Over the weekend, the New York Mets officially hired former Arizona Diamondbacks executive Jared Porter as their new general manager. Porter, who has also worked for and won four championships with the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs, will be tasked with delivering on new owner Steve Cohen's desire to win a World Series within the next five years.
Before Porter can add to his collection of championship rings, he'll have to assemble a Mets team good enough to reach the postseason for the first time since 2016. New York has enjoyed just one winning season in the last four years, a disappointing run given a core that has included, among other big-name players, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard.
Porter seems likely to add a premier free agent to his squad before long. After that, though, he might look to the trade market to improve and/or fill out his roster. Who might he move in exchange? Below, we've compartmentalized the Mets' roster into five bins:
top prospects (those who could realistically anchor a trade)
additional prospects of note (those who would fill out a package)
cost-controlled players (anyone with three years or less of big-league service time)
team-controlled players (anyone with more than three years but less than six years of service time)
everyone else who might attract interest in negotiations
The Mets have two individuals we'd slot into this category: shortstop Ronny Mauricio and outfielder Pete Crow-Armstrong, who the team selected with the 19th pick in June's draft.
Mauricio is a 19-year-old switch-hitting shortstop with a projectable frame and an All-Star ceiling. There's a chance he has to move off shortstop as he matures, and there's a chance he doesn't develop into the middle-of-the-order bat that represents his upside. There's also a chance that he does, and that in the near term he becomes one of the best prospects in the game. If the Mets are going to make a blockbuster deal, he's their best candidate to get it done. They have every reason to hold onto him, though, as he could become their next homegrown star.
Crow-Armstrong has all the right weaponry to become a high-grade center fielder: the speed, the arm strength, the feel for the position. Comparatively, his spot in a batting order isn't as certain. He has contact and on-base chops, but he's unlikely to hit for a lot of power. He could end up batting first or second, or he could end up batting seventh or eighth. It's too soon to know.
Additional prospects of note
The Mets do have some interesting prospects beyond Mauricio and Crow-Armstrong, beginning with a pair of overslot signings: Matthew Allan and J.T. Ginn. The Mets handed $2.5 million to Allan and $2.9 million to Ginn to ink both over the last two summers. Allan had slipped over sign-ability concerns, but he has the frame and fastball-curveball combination to grow into a high-quality pitching prospect. Ginn, meanwhile, may have gone inside the top 10 had he not tore his UCL a start into this season. Both could prove to be wise value plays.
Elsewhere in the Mets system, they have third basemen Mark Vientos and Brett Baty, catcher Francisco Alvarez, and outfielder Isaiah Greene to fill out packages with. We'll also mention shortstop Shervyen Newton, who went unpicked in a second consecutive Rule 5 Draft because he's no threat to stick for the time being despite offering oodles of long-term upside.
The Mets don't have the strongest farm system in baseball, but Porter should have just enough to make moves if he so desires.
Of course, Porter could also dip into the big-league portion of his system if he needs to do so.
First baseman Dominic Smith is known to be available, which isn't a surprise given that he'll have limited opportunities in New York so long as Pete Alonso is in town and the universal DH is not. Smith has batted .299/.366/.571 (150 OPS+) with 21 home runs over the last two seasons, albeit in limited action. He'll turn 26 next June and he won't qualify for free agency until after the 2024 campaign, making him a potential long-term fit for whichever club ends up with him.
The Mets have been known to have had trade discussions over the last year, year-plus involving both J.D. Davis and Jeff McNeil, neither of whom will hit the open market until after the 2024 season. Davis hits the ball hard and walks. He also strikes out a lot and isn't a great defender, either at third base or left field. McNeil, who saw action at four positions this year, is more of a contact-orientated hitter. It's hard to envision the Mets moving McNeil unless they're getting a superstar in return; even then, he's accumulated more than nine Wins Above Replacement in 248 career games, suggesting he's a star-caliber performer himself.
Infielder Andres Gimenez had never played above Double-A entering the year. That didn't stop the Mets from carrying Gimenez all season, and it didn't stop him from appearing in 49 of their 60 contests. Gimenez is a smooth fielder who can handle either middle-infield position. He's probably a bottom-third hitter moving forward -- he doesn't slug or walk -- but his defense and his baserunning ought to give him enough value to project as a second-division regular.
The Mets could also entertain dealing Alonso (and then slotting Smith in at the cold corner) if they wanted to be bold. He's going to be arb-eligible after the season, however, and right-right first basemen tend to be scrutinized in a way that could suppress his trade value.
The Mets have a handful of other big-league players who are further along in their careers, but who could attract interest all the same.
Nimmo, who has two seasons of team control remaining, had one of his healthiest years in 2020. He appeared in 55 of the Mets' 60 games, a notable accomplishment for someone who has topped the 70-game threshold in just one prior full-length season. When Nimmo is hearty and hale, he's an on-base machine who provides more slugging than you'd think. The catch is that his unreliability saps his marketability -- and forces his employer, the Mets for the time being and presumably heading forward, to have a good contingency plan on hand.
Rosario seemed primed for a breakout effort. He did not deliver. His exit velocity and walk and strikeout rates all veered in the wrong direction, and he had his worst full-season showing to date. The Mets have reportedly decided to ask him to take on a multi-positional role in 2021; it's to be seen if that helps or hurts his bat. Either way, Rosario's age-25 season is shaping up to be a pivotal one -- and it should help determine the value of his additional years of team control.
The Mets also have a few pitchers worth mentioning.
Left-hander Steven Matz is coming off a putrid season that saw him post a 44 ERA+ and end the year in a relief role. Matz is projected to make more than $5 million in what will be his final season before free agency. In other words, the Mets could entertain moving him if they wanted to stake out some additional wiggle room and free up a roster spot.
Seth Lugo had established himself as a quality setup man after moving to the bullpen full time in 2018. He returned to the rotation this season and things didn't go well. Instead, he allowed 19 runs and seven home runs in 26 innings -- that's nearly as many home runs as he had yielded in 80 innings in 2019. The Mets, presumably, will have him return to relief heading forward. He's here on the off chance some other team values him as a starter.
Despite promising underlying numbers, Robert Gsellman hasn't posted an ERA+ over 90 since 2016, when he debuted over an eight-appearance stretch. Gsellman was limited to six outings in 2020 because of a fractured rib. He's a non-tender or change-of-scenery candidate moving forward unless his ERA starts to align with his other metrics.
That's about it. Unless the Mets move one of their veteran relievers -- Jeurys Familia, Dellin Betances, Brad Brach -- there aren't many realistic candidates to be dealt from this group. Rather, if the Mets are going to make moves, it'll have to be centered around prospects and players with team- and/or cost-control years remaining.