The Mets entered 2023 with the highest of hopes. World Series aspirations, even. That’ll happen when your owner drops an MLB record $350-plus million on player salaries for the year.
Unfortunately, nothing has really gone right for New York. Upon waking up on the west coast on April 22nd, the Mets were feeling good at 14-7. Things have spiraled out of control since. They’re entering Tuesday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers with a 35-42 record. That has them 16 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the NL East and 8.5 games behind the final NL Wild Card spot.
Will Steve Cohen, Billy Eppler, and Co. wave the white flag and become trade-deadline sellers? Unless things turn around over the next couple of weeks, it’s not outrageous to think it’s at least a plausible scenario. But then the next question is…do they even have players to sell that contending teams would want?
There are some obvious ones and others that would probably only happen if New York agreed to pay most of that player’s salary. After taking a brief look at the Mets’ roster, here are six players they could possibly trade next month, along with two honorable mentions.
And I want to make myself clear — most hypothetical trade chips listed here probably won’t get the Mets a difference-maker. The best they could do is what just happened with Eduardo Escobar — paying his salary to get the two Angels pitching prospects they wanted. These would mostly be moves to clear some money and start over.
While it first looked like the signing was a mistake, Tommy Pham has shoved his way into regular outfield playing time thanks to his hot bat. On May 16th, he had an OPS of .632. Before Tuesday’s game, that number is up at .787. It’s been in the .800 range for most of the past week or two, as well.
Pham is set to hit the open market at season’s end when his one-year, $6 million deal expires.
Nobody will pay Max Scherzer the rest of his $43.3 million salary this year. They also wouldn’t pay his $43.3 million player option for 2024 if it was exercised. So, the Mets would have to kick in a significant amount of money to move Max if they wanted to (and he agreed to waive his no-trade clause).
But, he has shown some life after a slow start. Scherzer’s last eight starts include a 5-0 record and a 3.19 ERA with 56 strikeouts in 48 innings. Of the 17 earned runs he’s allowed during this span, 11 of them came in two starts.
The bullpen is the most obvious area where the Mets could actually make some impact trades as deadline sellers. That’s ironic since the bullpen hasn’t been good, but their big three relievers could be in high demand, starting with Robertson.
He’s on a one-year, $10 million deal and has stepped in as admirably as one can with Edwin Diaz on the injured list. Through 34 innings, Robertson owns a 1.59 ERA and 0.97 WHIP with 11 saves and 41 strikeouts.
What’s better than dangling an available reliever out on the trade market in the middle of a season? Dangling a left-handed reliever out there. Brooks Raley has been better against right-handed hitters (.565 OPS) than left-handed hitters (.806 OPS), but the overall body of work has been good.
The southpaw has posted a 2.67 ERA and 1.26 WHIP with 28 strikeouts in 27 innings. He’s making $4.5 million this year and has a $6.5 million team option for 2024.
I know, you’re probably wondering who would take Mark Canha in a trade. But he could be attractive based on what a team needs. He can play multiple outfield positions and has a track record for getting on base at a high clip. His .717 OPS doesn’t inspire much confidence, but he has flashed double-digit home run power throughout his career.
Canha is making $11.5 million this year and has a team option for the same amount in 2024. If anything were to come to fruition, I’d imagine the Mets would have to kick in money for most, if not all of his salary (minus the league minimum) to get a deal done and something they’d actually want in return.
While Adam Ottavino isn’t having the kind of year he produced in 2022, he could still be a valuable part of a contending team’s bullpen. Through 32 innings, he’s produced a 3.66 ERA and 1.13 WHIP with 34 strikeouts.
Ottavino is currently earning $7.25 million this year and could earn the same amount in 2024 if he exercises his player option.
I’m putting Justin Verlander and Starling Marte in this group. There are two things holding them both back from being legitimate trade assets for the Mets: their age and respective contracts.
Nobody else is going to want to pay Verlander’s $43.3 million salary in 2024 or his $35 million vesting option for 2025. He’s also been too inconsistent for any team to even seriously consider something. But maybe — just maybe — if he gets on track and the Mets kick in a ton of money something could happen. I doubt it, though.
The same goes for Starling Marte. His bat has shown some signs of life after a slow start. However, his .649 OPS is a far cry from the .814 mark he posted in 2022. He’s already stolen 21 bases, but it’s probably hard to find a team willing to pay the majority of money left on his contract after this season (two years, $40-plus million) as he inches toward his late-30s.
Will the Mets become trade-deadline sellers? It doesn’t seem like that’s going to happen just yet, but it very well could if things don’t turn around soon enough.
How many players could they actually sell off if they do? My guess is the relievers will be popular targets, but other than that, it’d be a crapshoot. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.