According to SNY's Andy Martino, the Mets have moved past the idea of trading Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard and are instead considering whether to move Zack Wheeler and/or Steven Matz.
However, in addition to Matz and Wheeler, teams looking for a mid-rotation starting pitcher can also consider acquiring Tyson Ross and Clayton Richard (Padres), Ivan Nova (Pirates), Marco Estrada (Blue Jays), Mike Minor (Rangers) and possibly Chris Archer and Blake Snell (Rays).
The most sought-after starting pitchers will be Cole Hamels and J.A.Happ. Teams will ask about Jacob deGrom and Madison Bumgarner, but no one I know in baseball thinks either of them will be dealt this season.
In terms of the rest of the list, I surveyed two former GMs, two current rival executives, a pro scout and a former manager still paying close attention to the game, and they all agreed Ross is the best of the bunch.
The seven men all agreed that he is the reliable, consistent pitcher of the group and would have no issue starting multiple playoff games.
Next, they prefer Richards and Estrada because of their respective durability and experience. Both pitchers are older than 33, both are coming off back-to-back 30-start seasons and both have pitched more than 1,000 innings.
Wheeler and Eovaldi rank middle of the pack, according to the above insiders and experts. In the case of both men, there is a lot of intrigue, but also lots of concern over their durability and whether they can sustain their recent success.
Wheeler may have the edge simply because he's under contract for another season, whereas Eovaldi is a free agent this winter.
Matz was ranked toward the back end of the above list of available starting pitchers. He, Nova and Liriano are all viewed similarly, each with great potential, but with little faith that they can remain on field.
Minor is a bit of an anomaly because he can start, but also can be used in the bullpen, specially as a left-handed, situational reliever. Also, he has another two years and $20 million left on his contract, which is why most experts believe he'll eventually end up with the Yankees, because they need a LOOGY and a starter and can give up nothing to get him by simply taking on salary.
Matt Harvey, who has a 3.79 ERA since joining the Reds, should be on the above list. But for every expert that is intrigued by his recent success, none of the above sources were convinced he can sustain it. And even if he can sustain, they all had concerns about his personal life, demeanor and impact in a clubhouse.
In return for Wheeler, the Mets can expect to be offered a big-league reliever and/or up to two of a team's Top 15-30 prospects, but neither will be an overall Top 100 guy.
I got no consensus on the market for Matz, which ranged from very little to insisting on a team's top 5 prospect. The team acquiring Matz will need time to review his medical information, because the above experts all have little faith that he can be counted on to take the ball every fifth day. They all believe in his ability and potential, especially given he's left-handed, he's already had Tommy John surgery, is under 30 years old and has very little mileage on his arm.
That said, fair or not, Matz apparently has a reputation around baseball for not being willing to pitch through pain. And so, even if it's just a minor injury, let alone a major injury, the Mets will need to fight this stigma if they want to trade him for anything close to fair or above market value.
According to the above insiders and other buzz around baseball, it seems the Dodgers, Cubs, Brewers and Nationals have been the most aggressive teams looking for back-end starting pitching. I don't see these teams gambling on Matz, but they should all have interest in Wheeler when compared to Richards, Nova and Estrada.
My sense is the Cubs want the most durable pitcher they can get, whereas the Brewers are looking for experience and a stabilizing presence in the rotation. The Braves, Phillies and Yankees appear more focused on acquiring an ace, but there are only two likely to be dealt.
In the end, my hunch is J.P. Ricciardi, John Ricco and Omar Minaya will end up keeping Matz, despite shopping him. However, they may find they match up best with the Phillies, Nationals and Braves for Wheeler, who was born 15 minutes outside of Atlanta. These are all NL East times, though, and Wheeler is under contract for one more season, which means they may also be helping a rival for 2019.
The good news for the Mets is that the Phillies and Braves are widely considered to be among the best farm systems in baseball. The Nationals are considered middle of the pack.
In fair and reasonable talks for Wheeler with the Braves, Nationals and Phillies, based on all of the above, the Mets should asking for near-ready position player prospects, such as mid-range guys like...
- Braves C Alex Jackson, 21, who is currently in Double-A, on target to be ready next season and projecting as a two-way catcher.
- Nationals OF Andrew Stevenson, 23, who got some big-league time earlier this season. Scouts say he is a great fielder with good plate discipline, but lacking power.
- Phillies OF Roman Quinn, 24, who is a true blue, speedy, lead-off hitting, everyday center fielder, currently ready for big-league action.
There is also the very real chance Citi Field's three GMs decide it makes more sense to enter this winter with Matz and Wheeler and deGrom and Syndergaard and either aim to build around them or deal some or none this winter. It's a good problem to have, and there's no point in rushing a deal when the worst-case scenario is still the potential for an great, young rotation for another season.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!