Steve Slowinski took at the Reds (or more specifically: Yonder Alonso, although I would add Chris Heisey into the discussion) as a trade target yesterday. Except them to come off often when folks talk about Matt Garza (and/or Jason Bartlett) trade destinations as their surplus of power hitters at first overlaps with the Rays’ surplus of pitching depth. Using that filter to find another fit for Garza brings the Mets into focus.
Without getting into too much rosterbation, the Mets have a new front office and one that needs a good starting pitcher. Okay, lots of teams need good starting pitchers, but the Mets have Johan Santana out for a little while with an injury and do not seem anxious to rush into the free agent market for answers. They also have upper minor league depth aplenty at first base and in the outfield.
The Rays have some traces of depth at both positions. There is talk about Ben Zobrist playing first base next season – although that could be posturing as much as anything – and there’s the chance that at least one of Leslie Anderson, Julio Ruiz, and Matt Sweeney potentially turn into something useful. If Zobrist does play first base (and Sean Rodriguez mans second base) then the Rays will have an outfield opening should they choose to trade B.J. Upton this offseason. On the other hand, if the Rays play Zobrist between second base and right field again, then they will have an opening at first base.
Regardless of the major league roster, the Rays could always stand to add some talent at positions. Remember that they added Matt Joyce despite having Carl Crawford, Upton, Gabe Gross, Justin Ruggiano, Fernando Perez, and Desmond Jennings around. They also added Rodriguez despite Zobrist and Reid Brignac. Simply put: amassing talent is never a bad thing.
So, why would the Mets be looking to move some of their surplus? In part to fill a gap, but also because they have too much depth at the top of the system. Carlos Beltran, Jason Bay, and Angel Pagan are basically guaranteed jobs. As is Ike Davis. Nick Evans and Daniel Murphy are also near the majors. That leaves outfield prospects Fernando Martinez and Kirk Nieuwenhuis on the outside looking in along with first base prospect Lucas Duda. Worth noting is the Mets also have a collection of shortstops – something an organization can never have enough of – with Wilmer Flores, Ruben Tejada, and Reese Havens.
Duda in particular is an interesting player. He stands six five and has a 240-pound frame. He’s not going to be able to play the outfield and he slipped in the 2007 draft because he never lived up to his hype. He’ll be 25 on opening day next season, meaning he’s not the youngest left-handed bat out there, but what he’s done with the bat in the minors is just all kinds of impressive. In nearly 300 plate appearances at Triple-A Buffalo, Duda hit .314/.389/.610 with 31 walks, 57 strikeouts, and 17 home runs. In his Double-A career, he hit .282/.389/.450 with 62 extra base hits in 664 plate appearances.
Duda alone would not get a deal done as it would take at least one more player – probably someone with even better prospect status, as Duda himself failed to rank in Kevin Goldstein’s top 11 list this past winter. For that reason, the Mets may have little to no interest in Garza as it is, but their depth makes them an interesting candidate for a trade. Even if nothing comes from it.