Suddenly Francisco Alvarez looks like he can be a star catcher for years to come, and not only is that a vital development for the Mets, but it also raises an intriguing question: Should they use top prospect and fellow catcher Kevin Parada as a trade chip, and if so, how soon?
One potential target at the trade deadline could be Alexis Diaz, Edwin’s younger brother, who has emerged as a dominant reliever with the Cincinnati Reds over the last two seasons, currently pitching to a 1.69 ERA with 41 strikeouts in 21.1 innings.
Such a potential deal drew some speculation back in March when Edwin suffered his season-ending knee injury at the World Baseball Classic, and Alvarez’s emergence in recent weeks would seem to make the idea of trading Parada a more realistic possibility.
The No. 11 pick in last year’s MLB Draft out of Georgia Tech, Parada is regarded by scouts as an impact hitter who should develop into an everyday catcher in the big leagues. He’s currently at High-A Brooklyn, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 26 prospect among all minor leaguers, and now the No. 1 Mets prospect after the promotions of Alvarez and Brett Baty.
Diaz, meanwhile, could move into the closer’s role in Queens if traded, which would re-create some of the bullpen depth the Mets lost when Edwin Diaz went down, enabling the likes of David Robertson, Adam Ottavino, and Brooks Raley to be used in earlier innings where the Mets have been vulnerable.
The Reds have played well lately, but are still essentially in a rebuild, yet because Diaz is under team control through 2027, he carries a ton of value and would command a high price in any trade.
“They’ll get a lot of calls on him,” said one team exec. “He’s a potential difference-maker for a contender and there won’t be many other top relievers available, because there are hardly any sellers anymore (due to the three wild-card spots). Parada would be attractive as a potential No. 1 catcher with a good hit tool, but I’m sure the Reds would want a package for a guy who is a top closer.”
Diaz likewise would be attractive for the Mets. Beyond this season he could team with his brother when Edwin returns in 2024 and form an imposing duo for years to come.
However, I polled five scouts/team executives for their thoughts on such a deal, and while all of them said it would make sense for the Mets to deal Parada at some point, only two of the five said they would give him up for Diaz.
The majority said they’d prefer to try to make the 21-year-old catcher the centerpiece of a more impactful deal, and probably not until the offseason.
“Their biggest need right now is starting pitching and if that doesn’t change it doesn’t make sense to give up a big trade chip for a reliever,” one team exec said. “I like Diaz, and the years of control gives you some security if you do make that trade, but he’s your eighth-inning guy when his brother comes back, and you can sign a free agent in the offseason to fill that role.
“The problem is you’re probably not going to get a quality starter at the deadline. There won’t be much out there. You don’t want to give up a prospect like Parada for a short-term return. So you’d probably be better off reassessing in the offseason. Also, you can get a useful reliever at the deadline without giving up a big prospect.
“The other thing is it’s hard to project where the Mets will be in two months because they’ve been so inconsistent. Right now they don’t look like a team that’s just a top reliever away.”
In short, the exec was essentially asking the same question as everyone else I talked to: With a record of 29-27 entering play Friday, are the Mets really a championship contender?
“I still think they could be a serious threat,” said one scout. “I like some of their young guys. Alvarez gives them a thumper they need. And Baty can hit. But I don’t know what to make of their rotation. It has high-end potential if (Max) Scherzer and (Justin) Verlander can stay healthy and be their old selves, and (Kodai) Senga develops some consistency, but I need to see it. And I’m not high on (Tylor) Megill and (Carlos) Carrasco on the back end.
“So I really need to see what the rotation looks like in six weeks. If they get (Jose) Quintana back that could help. If the pieces fall into place and their starters are going deeper into games, then, yeah, I’d probably give up Parada and maybe another prospect for Diaz. Robertson has been good but they need another big piece in the pen, so they’re not being forced to use their low-leverage guys so much.
“And I like the idea of having two dominant guys to close out games when Edwin comes back next year. I’d be willing to give up Parada for that, especially knowing you’ve got Alvarez.”
It’s true, the starting pitching has been the biggest reason for the Mets’ mediocrity, but it’s worth noting that after strong starts by Carrasco and Senga the last two nights against the Phillies, they are 15-0 when their starters have gone at least six innings in a game.
All the shorter-than-six innings starts, however, have put a huge strain on the bullpen and exposed the lack of depth, which brings us back to the question of what the Mets can do to improve during the season.
“They’ve made it pretty clear they want to build a strong farm system and they were protective of their top prospects last year,’’ said a team exec. “They’re not going to trade (Ronny) Mauricio because he’s probably going to help them at some point this year.
“The way Alvarez has established himself, Parada becomes an obvious trade chip. But how do you maximize the return for him? You’d have a lot more possibilities if you wait until the offseason when you’re not just dealing with non-contenders.
“If the Mets’ rotation is in good shape by the deadline, Diaz would be tempting. But I don’t think a reliever is enough value for a potential No. 1 catcher, especially if the Reds want another guy. If you tell me they’re signing (Shohei) Ohtani in the offseason then maybe I’d be willing to do it, but you can’t count on that.
“That’s another reason I’d wait. I know the Mets are in a win-now situation, but I think they need to be disciplined and patient to get the most for Parada.”