they can use to fill other holes.
The Bottom Line
The Padres get the frontline starter that their ownership made a mandate for GM AJ Preller to acquire while keeping most of their vaunted prospects.
The Mets improve for a run at the NL East title or at least a Wild Card spot in 2019 and add 5 players with 4 or more years of team control.
That’s my take. What do you think?