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Part 2: Possible Mets upgrades and trade targets

Oakland Athletics pitcher Grant Balfour walks to the

Oakland Athletics pitcher Grant Balfour walks to the dugout in the eighth inning of a game against the Texas Rangers. (June 29, 2012) (Credit: AP)

The Mets have gotten superb performances from David Wright and R.A. Dickey in the first half. But the club has numerous areas to upgrade: the bullpen, outfield and catcher. This is part 2 of a series looking at a couple of names the club could look into before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

Disclaimer: These aren't necessarily names the Mets are engaged in trade talks for. This list is a collection of players who multiple outlets have reported may be available in the right deal.

Brandon League, Mariners

The right-hander served as Seattle's closer last season, but lost his job in 2012 and is now just a back-end bullpen piece. With the Mariners nowhere close to being in contention, and League eligible for free agency after the season, he makes sense as a trade chip.

Pro: League makes $5 million this season, but would be a short-term commitment. He has closer experience and a 3.67 ERA in nine seasons. League is very tough on righties, limiting them to a .223 batting average and .596 on-base plus slugging percentage during his career.

Con: Don't be fooled by his 3.35 ERA this season. League has a 1.54 WHIP in 2012, a terrible number for any pitcher, never mind a reliever. His 9.8 hits per nine innings is his highest rate since 2007 and his 5.3 strikeouts per nine innings is his lowest rate since 2005. Also: remember when we noted he's tough on righties? Well, there's a flip side to that. Lefties have a .282 average and .777 OPS against him in his career and a .351 average and .860 OPS against him this season. League should come with a huge warning label: Caution – Do not pitch to southpaws. Ever. Like, not ever.

Grant Balfour, Athletics

The excitable Australian righty is a key piece of the Oakland bullpen. Despite serving for a short time as closer this season, he's back to being a key late inning reliever.

Pro: He's not THAT expensive, and he is controllable. Balfour, who makes $4 million this season, also has a $4.5 million team option ($350K buyout) for 2013. Balfour is 26-14 with a 3.52 ERA in nine seasons. He has a stellar 1.04 WHIP this year and has given up 27 hits in 43 innings. He's pretty equally effective against either handed hitters. Righties bat .204 off of him with a .604 OPS and lefties hit .223 against him with a .679 OPS. He's kept those superb splits intact this season as well.

Con: Balfour is 34 and there is reason to be concerned. His 6.7 K/9 this season is the lowest of his career. It hadn't dipped below 8.6 since his rookie season (two games pitched) and has been declining for five straight seasons. Meanwhile, his walk rate has been trending upward the past three seasons and sits at 3.8 BB/9. Balfour's fastball currently averages 91.9 mph, the lowest speed of his career. And for those of you who are superstitious, the guy's last name is Balfour. That's a little too close to Ball Four. And in the New York market? Better hope he never walks home a run.

Kelly Shoppach, Red Sox

We've already discussed Ramon Hernandez (and supposedly the Mets have, too) as a possible catching solution. And while there's a dearth of quality backstops on the market, Shoppach could be a cheap, low-risk move. With Jarrod Saltalamacchia's performance in Boston, and Ryan Lavarnway waiting in the minor leagues, the Sox might be willing to part with Shoppach.

Pro: Shoppach makes just $1.135 million this year and is eligible for free agency after the season. No matter how he performs, the Mets are not locked into him for an extended period of time. Shoppach is hitting .269 with a .358 on-base percentage and an .885 OPS in 93 at-bats this season. He has four home runs, which is already more than Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas have, combined. He's hit at least 11 home runs in three of the last five seasons. He's caught 30 percent of the runners who've tried to steal against him this season.

Con: Shoppach has had a good year hitting in the comfy confines of Fenway Park, but he's a .227 hitter over the course of his eight seasons, posting a .742 OPS. From 2009-2011 he hit .197. He does indeed pack some punch, but if he's not hitting a home run, he's a dud in the lineup.

Jeremy Guthrie, Rockies

Let's admit one thing from the start: Guthrie has been bad this year. He's been banished to the bullpen for a short time. His numbers are ugly. But all that just means he might come cheap. And if the Mets don't want to use Miguel Batista to fill in for Dillon Gee, and if Matt Harvey isn't ready, they might need a MLB-caliber arm. Enter Guthrie.

Pro: Guthrie has been successful in his career, posting an ERA of 4.33 or lower four out of five years with the Orioles in the AL East from 2007-2011. His home ballpark wasn't exactly a pitcher's park, the competition was fierce and his team usually ranked near the bottom of the league, but Guthrie held his own. Traded to an even worse park for pitchers, Coors Field, might not have been the best move. But a tour in Flushing might just be what the doctor ordered. Plus, he's a free agent at the end of the year, so it wouldn't be a long-term commitment.

Con: Like we said earlier, Guthrie has been bad this year. He has a 6.05 ERA in 17 games (13 starts) and his K/9 (4.43) is the lowest of his career. Meanwhile his 3.02 BB/9 is the highest of his career since 2007. He's decreased the use of his fastball in favor of his curve, so turning Guthrie around might take a complete makeover, not just a change of scenery. Plus, he makes $8.2 million this year. Unless the Rockies eat the majority of that, the cost will likely be prohibitive.

Bartolo Colon, Athletics

The reinvigorated Colon is once again enjoying MLB success. After a solid season with the Yankees in 2011, Colon has been even better with Oakland this year. The front of the Mets rotation is already set with Johan Santana, R.A. Dickey and Jon Niese. But Colon could provide an experienced and formidable right arm down the stretch to team with them, especially if the Mets' planned replacements for Dillon Gee don't work out.

Pro: Colon is a former All-Star pitcher and Cy Young Award winner. He knows how to pitch and how to pitch in big games. He has a 3.80 ERA this season and a 1.24 WHIP. His strikeouts per nine have dipped this year, but so has his walk rate, giving him a career-best 3.71 K/BB ratio.

Con: Colon had a 3.20 ERA in the first half of 2011. He struggled with a 4.96 ERA in the second half. Will that second half slump repeat itself in 2012? He's lost over 1 mph on his fastball in the last year but is using it more often.

Tags: Bartolo Colon , Grant Balfour , Kelly Shoppach , Brandon League , Jeremy Guthrie , R.A. Dickey , Johan Santana , Jon Niese , Dillon Gee , Matt Harvey , Miguel Batista , Josh Thole , Mike Nickeas , Jarrod Saltalamacchia , Ryan Lavarnway

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