Mets fans have watched Jonathon Niese mature right before their eyes. After signing a five year contract at the beginning of the season, Niese has become not only on the of the most consistent pitchers in the Mets rotation, but one of the most consistent in the league.
Despite the new contract, Niese’s future with the team is in question. In arguably the most intriguing off-season in Mets history, Niese has the most trade value of any player on the team. They will be desperately trying to improve their roster with virtually no money to spend so trading will be important, but the organization should think twice before dealing the 25 year old lefty.
Friday night, Niese threw seven innings and recorded three strikeouts in a 3-1 Mets victory over the Braves. The win was Niese’s final start of the season and brought his record to 13-9 while lowering his ERA to 3.40.
Jon Niese (49) delivers a pitch during the second inning of Friday’s game against the Braves. The start was Niese’s final game of the season and he ended with a 13-9 record and a 3.40 ERA. PHOTO COURTSEY: JOHN BAZEMORE/AP PHOTO
The start was Niese’s 22nd quality start of the year. At this point, it looks like Niese will be the game two starter behind R.A. Dickey in 2013.
The more encouraging sign for the Mets is that Niese not only was able to finish a season for the first time in his young career, but was able to finish strong. After the All-Star game, Niese had a 6-5 record including three straight wins to end the season. Over the final two months, Niese’s ERA was an astounding 2.78.
As everyone knows in sports, it isn’t how you start, it’s how you finish and Niese has certainly passed that test.
Unfortunately for Niese, his success does not make him a lock to remain with the Mets beyond this season. Right now, Niese will be one of the hottest young pitchers in the league and the Mets will certainly hear offers.
To go with his talent, Niese’s contract is another attribute that makes him a valuable trade piece. In April, Niese agreed to a five-year, $25.5 million deal with team options that could keep him on a team until 2018. The deal makes him more desirable for anyone looking for young pitching talent this offseason.
It may be enticing for the Mets to trade Niese and get a few major league ready players in return, but the Mets can’t afford to get rid of a guy who can be a top starter for multiple years. Some think it would be a smart move for the team, but it seems to be a high risk low reward type of move. Niese’s potential this offseason has been compared to Gio Gonzalez of the Nationals, which should be another reason why the Mets shouldn’t give him up.
Gonzalez was seen almost as a disappointment which is why the Athletics were willing to deal him this past offseason. Gonzalez responded by posting his first 20 win season of his career and will be the Nationals ace in the postseason.
By next year, Niese will be 26 years old and officially entering the “prime” of his career. To trade away a young lefty pitcher who looks to be taking that next step in his development is something that this team should not do. If they trade Niese, they will be losing one of the biggest pieces of their starting rotation.
When evaluating their options this offseason, the Mets need to realize that they made a smart decision by giving Niese that new contract. They saw the potential and knew they wanted to lock him up long-term.
Niese’s consistency on a team that has been so inconsistent this year is something that should be noticed by the Mets. The Mets will enter this off season with the mentality that no player besides David Wright is untouchable. However, Niese should be another player that the Mets decide is very important to their future.
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Contributor – Dave Ragazzo – @DRagazzo_Sports
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