Starting pitching is the Mets’ biggest target, acting general manager Zack Scott confirmed this week, and they’ve struck early by trading for Rich Hill. But Hill is likely not the last move the Amazin’s will make. Holding a solid (if not completely reassuring) lead in the National League East, New York could leverage its position and double down on its blockbuster offseason with a blockbuster Trade Deadline. With whispers that the Mets are discussing a “splashy” move, eyes are certainly on Queens as the Friday afternoon Deadline nears.
This is the week of all weeks to dream up hypothetical trades, so five MLB.com writers did just that for the Mets. Here are their proposals.
A Texas-sized bat
Mets get: OF Joey Gallo
Rangers get: SS Ronny Mauricio (Mets’ No. 2 prospect), RHP J.T. Ginn (No. 6)
Why it could work: With the Mets having seemingly addressed their rotation with the surprising Rich Hill trade, let’s focus on the lineup here. Coming up in the Rangers’ system, Gallo comes from a state where everything is, just bigger, including his monstrous home runs. He’ll slide seamlessly into a city that also amplifies everything.
But it’s not just the power production provided by Gallo in the middle of the order that makes him a good fit for a Mets team that has endured a lot on the injury front but retains serious World Series aspirations. He’s also under contractual control for another season (via arbitration). And he has the versatility to play either outfield corner -- or potentially even the infield corners, if need be.
So with this deal, the Mets solidify themselves as a club that can go the distance both this season and next, while the rebuilding Rangers significantly improve their stash of young and cost-controlled talent in a significant way.
Who says no: The Mets. Taking on money is one thing. Taking on money and significantly thinning the system is another. The Mets were able to make the Francisco Lindor/Carlos Carrasco deal without dramatically altering their prospect pool, but a fair return for Gallo in this environment might hurt a little bit more. There might be better value to be had in the rental department.
-- Anthony Castrovince
Mets’ rotation goes Gray
Why it could work: Even after landing Hill, the Mets still need pitching, and here they bolster their rotation and bullpen all at once, with a pair of rentals. It’s tempting to dream big on any pitcher getting out of Coors Field, but it’s important to note that Gray has roughly even home-road splits for his career while performing better in Colorado this year. Still, it’s hard not to wonder if a change of scenery could bring about a Kevin Gausman-like mid-career breakout for Gray, who like Gausman was a top-five Draft pick (third in 2013). But even if that doesn’t happen, Gray would help the Mets now. The righty has been an above-average big league starter (109 career ERA+, 126 this year) and would provide a level of security given the team’s other question marks. (Gray has gone at least 5 2/3 innings 12 times this year). Meanwhile, a team can never have too many solid relief options, and Givens would provide another proven arm for the late innings.
While the Rockies might not want to part with starter German Márquez (under team control through 2024), giving up two pending free agents is a different story. And Vientos would be a significant prize. The 2017 second-round pick has been crushing Double-A at age 21, ranking third in the Double-A Northeast in homers (16) and posting a .922 OPS as of Friday. Vientos could become the long-term successor to Nolan Arenado in Colorado, while the Mets could afford to move him, given the presence of fellow third baseman and No. 4 prospect Brett Baty. Ventura, who’s been on the IL in Low-A, is more of a lottery ticket.
Who says no: Given the scarcity of quality starting pitching available -- and the abundance of pitching-needy contenders -- would this return be enough? If there’s a bidding war for Gray, the Rockies could hold out for more.
-- Andrew Simon
‘La Maquina’ stabilizes Mets’ rotation
Why it could work: The Mets need a durable innings eater. No pitcher mentioned on this year’s trade market (outside Max Scherzer) combines quantity and quality better than Berríos, who has never been on the injured list since debuting in 2016. If anyone is immune from the Mets’ injury bug (a big if), maybe it’s "La Maquina."
Yes, the Twins are reportedly asking for a blockbuster return for Berríos -- and they should. He’s carrying a career-high strikeout rate, and he still has another year of team control. There are many that feel Berríos won’t be traded at all, with Minnesota likely looking to reload for another playoff push in 2022.
It’s going to take a whale of an offer to get Minnesota to trade Berríos, so let’s build one. Megill has been a pleasant surprise for the Mets and a clutch one, too, given all the rotation injuries. His departure would hurt, but this is an opportunity to sell high on a 25-year-old, pre-arbitration rookie. Losing Mauricio (one of the club’s big three prospects at High-A Brooklyn) would hurt even more, but he’s the big-name prospect it would take to get the Twins’ attention. Having Francisco Lindor for the rest of the decade (along with No. 4 prospect Brett Baty rising at third base) gives the Mets wiggle room to include Mauricio in blockbuster swaps.
Who says no: The Mets. New York pulled off a trade for a pitcher in a similar situation when it acquired Marcus Stroman, but there’s no guarantee the Amazin’s could convince Berríos (who’s had his eye on free agency for years) to take the qualifying offer like Stroman did. Mets fans are excited about Mauricio -- especially right now, while he’s tearing up High-A pitching. Perhaps New York decides Rich Hill can help carry them through until deGrom, Carlos Carrasco and Noah Syndergaard re-join the rotation. The rest of the NL East is messy enough to make that feasible.
-- Matt Kelly
KB goes to NYC
Mets get: 3B/1B/OF Kris Bryant
Cubs get: SS Ronny Mauricio (Mets’ No. 2 prospect), RHP Tylor Megill (No. 21)
Why it could work: It feels like we’ve been waiting on a big-name Mets/Cubs trade for years at this point, so why not in July 2021? Bryant has cooled off a bit since a hot start, but still poses an offensive upgrade for the team at third base and provides a proven track record and significant postseason experience, too. And that’s just considering at third base -- he’s shown versatility this year, playing multiple outfield positions as well as first base, too, which just gives any acquiring team even more flexibility. The Mets could stand to add offense, so the fit seems clear there.
For the Cubs, they can fill the potential hole at shortstop if Javier Báez leaves in free agency or is traded in the next week with Mauricio, and add another prospect who already is having a solid start to his MLB career in Megill. Added bonus: Megill would join his brother Trevor in the Cubs’ organization.
Who says no: As alluded to above, Bryant entered Friday hitting .172 since June 1 after having a .324 average through May, so there may be some questions as to exactly what his performance would be. To that point, the Mets likely say no, as it’s hard to give away top prospects for a player that will be a free agent after the season. If Bryant had sustained his first-two-months-of-season levels, it might be a different conversation.
-- Sarah Langs
A Royal coup in Queens
Mets get: 2B/OF Whit Merrifield
Royals get: OF Khalil Lee (Mets No. 7 prospect), 3B Mark Vientos (No. 8)
Why it could work: You can never have too much versatility, and the Mets are no exception -- in fact, they’re far from it given all their injuries. As they make a push for the NL East crown, the addition of Merrifield would not only bolster the lineup with a guy who has led the Majors in hits and steals twice, but who also gives them someone who can play second base (he’s seen brief time in the Majors at the infield corners as well) and every outfield position -- a defensive unicorn.
Merrifield is in the midst of a down year at the plate, but he had a big month of June (when he hit .351/.375/.544) and he entered Friday leading baseball with 25 steals. On top of that, he has two years of team control remaining, and he’s owed just $2.75 million in 2022 (incentives could push it to $4.75 million) with a club option for ’23. Adding another Jeff McNeil-type player, but with the bonus of speed, could be a coup for New York.
The Royals, meanwhile, are reportedly “more open” to trading Merrifield than in the past, though it would take a huge offer to pry him away from the only MLB organization he’s known, and Kansas City would likely want MLB-ready or near-ready prospects in return.
Lee was actually drafted by the Royals in 2016, and while the Mets liked him enough to join the three-team trade that sent Andrew Benintendi from the Red Sox to Kansas City last offseason, the potential of landing Merrifield would warrant parting with him. Vientos is having a tremendous season for Double-A Binghamton, entering Friday slugging .579 with 16 homers in 53 games. But his path to the Majors could be a competition with the Mets’ No. 4 prospect, Brett Baty, so New York likely isn't too attached to him.
Who says no: The Royals. Merrifield was Kansas City’s most valuable player by Baseball Reference WAR in each of the past two full seasons (2018 and ’19). He’s 32, but he can still run and is on a very team-friendly deal. And the Royals are still in a competitive mode despite dwelling in the AL Central cellar in 2021, so losing a staple like Merrifield would only serve to delay what the organization is trying to accomplish.
-- Manny Randhawa