Raise the White Flag
Another year, another failed defense of the pennant for the Mets. That’s five if you’re counting.
In case you missed it yesterday, the Washington Murphies put a 3-2 beating on another sore-armed Mets phenom, padding their NL East lead over the Mets and the upstart Miami Marlins to six games. All of the air has gone out of the Mets’ balloon: they’re injured and tired-looking, a far cry from the team that stormed it’s way into the World Series just a few months ago. The sole bright spot in yesterday’s debacle was two-homer effort by the returning and apparently repentant Jose Reyes.
Wait…Reyes wasn’t the only bright spot, there were three others yesterday for the Mets, but they occurred 2,700 miles away in San Diego. Three Mets prospects appeared in The Futures Game, a clever name for what is essentially a minor league all star game. More on that in a second.
The next three weeks are like the Christmas shopping season for baseball websites and blogs, as trades and rumors of trades will drive clicks through the roof. Expect a passel of rumors about the Mets, with the pot already being stirred about the previously unlikely possibility that they should add a starting pitcher. I have the distinct impression that many Mets fans will be very disappointed at 4PM three weeks from today (this year’s trade deadline was pushed back a day for some reason) and the Mets are fielding nearly the same roster. 2015’s torrid trade deadline may have spoiled some of you, but I highly doubt the Mets add anyone. In fact, if they’re smart they might make a few subtractions.
I know that I predicted otherwise here, but at this point a divisional crown, while still possible, looks very improbable. The Mets are in actuality playing for the chance to travel across the country to face Clayton Kershaw in a one-game playoff. I wouldn’t like their chances in a game like that. I suggest that instead of mortgaging their future for a long shot at the brass ring this year that they focus on playing for the next few years and that period of sustainable success they’ve long been touting.
Part of that sustainable success was on display yesterday in San Diego. Amed Rosario and Dilson Herrera have got to figure prominently in the Mets future plans. Ironically, both are throw backs to an earlier age, the slick-fielding, surprisingly quick, contact hitters from the Luis Aparicio/Davey Conception mold. It’s funny how everything old is new again. Back 25-30 years ago, good teams were strong defensively up the middle, with power at the corners. During baseball’s power surge, this concept was lost in pursuit of putting a home run hitter at every position. It now looks to be coming back. If that’s true, the Mets are on the cutting edge of this old/new paradigm, with Rosario at short, Herrera at second and Juan Lagares in center.
First baseman Dominic Smith was also in the Futures Game. Smith strikes me somewhat as the Lagares of infielders, a great glove but a sketchy bat. Still, that kind of defense could be valuable coming off the bench in late and close situations; giving the Mets the flexibility to add a pure power hitter at first with Smith’s glove in there at the end. It’s a real waste of a high draft pick if that is Smith’s ceiling, but just ask 1986 Red Sox how valuable a defensive replacement at first base can be. Plus, Smith’s recent power surge bears watching to see if this is merely a blip on the radar or if he has really figured something out.
Those three players, along with Brandon Nimmo, are probably the Mets best non-pitcher trading chips at this point. IMO, trading any of them is a mistake. Small sample size, but I really like the energy Nimmo brings to the team. It still comes down to starting pitching, which in theory should give the Mets a long window of opportunity. At this point, there is no reason to believe that Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler won’t be ready for Spring Training (that could change of course) . Trading any of them after the collective down year they have experienced would be an all-time sell-low mistake. Mets GM Sandy Alderson can be exasperating at time, but I would be shocked if he moved any of them in the next three weeks.
While I am dead set against any trades of starters, I would dangle Jerry Blevins in front of teams like Cleveland or Texas, trying to pull a top five prospect from either one. Otherwise, I’d hold on to Blevins and try to resign him. Addison Reed’s big season could also be converted into a top prospect in those or other pennant-starved cities. In both cases, however these players still have some utility to the Mets, who could be relying heavily on their contributions next year.
Yes, losing the division back to Washington sucks. I don’t know whether to hate or applaud Murphy at this point. I take solace in the adage about making a deal too early rather than too late. He might win the MVP this year and then hit .260 for the next two. Hopefully by then Herrera’s star is in ascendency and he and Rosario are a nightly highlight reel. We need to look no further than Stephen Strasburg or Jose Fernandez to see that it is possible for a pitcher to overcome serious injury. The Mets have holes that will need filling, but I hope and pray they don’t reach for that quick fix this year at the expense of what still figures to be one of the better periods in team history.
Enjoy the All Star break folks.