The New York Mets reportedly have an interest in San Diego Padres catcher Austin Hedges. What would a deal involving the 27-year-old catcher entail?
Another trade rumor involving the San Diego Padres emerged on the internet this week. This time, it involves catcher Austin Hedges and the New York Mets.
Hedges is a polarizing figure for Padres fans. The catcher is heralded by some fans for his elite defense and pitch-framing abilities. He is scolded, however, by other fans for his lack of offensive production.
Yehuda Schwartz, a baseball writer who covers the Mets, tweeted on Jan. 12 that the team from Queens is “looking for a young catcher with cost-efficient control.” He noted that Hedges was a possibility.
Several sources have indicated that the #Mets are attempting to acquire a young catcher who has cost-efficient control and not a high price tag. #Padres Hedges and #Astros Stubbs are possible. There is a chance they look at someone like Keibert Ruiz or Andrew Knizner.
— Yehuda Schwartz (@yaschwa) January 12, 2020
Hedges borders that qualification. He’s 27 years old, not young, but just entering his prime years. Including this year, he has three seasons of control remaining. He will earn $3 million this season.
It’s interesting that the Mets reportedly have an interest in Hedges. On the one hand, he’s known within the Padres’ organization to have earned the trust of the team’s young pitchers. Even better, he posted a 27.3 defensive runs above average in 2019. The only player with a higher number in that statistic was Philadelphia Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto.
On the other hand, it’s a bit mind-boggling that a team in the National League would want to use its own player capital to acquire him. Hedges batted an awful .176/.252/.311 with a 47 wRC+ in 2019. It doesn’t seem feasible that a player with such poor production could be an option for an NL team.
But, for the sake of discussion, what would a trade involving between the Mets and Padres look like? Who would the Mets be willing to trade, and which prospects, if any, would the Padres be willing to trade to finalize a deal?
It would obviously take more than Hedges to pry Brandon Nimmo away from the Mets, but the center fielder makes sense for the Padres. San Diego General Manager A.J. Preller has shopped current center fielder Manuel Margot in the past.
Nimmo would not only be the Friars’ everyday center fielder, he would add even more pop to what will be an improved lineup. The Padres acquired Tommy Pham and Jurickson Profar earlier this winter. One of the most glaring flaws from 2019 was the lack of offensive production, despite signing Manny Machado and promoting Fernando Tatis, Jr.
Nimmo missed most of last season while nursing a bulging disc in his neck. He played in 69 games, batting .221/.375/.407. In 2018, however, he appeared in 140 games, hitting .263/.404/.483 and a 148 wRC+. Wouldn’t the Mets want to keep him if he’s capable of that much production?
It seems they would be willing to trade him. Earlier this winter, Mets’ GM Brodie Van Wagenen reportedly offered Nimmo in a package to the Pittsburgh Pirates in return for Starling Marte. This is interesting, considering that Nimmo is only 27 years old, still has three years of control, and is due just $2.175 million in 2020. In contrast, Marte is 31, has one less year of control, and will be paid $24 million over the next two seasons.
As good as a trade for Nimmo sounds, it also seems nearly impossible. Austin Hedges isn’t Starling Marte. The Mets are in the same position as the Padres – they need to reach the postseason, and they need to do it now. Trading Nimmo to acquire Hedges doesn’t do anything to improve their lineup. It makes their lineup worse.
The Mets could take a chance with Margot. Since they are in “win now” mode, the Mets will demand players who can contribute right away. The Padres could throw in left-handed pitcher Adrian Morejon, who, as talented as he is, might be the odd man out on a roster full of young pitchers, with more waiting in the wings.
Another offseason, another rumor involving Marcus Stroman to the Padres. Reports since November have indicated that San Diego seeks a top-of-rotation starter, and Stroman fits the bill. He was a longtime ace for the Toronto Blue Jays before being traded to New York last July.
Stroman has only this season remaining as far as control. He will earn $12 million. The Mets lost Zack Wheeler in free agency, and the top three pitchers in their starting rotation are Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Stroman. Could they really be willing to move a quality pitcher? Short answer: yes.
Would Stroman want to test free agency after the 2020 season? Maybe. Would he be willing to extend to remain a Met for years to come? Maybe. If traded, would he be willing to extend if he finds himself in the right situation? Again, maybe.
What would this deal look like? Along with Hedges, the Padres could offer an established starting pitcher, like Joey Lucchesi, another pitcher who could find himself outside of the starting rotation in the future. Throw in a couple of prospects, such as two of Esteury Ruiz, Reggie Lawson, and Hudson Potts.
People might be reading this and thinking, “this again?” Yes, this again. As good as Thor is, the Mets will have to make some decisions going forward regarding their payroll. They already locked up deGrom. They owe $96 million to Robinson Cano from now through 2023. At some point, they will explore extending Pete Alonso.
Syndergaard will be a free agent after the 2021 season. The Mets have shopped Syndergaard in the past. Are they committed to locking him up long-term if they have explored options for a trade?
A trade for Syndergaard could look similar to a trade for Stroman. The Mets could be inclined to part ways with one of the two pitchers, instead of watching Stroman test free agency after 2020 or doing the same with Syndergaard after 2021.
Will Hedges be a Padre on Opening Day, serving as a backup to Francisco Mejia? The only answer here is to wait and see. A trade that sends Hedges to the Mets doesn’t make much sense for the Mets, but that doesn’t mean it’s out of the question.