The Mets Should Target Alex Rios

 

The Mets are bad, but two things apply here. The first is the run differential. The Mets are currently +19, which ranks higher than the Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, and Atlanta Braves- all currently ahead of the Mets in the wildcard standings. After a recent streak of success, New York finds themselves third in the N.L. East, and just seven games out of both the second wildcard spot and first place in the National League East. Adam Rubin of Metstoday.com already reported that Bartolo Colon was made available for trade, but should the Mets go the other way? Should the Mets try to acquire a bat, in order to make a second half push?

If the Mets aren’t capable of adding another a bat at the shortstop position, the gaping hole at left field will have to suffice. While the Mets are ranked 15th in left field production, via Fangraphs, the Mets could use a sizable upgrade. Eric Young profiles as a great bat off the bench with wheels to change the game on the base paths, and both Eric Campbell and Kirk Nieuwenhuis strike out too much to be everyday starters (Not to mention, Campbell should be used more as a platoon guy with Lucas Duda at first). Other than a handful of at-bats against Oakland, Chris Young’s .202/.287/.356 line has been a major disappointment. Even the -5.6 defensive rating and -2.2 UZR stands out here. Before he sent two balls over the fence against Oakland, Young was a DFA candidate, and did nothing since then to remove him off the chopping block.

Alex Rios is an interesting name that stands out for me.

While his defense rates similarly to Young, the bat is much better. This season, Rios has triple slashes of .305/.333/.440. He doesn’t walk a ton, but he doesn’t strike out as much as other non-walkers do. The Texas Rangers are at the bottom of the barrel this season, and seem to be on the verge of a bit of a youth movement, as former top prospects Rougned Odor and Luis Sardinas get valuable at-bats while others are injured. With another former top 100 prospect in Michael Choice in Triple-A, and Joey Gallo talking his way into future plans, the Rangers could be more and more intrigued in shopping Rios and his contract for a package of close prospects.

Earlier in the season, general manager Sandy Alderson and crew stated that the Mets won’t be looking to add payroll in-season, but clipping Colon’s contract off, while making a considerable pushing for the playoffs should be reason enough to add salary, no? Let’s talk about his contract: The Mets would pick up the remainder of Rios’ $12.5 million dollars this season, and has a team option for 2015 for $13.5 million. It’s a steep price, but a perfect fit, as the Mets would lose Chris Young’s $7.0 million dollar price tag, as well as Jason Bay’s $3.0 buyout money off the books, allowing the Mets to serve as a 2015 “upgrade.”

The compensation shouldn’t be rough either. Rios is a serviceable player, but not one who you clear the farm system for. In fact, I’d be shocked if the Mets had to give up a “top 100” prospect for him. The Rangers would like to add some more pitching after injuries to Martin Perez and a slew of other members of the major-league rotation. A trade of Gabriel Ynoa for Alex Rios sounds about right, the Mets could offer Jayce Boyd or even Eric Campbell as a first base prospect. If the prices goes above Wilmer Flores, I think I would pause, but if the Mets gets to say, three games behind for the NL East crown, the Mets should make the move.

Sans LeBron, Chris Bosh And The Miami Heat Remain Interesting

For a split second on Friday afternoon, there was a doubt in the back of my mind that all three members of Miami’s big three would return to Miami. LeBron’s S.I. letter sent shockwaves through social media, Houston aligned themselves to make Chris Bosh the third superstar acquired in as many years, and Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski — the real MVP in all of this — just tweeted that the Chicago Bulls expressed interest in Dwyane Wade. Three games ago, the Miami Heat tied the NBA Finals series with San Antonio up a one game apiece. Now, they could all be gone, and Miami would fall to the depths of the NBA.

That split second, however, turned out to be nothing more than fantasy. As soon as it looked like Bosh and Houston were on the verge of marriage, Miami crashed the wedding. After discussing a smaller deal with the intent of saving a bit money for a title run, Miami went all in on Bosh- bringing him back on a five-year, $118 million dollar contract. With Wade already in the bag (Chicago’s interest quietly died down after it was revealed that Wade sold his Chicago home), the Heat found themselves with two of the original big three members. A downgrade, but not the biggest downgrade.

In a span of 48 hours, the Miami Heat went from a team in flux, to one of the more interesting teams in the Eastern Conference.

Even with the decline in the back end of the contract, Bosh returns into a premier role, one that saw him garner multiple 20-10 seasons in Toronto. While Bosh himself said that “CB4 will never return,” moving back into limelight offensively is only a good thing for Miami in light of LeBron’s departure, and his improvement as a three-point shooter should save some milage for the postseason. Defensively, Bosh will remain one of the focal point of a small ball lineup, serving as the pivot in Miami’s interior defense, as well as providing the best pick and roll defense in the league.

As for Wade, he remains the real question mark here. The final three games of the NBA Finals saw Wade look like a man on the end of his career. After a season that saw him shoot over 60% at the basket, Wade struggled over the length of Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter. He’s non-existent as a shooter, his defense was constantly exploited, and Manu Ginobili and Danny Green made him work off the ball, running him through any and every screen. For a man who “single-handedly” took over the 2006 NBA Finals, Wade looked like someone on his last legs in the 2014 Finals.

Except, that wasn’t the case. Wade gave Miami a respectable 19-5-5 the series earlier against Indiana, and remained efficient at that. As the rest periods between games grew shorter and shorter, Wade couldn’t recover in time, and it didn’t help that he was playing a really, really good San Antonio team. Over the last three seasons, Wade has failed to play 70 games, and he’s going into his age-33 season. He’ll get his money, Wade didn’t opt out of a two-year, 40.1 million dollar deal for nothing, but Miami paying him on the wrong side of 30 is a risky venture.

With his newfound cap space, Pat Riley made a handful of moves, with the intention of keeping the Heat as a perennial playoff team. Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger were added in light of LeBron James, and remained after his departure. On Sunday, Riley found himself landing one of the biggest dominoes left in free agency in Luol Deng, and brought back Chris Andersen and Mario Chalmers on expensive short-term deals. He also invested in the draft, too. Not only did he bring in Shabazz Napier in the first round of this year’s draft, but he also brought over James Ennis- a 2013 second round pick and summer league darling. Both are expected to contribute in minor roles.

The two valuable pieces added were Deng and McRoberts. As a former nemesis to the big three, Deng offers the Heat a great perimeter defender, and next to the right point guard, a respectable three point shooter. There are some concerns about how Deng will age after being in the Tom Thibodeau incubator, but a two-year, 20 million dollar deal is a steal for Deng. As for McRoberts, Miami is hoping McRoberts can replicate or best his shooting from last season, but the passing is valuable to have in Miami’s system, and the combination of he and Bosh gives the Heat two smart passers on the floor, with Bosh’s interior defense. After being chopped up by Boris Diaw’s passing in the Finals, adding someone who can find the open man and hit threes at a post position was something Miami wanted to add, and hopefully they found it in McRoberts.

So where’s the intrigue?

This team isn’t bad, but it isn’t great either, which in the Eastern Conference, gives you a chance. The trio of Bosh, Wade, and Deng is a clear drop off from last year’s top three, but McRoberts is a healthy upgrade, Granger is aging, but serviceable from the corners. Napier and Ennis have a chance to contribute, and Miami still has a $2.7 million room exception to add to the bench. There’s a glaring weakness on Miami’s roster (wing depth, where Ennis and Granger are currently the only two wing players on the bench), and guys on the market (Brandon Rush, Alan Anderson) to fill that exact role. If Miami can land one or two of those guys, the Heat have a chance, a slight one, to remain atop the East’s hierarchy.

Also, let’s look at the East from this angle of the prism: Chicago is the favorite, but Rose’s health remains a concern. Indiana imploded and could lose their fourth best player in free agency. Cleveland has the best player in the league, but no rim protection, and a young roster outside of James and Varejao. Charlotte lost out and landed Marvin Williams and Brian Roberts, Toronto needs someone on the roster (Ross, Valanciunas) to take a leap, Washington swapped Ariza for Paul Pierce, and Brooklyn is another year older and “taking a step back financially.” Miami could be better than half of those teams, no? Perhaps they aren’t on the same plane with Cleveland, Chicago, and maybe Indiana, but after that?

There are still a handful of offseason questions, but none are big enough to make Miami an innocent bystander in the Eastern Conference. If Cleveland can land Kevin Love without adding Andrew Wiggins into the deal (doubtful), then were talking about Cleveland, Chicago, and everyone else. However, if Cleveland remains adamant in refusing to trade Wiggins, the East should remain largely open, which gives the Miami Heat a shot, and as the Washington Wizards showed us last season,being in the discussion is really all you need in the Eastern Conference.

 

The Mets And Starlin Castro: Sure?

The Cubs have two really good shortstops in the high minors. Could Starlin Castro be available? Can the Mets get him?

 

With last night’s blockbuster trade involving the Chicago Cubs and Oakland A’s, the Cubs have found themselves with three great, young shortstops. Starlin Castro has seemingly returned  to the status that earned him a seven-year, 60 million dollar contract extension in 2012. As of July 5th, 2014, Castro has batted .290/.335/.472 and complied a 1.9 fWAR. Along with Castro, the Cubs have Javier Baez and now Addison Russell in the high minors, ready to take over the shortstop position in the next 12 months or so. Throw in top 100 prospect Arismendy Alcantara – who seems to be everywhere for the Iowa Cubs at the moment, but appears to be a top-notch second base prospect- and the Cubs could have a crowded infield as early as 2015.

Should the Mets make a play on one of Chicago’s shortstop, and specifically, should the Mets make a play for Starlin Castro?

My answer? Maybe. The Mets need an answer at shortstop, and have needed one since Jose Reyes left for Miami three seasons ago. The Mets currently rank 22nd with a 0.4 fWAR at the shortstop position, and you can consider that playing over their heads. Wilmer Flores isn’t an ideal option at shortstop, and while Ruben Tejada currently gets on base at a .345 clip and has a walk rate over 12 percent, he’s just batting .234, and would serve better as a utility infielder. Matt Reynolds has impressed in his first handful of at bats in Triple-A, but I find him as a long-term second baseman. I have my doubts about whether or not the Mets could contend in 2015 but if they plan to take a step into baseball relevancy, they will need to improve multiple positions, starting with the shortstop position.

I’m in on Castro as a player. Even though he stopped stealing bases years ago, and he doesn’t exactly fit into the hitting philosophy the Mets currently employ, Castro would serve as a welcomed addition to the top of the order. The Mets are currently using Curtis Granderson at the top of the lineup, which is fine, but also removes protection behind Wright. Last season, the Mets used Eric Young Jr. at the top of the lineup; Castro dwarfs him as a talent. Not only can Castro get on base better than Young can, but there’s also more power in Castro’s bat. Castro’s slugging percentage (.472) would be tied with Lucas Duda, and his isolated power (.182) would rank second behind Duda. The Mets could use another strong bat in the lineup, and Castro would present the Mets with exactly that at the top of the order.

There are just two problems here. Well, two that I would like to discuss.

The first is proper compensation. The Mets and Cubs fit as trade partners because the Cubs have a need for young pitching and the Mets offer just that. Castro is a good player, but I’m not sure if he’s worth a top-tier prospect, even with the shortstop market being as scarce as it is now. The Mets have just one top-tier prospect in the system- Noah Syndergaard. I’m not Sandy Alderson, but I would reject the idea of giving up Syndergaard for Castro. Syndergaard has struggled in his first season in Las Vegas (5.70 ERA, 4.19 FIP in 15 starts), I still believe in him, and he’s still just 21 years old. He was highly regarded as one of the top 15 prospects in baseball, and I would hold out hope to either use him for a middle-of-the-order power bat or bring him up for 150 innings next season.

From there, it becomes tricky, and ultimately, too convoluted for both parties. The Cubs would probably want Syndergaard in a deal, while the Mets would look to use top 50 prospect Rafael Montero along with a handful of their top prospects. Something surrounding the Rafael Montero, Kevin Plawecki, and Gabriel Ynoa is something New York could be interested in. Montero is a top 100 prospect in baseball, Plawecki gives the Cubs one of the better hitting catcher prospects in baseball (The Cubs JUST drafted Kyle Schwarber this past June, but no one believes he’ll stick behind the plate), and Ynoa is a low-level pitching prospect with promise. The Cubs get two pitchers who can find their way to Wrigley in the next three years (Montero can come up in the second half of 2014, while Ynoa could use another season or two) and a young catcher. The Mets get the shortstop they need, and someone who can help set the table offensively.

Also, the 2013 season from Starlin Castro can also give New York some pause. Ultimately, it could be labeled as an outlier season, but .245/.284/.347 batting splits, 70 wRC+, and a -0.1 fWAR is less than desirable. Are we sure we can avoid that from happening again? His salary gradually rises each year, until he hits $11 million in 2019. The Mets can’t avoid a poor season from Castro at a high price, because there’s a very good chance he’ll make 20-30% of the Mets’ payroll in the next three or four seasons. Unlike the Chris Young signing, the Mets can’t just swallow that deal if it’s a dud, which compared to the David Wright deal (alright) and Curtis Granderson contract (another deal I’m fine with…for now), the Mets can’t have those three stumble and expect to field a winning ballclub.

The Cubs will probably hold on to Castro, unless someone knocks their socks off in a deal. 2015 free agency features a ton of major league shortstops (Jimmy Rollins, Jed Lowrie, Asdrubal Cabrera, and J.J. Hardy), and Cubs general manager Theo Epstein could use a great Castro season to sell high to the loser of those bidding wars. If Castro does become available this trade deadline, the Mets have to be in on him, even with the financial struggles. If the Mets are determined to have 2015 as the season they attempt to buoy back to baseball relevancy, adding a table setter like Starlin Castro would be a great start.

Or, you know, we can always go get Didi Gregorius from Arizona.