Harper: Mets should make run at Cubs’ Castro

The Mets have a void at shortstop and Starlin Castro would be the 'perfect fit' if they can make a deal for him.Alex Brandon/AP The Mets have a void at shortstop and Starlin Castro would be the ‘perfect fit’ if they can make a deal for him.

A golden opportunity in the name of Starlin Castro has sprung seemingly out of nowhere, and the Mets need to do everything they can to take advantage of it.

If that means trading Zack Wheeler and perhaps even another pitcher to get the best-hitting shortstop this side of Troy Tulowitzki, so be it.

On Saturday, however, there was no indication the Mets were moving quickly to investigate what it would take to get the 24-year-old Castro, after the Cubs’ trade of pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel for prospect Addison Russell on Friday created a shortstop overload.

One Mets source said the chance of making such a trade was more likely in the offseason, and the consensus among baseball people was that Cubs president Theo Epstein would prefer to wait until then to sort out his trio of shortstops, which now includes top prospects Russell and Javier Baez as well as Castro.

But why wait?

Neither team is going anywhere this season, and the Mets, in particular, desperately need to show their fans they are moving in the right direction, adding offense — and payroll — that could help them contend as early as next season.

For the Cubs, meanwhile, it makes sense to trade Castro for the pitching they’ll need to complement the impressive array of position-player prospects that Epstein has accumulated during his rebuilding job.

And the Mets are “a perfect match,” as one member of the organization put it on Saturday.

They’ve been biding their time, waiting for a chance to trade some of their young pitching for a difference-making hitter, and at a time in baseball when there are few, if any, available, the Mets need to seize the moment.

Will GM Sandy Alderson do it?

“Knowing Sandy, I think he’ll try,” said a baseball person who has worked for Alderson in the past. “I’ve seen him get aggressive, more aggressive than you might think, when he sees a chance to get something he wants.”

Alderson himself offered no hint of interest at Citi Field on Saturday. Commenting on Castro would be grounds for tampering, anyway, but when asked about the value of having impact offense at shortstop, he smiled and said the Mets are very excited about Matt Reynolds.

Matt Reynolds?

He’s their second-round draft choice in 2012 out of the University of Arkansas who is having a breakout year, hitting .356 with a .432 on-base percentage — and one home run — between Double-A and Triple-A.

But honestly, as they head for a sixth straight losing season, the Mets can’t let an emerging prospect stand in the way of acquiring a talent such as Castro, who has 38 extra-base hits and a .470 slugging percentage, the second-highest in the majors.

In Chicago, meanwhile, Epstein told reporters he had no intention of trading his starting shortstop, noting that Castro, Baez and Russell eventually could all play in the same infield.

But baseball people aren’t buying it, noting that Russell’s dazzling defense ensures him of being the long-term shortstop, and predicting Castro won’t want to move to second.

So would an offer of Wheeler convince Epstein to deal now? One baseball executive friendly with Epstein said it would take more.

“He’d want (Noah) Syndergaard,” the exec said. “That would be harder for the Mets to do. There’s still huge upside with him.

“Wheeler would be attractive — you can see the stuff is there for him to be a top-of-the-rotation guy. But think it would have to be Wheeler and another pitcher, maybe (Jacob) deGrom.”

Wheeler and deGrom? The Mets probably would balk at that. But as the baseball exec pointed out, Castro has great value not only because of his bat but his contract as well — he’s owed $44 million over the next five years.

“That’s a bargain,” the exec said. “With the numbers he’s putting up, he’d be worth twice that on the open market.”

In any case, the Mets could get the Cubs to throw in a second player in such a deal, and they have more pitching coming, specifically the highly regarded Double-A lefty Steven Matz.

On the other hand, Castro has had issues, if you will, in the past. At times he played like he didn’t care much at all, but people around the Cubs say his problems were largely the result of a poor relationship with former manager Dale Sveum.

The same people say Castro has grown up a lot this season. And scouts say that while he does make seemingly careless errors at times — he has 11 for the season — hustle hasn’t been an issue.

“He does look more focused,” the NL scout said. “He makes some throwing errors but he’s got good range. He’s at least an average defensive shortstop, and his offense makes him one of the best in the game.’’

As such it’s a rare opportunity brought on by a trade no one expected — the Cubs dealing Samardzija for a shortstop.

The Mets have the young pitching to make it happen. Whether it’s now or later, it’s up to Alderson to find a way to get it done.

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