Mets open to dealing Jon Niese, and teams may be interested
Assistant GM John Ricco has said they are not actively shopping Jon Niese this winter, but would be open to dealing him under the right circumstances.
It’s a sensible approach, as Niese currently stands to be the club’s fifth starter and serve as a placeholder until Zack Wheeler is ready to be activated, which is expected to be sometime in June or July.
But Niese will earn $9 million, which is pricy for a pitcher who is clearly destined for the bullpen at the mid-point of the 2016 season. So it’s sensible to try and shop him and if there is a taker, find a less expensive solution or roll the dice and use Rafael Montero instead, who will earn the league minimum in 2016.
And apparently, there is some outside interest in the veteran left-hander, as Mike Puma of the New York Post says the Mets have been fielding calls about Niese’s availability.
Such a move could clear a significant chunk of payroll, assuming the Mets aren’t asked to pick up a portion of the $9 million Niese is owed in 2016. That could prove significant considering the escalating prices in the relief market and their need to find both a right-hander and a left-hander, plus they have to find a left-handed complement to Juan Lagares in center field to protect his weaknesses against right-handed pitching.
But opting for Montero comes with risk. He is a bit of a mystery thanks to a rotator cuff injury which kept him out of action for most of the 2015 season. He also lacks experience at this level, and while Ricco said they are comfortable with Montero as their temporary fifth starter, it’s difficult to envision the Mets completely trusting that role to a guy with one short start in the big leagues under his belt.
Ricco said the Mets might consider using Sean Gilmartin in the rotation as well, and could also consider a reunion with Bartolo Colon, with whom the club reportedly met with his agents on Monday in Nashville.
Colon would probably cost less than Niese, at least in his base salary. And he can certainly be a much better value in a swing-man role than Niese given his experience as well.