There’s not much traction at present between the Nationals and Mets on a potential Josh Bell swap, reports SNY’s Andy Martino. Bell is one of several designated hitter candidates in whom the Mets are known to have interest, but it seems as though talks between the two parties haven’t proved fruitful. Pat Ragazzo and Michael Marino of Sports Illustrated/Fan Nation report that the Mets put forth an offer for Bell and a Nationals reliever that included an upper-level minor league starter and outfielder.
The Mets moved last week to begin augmenting their DH rotation, flipping reliever Colin Holderman to the Pirates in a trade that brought Daniel Vogelbach back to Queens. Vogelbach, however, figures to be a pure platoon option, whereas the switch-hitting Bell would be an everyday option who’d push Vogelbach into a bench role. The Mets have continued to look for potential DH upgrades even in the wake of the Voeglbach deal, Martino writes, with Trey Mancini, C.J. Cron and Willson Contreras among those who might still be under consideration.
They won’t have the opportunity to evaluate Mancini today, as he’ll take a seat on the heels of an 0-for-22 swoon at the plate. That offensive freefall has dropped Mancini’s batting line from a robust .285/.359/.429 (124 wRC+) to .268/.345/.404 (113 wRC+). Mancini has still been better than a league-average hitter on the whole, but it’s a poor time for him to struggle through his toughest patch of the season, particularly from a team vantage point.
The Orioles won 10 games in a row to thrust themselves onto the fringes of the American Wild Card chase prior to the deadline, but they’ve since gone 2-4 against the Rays and Yankees in a pair of road series. Mancini’s slump obviously isn’t the sole cause of the team’s momentum slowing down, but it was a contributing factor as Baltimore dropped a few close games. It’s also suboptimal for a club that could still move Mancini prior to next Tuesday’s trade deadline; an 0-for-22 doesn’t wipe out all of Mancini’s trade value, of course, but it’s tougher for a rival front office to give up a prospect of note for a hitter in such a pronounced slump.
Cron has a robust .292/.347/.546 line on the year, but it’s questionable whether the Rockies would consider moving him when he’s cheaply signed for 2023, particularly since Colorado GM Bill Schmidt has already pushed back against a major sell-off. Contreras seems a virtual lock to move in the next eight days, but the Mets reluctance to deal from the top of the farm system would make landing perhaps the top rental bat available a challenge.
Bell, Mancini and Vogelbach were just a handful of the Mets’ reported targets as they look to bolster the lineup, and Martino reported last week that GM Billy Eppler and his team were exploring trade scenarios involving both Dominic Smith and J.D. Davis. Clearly, there’s some turnover to be expected. Martino even floats the possibility of the Mets dealing Vogelbach if they land an impact bat, although there’s no indication that’s especially likely.
The exact return the Mets might surrender in order to bolster the lineup is, of course, wholly dependent on the caliber of player on which they settle — but Mike Puma of the New York Post reports (Twitter link) that minor league lefty Thomas Szapucki has drawn some interest from other teams as New York has poked around the trade market. The 26-year-old lefty has yielded a staggering 15 runs in just five Major League innings across the past two seasons, but Szapucki has had a nice year in Triple-A Syracuse, pitching to a 3.48 ERA with a huge 31.9% strikeout rate against an 11% walk rate in 62 innings.
Those 62 frames have been scattered over 16 starts, which comes out to an average of under four innings per outing. That’s a bit of a strange phenomenon, even in today’s game, but the Mets have been cautious with Szapucki’s workload after he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2018 and season-ending surgery on his ulnar nerve last summer. He began the year throwing just two to three innings per start but has continued to build up his pitch count over the course of the year, peaking with a season-high 93 pitches back on July 6.
The Mets and other clubs may want to be cautious with his overall innings total and his pitch count on a game-to-game basis, but he’s a reasonably youthful lefty who can be controlled at least six years beyond the current campaign. Even if there’s some injury risk, he has three average or better pitches and could certainly operate as a multi-inning reliever down the road if his arm doesn’t prove capable of a starter’s workload. Speculatively, Szapucki would fit the billing of the “upper-level starting pitcher” the Mets are said to have offered to Washington in Bell talks, though there’s no specific indication that Szapucki was part of that offer.