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The Mets have long been on the lookout for a shortstop, but while many have speculated on the possibility of a trade with the Cubs or D’Backs, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports that the team will take a look at an under-the-radar Cuban shortstop in the coming days. Roberto Carlos, a 28-year-old Cuban defector, is in the Dominican Republic and garnering attention from the Mets. Carlos left the Cuban National team in 2012 and defected to America, but he is believed to have “slipped through the cracks” because he did not initially seek representation after defecting. The switch-hitting Perez last batted .339 with four homers for the Cuban National team in 2012, Puma writes, and he did have a brief stint in independent ball last season. Carlos, who until recently played under his full name of Roberto Carlos Ramirez, batted .357/.394/.425 in 293 plate appearances between two indy league clubs. He didn’t homer, but he did go 19-for-24 in stolen base attempts.
Here are some more Mets-centric links as we head into the weekend…
- Also from Puma’s piece, while the Mets weren’t involved in the Rusney Castillo sweepstakes, the money required to sign him wasn’t the reason, according to GM Sandy Alderson. “I think it’s a matter of there might be some scouting differences of opinion, and kind of where we are and what we’re going to do in the immediate future, so there are lots of issues involved,” said the Mets GM. “We scout [the Cuban market], so it’s not as if we’re not aware of what is going on. It’s not like we’re not aware of who is out there.”
- Puma also tweets that the Mets will work out Pavel Quesada as well, a Cuban third baseman who is said to possess some power. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez tweeted last month that Quesada worked out for several teams at the Yankees’ facility in the Dominican Republic.
- Zack Wheeler spoke with Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News and said that while he’s aware that the Mets have a perceived starting pitching surplus, he’s hoping to remain with the club rather than end up elsewhere via trade. “I’d like to be here,” said Wheeler. “I know they could use one of (the young pitchers) to get a bat or two, but I’ve been here for the rebuilding. I know it’s part of the game, but I want to be here after the rebuilding. I want to see the results.”
- In an appearance with Chris Russo on the MLB Network (video link), Peter Gammons revealed that the Mets at one point last offseason offered Jon Niese to the Mariners in a trade that would have sent shortstop Brad Miller back to New York (it’s unclear what other pieces were in the deal). The Mets may be happy to have held onto Niese, who has posted a 3.50 ERA in 141 1/3 innings while Miller has struggled to a .199/.273/.326 batting line.
- Gammons also opines that the Mets and Cubs don’t line up well for a trade because the Mets would likely have to part with at least two young pitchers to make a deal, and that would thin out their depth considerably.
FRIDAY: Taijuan Walker‘s name is once again at the center of trade talks surrounding Price, reports Heyman. He adds that Tampa has also expressed interest in the likes of corner infield prospect D.J. Peterson and James Paxton, neither of which is particularly surprising; Peterson and Paxton are two of the top young players in Seattle’s system.
The two sides are discussing various iterations of deals for Price, Zobrist or both. Heyman adds that Seattle might be willing to include Brad Miller in a deal as well, given the emergence of Triple-A shortstop Chris Taylor. The M’s, however, have said they won’t deal Mike Zunino.
THURSDAY, 9:51pm: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Mariners’ talks with the Rays have been more focused on Zobrist than Price, and the two sides have been discussing Zobrist “for weeks.” Nick Franklin‘s name has frequently come up in talks, he adds.
Heyman also reports that the Mariners have spoken to the Twins about Josh Willingham and the White Sox about Dayan Viciedo, and he notes that he, too, has heard Byrd’s name in learning of the Mariners’ trade talks. One big league source tells Heyman, however, that a deal for Byrd is now “less than likely” due to his no-trade clause.
He also adds that the Mariners’ ownership group is very big on bringing in players who want to be in Seattle. Offseason comments by Price’s agent about his client not wanting to sign a long-term deal in Seattle seem to indicate that Price doesn’t fit that description. However, the team’s status as a legitimate postseason contender may have changed Price’s thinking on that front.
2:10pm: Though no deal is imminent, the Mariners have been engaged in ongoing discussions with the Rays regarding lefty David Price and utilityman Ben Zobrist, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter links). Meanwhile, talks have stalled with the Phillies regarding Marlon Byrd.
Needless to say, Price and Zobrist both represent potential impact to contenders. Either player could presumably add value to just about every roster in baseball. That holds particularly true for Seattle, which could not only pair Price with current ace Felix Hernandez but would be able to play Zobrist at shortstop, outfield, or even first base.
Of course, the return for either — and, especially, both — would figure to be substantial. (It is not clear from Morosi’s report whether the two would be joined in any potential deal, or indeed whether the sides have progressed that far.) Tampa is said to be interested in beating the return that the Cubs received for Jeff Samardzija, if it deals Price at all. Certainly, a hypothetical pairing of Price and Zobrist (both under control for next season) would require a bigger return on paper than was commanded by Samardzija and Jason Hammel.
Meanwhile, the news on Byrd makes sense in light of last night’s report from ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden, which indicated that Byrd would ask the Mariners to guarantee his $8MM option for 2016 in order to waive his no-trade clause. Seattle is one of just four teams on Byrd’s no-trade list.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.
Though they were never that interested in Stephen Drew, finding a solution at shortstop remains a priority for the Mets, reports Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. While the upcoming free agent class features prominent names such as Hanley Ramirez, J.J. Hardy, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jed Lowrie, Martino hears that the team isn’t looking at that market yet. Rather, the Mets are focused on adding a young, controllable shortstop on the trade market this summer.
Martino lists Brad Miller and Nick Franklin of the Mariners as possibilities, though one source tells him that the two sides haven’t been in contact recently. Arizona’s Didi Gregorius is hitting very well at Triple-A Reno, and Martino says the Mets are continually monitoring him, but the front office shakeup in Arizona makes trading with them a bit confusing at this time, he adds. Martino writes that other teams, at this point, aren’t even sure whether to contact GM Kevin Towers or new Chief Baseball Officer Tony La Russa regarding trades, though Mets GM Sandy Alderson has a good relationship with both.
He continues by stating that the Mets were only interested in Drew on a one-year deal, as they didn’t want to be responsible for 2015 and beyond if he struggled this season. The team currently wants to see if Wilmer Flores can handle the position, but his defensive question marks have been well-documented.
From this point on, I’m purely speculating, but I wonder if a name like Hak-Ju Lee could be available on the trade market now that the Rays have extended Yunel Escobar‘s contract through at least 2016. Lee is struggling thus far in his return from multiple ligament tears in his knee last season, but he’s a former Top 100 prospect that could be blocked on the big league roster.
The Rangers also have some middle infield depth with Luis Sardinas likely blocked from a starting role due to the presence of Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar. The pitching-hungry Twins also have a solid shortstop prospect in Danny Santana, though their own lack of a quality long-term option at short might make them hesitant to deal the 23-year-old.
The Mets possess enviable pitching depth with Matt Harvey on the mend from Tommy John surgery and a group of young starters including Jon Niese, Zack Wheeler, Dillon Gee, Rafael Montero, Jacob deGrom and top prospect Noah Syndergaard. With such a wide range of arms under team control, the Mets could conceivably use that depth to entice a rival club to part with a controllable shortstop.
Following the Mariners' signing of Robinson Cano, many speculated that Nick Franklin or Brad Miller would be displaced by the move. Several teams reportedly had interest in Franklin at the time, but there hasn't been too much chatter surrounding him in the two months since. That could change, as ESPNNewYork.com's Adam Rubin hears from industry sources that Seattle is likely to move Franklin or Miller prior to Opening Day, with Franklin being the more likely candidate.
While Franklin played shortstop more frequently than second base throughout the minors, most evaluators seem to feel that Miller is better equipped, from a defensive standpoint, to handle shortstop in Seattle going forward. As such, Franklin, who will turn 23 on March 2, finds himself without a clear role on the team (Kyle Seager is in at third base, not that Franklin has experience at the hot corner anyhow).
Franklin got off to a hot start upon being called up from Triple-A Tacoma last season, slashing .270/.337/.453 with six homers in 43 games (175 plate appearances) in the season's first half. However, following the All-Star break, Franklin slumped to a .194/.280/.333 batting line in 243 PAs. The result was a sub-par .225/.303/.382 triple-slash line. Still, Franklin is entering just his age-23 season and is no stranger to appearing on Top 100 prospect lists, having multiple appearances on those produced by Baseball America, MLB.com, ESPN's Keith Law and Baseball Prospectus.
As Rubin notes in his piece, some teams could still view Franklin as an option at shortstop, meaning any team with a middle infield deficiency could have interest. Rubin points out that Franklin would be an upgrade over Ruben Tejada for the Mets, though he stops short of concretely citing interest on the Mets' behalf.
Of course, Rubin's report leaves open the possibility that the Mariners could deal Miller instead, who slashed .265/.318/.418 with eight homers and five steals as a 23-year-old rookie for Seattle in 2013. Both players would be controllable through the 2019 season, making them attractive long-term assets for teams with middle infield needs. The Mariners have been said to desire an additional power bat for their lineup as well as rotation help, and they may not wish to pay free-agent prices to land both. A trade of Miller or Franklin would certainly seem an alternative route to addressing one of those needs, while the addition of a free agent such as Ervin Santana, Nelson Cruz or Kendrys Morales could fill the second.