The MLB non-waiver trade deadline is over two months away -- July 31 -- but it's never to early to discuss rumors. After all, hearing all sorts of trade rumors, and then seeing different moves come to fruition is basically fantasy baseball turned real life -- and these acquisitions mean something.
For the New York sports teams, the trade deadline always spurs all sorts of chatter, however, this one for the New York Mets has a whole different meaning. For the first time in a very long time, the Mets will likely have chips to trade, pieces to move to help buoy a post-season hopeful's chances. There is a better than 50 percent likelihood that the Mets will be sellers at in the coming months as even despite the $200 million bailout (so to speak), they are still far from operating at a financially healthy capacity.
The biggest trade chip for the Mets is Jose Reyes, a 27-year-old shortstop that oozes ability and has game-changing talent. With his contract set to expire at the end of this year, Reyes will certainly command a hefty (long-term) raise from the $11 million he's making in 2011, and it doesn't seem like a. New York will have the money and b. GM Sandy Alderson wants to commit a good chunk of resources to a player who's been injury prone throughout his career.
To me, the Amazin's have to keep Reyes -- there are just far-too many average-to-below-average shortstops in the league, and very few explosive ones in the midst of his prime. The Mets need to rebuild, but I'm not sure getting rid of a premium talent at a weak position is the way to do it. If and when Reyes leaves, the Mets shortstop position is likely to go to Ruben Tejada, a slick fielder, but someone who has a .272 career average in the minors and no power.
If Reyes is indeed going to be traded, who are the frontrunners (in my eyes, subject to change) for his services?
1) San Francisco Giants: Sure, the Giants just won the World Series with pitching. However, they rank close to last in most of the major offensive categories and are still only five games over .500. They also just lost Buster Posey, the NL Rookie of the Year and a key cog to their playoff push last season, and they currently start Miguel Tejada at shortstop, who is batting .221/.242/.285 on the year. Anything the Amazin's could get in a trade would help, but nothing is better than young pitching with upside -- and the Giants have a bevy of top-flight young arms (Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, Madison Bumgarner, Zach Wheeler, to name a few).
2) Cincinnati Reds: Don't get me wrong, the Reds have one of the better offenses in the leagues as evidenced by their MLB-best 250 runs. However, they start Edgar Renteria (.233/.323/.267) at shortstop and have one of the better farm systems in the league. They have a number of young arms (Travis Wood, Mike Leake, Homer Bailey), and possible fill-ins for Reyes (Zach Cozart, Billy Hamilton), plus great catching prospects and Yonder Alonso, a first baseman-turned-outfielder, who continues to hit in the minors despite skepital scouts.
3) Los Angeles Angels: Call me crazy, but with the Angels in second place in a weak AL west and a spark needed in their lineup, Reyes would be a great fit -- even besides the fact they're using Erick Aybar at shortstop (.309/.354/.421), who's having a good year but is not nearly as talented as Reyes. The Angels won't trade top prospect Mike Trout, but they do have a pretty stacked farm system (ESPN's Keith Law ranked them sixth overall). Jean Segura was a second baseman but moved to shortstop and is hitting .285/.354/.431 in Class A -- and scouts drool over the fact he has no weaknesses in his game. The Angels also have a number of good arms and Hank Conger at the catcher's position who could possibly entice the Mets. I like the Angels as a fit, assuming they are interested and the Mets target Segura.
4) Boston Red Sox: You can't mention a top talent in the MLB and not mention Boston. Ranked 11th overall by Law, their system may have taken a hit with acquisition of Adrian Gonzalez, but they have very strong low minors teams (three first-round talents taken in last year's draft, according to Law). Plus they have a swift fielder in Jose Iglesias at shortstop to offer back, as well as pitcher like Anthony Ranaudo, their supplemental first rounder taken last season who would definitely entice Alderson.
5) Toronto Blue Jays: I wasn't going to consider them, but given the fact that reports surfaced that their GM, Alex Anthopoulos, contacted the Mets during spring training about the plans for several players, which included Reyes, I have to include it. The Jays are in the chase in a very tough AL East, and they are lacking a game changer at shortstop (Yunel Escobar is just OK). The Jays have the fourth-best farm system, and talented young arms in the rotation (Brandon Morrow, Ricky Romero, Kyle Drabek). Brett Lawrie, an athletic third baseman, would be a great get, but it's doubtful he'd be moved. Not saying it's going to happen, but they certainly have the pieces to move that Alderson would like (plus the Toronto connection with J.P Ricciardi).