“Hurry! Hurry! Hurry! Big Clearance Sale now going on at our Flushing Meadows location. Watch for our orange-tag specials. Bring your prospects and be ready to go home with a new piece for your team.”
Well, it’s not going to go exactly like that, but the Mets are at a critical juncture as they enter the second half of the season. At 39-47, in fourth place in the NL East, 12 games behind the runaway Nationals, and not really much closer – about 10 games – behind even the second wild card slot, the Mets are presumably sellers, and not buyers, as they recoil from this disaster of a season when it feels like everybody from the peanut vendors on down went on the DL.
But they’re sure not talking like that as they faced the Rockies at rainy Citi Field on the first night back from the All-Star break.
GM Sandy Alderson acknowledged that he’s open for business, but it has to be right for all parties concerned. Clearly, he won’t be making a deal for the sake of dealing, but if it helps the Mets now and in the long term, he’s listening, and he’s calling.
We’ll trust his judgements, as his past dealings have included snaring Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud from Toronto for R.A. Dickey, and Zack Wheeler for Carlos Beltran. And his acquisitions of hurlers such as Addison Reed and Jerry Blevins have produced very positive results.
For skipper Terry Collins, it’s business as usual.
“We’re going to worry about today. What’s going to happen at thatdeadline, we’re not going to worry about that.
“We’re lucky to be (home) for 11 days and get it going. No reason why we can’t have a very, very good homestand. We need to get off to a good start as we head into August and September.”
However, Terry, your team on August 1 might look a tad different than it does today, and that might be a very good thing.
Okay, so who should stay and who should go? Asdrubal Cabrera has already declared himself trade bait. But who is going to want a 31-year-old shortstop when shortstop might no longer be his best position. He begrudgingly moved to second base, and that has been a fairly positive move. He is a somewhat good bat – .250 in the first half (.310 from the right side), 11 doubles, 8 home runs, and 24 RBIs, with a decent sense of the importance of a situation, having delivered more than a handful of clutch hits when needed.
“Cabby,” (his clubhouse nickname) is also affordable, with about $4 mil left on his deal for this year, and a club option for next year.
So who wants him? The teams that are in comfort zones for playoff runs are pretty much set at second and short, so it might take an injury in the next couple of weeks for a team to call Sandy. Cabby’s also a good clubhouse presence, so a young club might want some of those leadership skills on their club.
But if he takes to second, the Mets might want him back as a cheaper alternative to offering Neil Walker a long term deal. Walker, who like half the team, is on the DL after a partially torn left hamstring in June (but is close to returning) is pulling down that qualifying offer of $17 mil-plus, and may be looking for a 3/4-year deal in that neighborhood per, so a Cabby back-up plan might be a good option.
Then again, T.J. Rivera has shown a consistent bat (.299 at the break) and giving him the second base job – perhaps in some sort of platoon with Wilmer Flores – at not much more than the minimum is a very affordable option.
Alderson has to balance out an entire roster of salaries, and knowing that the pitchers are going be due big raises, having affordable infielders helps make that happen.
That’s why seeing Amed Rosario at short soon is almost a given. But with Cabrera or Jose Reyes at short, bringing up the heralded prospect comes with its own set of roadblocks and financial considerations.
Reyes is still struggling at the plate (the FBI never did find out what happened to the real Jose Reyes)- a sad .215 at the break – but why DFA him when he’s making just the minimum, and still a fan favorite, to a degree. He might make a great mentor and tutor to Rosario when the kid gets the call, so he should stick around.
There’s been much talk that Jay Bruce or Curtis Granderson are on the block. Bruce had a great first half (.266, 23 HR, 59 RBIs), and should have been an All-Star, so he’s a desirable trade piece, and a free agent at the end of the season, but should the Mets re-sign him instead?
It would complicate next year’s outfield configuration if they do, with Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto as definites, Juan Lagares or Brandon Nimmo as options, and another unstated question is which Bruce is the real Bruce. He might be a first half player – he was leading the league in RBIs last summer when the Mets traded for him, and then disappeared in the second half.
What if the Mets hold him and he goes in the tank in August again? Not predicting, just thinking out loud. Every Mets fan who wanted him out of town last September now wants the club to sign him to a long term deal – perhaps something in the 3-4 year range for about $60/$75 mil? But that thought would go poof is he goes poof again in the last two months.
There’s a deal here if he moves to first, because it appears unlikely the club will retain the often-injured-always-streaky Lucas Duda. But if they fit Bruce for a first baseman’s mitt, what happens to the development of Dominic Smith chomping at the bit (.331, 12, 58, at last look) at Las Vegas?
Here’s another scenario. The Mets could trade Bruce for a prospect or two, then do what Yankees GM Brian Cashman with Aroldis
Let’s paint a different picture. Let’s say the Mets trade Cabrera and Bruce, and maybe even Duda, are forced to call up Rosario and Smith, are infused with a new youthful exuberance, and go on an amazing run, maybe win 20/21 out of 29, or something like that, in August, and all of a sudden, they’re back in the playoff hunt.
Not predicting, just thinking out loud.
The call-up of Paul deJong by the Cardinals has had a similar affect in St. Louis. It’s not out of the question. The kid killed the Mets when they were out there before the break. The call-up earlier in the year of Cody Bellinger by the Dodgers has them running away with the Western Division. No one predicted those variables, that’s for sure.
The most desirable assets the Mets possess actually reside in the bullpen. There are many teams who would want a Jerry Blevins or Addison Reed in their pen. But if you lose these valuable pieces, it might be difficult to replace them.
Blevins has stranded 23 of 33 inherited runners, and over the last two years, leads the majors with 70 stranded runners. The lefthanded workhorse is tied for first with 44 appearances, and lefties are batting .167 (12-72) against him. Righties, well, um, are batting .343 (12-35).
Reed has allowed just two runs in his last 17 innings (1.06 ERA), is 15-for-17 in save opportunities, and went a franchise record of 22 games without issuing a walk to start the season. He has allowed five home runs, when he allowed just four longballs all of last season, but he’s been a godsend after Jeurys Familia went on the DL.
Both Blevins and Reed are free agents at the end of the season, but the Mets hold a team option on Blevins. So we may be looking at the end of their Met tenures anyway. They would bring back some decent prospects or fill other voids, and again, maybe the Mets could reel them back in during the offseason.
Alderson has a lot of directions he can go. The Mets are on the clock!