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.

A Mets fan since 1971, Dan spent many summer nights of his childhood watching the Mets on WOR Channel Nine, which his Allentown, PA cable company carried. Dan was present at Game 7 of the 1986 World Series and the Todd Pratt Walkoff Game in 1999. He is also the proud owner of two Shea Stadium seats. Professionally, Dan is a Marketing Manager in the Bulk Materials Handling industry. He lives in Bethlehem PA with his wife and son, neither of whom fully get his obsession with the Mets.
  1. DaveSchneck July 11, 2016 at 9:57 pm
    We are in agreement. While I am not ready to concede the division just yet, the Nats certainly look better so far. Like you, I would not weaken the system any further in search of a mediocre arm. Let’s see what this flawed group can do as is with the rest of the season. f they need another starter, I’d give Robles a shot before dealing a prospect.
  2. argonbunnies July 11, 2016 at 10:17 pm
    I agree with not mortgaging the future, but I don’t think the near future looks all that bright. If the Mets fall out of contention and wind up playing out the string, there’s no way Cespedes re-ups. And Cespedes is the only star-level position player currently in the organization. “A bunch of hard throwers and Dilson Herrera” is not a plan for success.

    I’m not saying Cespedes won’t opt out for financial reasons regardless. And I’m not saying that out-bidding the other teams for his services after a frustrating year isn’t a fair request of those poor, penurious Wilpons. But I’d certainly feel better about 2017 if Yoenis ends 2016 with a good feeling.

    Maybe in 2018 Rosario will make an impact, and maybe in 2019 he’ll be a big key to a team, but there’s a lot of baseball between now and then.

    • DaveSchneck July 12, 2016 at 9:50 pm
      Yes, Cespedes is really the only legit big position piece they have, but I am not nearly as concerned about losing him as I was at the end of last season. Sure he will opt out, as any wise businessman would. But, we know he really likes being a Met, and we know he can perform on the big stage, and he is very media savvy taking a page from Bartolo’s book of having a translator between himself and the press. While has 2016 arrival was epic, I was a little concerned about his game once he settled in, and his playoffs were disappointing. But, I have been quite impressed with him this season. Yeah, he can be beaten with heat up and in, but he has shown that he is not a one dimensional wild swinger, and has played a decent CF. There is a deal to be made, and there should be money freed up by the unfortunate health issues of DW and Harvey.

      I am not raising the white flag, but I am all in on the sustained success approach. It’s always iffy in baseball given the unpredictability of pitching, but so long as they can fill the void of pitching prospects, they should b in position to compete for the NL East beyond this season.

      • argonbunnies July 13, 2016 at 2:26 pm
        I’ve been impressed with Cespedes too. There are still certain pitches he will consistently chase, but nobody’s perfect, and he’s shown consistency, line drives, and some oppo hits to go with the monstrous power. He’s the most exciting Met at the plate by a mile. I don’t think that’s gone unnoticed, though, and whoever signs him will be paying him huge bucks from age 31-36.

        Will that be the Mets? Alderson has an easy out to decline, as such contracts never end well. Anyone who actually believed that the Mets’ rough 2011-2013 was the fault of the Bay and Santana contracts should be rooting against it.

        Anyway, suppose the Mets go into 2017 with Cespedes. Would that team be a contender? I mean, with Duda, Lagares, d’Arnaud, Harvey, Syndergaard, Matz and Wheeler all healthy, I think yes, they definitely would be! But I see less than zero chance of that happening. I don’t think 2016 is some short streak of bad luck. I think the Mets have fragile players. The body of evidence is adding up.

        I’m looking to the farm for a new lineup, and pitching depth, and I’m seeing… not enough.

  3. Vilos July 12, 2016 at 6:41 pm
    Raise a white flag? No way. Not yet at least.

    What has to happen for them to be able to compete?

    For starters, health. With Harvey and Wright gone, Wheeler and Duda must come back, and noboby else can go down. At least not Cespedes. Maybe we could lose one of Thor or Matz, but not both.

    Second, they must play to their ability. With all cilinders clicking, they should at least make it exciting till the end. Their strength is strong hitting one through eight along with their pitching.

    I don’t expect Alderson will send any of their prospects away, but maybe sometype of trade could come our way.

    What went wrong with Alderson’s plan? Five out of eight down with injuries (duda, wright, darnaud, harvey) or below average performance (granderson, conforto) and a lack of backups or strong system with replacements (aka Cardinals) although Nimmo and Reynolds have been ok, I wouldn’t count Flores out and I still have faith in Plawecki.

    Just the same, with all the trouble we’ve had, we’re well above 500 and we’re still in the race, so I wouldn’t consider it a failure. On the contrary, sustainability is still out there to achieve, and that is the masterplan afterall.

    Finally, with respect to Murphy, some observations.

    First, yes, obviously it would have been nice to have kept Murphy and had him slotting in to third base for Wright. Yes, they more than anybody else, could have taken the risk with all the knowledge they had of the situation, but nobody else wanted him (it was written that they tried to trade him) and even Murphy didn’t buy in that much either (with hindsight, his best deal was to take the qualifing offer and then try the market again. How would he make this offseason?).

    So, I repeat, raise the white flag? No way, LGM

    • argonbunnies July 13, 2016 at 2:41 pm
      Unfortunately, Duda and Wheeler won’t be back soon. Maybe they’ll help a September push, but the Mets need to win games in July and August too.

      With all remaining cylinders clicking, I agree, it’d be exciting. I will still be watching, to see if that happens! I sure wouldn’t bet money on it, though. How often does everything click just right?

      As for sustainability, I’d define that as starting every season with a good chance to win the division. But I do mean good. Not, “Hey, anything’s possible!” If some other team is the favorite, then no, that’s not “sustainable success”, that’s hanging around close enough that you might get lucky. In the context of a sport with 30 fanbases, a bunch of teams hanging close is probably what’s good for the game, but that’s not what I want as a Mets fan who’s seen 5 playoff series in 15 years. I want the Mets to go to the playoffs every year, absent truly horrible luck, so they’ll have enough chances (8 in average) to win it all.

      Five of eight down with injuries and poor play doesn’t strike me as truly horrible luck, it strikes me as an expected downside of building around old guys, fragile guys, and hard-throwing pitchers. So, y’know, mildly bad luck.

      Having said all that, I do feel that credit should be given to Alderson and the Mets’ decision-makers for the quick acquisitions of Rivera, Loney, and Reyes. The team has problems, but it’s not like team brass isn’t trying.

  4. david July 14, 2016 at 9:16 pm
    Rumour mill says White Sox need a CF so I say send them De Aza and comb their system for a relief arm.

    Mets are far from out of it and it is silly to give up hopes of winning the NL East even if it is a long shot. Wheeler’s return looms large as does Conforto’s return from AAA (when they dump De Aza, I hope). If Duda comes back and locked in as opposed to awful then this team could zoom past the Nats especially if they suffer a tough injury or two in the second half. Let’s not forget that Werth and Zimmerman have a lot of miles on their odometers and Joe Ross is still on the DL.

    • Dan Capwell July 15, 2016 at 12:54 pm
      De Aza is worthless. As are arms like Gilmartin and Goeddel. As stated I really don’t want to trade Blevins or Reed (or Robles) at this point. Lagares and Nimmo are like the circa 2013-14 Daniel Murphy: more value to the Mets as Mets than as trade bait.

      Walker could be somebody they try to move–jump start the Dilson era a few months ahead of time, with Flores as his caddy. Everybody else is needed for the stretch drive ahead. They aren’t moving Colon or Grandy.

    • argonbunnies July 15, 2016 at 2:50 pm
      All good points, David. Conforto might help, Duda might help, ZImmerman’s been injury prone, and Werth is playing better now than he has for much of the last few years, so that may subside.

      On the other hand, Harper and Rendon could easily be way better than they’ve been.

      I don’t see Wheeler as helping at all. The late August return of a guy with poor command who hasn’t pitched in an MLB game in 23 months? I expect 6 starts of 5 innings, 4 walks.

      White Sox know the player De Aza was a few years ago, and I’m sure they’d love to have that guy back, but given his current batting line, they’d expect him basically for free. We might get back a relief arm from A ball, sure, but I doubt anyone MLB-ready.