Thursday April 11th, 2013

Giancarlo Stanton The Mets are desperate for a young, quality outfielder like Giancarlo Stanton, one of the game's best power hitters. (Icon SMI)

According to the New York Daily News's Andy Martino, the Mets have had internal discussions about trading for Marlins rightfielder Giancarlo Stanton, and the general consensus in the front office is that the team would be willing to part with it's two top prospects, pitcher Zack Wheeler and catcher Travis d'Arnaud, in order to bring the 23-year-old slugger to Queens.

The first part of that shouldn't come as a surprise. Any team that hasn't had internal discussions about trading for Stanton is being negligent, and few teams are as desperate for an outfield upgrade as the Mets, whose own general manager, Sandy Alderson, has said publicly on more than one occasion that the club is lacking in those spots.

It's the second part of that report, though, that's compelling. The Mets are a rebuilding team. Wheeler is their top prospect, a potential ace who should break into the major league rotation this year. d'Arnaud, who was just acquired in the R.A. Dickey trade with Toronto over the winter, is the game's top catching prospect and another player who could be in New York's starting lineup later this season. Would it really be wise for the Mets to trade two potential stars for one emerging one?

I have to agree with Martino and his front office sources here. Yes, absolutely. I'm typically against rebuilding teams trading prospects for veterans, but Stanton has four team-controlled years left and is actually nine months younger than d'Arnaud and just six months older than Wheeler, so this is not that.

Rather, the hypothetical trade would give the Mets a huge and immediate upgrade over d'Arnaud on all fronts except for position scarcity, one well worth even a front-line pitching prospect like Wheeler, and given the Mets' lack of outfield talent in the major and minors, one could argue the position scarcity is a wash as well. Looking at it that way makes the inclusion of d'Arnaud, who also has a bit of an injury history, including a season-ending knee injury last year, moot, and positions Wheeler as an acceptable price to pay for the resulting upgrade in part because the Mets do have depth when it comes to young starting pitching.

Indeed, the Mets already have 24-year-old righty Matt Harvey pitching like an ace in the major leagues (2.33 ERA, 10.9 K/9 in 12 major league starts), 26-year-old lefty Jonathon Niese under contract through 2016 with club options that could keep him in Queens until 2018, and, in the Dickey-d'Arnaud trade, added 20-year-old righty Noah Syndergaard, who has ace potential and could join Harvey and Niese in the major league rotation next year.

Given that trio, the Mets would be dealing from depth in trading Wheeler, who has never really dominated in the minors and comes with the old TINSTAAPP caveat (There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect, meaning that pitching prospects are far less likely to hit their projections than hitting prospects, due largely to a higher frequency of injury, though obviously that would apply to Syndergaard as well). Indeed, one of the Mets officials who spoke to Martino said, "You trade the pitcher for the everyday player almost every time."

Stanton, meanwhile, is already one of the best power hitters in the major leagues, having led the National League in slugging last year with a .608 mark and collected 93 career homers with the bulk of his age-23 season still ahead of him. Remember last year when Mike Trout and Bryce Harper were doing unprecedented things in their age-19 and -20 seasons, putting them in the almost exclusive company of some of the greatest hitters in the game's history? Well, Stanton is right there with them. He hit .259/.326/.507 with 22 home runs in his age-20 season in 2010 and showed marked improvement in each of the two seasons since, hitting .290/.361/.608 with 37 homers in just 449 at-bats last year. He's not just an established star, he's a budding superstar who won't reach his natural peak until 2017. If the Mets could sign Stanton through is age-35 season in the wake of such a trade, getting him for d'Arnaud and Wheeler wouldn't just be a good idea, it would be a steal, and I say that with full knowledge of just how hard it is going to be to fill the catching position with an above-average player over the next five years.

Of course, that's why it's unlikely to happen. As far as we know, New York has had no serious talks about Stanton with the Marlins, who could very well have their pick of all of the top prospects in baseball if they do decide to trade their lone remaining star. As much as the Mets would appear to be willing to give up, the price for Stanton could prove to be even higher.

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