Mets trade deadline preview: Biggest needs, possible targets, top trade chips leading up to Aug. 2

The lead isn’t as big as it was eight weeks ago, but the New York Mets remain atop the NL East and control their own destiny as they chase their first division title since 2015. They did it without two-time Cy Young winner Jacob de Grom, who hasn’t pitched in a big league game in more than a calendar year but is close to returning to the rotation.

Owner Steve Cohen didn’t increase his opening day payroll close to $300 million to cut corners at the trade deadline. The Braves have come on strong over the past few weeks and the Mets still have a few roster weaknesses, so expect them to be active before the August 2 deadline. There is a time to be aggressive and a time to be conservative. This is the time to be aggressive.

“I’d like to be an equal opportunity buyer,” GM Billy Eppler told the New York Post earlier this month. “So if that’s something that helps prevent a run, great. If it helps release production, great. Let’s try to increase these numbers as far as possible and be open to everything. I don’t want to be dependent on a shopping list.”

Let’s break down the Amazin’ Mets now with the trade deadline less than 10 days away.

needs

The Mets clearly need a strong bat, too added Daniel Vogelbach in a trade with the Pirates last week. That doesn’t stop Eppler from pursuing a higher impact hitter, though it does increase their need for bullpen help. Trusted rookie Collin Holderman went to Pittsburgh in the trade.

“Some of the conversations I’ve had with other clubs have given me the sense that there might be a little more stable market for bat help,” Eppler told MLB.com after the Vogelbach deal. “So we had to take this opportunity to do it.”

Edwin Diaz was electric in the ninth inning, and the Mets need to build a more reliable bridge with Adam Ottavino effectively a righty specialist and Seth Lugo having a down year. DeGrom’s return is inevitable, and he’s better than any starter the Mets could realistically bring in at the deadline (assuming he stays healthy). If the Mets add another starter, he will likely be a back end depth guy. Someone who could easily slide into the bullpen later in the year and into the postseason.

Potential targets

Will the Nationals trade Soto in the division? When you’re willing to trade a player that good and that young, I think you’ve got to get the best possible package, no matter where he’s being sent. That said, I can understand why the Nationals wouldn’t want to trade Soto in the NL East. Still, if you’re the Mets, you should at least ask, and they can put together a strong prospect package. Soto would be an overqualified DH solution, and he’s under control for two more years, which is essentially this team’s window with deGrom (who said he would call it quits after the season) and Max Scherzer.

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Contreras would indeed be a great fit for the Mets. He could help them both behind the plate and at DH, and also add power to a lineup that needs it. He is also on loan and would not commit future salaries as the club prepares to re-sign (or attempt to re-sign) deGrom next winter. The Cubs and Mets linked up for the Javier Báez deal last year, and you can see how they could benefit each other again at this year’s deadline.

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The 37-year-old Robertson, in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, can help any contender. He’s having a good season and passed all the possible “can he handle New York?” test during his two stints with the Yankees. Robertson misses bats and can close, set up, throw in middle relief, whatever. An ideal target for a contender looking for high leverage bullpen help. Mychal Givens is another Cubs player who could interest the Mets.

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The Rockies do strange things, though I think even they realize they need to trade Bard, a 37-year-old soon-to-be free agent. Bard may still run into control issues, though nothing as extreme as the one that derailed his career with the Red Sox, but he misses bats and grabs balls that he can shut down or set up. Veteran right-hander Alex Colome is another Rockies player who could interest the Mets and contenders in general.

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The Tigers could offer a few relievers — lefties Andrew Chaffin and Gregory Soto would help any opponent — but Fulmer is a rental and definitely available. He has become a slider machine, throwing the pitch roughly 60 percent of the time, but there has yet to be a corresponding uptick in strikeouts. Fulmer could probably stand to throw a few more fastballs at this point. Either way, he has late-inning experience and shouldn’t cost too much to acquire.

Exchange chips

With Tigers outfielder Riley Green in the big leagues, Mets catcher Francisco Alvarez is the top prospect in the minors, giving New York a prime trade chip. That said, it’s hard to see the Mets seriously considering moving Alvarez for anyone other than Soto, and even then they may be hesitant. Infield prospects Ronnie Mauricio and Mark Vientos are considered the top prospects the Mets are most likely to part with at the deadline. Maybe outfielder Alex Ramirez, too.

Dominic Smith is very much available, although he is now on the injured list with an ankle problem, complicating matters. As well as the fact that Smith hasn’t been very good the past two years. It is a reclamation project more than a bona fide commercial chip. Will the Mets move Luis Guillorme? I don’t think so, he’s an excellent role for a contender, but they have Francisco Lindor at short and Jeff McNeal at second. In theory, Guillermo is a replacement. He might be someone New York would like to move to the right trade. Just a thought.

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