The Mets and Cubs have discussed various permutations of deals including right-hander Zach Davies and one of Kris Bryant or Javier Baez, per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman (all Twitter links). SNY’s Andy Martino reports that the Mets are looking for pitching depth and a bat, with Bryant, Baez and Rockies shortstop Trevor Story among their targets. The Denver Post’s Patrick Saunders tweets that the Mets are “very” interested in Story, though Saunders has also suggested that if the Rockies trade Story, it’ll likely happen close to the actual deadline.
Reports connecting the Mets to Bryant, in particular, date back to the offseason. He’d give the Mets the right-handed bat they covet and a defensive upgrade over the reportedly available J.D. Davis at third base, in addition to providing a corner outfield option depending on injuries or pitching matchups. Baez, meanwhile, could step in for the currently injured Francisco Lindor until he’s able to return next month, then slide over to second base. That same scenario could apply to Story.
Of the three bats in question, Bryant is having far and away the best all-around season. The former Rookie of the Year and NL MVP is slashing .267/.358/.503 with 18 home runs. Bryant endured a miserable slump in June, collecting just nine hits in 88 plate appearances and going all month without a multi-hit game, but he’s bounced back in July with a hearty .290/.405/.516 showing. He’s earning $19.5MM in 2021 and comes with the highest price tag of this high-profile trio.
Baez, earning $11.65MM in his final year of club control, has shown the most power of the bunch but also the most concerning levels of plate discipline. He’s ripped 22 homers, but as his .248/.292/.484 slash shows, his on-base abilities (or lack thereof) are somewhat troublesome. Baez has walked at just a 4.2 percent clip this year, and while he’s always been a free swinger, his current 36.3 strikeout rate is the worst among all qualified hitters. That said, he and Lindor would form a dynamic defensive middle infield tandem.
The 28-year-old Story, like Baez and Bryant, is a free agent at season’s end. He’s having arguably the worst season of his career in 2021, hitting .240/.312/.429 (84 wRC+) with 13 home runs. Eight of those long balls have come since June 20. On the one hand, that’s encouraging. On the other, he’s batted .211 with a .270 OBP in that time. Story’s track record speaks for itself — he batted .292/.355/.554 with 83 home runs from 2018-20 — but he hasn’t really found much consistency in 2021. He’s earning $18.5MM this season.
As for Davies, he’d provide the Mets with a rental starter to help cover innings at the back of the rotation while their top starters mend. Jacob deGrom is currently on the injured list, while neither Noah Syndergaard nor Carlos Carrasco has thrown a pitch for the Mets so far in 2021. (Carrasco is expected to return this weekend.) The need for help at the back of the rotation has been exacerbated by injuries to David Peterson, Joey Lucchesi, Jordan Yamamoto and others.
Even among the Mets’ healthy starters, right-hander Taijuan Walker has begun to struggle, allowing 16 runs in his past 9 1/3 innings. The Mets already went out and acquired Rich Hill, but it seems they’re still understandably keen on stockpiling as much depth as possible for the final couple months of the season — and for a hopeful postseason bid.
The 28-year-old Davies has made 22 starts and pitched to a 4.39 ERA for the Cubs, but he’s averaged fewer than five innings per outing and carries some rather unsightly strikeout and walk rates. Davies’ 16.3 percent strikeout rate is third-lowest among qualified starters, while his 12.1 percent walk rate is the highest of any qualified starter in MLB. That 4.2 K-BB% differential is also last among qualified starters. Given that profile and the fact that he’s a pending free agent with an $8.625MM salary, Davies probably doesn’t carry too much standalone value.
It’s been a mostly quiet deadline season thus far for the Mets, who lead the NL East by three and a half games. The second-place Phillies, however, completed their second improbable walk-off comeback of the week yesterday to continue putting pressure on their rivals. Deesha Thosar of the New York Daily News tweeted last night that owner Steve Cohen is pushing his front office to be active and improve the club, so it seems fair to anticipate some fireworks coming from Queens today.