Yesterday, Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger wrote a piece about Jon Niese, talking about how valuable a trade chip he will be in the offseason and how the Mets should consider flipping Niese for an outfielder after the season:
Another executive rated Niese as “pretty close” to Cahill, a middle-of-the-rotation starter now with Arizona. Niese, the executive said, would bring back at least one “good piece.”
The Mets need as many of those as possible. The front office will strategize their offseason plan for the rest of the month. Their methods will take shape after an assessment of their performance in 2012.
McCullough is right on point with the value of Niese. He is a left-hander who is rapidly improving and under team control for a long time at a low salary. There is no arguing that. He certainly could fetch a very good everyday outfielder, especially if packaged with a guy like Daniel Murphy or Lucas Duda. However, trading Niese would be a very bad decision.
Another point mentioned in the article is the depth of the Mets pitching rotation, another reason to consider trading Niese. However, at this point, that depth doesn’t seem like a sure thing. Right now, the rotation (excluding Niese) would definitely include R.A. Dickey, Dillon Gee, and Matt Harvey. Johan Santana is not a sure thing. He’s getting older and can’t seem to stay healthy. In the fifth spot, you could make a case for Zack Wheeler, but he won’t really be ready until July. With Niese, the rotation just looks so much better.
On top of that, Niese is valuable to the Mets for the same reasons that make him so coveted by other GMs.He is young, improving, and under team control at an pretty cheap rate through 2018.
The time may eventually come for the Mets to trade Niese. If Zack Wheeler proves to be elite, or even just a third or fourth starter, and if Johan Santana stays healthy or another option pops up, it may be a good idea to start exploring the options for Niese. But not without the assurance that the rotation can thrive without him. Pitching is so valuable in baseball, and if the Mets make a move to early and the pitching prospects don’t work out, they are in big trouble.
For now, Sandy Alderson has other pieces he can trade. Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy, coupled with maybe Jeurys Familia and another prospect could get Justin Upton if that’s who the Mets really want to go after.There are a few valuable, expendable pieces in the organization, but Niese isn’t one of them.