It's possible the next GM of the Mets will decide it's best to trade Jacob deGrom and/or Noah Syndergaard for inexpensive, young position players that can start Opening Day next season.
If this happens, though it will initially feel wrong, it should not be viewed as a rebuild because the new additions will be joining an established core of young position players.
In Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo and Amed Rosario, the Mets have three foundational players around which two or three more hitters can create a productive and nimble lineup.
In Conforto, the Mets have an intense, competitive, classic left-handed No. 3 hitter, who I believe is capable of being the face of the franchise and a perennial contender for the batting title.
He underperformed through most of April and May. However, to be fair, after having shoulder surgery last September, the initial recovery plan did not have him returning to Citi Field until late May. Instead, Conforto was back in March and rocking full time by Opening Day. So, his lack of launch should not surprise anyone, including Conforto.
Thankfully, his last 30 games or so have been more in line with what is expected from him when healthy, though he clearly won't be going full tilt until next spring.
In the past three weeks he's batting .306 with three home runs and roughly one strikeout per game. It's not at his first half, All-Star level from 2017, but it's encouraging to see him back doing what he does best, which is staying in on pitches inside and going away with balls outside.
In Nimmo, the Mets have a charismatic, uplifting, modern-day leadoff hitter with close to a .400 OBP and the talent to hit 20 home runs, 20 doubles and 10 triples, which would make him one of the best all-around outfielders in the National League.
This past December, after the Yankees traded for Giancarlo Stanton, Sandy Alderson joked that the Mets didn't need him because they had Nimmo. The Mets also reportedly refused to deal Nimmo in talks with the Pirates, who wanted him in exchange for Andrew McCutchen or Josh Harrison.
Nimmo, who was Alderson's first ever draft pick for the Mets, currently ranks seventh in WAR among National League outfielders this season. He had been on pace for one helluva season, but -- given this is his first full season in the big leagues -- he has understandably dipped in production during the past month. The thing is, despite hitting just .205 with only six extra base hits in July, he still had a .359 OBP, put the ball in play, drew 15 walks and scored 12 runs.
It's also worth noting that Conforto and Nimmo have both performed exceptionally well in the field, given that they're constantly bouncing around from a corner spot to center field.
In Rosario, the Mets still have a raw, inconsistent 22-year-old with the ability to be a dynamic, top-of-the-order hitter. The thing is, while he's shown flashes of realizing his potential, he's also looked overmatched and slightly confused in the field. Frankly, more and more every day he reminds me of a young Jose Reyes, who similarly struggled at the start of his career with finding his footing.
Reyes played with a similar unbridled style as Rosario, which is part of what makes each player so intriguing and also frustrating. It wasn't until Jose's third season, or around 120 or so games, that he started to find his role and develop a consistent presence on field.
Rosario is behind schedule in that regard. He's essentially played a full season of games (152) at this point in his career, during which he's hitting just .236 with 8 HR and 0.1 WAR. By comparison, 150 or so games in to his career, Reyes was hitting .272 and had already produced close to 3.0 WAR.
That said, though he was getting picked apart on inside pitches during the first three months of this season, Rosario is now striking out less and drawing more walks, while getting less lucky on balls put in play. He's also proven to be an above-average runner. So, when hits start falling, I have a feeling we may finally see the real Rosario step up...
In the field, he's been shockingly bad compared to the praise he got from scouts and minor-league experts prior to his promotion. Meanwhile, the Mets have have had preliminary discussions about whether to try Rosario in center field. This is not the worst idea I've ever heard, especially since the team's current top prospect, Andres Gimenez, is also a shortstop. Where it is a terrible idea, however, is that it could not be a worse time to throw learning a new position at Rosario since he's seemingly on the verge of finding a rhythm in the batter's box.
The point is, he's clearly still a work in progress, but he's also clearly capable of being the team's everyday shortstop. He's also just 22 years old and just starting to scratch the surface of what he can do at this level.
Nimmo, Conforto and Rosario are not enough, of course. I'm hopeful that either minor-leaguer Dominic Smith or prospect Peter Alonso will be able to take hold of first base or at least provide value at a different position. But, even still, the Mets need more in their lineup than the above group of talent. A lot of that, of course, hinges on Yoenis Cespedes and Jay Bruce, both of whom are over 30, currently on the DL, under contract and making tons of money during the next two seasons.
Cespedes will not be back from his two heel surgeries until next summer, at which point his production and position will be a mystery. He has only ever played outfield, but recently suggested he might be most productive at the plate if playing every day at first base. Similarly, while Bruce could be the team's third outfielder, he could also play first base, but that is only if his current spine condition isn't something that will plague his lower back and feet the next two seasons.
In addition to the above, I'm hopeful that 26-year-old late-bloomer Jeff McNeil could be the answer to the team's need at second base.
"He's young, but he plays like a veteran, with veteran instincts. He has a real good sense of what's happening around him," an advance scout for an American League team told me this week. "He's not the most athletic or most talented guy on the field, but he may be the smartest. He's always ready, always in the right place and always knows what to do when he gets the ball."
McNeil is a terrific low-ball hitter, but the scout cautioned against declaring him a full-time second baseman until McNeil is forced to face and succeeds against a steady diet of fastballs up in the zone.
"The kid clearly plays golf," the scout jokingly said, referring to McNeil's swing. "In time, they'll start testing his ability to get to that high strike. I think he'll be OK because he has really good eye-hand coordination, good reflexes, but it might take him a bit of time to get there."
If McNeil is the answer at second base, it will free the next GM to use deGrom or Syndergaard to reel in a younger, more athletic, more fundamentally-sound catcher, third baseman and/or center fielder. It would be great to net all three but let's not be greedy...
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!