Naquin trade presents Mets more lineup combos

New York acquires OF and LHP Diehl from Reds for two prospects

July 29th, 2022

MIAMI -- Sometimes, a trade is less about a single player than about its ripple effects on the roster. Such was the case this week for the Mets, who acquired outfielder Tyler Naquin and left-handed reliever Phillip Diehl from the Reds late Thursday night for Minor Leaguers José Acuña and Hector Rodríguez.

On the surface, Naquin gives the Mets another option at the corner outfield spots. Beyond that, Naquin frees the Mets to use Jeff McNeil more regularly at second base and Luis Guillorme at third, which may cut into the playing time of Eduardo Escobar. Taken in sum, those moving parts make the Mets less susceptible to quality right-handed pitching.

“I think because of the versatility of Jeff and the versatility of Luis, and the versatility quite frankly of Escobar, it allows us to move the pieces around and keep everybody intact physically,” manager Buck Showalter said. “It’s just another way to attack the rest of the season.”

Mets get: OF Tyler Naquin, LHP Phillip Diehl
Reds get: Minor League RHP Jose Acuña, Minor League OF Hector Rodríguez (neither in Mets' Top 30 Prospects by MLB Pipeline at time of trade)

Naquin, 31, has struggled to replicate his strong 2021 season with the Reds, batting .246/.305/.444 this year. Those numbers do include an .806 OPS against right-handed pitchers, however; the Mets see Naquin playing two to three times per week against righties, with McNeil appearing less frequently in the outfield as a result.

For Naquin, the trade will result in fewer plate appearances than he had in Cincinnati, but that news is easier to absorb when it means a jump from last place to first.

“It’s fun, man,” said Naquin, who arrived at loanDepot park about three hours before game time on Friday. “It’s exciting news. It’s been a whirlwind the past couple hours. … It should be a fun ride.”

Naquin, who can become a free agent after this season, is making $4.025 million. The Mets absorbed the remainder of that salary. They also designated Travis Jankowski for assignment in the hopes that the veteran pinch-runner and defensive replacement will clear waivers and remain in the organization.

A bonus portion of the trade was Diehl, 28, a reliever under team control for five more seasons after this one. Although he has produced a bloated 11.12 ERA in five big league appearances this season, Diehl flashed upside with 30 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings at Triple-A Louisville. He posted a 2.47 ERA in 58 appearances at that level last season, holding lefties to a .533 OPS.

The price to acquire those two players was not particularly steep, considering neither Acuña, a right-hander with a 2.67 ERA between Single-A St. Lucie and the Florida Complex League, nor Rodríguez, an 18-year-old outfielder who has seen action at the same two levels this year, is ranked among MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 Mets Prospects. Both performed strongly during the first half of this season, however, and could see their prospect status rise in the coming years.

For the Mets, this was a deal made with an eye toward improving at the margins. Escobar in particular has struggled against right-handed pitchers, entering Friday’s play with a .590 OPS against them. Having Naquin around will free the Mets to stack him, McNeil, Guillorme and Daniel Vogelbach more frequently against righties, with Escobar and (on occasion) Mark Canha coming off the bench.

“He brings some things that all clubs need,” Showalter said of Naquin. “Just another piece that we can maneuver and present another tough lineup.”