Mets officials have repeatedly told teams and the media that Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz are not likely to be traded.
However, Mets assistant GM John Ricco said Sunday that they're open to deals including Jon Niese. They also obviously discussed Zack Wheeler in trades last summer, since he was nearly sent to the Brewers in the failed Carlos Gomez trade.
"We haven't been actively shopping him, but we're going to be looking for ways to improve the team," Ricco said Sunday, when asked about Niese's availability. "If there's a deal that involves him and it makes us better, I think we would definitely consider it."
Niese went 9-10 with a 4.13 ERA in 33 appearances for the Mets this past season. He allowed three runs in six relief appearances during the postseason.
Ricco said that while Niese is currently slated as the team's fifth starter, and could transition to the bullpen and make spot starts, the Mets also have other players that fit that role.
"We do feel good about Rafael Montero, and I think he'd be a candidate for that," Ricco explained. "Sean Gilmartin has started in the past, so, he'd be another consideration. And then we have some other young pitchers who would be in the mix there, too."
Based on what teams are paying free-agent pitchers this month, Niese is going to draw interest from other teams. In the end, though, I bet the Mets keep him in the mix. He proved that he can pitch in relief, which means he can fill a variety of roles for them next season. Frankly, the whole thing is very reminiscent of the Dillon Gee situation last offseason.
The odds are good that someone in Sandy Alderson's rotation will get hurt next season. It usually takes 8-10 starting pitchers to get through a full season. In Niese, the Mets have a pitcher that would likely get a three- or four-year deal worth around $10 million a season on the open market. Instead, they have him making $9 million this season, followed by consecutive $10 million options (or $500,000 buyouts) the following two years. I don't know how it happened, but he's actually become a bargain.
Ricco is right. The Mets should trade Niese if the deal brings back help at a position they would otherwise be forced to overspend. But, I don't see that deal happening. The Dodgers supposedly had interest in Niese last spring. But, at this point, I think as a best case scenario the Mets could get, say, OF Scott Van Slyke. Otherwise, they could be offered one, high-end Double-A prospect. And in that situation, I bet the Mets keep Niese as insurance for the rotation...