Mets lefty Jon Niese is "NOT trade bait." In fact, general manager Sandy Alderson told ESPN's Jim Bowden that his club has the resources to be buyers leading up to next month's trade deadline. Some people around the game might find that surprising since the Mets are currently seven games below .500 and will not be able to field a roster at full strength until ace Matt Harvey returns next season. His perceived need to clarify the club's position adds to that sentiment.
On the other hand, the Mets are only five and-a-half games back in the NL East, and Alderson might be getting pressure from team ownership to make a push despite the fact that the club will be better positioned to compete when Harvey returns and top prospect Noah Syndergaard reaches the majors.
Niese, 27, has been extremely effective so far this year, pitching to a 2.54 ERA in 13 starts and posting a 1.13 WHIP at the top of the Mets rotation. He'll earn just $5 million this season, and his contract could allow the team to retain for $27 million through 2018 -- his age-31 season. Alderson's intention to hang on to Niese certainly doesn't conflict with the team's expected competition window. Niese will be in his prime when Harvey returns and New York's top prospects settle in at the major league level.
However, the addition of other major league players at this year's deadline would presumably cost the club talented minor leaguers, and the reward for adding significant pieces this season will likely be limited. The Braves, Marlins, and Nationals are bunched together at the top of the division, and the Mets will have to compete for the Wild Card with the Cardinals, Pirates, Brewers, Reds, Giants, Dodgers, and Rockies as well.
If New York buys at this year's deadline anyway, they could target relievers, shortstops, and perhaps a short-term option behind the plate to take some of the pressure off of 25-year-old catcher Travis D'Arnuad. Alderson might consider his team a buyer, but he will likely target players that will be able to contribute to the team in 2015 and beyond, rather than adopting the traditional buying strategy of seeking players near the end of their current contracts.