It was reported over the weekend that the Dodgers and Cubs were among the teams with interest in a trade for Mets left-hander Jon Niese. While the southpaw is a logical target for both teams, a match with the Dodgers isn’t considered imminent:
Nothing too surprising here, as teams are likely still in the early stages of evaluating the starting pitcher market. Cole Hamels, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and Scott Kazmir are among the big names that could be dealt, so Niese falls into the secondary category with the likes of Mike Leake, Matt Garza, Kyle Lohse, Mat Latos, and Dan Haren. With questions in the back-end of their rotation, the Dodgers will be active.
Niese has posted a 4.12 ERA and 58/27 K/BB ratio in 83 innings across 14 starts this season. The Mets have gone back to a six-man rotation to make room for prospect Steven Matz, but a trade involving Niese could change that dynamic. The 28-year-old is making a $7 million salary this season and $9 million in 2016. His contract includes a $10 million club option (or $500,000 buyout) for 2017 and an $11 million club option (or $500,000 buyout) for 2018.
There were plenty of skeptics when it came to Wilmer Flores’ ability to be an everyday shortstop defensively and apparently the Mets now agree, shifting him to second base with plans to keep him there once Daniel Murphy returns from the disabled list this week.
Flores’ defensive numbers actually weren’t terrible. He was right around average according to Ultimate Zone Rating and five runs below average according to Defensive Runs Saved. But he was definitely stretched at the position and the Mets would rather go forward with Ruben Tejada at shortstop.
Flores also hasn’t been particularly good offensively, hitting .238 with a .665 OPS in 71 games, and the bar for production is higher at second base than at shortstop. Of course, he’s also just 23 years old and hit 10 homers in three months after crushing Triple-A pitching last season. Providing that kind of pop at the plate while being a plus defensively would make a solid all-around second baseman.
Mets pitching prospect Steven Matz, making his major league debut against the Reds on Sunday, allowed a solo home run to Brandon Phillips to lead off the ballgame. It was all uphill from there.
Matz wound up going 7 2/3 innings, giving up two runs on five hits and three walks with six strikeouts on 110 pitches. As impressive as that was, it was what he did at the plate that truly won hearts and minds. The rookie went 3-for-3 with a two-run double in the second inning and added a two-run single in the sixth. He is the first pitcher in major league history to drive in four runs in his debut, per ESPN Stats & Info.
The Mets scored seven runs overall, the first time they’d scored more than four in a game since June 14. In fact, they had been held to two or fewer runs in each of their last seven games coming into play Sunday (including the conclusion of Saturday’s game which was postponed and resumed prior to Matz’s debut). Only four Mets hitters have accrued four-plus RBI in a game this season: Lucas Duda, Wilmer Flores, Daniel Murphy, and Curtis Granderson. Duda was the last to do it, on May 21. The Mets have seen only 24 three-hit games this season and just one between June 15 and Sunday: Curtis Granderson on June 25 against the Brewers.
Matz, 24, entered the season rated as baseball’s 33rd-best prospect overall by MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus. In 14 starts and one relief appearance with Triple-A Las Vegas — a notoriously pitcher-unfriendly environment — Matz posted a 2.19 ERA with a 94/31 K/BB ratio in 90 1/3 innings.