Brandon Nimmo
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

The New York Mets can’t afford to trade Brandon Nimmo. He’s the exact kind of player they should be looking to extend long-term.

After previous reports out of the Winter Meetings that the New York Mets were considering trading Brandon Nimmo for Starling Marte. SNY is now reporting that it likely won’t happen.

Trading Nimmo right now, especially for Marte, would set the Mets back.

Nimmo is a fan favorite, a great player, and, by all accounts, a great guy. He’s younger and cheaper than Marte, and he’s a better player. If the Mets want to lose fans and games, trading the smile king is a great way to start.

Sure, Marte is a good hitter. He hit 23 home runs in 2019 and posted a .845 OPS. If the Mets can get him without giving up Nimmo, he’d be an excellent addition to their 2020 outfield.

If they sacrifice Nimmo to get him, however, they’ll be making a colossal mistake. In fact, far from shipping Nimmo to Pittsburgh, the Mets should be working on signing him to a contract extension.

Nimmo is a more valuable player than Marte. That’s not particularly debatable. Nimmo’s career OPS+ is 127; Marte’s is 115. Nimmo’s career OBP is .387; Marte’s is .342. Nimmo will be 27 in 2020, while Marte will be 31.

Nimmo is in his first year of arbitration eligibility. MLB Trade Rumors projects that he’ll make just $1.7 million in 2020. Marte will make $11.5 million in 2020, with a $12.5 million team option for 2021.

Nimmo had a down year last season, while Marte enjoyed a career year. Based on that small sample size, Marte might look like the better player. But that’s not a reason to exchange the two. It’s actually a reason not to.

Marte’s value is the highest it ever will be. He’s 31 and not getting any younger, coming off a year he’s unlikely to repeat. Meanwhile, Nimmo’s value will probably never be lower than it is right now.

Why in the world would the Mets trade Nimmo, coming off an injury-plagued down year, trade for a player who is older and whose value will only decline? Nimmo will be better than Marte in 2020, and in five years, he’ll be a lot better.

Nimmo has elite potential: his .404 OBP and 148 OPS+ in 2018 proved it. The Mets should be working on buying out his arbitration years and making him a Met for a long time.

Of course, it’s not crazy to worry that his numbers last season are more reflective of his skills than his 2018 stats were. Nimmo put up a .375 OBP and a 112 OPS+ last year. While not too bad, if that was Nimmo’s new normal, an extension probably wouldn’t make sense. But it’s not the new normal at all.

Nimmo slumped through the first few weeks of the season. Then just when he should have been finding his stroke, he collided with the outfield wall in Atlanta. He played hurt for the next month, not landing on the injured list until May 22, despite sometimes being unable to move his neck or hold his head up.

Nimmo’s first-half numbers should barely matter. They’re the result of a slump to open the season, followed by bad luck, bad timing and injuries. What’s far more important is how he hit once he came back.

Nimmo came back from the injured list on Sep. 1. In 26 games to finish out the season, he batted .261/.430/.565. That’s a .995 OPS, for those of you keeping score at home. He even hit five home runs over the season’s final month.

Right now is the perfect time to lock him up. Nimmo’s September proved that he can hit at an elite level, but injuries dragged his likely asking price down. If the Mets don’t lock Nimmo up now, he’ll only get more expensive later.

Jeff Euston, of Cot’s Baseball Contracts and Baseball Prospectus, told me that a five-year extension for Nimmo would likely cost between $28 and $35 million.

“Buying low has obvious appeal for the Mets,” he said in an email. “As everyone can see when he’s healthy, the talent is there, especially with the bat. Almost any extension, at any length, would likely deliver significant surplus value for the club.”

Brandon Nimmo: on-base machine, solid power, speed, fan-favorite. Young, inexpensive, high-value, happy. He checks every box, and the Mets should be working to keep him in Queens for a long time.

Instead, they’re considering trading him. Can the Mets’ front office possibly make a trade that bad?

I have followed New York sports passionately for almost my entire life, since I went to Shea Stadium in 2004 and saw Jae Seo lose 8-1 to the Pirates. At journalism school, I once missed covering a Land Use Committee meeting to write about Jacob deGrom's last start of the year.