I'm almost at the point where I can't wait for the playoffs to be over. Don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed the hell out of these playoffs and I will immediately miss watching baseball when it's over. It's just that there are so many decisions the Red Sox have to make, and I'm somewhat anxious to see what they end up doing. From the outside, it certainly looks as if they've set themselves up for at least one trade, if not more. Sure, they have plenty of freed up cash to spend on free agency, but they also have logjams throughout their organization that are just begging to be opened up through trade. The question that remains, though, is who they could trade with. Of course, teams like the Phillies, Marlins and Reds have and will continue to come up. However, the Mets are another team who could line up extremely well for a deal this offseason, and one there has been little talk about.
First, we'll look at what the Red Sox figure to be targeting this year. Obviously, the number one priority will be filling the rotation. This is where the Phillies and Reds come in, as they both have those easy top-of-the-rotation type arms that could very well be available in Cole Hamels, Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos. On the other hand, those types of pitchers are also up for grabs in free agency with the likes of Jon Lester, Max Scherzer and James Shields. It's far from a guarantee that next year's ace comes from a trade. Boston also figures to be one of the biggest competitors on the third base market. We've already heard plenty of rumors about Pablo Sandoval, and you can expect some about Chase Headley and Josh Donaldson down the road as well. Clearly, those two positions are the biggest areas of need this winter, and oddly enough, the Mets have players at each position who have a very good chance of being put up for a deal.
Photo Credit: Rich Schultz
First, in the rotation, a guy like Jon Niese could very well be available this offseason. The Mets rotation is filled with young pitchers will lots of potential, and they'll be getting Matt Harvey back after he missed the entire 2014 season following Tommy John surgery. Niese is far from the sexiest name that will be available this winter, but he's a solidly consistent guy on a team-friendly contract. To wit, he has put up a 104 ERA+ in the last three seasons with a 2.8 K/BB ratio and a ground ball rate that has hovered around 50 percent. He's not going to lead the rotation, and if he's the best pitcher the Red Sox acquire this winter they're in trouble, but he's the type of solid pitcher that you can put into the middle of a playoff contenders rotation. On top of this, acquiring him through a trade instead of someone like Hamels would allow the Red Sox to have enough cash for one of the big-name free agents as well as another second-tier free agent pitcher like Justin Masterson, Brandon McCarthy or Francisco Liriano. Niese is owed just $7 million in 2015 and $9 million in 2016, with two very reasonable team options following that. With prospects Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Monetero possibly joining the rotation next year, and Harvey's return, it would make sense for the Mets to shop Niese.
Moving over to the hot corner, an interesting name who could be brought up more and more as the offseason gets closer is Daniel Murphy. It's kind of a strange idea, since he's spent his entire career primarily at second base, with some outfield worked in, but he's actually a natural third baseman. Unfortunately for him, there's been this guy named David Wright that's been blocking him for all of this time. Over the last few years, Murphy has quietly been an extremely consistent bat, posting above-average OPS+'s each of the last four seasons, even earning an All-Star bid this year. In fact, over the last three years he has a combined .288/.327/.407 line, good for a 107 OPS+. Now, his approach may not exactly fit the Red Sox's philosophy, as he's had a walk-rate somewhere between four and six percent in his career. However, there are a few reasons he may be a good fit. For one thing, he's a left-handed bat. He's also been very durable, as he's missed just 26 games over the last three years. Finally, he's only under team control for one more year. This could be a good or a bad thing, depending on how you feel about Garin Cecchini. If they believe that the prospect will be ready after just one more year at Pawtucket, and can stick at the position, than finding a one-year deal would be a perfect.
It's great that the Mets fill both of the Red Sox's needs, but for a trade to work obviously the Red Sox have to help out New York. Luckily for Boston, one of the Mets' biggest weakness recently has been their outfield, which happens to be the biggest area of strength for the Red Sox right now. In each of the last three years, the Mets have found themselves in the bottom-third of offensive production from that group. For now, they have Curtis Granderson and Juan Lagares filling two-thirds of the unit, but they definitely need that third guy to finish the outfield. Last year, Eric Young got most of those at bats, but even with his defense and base running, you don't want to run out a bat like that on an every day basis, especially in a corner outfield spot. If the Red Sox were to put any one of Yoenis Cespedes, Daniel Nava, Shane Victorino, Rusney Castillo or Mookie Betts (obviously some of those names would require more of a return than just Niese and/or Murphy), the Mets would surely have to listen.
The Red Sox offseason is going to be a lot of fun, and there are so many different roads they can take. The options laid out above are certainly not the only ones, but they have plenty of advantages. If they feel that they need three starting pitchers rather than two, Niese would be a solid pickup as a mid-rotation player on a team-friendly deal. If they feel like they only need an out-of-the-organization third baseman for one year, Murphy would be a tremendous pickup. There are going to be plenty of rumors flying around in the coming months, but keep your eyes on the Mets as potential trade partners for the Red Sox.