Paul Bereswill/Getty Images
In the person of ace right-hander Jacob deGrom, the New York Mets hold a nearly priceless trade chip.
Key word: “nearly.”
According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, Mets officials understand that “they would be crazy not to be open for business” ahead of MLB’s July 31 trade deadline in response to the team’s ongoing spiral since an 11-1 start to 2018.
That would mean listening to offers on everyone, deGrom included.
Already with a National League Rookie of the Year and an All-Star selection on his ledger, the 29-year-old is now competing for a Cy Young Award with an NL-best 1.57 ERA through 13 starts. He’s struck out 106 and walked only 23 in 80.1 innings. And since he’s controlled through 2020, he wouldn’t be a rental.
What’s a fair price for deGrom? Buster Olney of ESPN posited that the Mets can ask for two elite MLB-ready prospects and two more high-end players from the lower minors. In short, four legitimate prospects and no mere throw-ins.
Such a deal would be a step up from the four-player package (headlined by Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease) that the Chicago White Sox got for Jose Quintana last summer. Given that deGrom himself is a step up from Quintana, that seems fair enough.
From here, it comes down to which teams need an impact starter and have the young talent to satisfy the Mets. That’s a short list that starts with the…
Los Angeles Dodgers
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images
Although Dodgers starters have a solid 3.51 ERA, all is not well in their rotation. With Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dennis Santana and Julio Urias all on the disabled list, they barely even have one.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers are sitting on a farm system that features four healthy (i.e., not Santana) players in Baseball America‘s latest top 100: catcher Keibert Ruiz (24), outfielder Alex Verdugo (36), right-hander Mitchell White (66) and outfielder Yusniel Diaz (83).
But while this makes the Dodgers a good match for deGrom in theory, there are complications.
The Dodgers have typically been protective of their young talent under President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman. And in lieu of taking their pick of the Dodgers’ best prospects, the Mets would almost certainly demand 23-year-old Walker Buehler as a primary centerpiece.
Since he’s the best pitcher the Dodgers have right now, that would almost certainly be a non-starter for them. Besides, the NL West isn’t likely to leave them behind as they wait for their injured starters to heal.
There’s a better chance of deGrom ending up elsewhere in the NL West with the…
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images
If nothing else, it’s remarkable how sturdy the Rockies rotation has been. They have yet to give a start to anyone outside of Jon Gray, Tyler Anderson, German Marquez, Chad Bettis or Kyle Freeland.
On the down side, those five have combined for a 4.66 ERA. And they’re getting worse.
The Rockies landed only two prospects in the latest Baseball America rankings: shortstop/third baseman Brendan Rodgers at No. 17 and infielder Ryan McMahon at No. 54. But since McMahon has already played in the majors and Rodgers is hinting he’s ready with an .875 OPS for Double-A Hartford, an offer with both of them could get the Mets’ attention.
The Rockies could add 2016 No. 4 pick Riley Pint, whose upside remains high despite his health and control problems, and perhaps fellow right-hander Peter Lambert, who’s rocking a 2.51 ERA at Hartford. Altogether, that could be enough for deGrom.
However, the Rockies would have to ask themselves: Given the effect that Coors Field has on pitching, do we really want to bet the farm on a single pitcher solving all our problems?
Perhaps not. And the Mets might prefer to harvest prospects from the…
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images
The Braves have gotten a 3.47 ERA out of their starters, but the sustainability of that is a question mark.
Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb have been great, yet both are unproven. After them come Brandon McCarthy and Anibal Sanchez, who are past their respective primes, and Julio Teheran, who was inconsistent before landing on the DL.
All this makes the Braves a strong candidate to seek a rotation upgrade. And even beyond injured uber-prospect Ronald Acuna Jr., their prospect vault includes red-hot third baseman Austin Riley (22) and a host of top-100 arms: Luiz Gohara (18), Mike Soroka (20), Kyle Wright (35), Ian Anderson (40) and Kolby Allard (57). Max Fried and Touki Toussaint are also well thought of.
An offer headlined by Riley and either Gohara or Soroka could get the Mets’ attention. From there, the Braves could get their full attention by offering two more arms.
But would two NL East rivals actually go through with such a huge deal?
For both teams, the potential reward is too great to rule it out completely. And yet, it’s safe to assume the Mets don’t want deGrom haunting them on a regular basis and that the Braves don’t want their former prospects haunting them for years to come.
There may be a more likely landing spot for deGrom in the NL Central with the…
Frank Franklin II/Associated Press
The Brewers have won more games (40) than any other NL team despite a starting rotation that’s struggled to strike batters out en route to a pedestrian 4.04 ERA.
So as far as they’re concerned, deGrom may be just the guy to point them in the direction of their first World Series championship.
An offseason trade for Christian Yelich drained a good chunk of talent from Milwaukee’s system, but it still contains three top-100 prospects: second baseman Keston Hiura (42) and right-handers Corbin Burnes (68) and Freddy Peralta (96). Peralta has already debuted in the majors, while Burnes is at Triple-A Colorado Springs and Hiura is at Double-A Biloxi.
That Biloxi team also features outfielder Corey Ray, who’s rebuilding stock that was damaged in the immediate aftermath of him getting selected fifth overall in the 2016 draft. It also features rejuvenated righty Luis Ortiz, himself a first-round pick, and well-regarded third baseman Lucas Erceg.
A package for deGrom would have to start with Hiura. If the Brewers agree to include three of the other players mentioned above, the Mets might be satisfied enough to hand over deGrom.
Unless, of course, they can do better. Which leads us to the inevitable mention of the…
New York Yankees
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
With a 2.27 ERA through his first 14 starts of 2018, Luis Severino is proving that his breakout as an ace in 2017 was no fluke.
Otherwise, Yankees starters have combined for a 4.40 ERA. And that’s including strong work from Jordan Montgomery, who’s slated for Tommy John surgery.
Hence what GM Brian Cashman said in May, per Bryan Hoch of MLB.com:
Bryan Hoch @BryanHoch
“I feel like we need pitching, more than anything else.” – Brian Cashman, earlier today
The Yankees have more than enough young talent to swing a deal for deGrom. Their farm system contains three top-100 prospects: left-hander Justus Sheffield (25), outfielder Estevan Florial (47) and right-hander Albert Abreu (70). Fellow righty Chance Adams is arguably a top-100 prospect.
Then there’s the Bronx Bombers’ collection of young major leaguers. Super-rookie infielders Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar top the charts, followed by slugging first baseman Greg Bird. Outfielder Clint Frazier, a former top-100 prospect, probably wouldn’t be in no man’s land if not for Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.
In his report, Sherman wondered if the Mets would accept anything less than a package headlined by Torres and Andujar. But if they were to ask, the Yankees would probably hang up.
Given the shortage of real suitors for deGrom, it’s possible the Yankees could talk the Mets down to just Andujar plus several of their lesser talents. Sheffield, who’s on the doorstop of the majors at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, would have to be one of them. After him, the Mets might also need Florial (who’s at High-A Tampa).
If such a haul is agreeable to both sides, then there’s just one question: How willing are these crosstown rivals to deal with each other?
It would certainly be an eyesore for the Mets to see deGrom in pinstripes, but Sherman claims they’ve “signaled” a willingness to consider the Yankees anyway. Few other teams possess their prospect depth and, hey, at least they’re in another league.
While it would be painful for the Yankees to sacrifice so much young talent, they simply can’t be prioritizing the long term right now. They came within a win of the 2017 World Series, and now they have the highest winning percentage in MLB. They should want to win N-O-W, and damn the costs.
So if deGrom is going to be traded, chances are it will be strictly a New York affair.
Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.