John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Most everyone agrees that Starling Marte would be a nice get for the Mets, giving them the everyday center fielder they've been looking for since, well, since their new manager, Carlos Beltran, was playing the position a decade ago.
But what would it take for them to acquire him in a trade with the Pirates?
The consensus, based on conversations I had with scouts, executives, and minor-league evaluators on Monday, is that Pittsburgh's new GM, Ben Cherington, probably would have to like the idea of taking a major leaguer such as J.D. Davis, Brandon Nimmo, or Dom Smith in return for Marte.
Otherwise, the feeling is the Mets don't have enough depth in their minor-league system to sell the Pirates on a package of prospects without including one of their few blue-chippers they would consider untouchable.
Specifically that likely would come down to shortstop Ronny Mauricio, third baseman Brett Baty, pitcher Matthew Allan, and catcher Francisco Alvarez -- all high-ceiling prospects who are also at least a couple of years away from the big leagues.
Then there's Andres Gimenez, the 20-year old shortstop that SNY analyst Jim Duquette recently proposed as the headliner in a trade for Marte, one which would include two other prospects, pitcher Franklyn Kilome and either infielder Mark Vientos or left-handed pitcher David Peterson.
Ranked 92nd by MLBpipeline.com on its most recent Top 100 list of prospects, Gimenez is regarded as a very good glove who might only be a solid singles-type hitter in the big leagues, raising questions about his value in this slug-heavy era.
More to the point, scouts I spoke to doubt whether a Gimenez-led package would be enough for the Pirates, especially when other teams are likely to bid for Marte, with so few center fielders available via free agency or trade.
"If I'm the Pirates, I've got to get more of a high-impact guy," was the way one team executive put it. "Gimenez is a nice player but he's not a guy you'd build around.
"I'm not even sure any of their other top guys could be the centerpiece of a trade, because they're so young. It would depend what type of rebuild Ben decides he needs. If he goes full rebuild then a big arm like Allan or a catcher with upside like Alvarez would have a lot of appeal.
"But I can't see the Mets doing that. They have to draw the line somewhere as far as giving up prospects."
That was a reference to the trades Brodie Van Wagenen has made since taking the job as GM a little more than a year ago, giving up significant prospect depth as well as a projected star in outfielder Jerred Kelenic.
Nevertheless the Mets are deep in shortstop prospects, while at the big-league level Amed Rosario seemed to turn a corner defensively over the second half last season, which is why they could afford to give up Gimenez as a centerpiece in a package for Marte.
Except the Pirates might not see enough value. In Double-A last season, Gimenez hit .250 with nine home runs and a less-than-impressive .695 OPS, but then he led the Arizona Fall League with a .391 average -- and a .999 OPS -- over 18 games in the desert.
MLBPipeline.com analyst Jim Callis saw all of Gimenez's at-bats in Arizona and still came away not quite sure what to make of him.
"He's a legit shortstop and he had plus-plus run times, so he's faster than I expected," Callis said. "But he's a small guy and he doesn't drive the ball a whole lot. Right now we project him in the big leagues as a .280 hitter with maybe 10 home runs, and a plus-defender.
"Is that enough these days? It's going to be really, really interesting."
If it's not enough for the Pirates to trade Marte, what would it take? Here are three trades proposed by people I spoke with -- two from scouts and one from an executive of an American League team, with brief explanations.(Remember, Marte would come with two years of control, at $11.5 million in 2020 and a team option at $12.5 million in 2021).
1) Scout No. 1: Marte for Francisco Alvarez, Kevin Smith, and Franklyn Kilome
"I'm trying to be fair," the scout said. "I know the Mets aren't giving up Allan because he's their best arm, and I know they're high on Alvarez, but he's only 17 years old (just turned 18 last week), he's a long way from the big leagues, and they want to win now.
"Smith is a lefty who showed promise at Double-A and Kilome is wild-card coming off Tommy John. The key is Alvarez: if I'm the Pirates I'm going to have other offers for Marte, so I have to get an elite prospect at a premium position."
2) Scout No. 2: Marte for J.D. Davis and Thomas Szapucki
"Davis has five years of control and I like his bat," the scout said, "so he works for the Pirates even if they're rebuilding. He's a below-average defender but I'll gamble that he hits enough to play at third or in left. And with the market Marte will have, I want a prospect too: Szapucki is a lefty who was getting high marks before he had Tommy John surgery (in 2018).
"I'd have to think the Mets would rather give up Dom Smith than Davis, but with (Josh) Bell the Pirates don't need a first baseman. So I'll gamble that Marte makes my team better for two years with his offense and his center-field defense."
3) AL exec: Marte for Dom Smith, Gimenez, and David Peterson
"From the Pirates side I'd want Allan but I probably can't get him. I'll take Dom Smith and put him at first base because I'm going to get creative and sell high on Josh Bell to bring back pitching that I need. And I feel like I'm getting value because I know Gimenez is going to be a big-league shortstop. Peterson is a soft-tosser without a lot of upside but he's got a chance to be a back-end starter.
"From the Mets side I might feel like I'm giving up a lot, but I don't have any place to play Smith. Gimenez is blocked at shortstop by Rosario and Peterson's value has fallen since he was a first-round pick, so if I'm trying to win now I probably make this trade."