The Mets have spent the offseason pushing full-bore towards fielding a competitive squad, but the fragility of an offseason win became clear yesterday with the news of ace Jacob deGrom being shut down for the next four weeks. The panic alarm has sounded, but the Mets are not without solutions.
In fact, they just so happen to have been in conversation with the Padres for the past couple of weeks about different trade scenarios, at least one of which could bring another arm to New York to help plug the leak. Per The Athletic’s Dennis Lin, Ken Rosenthal, and others, a potential deal could center around Eric Hosmer and Chris Paddack heading to the Mets, while Dominic Smith would go to San Diego.
The Padres have been trying to move off of Hosmer’s money for quite some time now, and the freewheeling Mets may now have a big enough need in the rotation to consider taking him back. There’s some urgency for the Padres here, as Hosmer’s partial no-trade clause turns into full 10-and-5 rights at the end of this season.
With $59MM over four years left on his deal, Hosmer does not have positive trade value – not after fWAR totals of 0.0, 0.9, -0.3, and -0.1 over the past four seasons. Entering his age-32 season, one doesn’t expect Hosmer to flourish overnight. Furthermore, the Mets absolutely have no need for him, not with Pete Alonso on the roster.
Acquiring Hosmer would mean pushing the Mets deeper into luxury tax territory with a payroll nearing $300MM, notes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. The Mets might be willing to take him if they can reinforce their rotation at the same time, however.
Enter Paddack. The 26-year-old has three years of team control remaining and significant upside. He’s far from a sure thing, however. His numbers declined for the third consecutive season last year when he finished with a 5.07 ERA across 108 1/3 innings. A slightly torn UCL might be the cause of the decline, but that’s not necessarily a situation that has totally resolved itself. Paddack would, therefore, be an option to slide into deGrom’s rotation spot, but he’s far from a panacea for the Mets’ long-term concerns.
In the short term, he might not even be an upgrade over Tylor Megill, the presumptive fifth starter in deGrom’s absence. Megill posted a 4.52 ERA/4.69 FIP over 18 starts covering 89 2/3 innings in 2021 – his first taste of big league action. The Mets could certainly begin the season with Megill in the rotation and see how things go from there.
For the Padres part, their motivation would mostly be to shed Hosmer’s contract. They have enough rotation depth, theoretically, to weather the loss of Paddack, and in Smith, they’d be getting back a comparable bat that’s cheaper, more versatile, and with more theoretical upside than Hosmer. He’s also under team control for two more seasons beyond 2022, though those seasons aren’t guaranteed, should he continue to struggle at the dish.
For the first part of his career, the story on Smith was that he needed at-bats, but his natural position of first base was spoken for, so his ceiling was no more than that of a bit player. Then the designated hitter came to the NL in 2020, Smith starting taking flyballs in left field, and the offensive promise came to fruition with a .316/.377/.616 line over 199 plate appearances during the shortened campaign.
He again saw fairly stable playing time in 2021, but the numbers cratered to an 86 wRC+ by way of a .244/.304/.363 line across 494 plate appearances , more than doubling his previous career-high in that regard. The Padres do need a left fielder, and Smith could step right in at first base were this deal to go down. Still, for San Diego, this deal is mostly about moving off of Hosmer. There are options out there for left field – including former Met Michael Conforto – but Smith would certainly be worth rostering if acquiring him meant removing Hosmer from the payroll.