Entering today, the New York Mets lead the NL East by 1.5 games over the Washington Nationals. Therea��s no telling who will come out on top at the end of this season, but wea��re seeing a validation of the Mets sterling rotation. Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah a�?Thora�? Syndergaard, along with the ageless Bartolo Colon, have brought the Mets back to relevance. And with Zack Wheeler set to return next yeara��or become a trade chipa��2016 looks like it could be even better. But what if the Mets started spending? What if, like the Dodgers in 2012, the Mets take advantage of their market power and add some higher priced talent as a favor of sorts to another club?
San Diego Padres
The Padres had a big winter heading into this season but the hype around the team turned out to be just that. San Diego has underperformed expectations all year and could be tempted to rethink, rebuild, and retool. We already know that GM A.J. Preller likes making moves, especially unconventional ones.
Matt Kemp is currently owed $21.5 million in each of the next four seasons ($3.5 million per year is covered by the Dodgers). On the strength of a .309/.365/.606 second half in 2014 the 30-year-old outfielder entered 2015 with visions of a full-season rebound. Youth is still somewhat on his side and, without injury, Kemp stood a good chance of capturing his former self, albeit with the disadvantage of Petco Park as his home field likely sapping some power. Kempa��s strong July .282/.378/.529 hasna��t carried over into August through the first week, but therea��s plenty of season left for him to continue building value.
Depending on the Padresa�� actual financial state, the Mets could absorb the contract entirely for a small package of lesser players in true Dodgers fashion, maybe swapping someone like Michael Cuddyer. The Padres would regain some financial flexibilitya��for free agent signings or trades of their owna��to continue their march towards relevancy. The Mets could get a potent outfield bat, but one that comes with risk. Should the Mets fall just short of the postseason, ownership might take on enough money to add someone who could be a top player and not give up a rotation member in the process.
When the Dodgers made their trade with Boston the key was Adrian Gonzalez, signed long term, to make up for the bad contracts of Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett. The Tigers have a few contacts that could be absorbeda��Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, and Victor Martinez to name a fewa��but none of these players are fits for the Mets. Which makes the best trade scenario here a spiritual revival of the Carlos Gomez trade scenario: Zack Wheeler for J.D. Martinez.
— Scott (@Scotty_Wheel_) April 15, 2015
In addition to being an interesting trivia answer, Martinez (released by the Astros) may be one of the best pickups since the Red Sox signed David Ortiz (released by the Twins). In his 231 games with Detroit so far Martinez has hit .304/.355/.559 with 53 home runs. The outfielder will turn 28 later this month but will not become a free agent until after the 2018 seasona��thata��s three full years of control for the Mets. Gomez would have been under their control for less than a year-and-a-half, so Wheeler alone would probably not be enough to get it done, but would be a nice starting point.
Meet the New Mets?
With Yoenis Cespedes becoming a free agent after this season, the Mets will be looking to replace his productiona��and continue to have a strong offensive presence in the outfielda��and parting with some young pitching is their best way to do so. With Kemp and Martinez, the return is a known quantity with differing levels of risk but multiple years of control regardless. Ita��s always possible that the Marlins decide to sell Giancarlo Stanton or the Red Sox move Hanley Ramirez to another team that thinks he can play the outfield or an infield corner, but these moves are unlikely (and very costly) for Stanton and full of risk with Ramirez. Therea��s always Jay Bruce, too, as the Reds conduct their own rebuild.
One thing is certain: Mets players, and their fans, will want to see a real financial commitment to a team that is willing itself into contention while the owners play Ebeneezer Scrooge. This winter they need to wake up on Christmas morning and find a goose fit for a feast.