Which team should get Betts or Lindor? Here's one
Nothing gets the rumor mill churning like talk of a superstar on the trade block -- and that's what's happening with Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts and Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor.
Both players are approaching free agency -- Betts is one season away, Lindor two -- and they're only going to get more expensive. So even though they're in their primes, Betts 27 and Lindor 26, there's buzz that they could be dealt this offseason. Teams like the Dodgers, Yankees and Phillies, and the Cardinals and Braves have been mentioned as potential fits for one or both.
But why not the Mets?
Betts has become a perennial MVP contender and could lock down center field in New York, one of the Mets' greatest areas of need. Lindor is one of the best at a premium position, and the Mets need star power like his as they compete with the Nationals, Braves and Phillies in the NL East.
The Mets should make a play for Betts or Lindor. But can they do it? Here's what they have going for them.
1) BVW hasn't shied away from a splash
Say what you will about the first-year results of the Edwin Díaz/Robinson Canó trade -- it showed that Brodie Van Wagenen won't hoard top prospects if it means getting a big Major League return. That's a precedent of aggressive dealmaking, the type of dealmaking it might take to get a young star like Betts or Lindor.
Betts and Lindor are the caliber of player to deal the farm for -- or a good big leaguer or two -- even close to free agency. If the Mets are as committed to winning now as they proclaim, that shouldn't be a killer roadblock, especially if they were willing to take on the risk of a reliever and an older veteran in their last blockbuster.
If the Mets weren't afraid to pull the trigger for Canó and Díaz, why not be fearless in pursuing Betts or Lindor? The Mets have two top shortstop prospects, 18-year-old Ronny Mauricio (Mets No. 1, MLB No. 80) and 21-year-old Andres Gimenez (Mets No. 3, MLB No. 92). They could include one of them in a deal.
2) Their Major League trade chips can help Boston and Cleveland stay in contention
Even if the Red Sox and Indians are willing to trade a superstar, it's not going to be for a rebuild. The Red Sox are under plenty of pressure to get back into the postseason, and the Indians have the roster depth to stay on the top end of the top-heavy AL Central. These are teams that still want to win in 2020.
So what can the Mets give them? Well, they have a bunch of movable parts at the Major League level. Players like J.D. Davis, Dominic Smith or Steven Matz aren't headliners but could be useful Major Leaguers within a larger package. The Mets have more of that type of player than some prospect-centric teams linked to Betts and Lindor.
As for the headliners? If the Indians want a controllable big league shortstop to replace Lindor, the Mets can send Amed Rosario. If Smith isn't an enticing enough outfielder for the Red Sox, Brandon Nimmo is an upgrade. And if it really came down to it, the versatile Jeff McNeil would be a great asset for either Cleveland or Boston.
Betts is so good that it's even worth mentioning the "pipe dream" headliner of a swap (as MLB Network insider Joel Sherman put it in the New York Post): Noah Syndergaard -- even though Van Wagenen says Thor is off the table.
3) One team's surplus is another team's fit
But why would those Mets players work for the Red Sox and Indians?
The Mets have two roster crunches: in the corner infield and corner outfield. Davis, McNeil and Jed Lowrie all play third base; Smith, Nimmo, Davis and McNeil again, and Michael Conforto all play the corner outfield (though Nimmo and Conforto also play center). That's too many players and not enough spots for an NL team with no designated hitter spot up for grabs, especially when several aren't great defenders.
But move a couple of those players to Boston or Cleveland and they're more natural fits. Any of those outfielders could play right field for the Red Sox (sans Betts) or the Indians (with Yasiel Puig a free agent and Franmil Reyes more a DH type). The Indians need a second baseman, but if the Mets traded them Davis they could move Jose Ramirez back to second and play Davis at third. If the Mets sent McNeil to the Sox, as some have suggested, his multi-position ability would help with longtime second baseman Dustin Pedroia's ongoing health concerns.
And one more key factor: Some of those Mets trade chips, Davis and Smith in particular, are strong hitters, but they're bat-first. They're best suited for the AL where they could get DH reps. The Red Sox (J.D. Martinez) and Indians (Reyes) have DHs already, but they could mix and match Davis and Smith at first base or left field, where they both have experience, or third base in Davis’ case. And neither club has an obvious long-term solution at first, giving both players a clear path to playing time in either city.
So what could a deal look like?
For Betts? Maybe start it with one of those shortstop prospects -- the younger Mauricio could man Boston's middle infield down the line, even with Xander Bogaerts sticking around -- and add in, say, Davis and Smith. Or send McNeil, if that's what it took to get one of the AL's best outfielders.
For Lindor? The two years of control mean it'd likely take more. Probably Rosario for starters -- a talented 24-year-old shortstop under control until 2024 would at least help mitigate losing Lindor. Plus Davis to help fill in the infield, and an outfielder to play right. The left-handed-hitting Smith could platoon with Reyes, for example. He might not do the trick, but maybe Nimmo would. Rosario, Davis and Nimmo for two years of Lindor? It's worth thinking about.
Maybe the Red Sox and Indians say no. Maybe they want a prospect haul and no combination of the Mets' pieces works. But maybe the Mets can get creative enough.