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Dissecting the Jonathon Niese Rumors

By Mike Silva ~ December 17th, 2011. Filed under: New York Mets, Offseason Speculation.

There have been persistent rumors since the Winter Meetings that Sandy Alderson is looking to deal Jonathon Niese for prospects. With Oakland’s expensive asking price for Gio Gonzalez - reports indicate Billy Beane wants Jesus Montero and a Killer B from the Yankees - Alderson is looking to see if he could jump in on the market and obtain prospects from team’s interested in Gonzalez in a less expensive deal. It’s a great way of thinking and shows you the difference in process with this current front office. Assessing the market and exploiting your assets is a big part of building an effective big league roster with minor league depth.

According to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, the Mets would have to be ”knocked out” to trade Niese. Remember, he is not yet arbitration eligible so he won’t make much more than his 452k 2011 salary. Fangraphs values his performance at $12 million dollars; a bargain for a team on a shoestring budget.  To get an idea of the Mets asking price, one report indicated the Mets asked Toronto for their top catching prospect, Travis d’Arnaud. It sounds like they aren’t asking for multiple names ala Beane with Gonzalez, but want at least one top prospect.

At Double-A New Hampshire, the 22-year old D’Arnaud hit .311 with 21 HRs and 78 RBI. Toronto acquired him from the Phillies in the Roy Halladay deal, so I doubt they are looking to trade him, especially since there are reports they won the bidding for Yu Darvish; negating the need for Niese. One comparable given to the type of player d’Arnaud can be is Ramon Hernandez. A guy that will hit 15 homers, drive in 80 runs, and play above-average defense. Not bad, but not a star. I think the Mets would need something more in that type of package. Definitely a young pitcher.

I don’t think the Mets are going to find a desired deal for Niese, as teams are probably looking to get him for fifty cents on the dollar. It doesn’t hurt to ask, but I don’t know if team’s will be willing to give up a top prospect for a talented, yet inconsistent lefty that some say has conditioning issues. The Mets are also not in the position to give up pitching for anything less than top-tier talent.

I do think the Mets may be considering swapping Niese for Oakland ace Gio Gonzalez. This is pure speculation, but follow my thought process.

Jon Heyman tweeted yesterday the Mets would not be willing to deal Matt HarveyJeurys FamiliaZack WheelerJenrry MejiaIke Davis, or Niese in a deal for Gonzalez. Knowing that Billy Beane asked for one of the Killer B’s in his talks with the Yankees, what realistic possibility would they have with a deal going through without one of those young pitchers? Also, would Beane do Niese straight up for Gonzalez? Probably not. Enter the Colorado Rockies.

We heard a rumor the Mets were talking about a deal with Colorado for OF Seth Smith. Considering the Mets outfield is already full, where would Smith fit in? He is a decent left-handed hitter (.284, 15 HRs, 59 RBI), but at 28-years old does he have the upside of a Lucas Duda? Probably not.

During the Winter Meetings, we reported about a three-team deal that was discussed, which would have involved Kansas City, Oakland, and the Yankees. In it the Yankees would get Gio Gonzalez, Oakland would receive Yankees LF Brett Gardner  and Royals 1B Clint Robinson, and the Royals would get Yankees RHP David Phelps, Oakland OF Michael Taylor, and a PTBNL from Yanks that is expected to be off 40-man roster.

Could the Mets, A’s, and Rockies pull off something similar where the Mets give up Niese to the Rockies for Seth Smith, and turn around to send Smith to Oakland for Gonzalez? Smith is an Oakland-type of player with power and a high OBP. The Mets have other arms like Darin Gorski and Collin McHugh that might be of interest to Beane. Also remember that Colorado has catching prospect Wilin Rosario.

Again, this is just speculation based on alleged information available to me; I don’t think this is at all likely to happen. I do, however, have to wonder how a Niese-Smith deal would benefit the Mets, unless they were using it to acquire someone like Gonzalez.

Also, I have to ask why the Mets would want Gonzalez over Niese anyway. I think the Yankees would be crazy to waste top prospects on a pitcher that walks way too many batters (4.4/9) and has a mediocre career road record (17-18, 4.32). Compare that to his work at the spacious Coliseum, where he is 21-14 with a 3.56 ERA. Big-time red flag.

Meanwhile, Niese is just a game under .500 pitching for teams that are significantly below .500. He is a groundball pitcher with a decent walk rate (2.5) and solid K-rate (7.9/9). To be fair, he’s been better at Citi Field than on the road, but a groundball pitcher isn’t helped by spacious gaps so I don’t know if that is all that relevant. If he keeps the ball on the ground and doesn’t walk many batters he will be successful more times than not.

Breaking it down, Gonzalez and Niese produce very similar results, albeit in different ways. There isn’t any advantage to take on Gonzalez, especially since Niese’s process seems to indicate his chances of long-term sustainable success are greater. Don’t you think it’s odd that Gonzalez has already been with 3 organizations and he is only 25? Also, his minor league numbers are rather unimpressive.

This is all probably some fun winter rumor mill mongering. I don’t see how trading Niese, unless it’s for a package of top prospects, does the Mets any good. Certainly not to acquire Gio Gonzalez.

Mike Silva is a freelance writer and radio host since March of 2007. This website is his own personal "digest" of New York Baseball He's also hosts NYBD Radio on Blog Talk Radio and 1240 AM WGBB. Check out his sports media commentary at www.sportsmediawatchdog.com. Check out his official website, www.mikesilvamedia.com
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3 Responses to Dissecting the Jonathon Niese Rumors

  1. Chuck Johnson

    “Remember, he is not yet arbitration eligible so he won’t make much more than his 452k 2011 salary.”

    Interesting point.

    Why would a team which is likely to operate this season at a payroll 40% less than last year trade an established player making ML minimum?

    Trade a lefty starting pitcher and a couple of prospects for a lefty starting pitcher?


    Who will make more money?


    Who will won’t fill a need, and who will likely create more at some point in the near future?

    Um hm.

    Something stinks about all this, and it’s not just the neighborhood around CitiField.

  2. Tommy2cat


    Nice & sensible breakdown of the variety of considerations associated with trading Jonathan Niese. Here are some of my thoughts.

    First, we don’t need to trade Niese and give up more to obtain Gio Gonzalez. I think Niese has a higher ceiling and has integrated well with his teammates.

    Second, if Sandy isn’t willing to part with Harvey, Familia, Wheeler or Mejia, then if he is considering moving Niese, then it would make sense to obtain a need different than pitching.

    Niese could be traded for someone such as Colorado’s Wilin Rosario, Toronto’s outfield prospect Marisnick, SF’s prospect Gary Brown. Heck, I would support a trade flurry that would bring in all 3, even if it meant parting with Murphy, Duda, Niese, Gee, Gorski & Valdespin.

    If the Mets are in as great financial straits as they appear to be, then we need to obtain top-drawer prospects over whom we’ll have control over the next few years. In 2014, I can envision an outfield of Nimmo, Brown & Marisnick and an infield of Wright, Tejada, Havens & Davis, with Rosario/Thole behind the plate and a rotation of Harvey, Wheeler, Familia, Gorski & 5th starter.

    The above scenario is just an example of an array of possibilities. But in concept, the team will be blessed with speed & power, very strong up the middle defensively & at the corners with a very strong & young rotation. Spend a few bucks on an experienced relief corp and you’ve got yourself a moneyball contender, at the very least.

    It’s regrettable that Sandy didn’t trade Reyes when he had the chance. I think the fanbase would’ve understood.

  3. Stu B

    “…has a mediocre career road record (17-18, 4.32) on the road.”

    From the Department of Redundancy Department, lol!

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