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The lead up to the trade deadline has a tendency to become a real-life version of pin the tail on the donkey.
Fans (the blindfolded ones in this metaphor) try to stick their favorite team’s hat on any and every player who might be available, evidence and logic be damned. While a quick glance at the list of upcoming free agents is easy to narrow down the field, each deadline trade is not created equally. For some teams, a rental for a specific player or an upgrade at a certain position make the most sense. The fearless reliever that can handle a big seventh inning in the postseason can be just as instrumental to a title run as the All-Star hitter who came over in the same trade.
Until deadline day comes on July 30, the rumor mill will churn out name after name, desperately trying to connect them with a needy team. In trying to prognosticate the trade deadline though, one must always remember the golden question. Does this hypothetical deal actually make any sense?
With the big day just over a week away, let’s explore the efficacy of some prominent rumors.
Kris Bryant to the Mets
It’s been a dream scenario for the Mets’ faithful. A somewhat disgruntled star whose days are numbered with his current team, Bryant fits the mold of midseason trade pickup that pushes the team over the NL East finish line and perhaps further, a la Yoenis Cespedes.
The Mets may have to break a few eggs if they want to make this omelette. Whether that means going over the luxury tax, trading J.D. Davis to make room for Bryant at third base and on the payroll, or parting ways with one of their top-rated prospects, it’s a move that owner Steve Cohen and the Mets need to at least seriously consider.
Bryant is due for free agency after the World Series. It’s unclear whether he’d have any interest in signing with the Mets long term, and he’ll undoubtedly keep his options open while being courted this winter, but a deep postseason run in front of a New York audience could do wonders for convincing Bryant to remain in blue and orange.
One thing is clear, though, and that’s that the Cubs are looking to sell. Joc Pederson was the first domino, and they’re not going to stop there. If the Mets can come up with a good enough package, getting Bryant and right-handed starter Zach Davies from Chicago would make a lot of sense for this good but not great roster.
Yankees fix their hole in center field
It’s abundantly clear that the Yankees need something better in center field.
What that new center fielder actually looks like is key to the discussion, though. Starling Marte is a great baseball player, but he’s 33 years old, right-handed, and likely looking for one more big contract. Wherever he ends his season, Marte will immediately chase the bag in free agency, and it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for the Yankees to give up prospect capital for two months of Marte’s services just for him to bail right afterward.
If the Yankees want to take a big swing, fittingly, they should pursue Joey Gallo. Not only is he younger, and a better fielder than Marte, Gallo also bats left-handed. His park-shrinking power makes more sense than Marte, though Pittsburgh’s Bryan Reynolds deserves a look too.
But the Yankees have already been linked to Gallo and they need something to make this season not feel like a total loss. A two-time All-Star with a Gold Glove that currently leads the league in walks could ease the blow of potentially missing the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
Mets get a starting pitcher
Mets’ acting general manager Zack Scott recently appeared as a guest on the Big Time Baseball podcast and let slip that the Mets are eyeing some bullpen help at the deadline.
That’s not exactly earth-shattering news, both because the middle and long relief parts of the Mets’ pen are mostly made up of Quad-A players, but because every single team in the race could use another reliever or two. Still, getting another starting pitcher to slot behind Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman and Taijuan Walker makes the most sense for the front office, much more than taking on a veteran bullpen arm.
SNY reported that the Mets sent scouts to see Diamondbacks’ righty Merrill Kelly’s final start before the All-Star break. While the report mentions that the asking price for Kelly will be high, a pitcher of Kelly’s ilk would be an excellent fit. With Kelly specifically, though, the Mets understandably may not want to commit to a 32-year-old pitcher who’s spent the better part of his career in Korea.
Instead, the Mets could look to Davies, Minnesota’s Jose Berrios (who a source told SNY is a favorite of Mets’ pitching coach and former Twins assistant Jeremy Hefner), or Colorado’s Jon Gray. Each of those moves — or Pittsburgh’s Tyler Anderson if they want to add a lefty to this all-right-handed rotation — are more sensible than focusing on an already strong bullpen.
Of course, the Mets could do both, but they simply have to address the back end of the starting staff first. No contending team can rely on Tylor Megill for this long.