The Mets need to make a deal to improve their bench quality and offense. Here are a few smaller targets that could get that done in New York.
Google “Troy Tulowitzki,” and you’ll see the New York Mets pop up before the Colorado Rockies. That’s pretty impressive considering the two teams have never really talked in earnest about a trade for the superstar, and that’s not going to be the type of deal you’ll find here.
Instead, we’re focused on more realistic targets for the Mets in an effort to improve their anemic bench production. New York’s reserve crew ranks among the league’s most embarrassing units, and that’s not going to be a recipe for success when deploying several average to below average players on a regular basis. If this team wants to contend as it said before the season began, general manager Sandy Alderson must improve his team’s options on the bench.
The Mets haven’t shown any inclination to trade players like prized pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard or Steven Matz, instead preferring to toss around names like Dillon Gee and Jon Niese, so here are a few names who could be worth a roll of the dice considering the bargain-bin price points.
Gerardo Parra, OF Milwaukee Brewers (112 AB, .286/.317/.464, 2 HR, 14 RBI, 15 R, 1 SB)
Gerardo Parra was projected to serve in a backup role for the Milwaukee Brewers behind Khris Davis, but with the latter struggling to find a consistent approach at the plate this season, Parra has had the chance to show off the skills that would make him of value to a New York Mets team that needs a left-handed outfield bench bat. After the Mets decided to go forth and prosper without the Kirk Nieuwenhuis experiment, there is a definitive need on the roster and non-prospect Darrell Ceciliani is not going to fill that void.
The one red flag to consider with Parra is that he’s slugging at an uncharacteristic rate this season with a percentage above .450, and while it would be nice to see a larger sample size considering he’s finished with sub-.400 slugging each of the last two seasons, the Mets don’t have time to wait around. The Michael Cuddyer signing hasn’t gone as anticipated, and that’s continued to leave a desire to get more out of the black hole that is left field. The last known person to be seen occupying that territory was Moises Alou.
It’s hard to get a read on what Milwaukee wants to do as a club that’s somewhere in the middle, but should the Brewers decide to take on a rebuilding process, perhaps Parra becomes an expendable asset. A larger deal with shortstop Jean Segura involved is intriguing, but unlikely given that the Mets are seemingly committed to a “Wilmer Flores or bust” proposition that will be a central theme of their season.
Rajai Davis, OF Detroit Tigers (94 AB, .277/.352/.426, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 20 R, 11 SB)
One thing that the Mets lack on the roster is a burner, and that’s exactly what Rajai Davis is despite being 34 years old. New York has Curtis Granderson hitting leadoff, no threat to steal on the basepaths regardless of who gets on and Davis would immediately become the best fourth outfielder the Mets have had since the Marlon Anderson era. Davis would also be nice insurance behind Juan Lagares (elbow), and if the Gold Glove center fielder had to miss an extended period of time, the Mets would have to reshuffle the defensive alignment of the outfield entirely with Granderson taking center field. That would not be a good look.
Detroit traded Devon Travis for Anthony Gose to make the speedy Gose a regular in the lineup—a deal they’d probably like to have back right about now—and that’s moved Davis into a luxury rather than the necessity he previously was for the Tigers. Detroit is a team that’s always in the market for pitching, but it’s hard to imagine a team competing for the postseason flipping a valuable chip like Davis in exchange for a low-level prospect, and the Mets aren’t going to be inclined to give up anything of substantial value for a backup outfielder pushing 35 who relies on his speed as his best asset.
Junior Lake, OF Chicago Cubs (22 AB, .273/.304/.318, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 SB)
Junior Lake has become the odd man out in Chicago in swift fashion. With the whirlwind of uber prospects being called up around him since last season, Lake has become an afterthought for the re-born Cubs. With just a handful of at-bats this season and a plethora of young talent at nearly every position, it’s hard to imagine how Lake gets any kind of real opportunity with this club going forward. This isn’t some pity party for Lake, as his rope should be short following a season where he posted a terrible .597 OPS over 308 at-bats last season, but as a player who just turned 25 before the season began, it would be foolish to write him off completely.
Lake hadn’t had a good season in Triple-A so far either, with a sub-.700 OPS to his credit, and that means it should cost next to nothing to acquire his services. The Cubs aren’t reliant on him in any capacity he could serve moving forward, and we’ve seen Theo Epstein make small deals that become of large importance down the line. Could he make another one with the Mets and pluck a high-upside prospect out of A-Ball? Sandy Alderson has had a conservative approach throughout his tenure in how he approaches every trade no matter its magnitude, and it’s hard to imagine this scenario being different.
New York isn’t going to be moving on from John Mayberry, Jr. and his $1.5 million contract at any point in the near future, but Lake could be an option if Mayberry continues to struggle as the temperature gets warmer and the Mets want to bring in minor league depth…just in case.
Alex Guerrero, IF/OF Los Angeles Dodgers (80 AB, .300/.329/.638, 7 HR, 18 RBI, 13 R, o SB)
Here’s the wildcard.
As someone who has been billed as a player without a position, Guerrero would fill the biggest void on the Metsies roster: Offense. It doesn’t matter if Guerrero wanted to play rover softball style so long as the Mets could get his bat into the lineup on a daily basis, something Don Mattingly and Co. have shown no interest in doing out in Los Angeles with the Dodgers. Remember, this is the same player the team signed for $28 million over four seasons, and this is the same player who was ready to block his being sent down to the minor leagues if he didn’t make the team out of Spring Training.
Guerrero is someone capable of playing both third base and the outfield—though neither particularly well—and that’s something that should be of real and special appeal to a team that just had its captain David Wright be diagnosed with spinal stenosis. However, with Mattingly recently saying (via Pedro Moura of the Orange County Register) that there is no set starter at third base, Guerrero seems to be playing his way into the Dodgers’ long-term plans.
The Mets could come high and hard with an aggressive offer focused around pitching considering the Dodgers have lost Hyun-Jin Ryu (shoulder) for the season, but new President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman isn’t going to sell for pennies on the dollar, especially in a season where Guerrero is hitting home runs at an absurd rate and finally flashing the potential that made Los Angeles invest in him initially. With the Dodgers relying on Guerrero’s offense at the hot corner given the uncertainty of Justin Turner and Juan Uribe, Sandy Alderson and the Mets would likely have to overpay to bring in a player with a multi-year commitment.
That just hasn’t been how it’s gone down on the 7 train in recent seasons.