Stand Pat, Sandy
Here it comes: the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, which has become a cottage industry of sorts for many TV networks and blogs, who serve up tasty trade news and trade rumors to a ravenous audience. Much like New Year’s Eve revelers, many baseball fans wake up on August 1 with a trade rumor hangover and a resolve not to get sucked in ever again (yeah, right).
The majority of this post was written before the “story” about the Mets’ interest in Troy Tulowitzki broke late on Thursday evening. For the record, I think that story is pure fantasy. But then again, I never thought the Mets would land Mike Piazza either.
The Mets’ record at the trade deadline has been spotty, to say the least. Near the top of the all-time list of infamy is the totally unnecessary trade of Scott Kazmir in 2004. That trade did alter the course of the franchise for a little while, as it ushered in the Omar Minaya era and the team’s last playoff appearance to date. Speaking of deadline deals with franchise altering implications, the 1977 Trade Deadline, then in mid-June, will (hopefully) forever hold the title of Worst Ever. I am referring of course, to the Mets “Midnight Massacre” giveaways of Tom Seaver and Dave Kingman that year. Along the way, the Mets, in an attempt to bolster a playoff run, have also sacrificed Jason Isringhausen and Melvin Mora in late July trades. Minaya’s inability to make any bullpen improvements at the 2007 and 2008 deadlines no doubt contributed to the late season collapses in both years. The Billy Wagner giveaway was one of the first signs of the Wilpon’s impending financial distress.
On the flip side, there have been a few deadline deals that worked in the Mets favor. Getting Keith Hernandez and an eventual World Series crown for Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey in 1983 easily laps the rest of the field. The Carlos Beltran for Zack Wheeler trade is definitely a win for the Mets. Steve Phillips got Darryl Hamilton from Colorado on July 31, 1999. Hamilton played a decent centerfield for the team during parts of three seasons, including the playoff years of 1999-2000. The Marlon Byrd deal with Pittsburgh may end up being one of the best in Met history—if current trends continue.
But without a doubt, my all-time favorite deadline deal, even more so than the Hernandez swipe, is the 1984 trade that Frank Cashen made with Cincinnati, trading somewhat heralded prospects Jay Tibbs and Eddie Williams to the Reds for pitcher Bruce Berenyi. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t who they traded for but why. Seven years after (to the exact date) the Seaver trade, the Mets front office was sending the message that the long nuclear winter that started on that horrible night was finally over. They believed in their team enough to give up two prospects in an attempt to win now.
At least, that’s how I took it. BTW, Berenyi went 9-6 for the surprising 84 Mets, before his career was cut short by injuries the following year.
My sense is that this is the type of deadline deal that current Met GM Sandy Alderson needs to make next, if he makes any move at all before the Winter Meetings. I am not in favor of a Bartolo Colon salary-dump deal. Last week’s heroics aside, Colon is needed to save the young arms from too many September innings this year. I highly doubt the Wilpons will allow Alderson to trade Daniel Murphy in-season. There has been zero buzz about Jon Niese or Dillon Gee, which is somewhat telling, although this could change in the next few days. So unless Alderson can channel his inner Cashen and pull off a trade of say Josh Satin and Logan Verrett to the Padres for Everth Cabrera, he should just stand pat. The Mets farm system appears to be on the brink of producing a steady stream of serviceable contributors and perhaps even a star or two. A couple more weeks of evaluation, along with a few September call ups, is probably a better course of action, rather than plunging into the annual feeding frenzy in an attempt to garner some fleeting attention and a few more essentially meaningless wins.
A late (and much missed) mentor of mine was always there to remind me of how time could be an ally during any major decision making process I faced. I believe that concept applies here as well. It was easier to complain about a lack of deadline activity when the Mets had nothing to lose. They need to move prudently and gather as much data as they can on their current crop of prospects.
After all, they have all winter to engineer that Noah Syndergaard for Javier Baez trade!