Email Q&A: Jon Niese for Carlos Santana, straight up?

Jon Pace sent the following email:

What do you think of trading Jon Niese straight up for Indians’ C Carlos Santana? The Indians want starting pitching, the Mets want a catcher who can hit. Both players are signed to team friendly contracts, and both are the same age. It’s a sacrifice for both teams but also at the same time helps them. 

Santana, 26, hit .252 with a .365 OBP, 16 home runs and 76 RBI in 143 games in 2012. He hit 27 home runs and 79 RBI in 2012.

Santana signed a five-year, $21 million contract extension with the Indians in April. He earned $500,000 in 2012, will earn $550,000 in 2013, $3.5 million in 2014, $6 million in 2015, and $8.25 million in 2016. The Indians hold a $12 million option on Santana with a $1.2 million buyout for the 2017 season.

Niese signed a five-year, $25.5 million contract extension through 2016 back in April. He earned $769,500 in 2012, will earn $3 million in 2013, $5 million in 2014, $7 million in 2015, and $9 million in 2016. The team holds two options on Niese – his option for 2017 is for $10 million and his option for 2018 is for $11 million.

Michael Baron, Contributor

It’s an interesting idea, Jon, and I’d probably make this deal. In fact, Santana will earn $2.5 million less than Niese in 2013, which could offer the Mets even more flexibility in the short-term.

Santana is a switch hitter who can not only catch, but play first base as well. That versatility would open up a lot of possibilities for the Mets, as it would allow Ike Davis to get days off without the team losing so much offense all while giving Santana a break from behind the plate. As you said, he can hit, he gets on base, and provides a long-term answer for the Mets behind the plate. Interestingly enough, he struggles against right-handed pitching although he has more power from the left side of the plate than he does on the right side. But he’s a fit for the Mets, and pretty much anyone who is shopping for a catcher.

The problem is, Jon, in any trade, it takes two to tango. And it’s hard to envision the Indians pulling the trigger here, assuming the Mets were to approach them about it. As difficult as it is to develop pitching, it’s even harder to develop catching, especially someone like Santana who can do a lot of things offensively. The Indians might be getting an up and coming left-handed pitcher, but they might be creating an even bigger hole by trading Santana than the one they would fill by acquiring Niese.