When it comes to the New York Mets, two things are very clear:

  1. They have the best starting pitching staff in baseball.
  2. They have absolutely no chance of being able to retain all of their young pitching talent as they start to hit the free-agent market.

Matt Harvey, who will likely see a significant pay raise this year through arbitration, will be the first Mets young gun to hit the free-agent market in 2018, which is precisely why the trade chatter has already begun circulating around the 26-year-old right-hander

Trading Harvey at some point prior to 2018 may very well be a prudent move for the Mets, but that time is not now. There are far too many questions that the Mets need to answer prior to unloading arguably their best starting pitcher.

Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard have established themselves as dominant starters, and neither is going anywhere anytime soon. DeGrom will not become an unrestricted free agent until 2020, and Syndergaard will not hit the open market until 2021.

But the Mets need time to further evaluate Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler.

Matz has started only six regular-season games for the Mets and has been susceptible to injuries throughout the early stages of his career.

Wheeler has shown the talent to be a solid major league starter, but he is just 18-16 in 49 career starts. Wheeler also missed the entire 2015 season due to Tommy John surgery.

Before making any moves with Harvey, the Mets will need to determine whether or not they can depend on Matz and Wheeler to fill out their starting pitching rotation on a long-term basis.

If the Mets do decide to trade Harvey, it will undoubtedly be for an All-Star-quality bat.

But are the Mets truly in need of another big-time bat in their lineup?

This is another question that must be answered before making any decisions with regard to Harvey’s future with the ballclub.

During the 2015 season, the tide clearly began to turn for the Mets after they acquired Yoenis Cespedes from the Tigers, along with Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson from the Braves.

Prior to acquiring Cespedes, the Mets were the worst offensive team in the league. They were last in runs scored (3.5 runs per game) and hitting just .234 as a team.

After the Mets acquired Cespedes on July 31st, they incredibly transformed into the best offensive team in the National League, hitting .275 as a team and averaging 6.5 runs per game.

During that same period of time, the Mets were able to steamroll over a strong Washington Nationals team that had been leading them in the division for the first half of the season.

This was a clear indication that the only thing the Mets had been missing during the first half of the 2015 season was an offensive punch in their lineup. The pitching was there, as was the defense. As soon as the Mets added some power to their lineup, all of the pieces began to fall into place.

It is unlikely that the Mets will be able to re-sign Cespedes, who is now a free agent.

NLCS hero Daniel Murphy, who just turned down the Mets’ one-year $15.8 million qualifying offer, will also more than likely not be wearing a Mets uniform come Opening Day in 2016.

The loss of Cespedes and Murphy will, of course, leave a large hole in the lineup, but do the Mets really need to fill that hole by trading Harvey for an All-Star-caliber bat, or can they fit enough pieces together to fill that offensive void?

Seven-time All-Star David Wright should be back in the lineup from Opening Day in 2016 after missing 124 games this past season due to a back injury. If healthy, Wright is still one of the better-hitting third basemen in the league.

2015 rookie Michael Conforto has also demonstrated that he has the potential to be an above-average, if not All-Star-quality, bat in the lineup as an everyday left fielder. Conforto batted .270 with nine home runs and 26 RBI in just 56 games last season.

The loss of Cespedes and Murphy also frees up enough money for the Mets to go out and sign another decent bat on the free-agent market.

Ben Zobrist and Howie Kendrick are two potential options for the Mets.

Kendrick batted .295 with a .336 OBP last season while playing second base for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Zobrist, a member of the world-champion Kansas City Royals, batted .284 last season with a .364 OBP while playing multiple positions, including second base.

Either player would be a step up from Murphy defensively at second base while providing a bat at least somewhat comparable to Murphy’s in the lineup.

If Wright comes back strong in 2016, Conforto continues to develop and the team adds another decent bat to the lineup through free agency; it may be enough to fill the gap left by Cespedes and Murphy.

However, these are all big “ifs,” which is precisely why now is not the right time to trade Harvey.

If the Mets were to trade Harvey for a big bat this offseason, Matz goes on the DL again early next season and Wheeler is simply not the same pitcher coming off Tommy John surgery, the team will be left with a depleted pitching staff, which makes winning a World Series extremely difficult.

And if all of the pieces fall into place on the offensive side, the Mets may not even need to bring in some additional offensive power at the expense of arguably their best starting pitcher in order to make another World Series run in 2016.

Harvey will almost certainly be traded before he hits free agency in 2018. It may even occur prior to the 2016 trade deadline.

But the Mets have far too many questions that need to be answered before sending the Dark Knight out of Gotham.


Unless otherwise specified, all statistics for this article came from baseball-reference.com or mlb.com.

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