Mets: Justin or Bustin’ at the Trade Deadline?

Author’s Note:  I fully expect the Mets to be quiet at the trade deadline this year, as I have already posted here and here. That being said, ‘tis the season for this type of speculation. In order to keep the advertisers happy with our site traffic , here is Mets Today’s contribution to the stone soup of trade deadline proposals that will be everywhere the next two-plus weeks.

 The New York Mets should trade for San Diego Padres outfielder Justin Upton. Here’s why:

  • Offense!  He would immediately become the team leader in home runs and stolen bases this season (14 and 17, respectively) and second in batting average. His OBP would rank third among Mets regulars, but his current SLG, OBS and OPS+ rates surpass all Mets in those rankings right now. Certainly the naysayers among us will point out that the Mets are currently getting Upton-like production from Curtis Granderson. But Upton is a 3.1 WAR player vs. Grandy’s 2.2. Also Grandy, while ostensibly the Mets best hitter so far this season, is performing much better than he has in his past two seasons. Is he due for a regression in the second half? His last ten games indicate the regression has already started. Upton is faster, younger and a better fielder.  Put Upton in the lineup in the three hole, bat Daniel Murphy second and whoever else is hot at the time in leadoff and you’ve got a chance for some early innings runs in support of the young arms.
  • He won’t cost the farm: To get Upton from Atlanta, the Padres forked over two A ball pitchers, an AAA outfielder and a major league utility player currently slashing 254/334/352. This means he won’t cost one of the “core four.” Since Upton walks at the end of the year, San Diego is looking at draft pick compensation, so they shouldn’t expect much more than a recent high round draft pick (one not named Conforto) along with perhaps Hansel Robles or Logan Verrett. The Mets will surrender some talent, but nothing likely to come back to haunt them for years.
  • Alderson “wins”: Upton was on the Mets’ radar screen when the Diamondbacks first put him on the market back in 2012-13. They supposedly asked Met GM Sandy Alderson for either Matt Harvey or Zack Wheeler, a deal Alderson refused to make. How smart would he look now to get him for far less? Plus, it’s a sneak preview for the Mets; if Upton comes in here and slashes 290/360/520-ish, while leading the charge into the playoffs, it might ease their minds somewhat towards signing him to a long-term deal. An in-his-prime, New-York-tested-and-approved slugger is exactly what “The Plan” calls for (and if not, it or should). If he comes here and pulls a Jason Bay, he can be crossed off the list of free agents that they “monitor” this offseason.
  • The Wright connection: OK,  Michael Cuddyer hasn’t really worked out, but Upton is also from David Wright’s neck of the Virginia tidewater, which if nothing else, is a nice connection to have. David Wright is done. Speaking of Cuddyer, you can now platoon him at first with Lucas Duda and hope that one of them gets his head together for the stretch drive.
  • The itch is scratched: Last but certainly not least for Alderson and the Wilpons, a trade like this will get everyone off of their collective backs for a while. Remember the good vibes here when Alderson traded for those two relievers right before Opening Day? That, coupled with the tear the club went on, lead to a six-week era of good feelings. This deal takes Met fandom’s focus off of  their almost universally-disliked team ownership and front office and puts it squarely on the field, which is where it belongs. Plus Alderson can walk his dog in peace for a while.

Overall, this season has easily been one of the more entertaining ones in recent Mets history, one that we will hopefully look back on in a few years as a “(good) transition year.”  I get it that you can’t mortgage a significant part of your future for a semi-long shot at a playoff berth. That’s why this Upton deal works on the levels spelled out above.

So how about you? Got a trade proposal you’re needing to share? Expect a trade or just more dog-walking? Do you like Justin Upton? Should his brother stick to “Melvin,” or go back to “BJ?” Sound off below.

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Mets Game 89: Win Over Diamondbacks

captain-kirk

Mets 5, Diamondbacks 3

Doing its best impersonation of The Little Engine That Could, the understrength Mets have almost chuffed their way to the top of the hill. Of the back of their (unlikely) 7 wins out of 9, the Mets have hit a bunch of (unlikely) home runs and are within two games of catching up with the Nats in the NL East (won’t happen) and one game back from the Cubs for the second wild card (hmm… check out the Cubbie’s schedule).

What has happened?

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Terry’s Comments Foreshadow Disappointing Days Ahead

“If the guys take care of their business, then we will need less help than they think. We got to get the middle of our lineup going, then all of a sudden that extra piece is all you need. Right now it looks like we need several, we need to get our guys going. ’’ Terry Collins as quoted in the New York Post 7/8/15. 

Gotta hand it to Terry Collins, he has been the epitome of a good soldier during his tenure as Mets manager. He was at it again yesterday, floating the trial balloon quoted above. Implied in his statement is that the Mets will once again be quiet at the trade deadline and will instead continue to hope for better performances and, one assumes, a return to health from the players currently on their roster.

So as a service to our readers, Mets Today recommends that you tune out all of the trade talk. No Ben Zobrist, Carlos Gomez or even Will Venable for us. Instead there will be discussions, monitoring and interest, but in the end no real action. You’ll be angry, upset and disappointed, vowing to stop following this team, never buy another ticket, etc., only to be back in a few days after strong back-to-back performances from the young pitchers.

While you’re at it, forget anything significant happening this winter either. The Front Office and the owners are happy with the way things are. That “extra piece” will be some variation of Omar Quintanilla or Anthony Recker, a single dimension/end of the bench type with a career batting average hovering around the Mendoza Line.

Sucks, doesn’t it?

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Game 84 Recap: Niese Improves His Trade Value

Way to go Jon! In a season where very little has gone right for him, Jon Niese shut the slumping San Francisco Giants out for 8 innings and the Mets somnambulant offense suddenly woke up in the ninth inning for three runs, as the Mets topped the defending champs, 3-0 on Monday Night.

Johnny Monell broke the scoreless tie in the ninth with a two run double. The Mets added a run later that inning and Jeurys Familia handled the bottom of the ninth for his 23rd save. The Mets moved to 3-1 on what was supposed to be the road trip from hell and can return to Panic City only slightly perturbed, assured of at least a .500 West Coast swing. The Washington Nationals also lost, so the Mets now trail them by three and a half.

Niese was the big story, allowing three hits, while walking two and striking out four. Combined with his most recent previous start against Chicago, Jon has allowed one earned run in his last two starts (15 innings pitched), giving up seven hits, fanning nine. The walks (six over this span) are somewhat concerning, but overall, with the exception of his June 17 stinkbomb in Toronto, Niese has pitched consistently well since Memorial Day. You gotta figure that there is a deal out there to be made for him. Hopefully Mets GM Sandy Alderson can put the dog leash down long enough to get at least an adequate major league hitter for Niese, who is under contract for next year, with options the following two.

“Adequate” would be a vast improvement for the Mets right now. Long-time fans like me can recall the early to mid-1970s, when the Mets trotted out weak bats like Wayne Garrett, Don Hahn, Ken Boswell and (the real) Dave Schneck on a nightly basis, wasting great pitching performances from the likes of Tom Seaver, Jon Matlack and Jerry Koosman. What you need to know about that era is how it ended: the Mets made the playoffs once over a seven year span, which ended in acrimony and heartbreak, all three arms dealt away and the team falling below .500 for the next seven years.

Due to the six-man rotation, this was likely Niese’s last start until after the All Star Game. He probably gets one of the games in St. Louis, but from then on, Alderson’s number should be appearing on the caller ID screens of GMs across the nation as he tries to get a deal done.

Congrats to Jacob deGrom on his All Star selection. Here’s hoping Familia gets picked as well. Welcome back Jennry Mejia!

 

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Mets Game 83: Win Over Dodgers

wilmer-la

Mets Ø (sorry, 8) Dodgers 0

Much as it’s tempting to glance at the box score and assume the Mets played out a 0-0 draw over 20 innings before everyone passed out through sheer boredom, that isn’t a funky European Ø with a slash through it. It’s an eight. I had forgotten what they looked like.

After subjecting myself to the FOX coverage of the Mets game on Saturday, the dire mumbling and stumbling commentators did at least raise one point of value. The Mets were second to the Royals in hard hit balls in the major leagues. Second? I figured the Mets would only be second in errors.

Have we found the Twilight Zone? These numbers are baffling. And they raise another question. Have the Mets been unlucky this year on offense?

I can’t see it myself, and I’ve seen the vast majority of the Mets innings this season. But this game highlighted what a little luck can do. Out of the Mets 15 hits, only Wilmer Flores double in the 8th was a true liner (and even that narrowly shaded inside the left field line). Flores and Curtis Granderson’s other doubles were ripped grounders between Justin Turner and the line (six feet away from an out) and Juan Lagares “triple” (a.k.a. a laughable error by Yasiel Puig) would have been an out if not for that pesky sun in Los Angeles. L.A. rarely catches the sun so poor Puig’s shades couldn’t deal with the glare. We saw bloops (a couple from Murph), infield hits (nice cue shot from Grandy), and tricklers through vacated positions (Tejada’s grounder in the 4th).

On the pitching side, Stephen Matz got through six innings and Terry didn’t push him out there again in the seventh despite Matz being on just 101 pitches. Thank-you, Terry. Matz fell behind in the count throughout his outing, but he was able to pinpoint his fastball to catch up. His change was a little off – hence he didn’t use it much – but his curve was fine. He made Puig feel even more enigmatic/grumpy as he struck out on one. It’s impossible not to be impressed by the poise of Matz.

For the Mets to win two against the Dodgers in L.A. is a genuine achievement, despite the Dodgers not kicking on after their fast start to the season. Wilmer went 10 for 13 in the series, and his OPS has shuffled just above .700 again. Is being back at second making him feel more comfortable?

Lucas Duda and Michael Cuddyer continue to look lost at the plate, with a desperate Lucas swinging at curves way down and fastballs way up. Cuddyer also doesn’t see any pitches he doesn’t want to pop up. Meanwhile, Matz put in another professional AB to drive in a run on a slow grounder, so he could spell these guys in the Twilight Zone we’ve entered.

They’ll call this game a laugher. Well, I needed cheering up. So thank-you for this. The Mighty Morphin’ Power Mets will hopefully take down the Giants in the next three game set. I’m not banking on it, but then those guys are on a six game losing streak… including three against the Giancarlo Stanton-free Marlins. Huh?

The world doesn’t make any sense any more. But we are entering a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. I just hope the Mets exploit that and surprise us all.

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Mets: The Public Be Damned?

One of the earliest mass media PR gaffes was made in 1883 by railroad baron William Henry Vanderbilt when he supposedly uttered “the public be damned” to a Chicago reporter who questioned him about his passenger trains.

The first mass media PR slip also spawned the first mass media PR spin. After those remarks appeared in black and white, Vanderbilt back tracked somewhat, claiming first that he was taken out of context and then further stated that “”Railroads are not run for the public benefit, but to pay. Incidentally, we may benefit humanity, but the aim is to earn a dividend.”

Take that last paragraph and substitute “Wilpon” for “Vanderbilt” and “The Mets” for “Railroads” and I believe you have an accurate assessment of how this modern-day Vanderbilt family views the Mets. As a firm believer in free markets and private property, I grudgingly support their right to do whatever they want with their property. The problem for me and I suppose for all Mets fans, is that this in direct conflict with what we want: a pennant-winning baseball team again.

The fact of the matter is that the Mets generate cash for the Wilpons via TV and MLB licensing deals, which are in sufficient force to overcome depressed gate receipts. This cash allows them to develop other money-making schemes (also their right). They are rich enough to shut out the howling of their fans and are laughing their way to the proverbial bank. They don’t care what we think. And they are under zero pressure from anyone who can force them to do anything to change the way the team is operated.

I believe that they shrewdly picked the right front man in Sandy Alderson. He certainly has the street cred: a commendable military service record, past GM experience that includes a championship and a stint in the Commissioner’s office. Like a good soldier, he has followed orders: cutting operational costs, while maintaining at least a veneer of respectability (read: hope via hyping prospects) around those operations.

This is probably the year that the pressure begins to mount on Alderson, as it has become apparent that he just isn’t that good, but the Wilpons don’t really care for after all, Alderson has done his job. Their major liability, payroll costs, are under control and they can safely project them for the next 4-5 years as being among the lowest in baseball; merely a fraction of what other major market teams pony up each year. In fairness to Alderson, his team currently has a better record than other franchises with much higher payrolls, but at the same time, he is approaching a five-year losing streak, whereas other GMs with similar payroll constraints have assembled winning teams during Alderson’s time here.

The Mets of past years reacted against losing, firing GMs and managers, making splashy trades and signing Free Agents. It didn’t always work, but at least they tried. These post-Madoff Mets merely shrug their shoulders and count their money.

What can any of us do about this? Not too much unfortunately. There is just too much other money coming to counter the blow of a stadium being 75% empty. They can merely ignore the empty seats and the barbs from blow-hards like me and others in the media and the blogosphere, while most likely using the perks that are associated with owning a major league team to keep a few key media figures quiet.

I believe that deep down they would love to be a playoff team, but this   would have to be more of a happy accident than a result of a concentrated effort to get there. And for all of their PR mis-steps, no one in the inner circle is clumsy enough to let slip that profits trump pennants.

And here’s the thing: that equation isn’t anything new to baseball either. For every Murder’s Row, every Big Red Machine, every Yankees Dynasty, every Bleeding Dodger Blue, every The Giants Win The Pennant, every We Are Family, in other words every big or consistent winner, there needs to be big or consistent losers. Space constraints prohibit the listing of teams that went decades (centuries?) as losing franchises, but they are out there.

For example, I grew up under the shadow of the Philadelphia media and was well-acquainted with that city’s then-dreadful baseball history. It certainly influenced my choice of the Mets as my favorite team in 1971. There is much to suggest that the Mets are heading in that same direction. We’re lamenting a potential seventh-straight losing season, but recent events may be a foreshadowing of a far longer stretch ahead.

Not much to do but settle in and accept it. This is hard for someone like me, as Mets fandom has spanned parts of three family generations. I have been able to let go of other bad habits over my life, but I admit that this one is hard to break. I believe in miracles and think we certainly need one here; but I wonder if The Almighty doesn’t have other ideas.

Oh well–we’ll always have April of 2015.

 

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