Concocting trades is fun, but it isn’t easy, even from the outside looking in. There are any number of challenging factors that need to be weighed—from talent to finances to timing to need—in order to try to come up with a swap, especially one that actually makes some sense for both sides.
Sometimes, though, two teams seem destined to make a move given all of the above elements being just right. That doesn’t mean it actually will happen, but the basic idea appears to be realistic and reasonable. At least, in theory.
Like the possibility that the Chicago Cubs and New York Mets, a pair of squads finally on the upswing after half a decade in the dumps, could match up for a major maneuver.
“We haven’t made a deal yet, but there’s been matches that made sense, and I’m sure we’ll talk to them in the future,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said last week about the potential for a transaction, according to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. “When you factor in the hitting [the Cubs have] and the pitching [the Mets have], I guess people think it’s unusual [the two teams haven’t consummated a trade].
“But it’ll happen at some point.”
Hey, if one of the GMs is giving the go-ahead, there’s no reason not to put together a little ditty that is—that’s right—realistic, reasonable and beneficial for all parties.
What would be the perfect blockbuster trade between the Cubs and Mets?
Let’s start this endeavor by pointing out each club’s needs. For Chicago, it’s primarily pitching, both in the bullpen and, especially, the rotation after Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and Jason Hammel; perhaps a catcher for the long-term after soon-to-be 32-year-old Miguel Montero‘s contract is up after 2017 (because 2014 first-rounder Kyle Schwarber’s defense likely isn’t enough to stick behind the plate); and possibly an outfielder, considering Dexter Fowler is in his walk year and Chris Coghlan is nobody’s idea of an answer.
New York, on the other hand, has a major need at shortstop, where it’s become clear that Wilmer Flores can’t cut it in that role every day in the majors. It also wouldn’t hurt to have some more infield depth for aging, injury-prone third baseman David Wright and free-agent-to-be Daniel Murphy at second, in case Dilson Herrera needs some adjustment time going forward. Plus, an impact outfield bat would bring a boost, too.
Given that outfield is a target for both sides, let’s leave that out of the mix for fear of complicating matters too much.
But there’s plenty to work with to get the Cubs some arms for a staff that sports a 4.05 club ERA through Monday and a backstop, while also finding infield and offense for the Mets, who rank in the bottom five in team OPS at .663 entering Tuesday.
That’s because, as Hoyer alluded to, each team has strength, talent and depth in the other’s area of need.
The Mets possess more pitchers than they can fit into a rotation, what with ace Matt Harvey, reigning Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom, veterans Bartolo Colon, Jonathon Niese and Dillon Gee and top prospect Noah Syndergaard, as well as youngsters Steven Matz, Rafael Montero and eventually Zack Wheeler once he’s back from Tommy John surgery.
GM Sandy Alderson also has two quality catchers at his disposal in rookie Kevin Plawecki and injury-prone but former top prospect Travis d’Arnaud.
The Cubs, meanwhile, have all kinds of infielders, from shortstop Starlin Castro to elite rookies Kris Bryant at third base and Addison Russell, a natural shortstop playing second base. There’s also Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara, both of whom have lost some of their luster due to early struggles in the majors despite being very highly regarded prospects at this time just last year.
Much like the Mets’ pitchers, the Cubs don’t have enough space to easily squeeze in all of those players without making some changes at some point (i.e., Bryant to left field).
There’s supply on one side and demand on the other, which is pretty rare, whether you’re talking economics or baseball.
Since we’re being reasonable and realistic about this theoretical, mutually beneficial blockbuster, it’s fair to say that the Cubs won’t be parting with Bryant or Russell, while the Mets are going to hang on to Harvey and Syndergaard.
On the flip side, Chicago won’t have much interest in the likes of Colon, Niese or Gee, who lack upside and aren’t great values due to their cost, as well as Wheeler or d’Arnaud, who currently are out with injury.
Everything considered, here is a proposal that would have to make both the Cubs and the Mets think hard:
Cubs get: RHP Jacob deGrom, RHP Rafael Montero and C Kevin Plawecki
Mets get: SS Starlin Castro, INF/OF Arismendy Alcantara and 1B Dan Vogelbach
Here’s why it just might make sense…
DeGrom would give Chicago a very strong starter to go with Lester, Arrieta and Hammel. He flew under the radar as a prospect before becoming a revelation and ROY last year, but he’s also about to turn 27 in June and is more of a No. 3 in a rotation long-term than a front-end guy, which is fine for the Cubs.
The Mets would be able to replace deGrom in short order with Matz, who is about to turn 24 and is tearing up Triple-A.
Chicago also lands Montero, who, at only 24 years old, has experience pitching out of the five-man and the bullpen, so he’s another quality arm that would help the Cubs in some capacity. Of course, they would want to make sure his medicals check out, considering he’s been out since late April with shoulder tightness.
And Plawecki would become the Cubs’ catcher of the future, although for now he would fit best back at Triple-A, because the 24-year-old has only 52 games at that level after being forced to Flushing following d’Arnaud‘s injury. Besides, Chicago is carrying three catchers as is in Montero, David Ross and Welington Castillo.
New York would be relying more heavily on d’Arnaud, who has had serious trouble staying healthy, but he looks like the more polished all-around backstop.
As for the Mets, they would pick up their sorely needed shortstop in Castro, who isn’t an great player but has been a good one for years and just turned 25 in late March. More than anything else, New York needs a capable, proven player at short, and Castro is that—and might even have a little upside left if he’s pushed.
This would allow the Cubs to shift Russell back to short, his natural position, and eventually it would open up second base for Baez, who would be a good defender there and would still offer power potential at the plate.
Alcantara brings a ton of defensive versatility and at least some offensive promise in the form of pop and speed from both sides of the plate, all at the age of 23. Having played second and third base as well as center field in the majors, Alcantara could help the Mets cover a lot of ills and/or injuries, and if he improves overall, he could become a starter-caliber player at any of those positions down the line.
Vogelbach is the last piece, and he’s a fun one. The 22-year-old former second-rounder has a bad body and is confined to first base only (if that), but he has a ton of promise as a hitter, what with a .333/.452/.532 line and as many walks as whiffs so far in his first shot at Double-A. Plus, the lefty slugger has no future in Chicago with Anthony Rizzo around.
Aside from purely the players’ talents and skill sets, there are two outside considerations that go into this trade. The first is that Castro is easily the most expensive, although his contract actually is rather team-friendly at $37 million from 2016 through 2019, after which the team has a $16 million option or a $1 million buyout. Even the Mets should be able to afford that.
The other factor? Position players inherently hold more value than pitchers simply because they play every game and come with less risk of injury. So if you feel like giving up deGrom is steep, well, don’t forget he already has had Tommy John surgery.
The way this deal breaks down is with deGrom and Castro as the headliners, each of whom has established himself in the majors and proved to various extents he can succeed at an All-Star-caliber level. Montero and Alcantara are both former prospects who have lost a little luster since breaking into the bigs in 2014, but each fills a hole for their new team. And Plawecki and Vogelbach are two pieces that are useful for different reasons, with the former drawing value from his position and the latter from his bat.
Is this the perfect trade? C’mon, there’s no such thing. But is it a deal that covers needs, matches up talent and leaves both sides feeling like they gave up something to get something? That’s a realistic outcome—and maybe even a reasonable one, to boot.
Were this offer actually on the table, would either side go for it? Would both? Or if one were to express apprehension and back away, would it be the Cubs or the Mets?
After all, coming up with trades is one thing. Getting them to come to fruition, well, that’s another thing altogether.
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