I’m sure I’ll sound like the real life version of the Charlie-connecting-strings-on-the-conspiracy-wall gif, but I just think I’ve got a pretty good handle on what’s going on with the Cubs and Mets. So when I see new stuff come out, it reads to me very differently than the words on the page. You’ll think I’m crazy, but the ole gut says I’m onto something.
Let me try to bring you to where my headspace sits.
As we know, the Cubs and Mets have been in a dance for at least a week now, with the Cubs obviously looking to get a prospect haul, and the Mets looking to get both Willson Contreras and David Robertson. And, since neither side wants to come out on the short end of the deal – and because the Cubs are also likely dialoguing with other teams, including the Padres (who are waiting on Juan Soto) – they keep dancing. And the Mets, in particular, seem to keep putting out public signals about how many other options they have, how high the Cubs’ prices are, and so on and so on.
Then you had a curious report out of Chicago that Mets prospect Mark Vientos was a name to watch in a possible deal with the Mets. It was so specific. Vientos is not alone in that second tier of Mets prospects, but he is arguably the guy the Mets might most want to move, given the presence of Pete Alonso at the big league level. So if he was a name to watch – as part of a package? – it would make some sense, since the Cubs might value him more than the Mets at the moment. You never know.
OK. But there’s a whopper of a tell tonight. The one where I feel like I can see the Matrix and I REALLY know what’s going on. Let me talk my way through it. There are layers.
First. An SNY report (you know, the broadcast partner of the Mets) indicates that the Mets specifically do not want to accidentally make another “Pete Crow-Armstrong trade,” and that’s animating a lot of their behavior this deadline. What’s that ACTUALLY saying, though? What is the point of communicating it publicly? It’s saying that the Cubs stole PCA, it was a totally unfair trade, so anything that looks remotely like that this year is unfair, and no trade partner should expect it from the Mets. We won’t do that again! We swear!
In other words, I don’t think the Mets are actually afraid of making another PCA trade. I think they want trade partners to come into talks with that mindset. It’s just a bracing technique. There is a specific deal they want the Cubs to make, and they want the Cubs to be the ones to have to go over the top to get that deal done.
The report goes on to state, specifically, that the Cubs expect Vientos in a deal for Contreras, but the Mets won’t do it:
Specifically, while the Mets are unwilling to move top prospect Francisco Alvarez for anyone but Juan Soto or Shohei Ohtani, league sources say that they feel essentially the same way about Mark Vientos, the team’s fifth-ranked prospect via MLB.com.
Eppler leans strongly against moving him for a free-agent-to-be like Martinez or Christian Vazquez (in 2020 the Red Sox tried to trade Vazquez for a package highlighted by Vientos).
The Cubs have indicated the type of return they expect for Contreras, and it’s more than the Mets will pay. If it doesn’t come down, the Mets will walk away.
Comparing Francisco Alvarez, the top prospect in baseball, to Mark Vientos. Interesting message to put out, Mets. The article also mentions that, if the Mets can’t acquire a bat, they will simply call up the 22-year-old Vientos to be their big bat addition.
Curious, given how redundant Vientos seems to be for the Mets, who can’t use him at first base, and who would presumably be only a short-term option at DH (for a playoff contender? Calling him up to be your DH for his big league debut down the stretch? OK, maybe … ). Simply put, I don’t believe the Mets are actually interested in keeping Vientos off the table.
But wait a minute. Didn’t we know that the Mets want a bat AND a relief pitcher? Didn’t we know that the Mets were in talks with the Cubs about Contreras AND David Robertson?
This is the Mets telling the Cubs that they want the Cubs to offer BOTH Contreras and Robertson for a package headlined by Vientos. That’s the specific deal the Mets want. This is where it’s all been going, in my view, and what this whole dance has been about.
We can’t trade Vientos – who we love and totally want to keep and he can be our difference-making bat this year! – for just Contreras. Don’t even ask. We’ll walk away. Oh, wait, you also have Robertson? We totally forgot about that! Yes, yes, that might be one way to put this deal over the top. What a great suggestion from you!
The Mets don’t want the Cubs to come down from their ask. They want the Cubs to accept the proposition that they have to send the Mets BOTH of their top rental pieces just to get the guy that the Cubs *MAYBE* have *SOME* interest in. This is, in their mind, how they win.
I’m doing a ton of extrapolating. I don’t deny it. I told you I might seem crazy. But I’m pretty darn sure I’m right.
To be clear, there *is* a package from the Mets that includes Vientos and could be a fair deal for Contreras and Robertson. But I betcha the Cubs are shooting higher than that if it’s a combo trade (and/or the non-Vientos pieces are really significant, and the Mets want the Cubs to drop that part).
To also be clear, getting Vientos as the headliner in a deal for JUST a rental catcher bat is not a bad deal. The Mets probably DO have some good reason to push back against it if that’s what the Cubs are seeking. But do I think it’s walk-away-from-the-table egregious? Heck no.
So, in sum, this is my read of the situation: the Mets want Contreras and Robertson from the Cubs for Vientos+. The Cubs would want an extremely robust package (may or may not include Vientos) for both of those players. Alternatively, the Cubs might be willing to take Vientos (or equivalent) in a deal for Contreras (or Robertson), alone, but they’re not going to be pushed into that just because the Mets are trying to make it seem like that’s an impossible ask.
Ultimately, this all might go nowhere. A team might call the Cubs with a great offer for Robertson, and the Cubs have to take it. The Padres might decide it’s time to pull the trigger on a big Contreras-Ian Happ deal with the Cubs. Or some other team could come out and surprise everyone. So on, and so on.
But this public dance from the Mets? I see it. I see it. I know what it’s about.
And if I am just going crazy, well, the next two days should be fun. The 41-hour Blogathon hasn’t even started yet!