Should the Mets Deal Before the Deadline?
No doubt you’ve seen the rumors of the Mets’ interest in people such as Ramon Hernandez, Huston Street, Grant Balfour, etc. Acquiring a few pieces before the July 31 trade deadline would certainly be exciting, but would it really be helpful toward the Mets’ pursuit of a postseason appearance? And could deals hurt more than they help?
First off, there is the notion that by doing something — i.e., making a trade — the front office is showing the Mets players that they “have their back,” that they’re sending the message that they believe in the team and doing what they can to help support them. But is that true?
Surely, someone like David Wright or R.A. Dickey will be quick to agree with that notion. But I’m not sure it would be the opinion of every player on the 25-man roster. For example, what if the Mets are able to acquire the aforementioned Hernandez or Miguel Olivo — either of whom would push Mike Nickeas back to AAA and could possibly take over Josh Thole‘s starting catcher role? It’s a case of “be careful what you wish for,” isn’t it?
You can extend that to the fans as well. Fans always want to see trades and free-agent signings, because everyone likes to get something “new” — whether it’s a tie, a toaster, or an addition to one’s favorite baseball team. But again, what if the new player pushes out a “homegrown” favorite like Thole, Daniel Murphy, or Lucas Duda? Or, what if the trade sends away someone like Duda or, say, Jordany Valdespin? Again, be careful what you wish for.
Wait, Valdespin? Why would the Mets ever trade Valdespin? He’s already shown to be a versatile, athletic, dynamic player with some pop and a flair for the dramatic. Surely they wouldn’t trade him away now. But those of a certain age may remember the summer of 2000, when Rey Ordonez broke his arm and the Mets made a trade for Mike Bordick. Among the players who were sent away in the package included a young, versatile, athletic, and dynamic player who had shown some pop and a flair for the dramatic at the MLB level — Melvin Mora.
We can argue whether the Bordick trade was a good one; the Mets did make the World Series that year, after all. But that’s not the point. The point is that you never know who is going to be moved, and it could be someone you enjoy watching, and/or someone you believe could fill a current hole. At the time, I thought the Mets were crazy to trade away Mora; he wasn’t a great shortstop but he was good enough to play there a few times a week, and his bat would make up for his defensive shortcomings. But Steve Phillips felt differently and brought in the steady yet unspectacular Bordick, who wound up providing OK defense and a .685 OPS in 56 games. His contribution was so inconsequential that Kurt Abbott played started at shortstop in Game 5 of the World Series that October, and wound up with the same number of at-bats as Bordick in the Fall Classic. Kurt Abbott!
Which brings me to another point: just because a player is new, doesn’t necessarily make him better. Sure, everyone is calling for Jason Bay to be replaced; names like Carlos Quentin and Justin Upton are being buzzed about. But there’s no guarantee either will be an upgrade over Bay’s current replacement, Scott Hairston. Sure, Hairston can move over to RF vs. lefties, but then that pushes out Duda. Yes, Duda is struggling against LHPs, but isn’t this supposed to be a rebuilding year? Doesn’t it make sense to expose Duda to lefthanders, to see if he can eventually figure them out? Or do the Mets want to breed and develop platoon players?
The same questions can be asked if Ramon Hernandez, Miguel Olivo, or another righthanded-hitting catcher is brought on board — what does that say about the organization’s opinion of Josh Thole? If the everyday lineup suddenly includes Hernandez, Hairston, and Quentin, aren’t the Mets getting away from that “homegrown” concept they’ve been selling all year? The same concept that has put the team six games over .500 at the All-Star break?
Naturally, the situation is different if the Mets can pick up a reliever or two, since the bullpen has been ineffective and there are always innings to go around. Though, there’s a part of me that wonders if there’s an obtainable veteran reliever who will definitely outperform Pedro Beato, Josh Edgin, and/or Elvin Ramirez. Hard to say, since Beato showed to be fairly effective before injuring his shoulder last year, and we have no idea, yet, what Edgin and Ramirez can do at the MLB level. Again, isn’t this supposed to be a rebuilding year — a year when you find out who among the youngsters can cut the mustard in the big leagues?
That’s just as much a question as the concern of “mortgaging the future” — i.e., trading away a prospect — for rentals / short-term results. My guess is that most of you agree it makes no sense to trade away Zack Wheeler or Matt Harvey, as those young pitchers are key to the Mets’ future. But similarly, it may not make sense to take away at-bats from Duda, or innings from Beato. Of course, much depends on which players you believe will be part of the Mets future, as well as whether you truly believe the 2012 Mets have a valid shot at a World Championship.
What’s your thought? Should the Mets deal for a few veterans? Are there pieces the Mets can pick up that will “put them over the top,” and get them to a World Series? Is the gamble of acquiring them worth the possibility of retarding the development of current players and prospects? Post your thoughts in the comments.