The New York Mets and Chicago Cubs are both in the position of looking toward the offseason.
Maybe they make a smaller waiver-deadline trade, but the focus of both franchises is on becoming a contender in the near future.
New York hasn’t made the playoffs since 2006 and Chicago’s postseason drought goes back to 2008. Despite a combined record of 121-142 this season both teams are set up well for the future.
To take that next step the Mets and Cubs are position to help each other.
Since deciding to not pay Jose Reyes at the end of the 2011 season New York has been a revolving door at shortstop. Over the course of the three years Ruben Tejada, Omar Quintanilla, Justin Turner, Ronny Cedeno and Wilmer Flores have seen time at the position.
Tejada has seen the most action and in 1091 plate appearances has four home runs, 60 RBI, 90 walks, 164 strikeouts with .252/.322/.312 splits.
From a broader perspective, not just relating to shortstop, the Mets offense has been dreadful. They rank 25th in runs scored this season, finished 23rd in 2013 and 25th in 2012.
What the Mets do have a ton of is pitching. Even without ace Matt Harvey this season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery – New York has the 13th best team ERA in the majors at 3.70.
Pitchers who could potentially be in the starting rotation for them next year include Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom, Jon Niese, Dillon Gee, Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero and Bartolo Colon. That’s eight starters for five spots.
Outside of Colon, the other seven are all under the age of 30 — Gee is 28, Niese 27, deGrom 26, Harvey 25, Wheeler 24, Syndergaard 21 and Montero 23.
According to MLB.com three of the Mets top 10 prospects are middle infielders, but all are at the Double-A level or lower. The closest to the major is Dilson Herrera, who has been hitting at a high rate for the Binghamton Mets (AA) at the age of 20. His splits are .336/.403/.552 in 232 at bats. Herrera plays second base.
Pitching can be tough to give up, but the Mets have excessive amounts and it’s time for them to be bold.
The Cubs are absolutely loaded with young position players with upside. 24-year-old Anthony Rizzo is locked in at first base and Triple-A third baseman Kris Bryant is widely considered one of the top two prospects in baseball along with the Twins’ Byron Buxton. With two teams in the Minors this year at Double-A and Triple-A Bryant has hit 43 homers with an OPS over 1.000. Chicago’s corner infield spots are set.
The middle infield is where it gets a little more interesting.
22-year-old Arismendy Alcantara spent the majority of his times in the minors at shortstop, second base and third base. He played 11 games in center field for the Iowa Cubs this season. Chicago has already played Alcantara in the outfield for 26 of the 41 games he’s started in the big leagues.
21-year-old Javier Baez has played 15 games at second base and five at shortstop since he’s been called up to the majors. In the minors Baez played almost exclusively shortstop.
20-year-old Addison Russell, who the Cubs acquired as the main piece in the Jeff Samardzija, is widely considered the top shortstop prospect in baseball. Russell is currently at Double-A hitting .297/.339/.560 in 186 plate appearances.
Chicago also has their current regular shortstop Starlin Castro. Castro is only 24-years-old and signed to an extremely reasonable $60.57 million contract that started in 2012 and runs through 2019 with a team option for 2020. Castro struggled mightily in 2013, but has put together a solid bounce backe year. He’s hitting .284/.333/.429 with 13 home runs in 535 plate appearances. Castro should finish the year with +2 WAR for the third time in four seasons.
Even if the Cubs decide they’re ok with Alcantara as an outfielder long-term there is still two positions for three players that need over 600 Abs a season.
Chicago’s current starting rotation features Jacob Turner, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendriks, Tsuyoshi Wada, Felix Doubront and Travis Wood.
Doubront and Turner were buy-low candidates the Cubs are trying to turn around. Arrieta and Wada are both having terrific season, but are both better suited in the three, four or five slot. Hendriks has been absolutely lights out over his eight starts in the majors this season yet his peripherals say it’s unsustainable.
The Cubs desperately need an upgrade in the starting rotation even if they go out and sign one of the top pitchers on the market when the free agency period opens (Max Scherzer, James Shields or Jon Lester).
Cubs meet the Mets. Mets meet the Cubs.
Who exactly would be involved in the trade depends on the scope of the deal these two teams are willing to get into.
Based on the team that initiated the talks and which specific player they inquired about would determine the level of deal we’re talking about. Harvey, Wheeler and Syndergaard are the three most valuable to the Mets. Chicago’s two highest upside players are Russell and Baez.
The teams could construct a trade similar to the Yankees and Mariners when they exchanged then elite prospects Jesus Montero for Michael Pineda.
They could also go smaller with the Mets moving one of their lower level pitchers along with other prospects in a deal for Castro.
Whatever direction the two teams would decide to go there is a trade to be made. Both of these teams can help each other and maybe they could see each other in the postseason instead of sitting at home watching baseball in the fall.