Karpin: Mets Have To Take That ‘Fork In The Road’

Maybe the late Yogi Berra summed up the Mets’ dilemma perfectly with one of his famous quotes when he said, “when you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

That “fork in the road” is the 2018 season and how the Mets will approach it now that they’ve “thrown in the towel” on a disastrous 2017 campaign. The Mets purged the roster of impending free agents who did not fit into their future plans. Gone are Lucas Duda, Addison Reed, Jay Bruce, Neil Walker, Curtis Granderson and Rene Rivera.

Now that the dust has cleared, there are some issues to be addressed. What did the Mets get back in these deals? What is the residual effect for the remainder of this season, and what is on the horizon for a team whose high expectations were blown sky high.

Bruce was traded to Cleveland for 22-year old minor league right hander Ryder Ryan. Scouts consider Ryan a project. He was primarily a third baseman in college and is transitioning to the mound.

On the other side of the coin is right hander Drew Smith, who was acquired from Tampa Bay for Duda. Scouts tell me Smith has a live arm, shows good command and projects as a late inning reliever or “lock down” closer. Throughout his minor league career, Smith has shown an ability to get outs with a terrific strikeouts/walk ratio.

The Mets got back three, 22-year old right handed pitchers from Boston for Reed including Gershon Bautista, Stephen Nogosek and Jamie Callahan. Nogosek was a closer at Oregon but is considered more of a middle reliever while Callahan was a failed starter who has found some success in the bullpen, however, Bautista could be the “steal” of this trade.

The Dominican born Bautista has a blazing fastball with movement and is starting to develop a reliable slider. Like most young pitchers, Bautista has had problems with command of the strike zone. So far, so good. In a small sample with the Mets Advanced A affiliate at St. Lucie, Bautista has walked one and struck out nine in 8.1 innings.

With the Walker and Granderson deals, the Mets have tapped into two of the better farm systems in baseball in Milwaukee and Los Angeles. You can’t expect a “top ten” prospect in return but a youngster like 22-year old right hand pitcher Mitchell White from the Dodgers or the Brewers’ 19-year old right hander Carlos Herrera (who was acquired from Seattle originally in the Adam Lind trade last season) may suffice. White’s stock dropped a bit because he missed time with a broken toe last season while Herrera has a top rated fastball and change-up.

The residual effect of this “fire sale” is to be expected as those who remain lack energy and begin to look around in bewilderment. Like the “dead fish” in “The Godfather” that signified the death of Luca Brasi, this series of moves signified the death of the 2017 season for the Mets. “It’s not personal Sonny, it’s strictly business.”

On the other hand, this is an opportunity for the Mets to not only see their young prospects like Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith, but to make decisions on players like Travis d’Arnaud, Asdrubal Cabrera, (the Mets have an $8.5 million dollar team option for next season on his contract) Juan Lagares, Jose Reyes and the enigmatic Hansel Robles.

The outlook is not that bleak but there is significant work to be done in the off season.

It’s true that there are some questions that need answers including catcher, third base, second base and an outfield spot, either in right or center.

Let’s be real, the Mets are not going to spend their way to finding solutions. They will need to sign a free agent, however, to fill at least one of those holes while being creative in the trade market to help fill the others.

Despite the inordinate amount of injuries the past two seasons to their pitching staff, the Mets are going to have to use an arm or two to secure quality talent during the off season. (If Zack Wheeler returns from the stress reaction in his pitching arm and can prove he’s healthy for the remainder of the season, he could be used as bait)

The final six weeks are going to be excruciating for Mets’ fans. The hope is one or two of these newly acquired prospects can be productive major league players, while youngsters like Rosario and Smith get their feet wet and start to develop into the kind of players they were projected to be.

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