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Yankees potential trade partner: New York Mets

The pair of New York teams are two of the biggest disappointments of the first half, though the Amazins are in a deeper hole.

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New York Mets v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

It’s hard to believe that as we roll into the second half, some uncertainty surrounds whether the Yankees and Mets will be buyers or sellers at the deadline. Both teams were expected to finish at or near the top of their divisions, and yet the Yankees find themselves nine games out of first while the Mets are languishing in fourth, 19 games out and eight game below .500. And so, we resume our annual trade deadline target series by highlighting the players who the Mets could move should they punt on the rest of the season come the end of the month.

After owner Steve Cohen’s record spending since buying the team three offseasons ago and his declaration that he expected a championship in three-to-five years, it’s hard to say the Mets look that much different than all those versions that wandered aimlessly under Wilpon ownership. That self-proclaimed window has arrived and yet there was Cohen addressing the media last week, concluding that his team would far more likely be sellers than buyers should results not improve in July. They’ve already unloaded one player, as they sent veteran Eduardo Escobar to the Angels for a pair of minor leaguers and cash considerations, so let’s take a look at the other players who could be on the block.

Cohen’s principal concern is with an aging, unproductive roster so I suppose the best place to start would be their most veteran — and most expensive — players: Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. Verlander (3.66 ERA in 64 innings) started the season on the IL and has been decent since, though well below the standard of his last three full seasons pitching, with diminished strikeouts. Scherzer (3.87 ERA in 76.2 innings) got rocked in his first two outings giving up eight runs in 11.1 innings but has since turned things around, pitching to a 3.44 ERA and 3.50 FIP in the following 12 starts, though again with diminished strikeouts.

The pair of pitchers was expected to be the Cy Young-laden two-headed monster atop the Mets’ revamped post-deGrom rotation, and while they’ve both been solid the results are still a far-cry from the illusions of grandeur Cohen must’ve had when approving the outlay. Instead, they stand as the crumbling monument to a vainglorious financial baron, giddy to hand $43.3 million a year to a pair of men rapidly approaching the big four-oh.

The major roadblock for the Mets is that both Verlander and Scherzer have full no-trade protection. This would make it exceedingly difficult for the Mets to find a partner willing to take on the considerable amount of money owed the pair yet still be a destination to which the two future Hall of Famers would want to relocate. In fact, perhaps the only team in the league that would be willing to shell out for their salaries is the one that currently employs the pair. It was interesting to hear Cohen note that he would pay down a significant amount of money owed to any current Met in order to improve the prospect return — again, perhaps the only owner in baseball with this luxury — calling their contracts “money [already] spent.” However, given their historically prohibitive salaries and Hal Steinbrenner’s apparent disinclination to exceed the Steve Cohen tax threshold, it’s unlikely we’ll see either donning the pinstripes.

Pete Alonso represents the Mets’ ultimate prize for any team looking to add an impact bat, and it is interesting to hear the name of the runner-up on the NL home run leaderboard floating around in trade rumors. This stands at odds with Cohen’s desire for future iterations of the Mets to be built around of core of homegrown players. If we take his words at face-value, that likely removes guys like Alonso, Brandon Nimmo, Jeff McNeil and David Peterson from the trade table. If they’re considering a full rebuild, top prospects Brett Baty, Francisco Alvarez and Mark Vientos likely become untouchable. It’s also safe to assume that Cohen views Francisco Lindor and Kodai Senga as foundational pieces of whatever form the Mets take next year and beyond. (Lindor’s $300M+ contract is likely unmovable anyway.)

That leaves veteran players on expiring contracts in the pool of players to choose from. Left field and third base are the Yankees’ main priorities, though I wouldn’t be surprised if they look to bolster the starting rotation given all the injuries it has already endured. The Mets have players at two of these three positions — left field and starting pitching — who could entice their crosstown rivals.

Tommy Pham has been scorching hot for the Mets, slashing .295/.362/.530 with nine home runs, 34 RBI, nine stolen bases and a 144 wRC+ in 63 games. He continues to hit the ball as hard as just about anyone in the league sitting in the 98th percentile in average exit velocity and as a rental on a $6 million deal is the ideal blend of slug and affordability the Yankees should be targeting for left. Elsewhere in the outfield, Mark Canha has one year worth $11.5 million left on his contract, which might be a little steep for his 106 wRC+, while Starling Marte carries an AAV of $19.5 million through 2025 and is playing at replacement level.

As for the rotation, Carlos Carrasco is in the final year of his contract making $14 million in 2023 but has been one of the worst starters in baseball. His 6.46 FIP ranks third-worst among starters with at least 50 IP, producing negative value through the first-half. There’s also José Quintana, who has yet to pitch for the Mets since signing a two-year, $26 million deal in December after he suffered a stress fracture in his rib cage during spring training. He was impressive for the Pirates and Cardinals last year, with a 2.93 ERA (139 ERA+), 2.99 FIP, and 137 strikeouts in 165.2 innings to produce 4.0 fWAR, but he’s been up-and-down in four rehab starts and would represent a massive gamble for any acquiring team.

All of this comes with the obvious caveat that the Yankees and Mets form one of the unlikeliest trade partnerships in the league. Prior to the 2022 swap of Miguel Castro for Joely Rodríguez, the last time the teams matched up for a trade was when the Yankees sent Kendall Coleman to the Mets for L.J. Mazzilli in April 2018. The rival franchises have lined up for just 16 trades since 1966 and given Cohen’s desire to make his team the cream of the City, it’s hard to see him sending the Yankees a player who could improve their chances this year and down the road.