Very few Mets fans think the Amazin’s can still make it to the postseason. I am one of the most optimistic Mets fans out there, however I must also be realistic. The Mets as currently constructed can not make it to the postseason.
After making the playoffs in each of the last two seasons with pretty much the same team they have now, fans came into this season expecting another berth. It is still possible, however, the team that made it to the 2016 NL Wild Card game can not make it to the 2017 postseason.
The key is not only to construct a team good enough to make up all this lost ground – the key is to do so while not undermining future seasons. Is it possible to sell impending free agents for prospects while still trading for young controllable talent to help catapult the Mets to a playoff berth? I say yes, but there are very specific steps that need to be followed:
Step One: Have a Plan of Attack
When approaching the trade deadline as both a buyer and a seller, one needs to understand that the team you are trading an impact veteran to probably would not give a good reliever or everyday starter in return. By the same token, a team you want an impact veteran from would not want the same type of player in return.
If you can find a team that wants a veteran and will trade a young impact player in return, great. The Mets best bet for that would be the Red Sox who are in desperate need of a third baseman after Pablo Sandoval‘s decline in every category except his weight. Asdrubal Cabrera, Neil Walker, and Jose Reyes could all be options for them, and while the Sox surely have prospects to deal, they have one of the best bullpen’s in the Bigs.
An old philosophy is to deal from your strengths to address your weaknesses. The Red Sox would never trade closer Craig Kimbrel, but they could trade other bullpen pieces like Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, or Joe Kelly. Carson Smith, who is returning in a week or two from injury would be another intriguing name.
If the Sox, or another team, were willing to part with a bullpen arm to bolster their offense, the Mets should absolutely consider that as long as the reliever is not going to be a free agent at the end of this season.
Again, it is important to think about the future. However, if nobody will deal controllable impact players for impending free agents, the Mets could deal those veterans for prospects and then just flip those prospects, or some already in the Mets system, for impact players.
Step Two: Know Which Veterans To Keep
The Mets have a lot of impending free agents who, if lost to free agency, will not bring anything back in return for the Mets’ future. They do have trade value, and dealing them before July 31 will help bolster the Mets farm system or even bring in young MLB ready talent.
Jay Bruce has arguably been the Mets’ best hitter this season. After going 0-for-14 in his last two games, he has gone 4-for-10 with two home runs.
He now has 22 homers on the season to go with a .262 average and .862 OPS. He is someone fans have wanted the Mets to trade since the moment the New York was kicked out of the playoffs last season – but maybe that’s not such a good idea.
Sandy Alderson experienced first hand how little value he had on the market last offseason as he attempted to trade him. If the Mets aren’t going to get anything good for the right fielder, then they should keep him.
He is having arguably the best season of his career so far and has exceeded expectations defensively in right field. He is helping the team win, so keep him.
Jose Reyes has been absolutely ripping the ball of late, going 12-for-27 (.444) in his last eight games with two home runs, three doubles and a triple in that span.
He can play third base, shortstop and second base albeit not as well as he used to. The Mets should trade him as soon as possible. Quick, before he starts hitting under .200 again, trade him to a contender who wants a utility infielder with plus speed.
After going 0-for-4 with a walk last night, Asdrubal Cabrera is hitting .256 on the season with a .752 OPS. He has proven to be a subpar shortstop but since his move to second base has shown that he can play that position, as well as third base which he’d shown in the past. As I mentioned earlier, the Red Sox could be a great match-up for a Cabrera trade.
The general consensus among Mets fans is that this is Duda’s last season (or even last month) in a Mets uniform because Dominic Smith is waiting in the wings.
I suggest an alternative: Extend Duda and trade Smith before the deadline for an impact player. Duda, though streaky offensively, is an above average defender at first base on a team that has struggled mightily defensively. In only 60 games this season, he has hit 14 home runs with an .897 OPS.
I have a specific deal in mind for Smith which I will delve into later.
A team with an otherwise bad bullpen trading their two best relievers, impending free agents or otherwise, can not make the playoffs. If the Mets are to make the postseason, Jerry and Addy stay.
This leaves Curtis Granderson. His .236 average is relatively low, but .814 OPS and knack for getting on base make up for it. He can play every outfield position at least adequately, and he is essentially David Wright‘s co-captain. He has a good amount of value going into the end of July, and if the Mets get a good offer for him, as much as I’d hate to see him go, they should take it. The outfield would be Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, Bruce, Juan Lagares, and Brandon Nimmo without him.
Step Three: Make a Splash
As I said before, this team as currently constructed can not make the playoffs. Trading the old guys for young guys isn’t enough. Sandy would need to go out and get players that would make this team scary to play against, as he did in 2015 when he traded Michael Fulmer to the Tigers for Yoenis Cespedes.
The Rangers came into the season expecting to compete, but haven’t met expectations. They are 42-44 at this point – third place in the AL West and three games out of the Wild Card.
A few losses between now and July 31 can make them sellers at the deadline, and they have a certain All-Star catcher the Mets have been interested in in the past.
Jonathan Lucroy has been one of the Rangers’ underperformers this season, but one year removed from a .292/.355/.500 season in which he hit 24 home runs and drove in 81 runs for the Brewers and Rangers, he’s bound to have plenty of pop left in his bat.
So far this season, he has hit .255/.300/.362 with four home runs and has struggled of late, hitting .172 in his last eight games. It could be a great time to buy low on the catcher.
Yes he is going to be a free agent this offseason, however with Tomas Nido still in Double-A, the Mets could extend Lucroy another season or two so he could get his stock back up before hitting the free agent market while being the best Mets offensive catcher since Paul Lo Duca.
If the Rangers are sellers, the Mets could deal Travis d’Arnaud to them as a replacement. His former top prospect status as well as his offensive potential could prove attractive for the Rangers – but more importantly he is under team control through 2019. The Mets need a better defensive catcher, someone who can actually throw runners out, and Lucroy is just that.
Just Travis isn’t enough, however, which is where Dominic Smith comes in. The Rangers currently have Mike Napoli at first base who has had an abysmal season. He has managed to hit 18 home runs despite a .192 batting average, but at age 35, he would not be an option going forward.
Smith, who is hitting .328/.380/.496 in Triple-A, would be an attractive prospect for the Rangers. The Mets could sell high on Smith to get Lucroy.
If the Rangers got Smith and d’Arnaud for just Lucroy, that would be a steal. The Mets should also receive something else in the deal, and reliever Jeremy Jeffress would be a great addition. Going into this season with a career 2.91 ERA and 3.33 FIP, he has struggled this year with a 5.46 ERA and 5.38 FIP.
He does have great stuff, and as he is under team control through 2019, he has plenty of time to work with Dan Warthen to improve his slider – already his best pitch.
Smith and d’Arnaud for Lucroy and Jeffress. Make it happen, Sandy.
The Reds have a dynamic closer in the name of Raisel Iglesias. It is going to take a good haul to pry him from the Reds’ last-place hands, but it is worth it. At 27 years old and signed through 2020, he has pitched to a 1.73 ERA, 2.54 FIP and 0.936 WHIP this season.
There have been reports that the Nationals are interested in him, and while the Mets shouldn’t trade for a player just so another team can’t, out-bidding the Nationals for this budding star closer should be a priority if the Mets are to make the postseason.
There are other players on struggling teams that would suit the Mets while not being too costly. David Robertson and Todd Frazier on the White Sox are two other examples, but the list goes on. My point is that if the Mets are going to make a Wild Card run, they need to go big or go home.
Step Four: Get The Band Back Together
When looking ahead to August, September, and October, we need to keep in mind that the Mets will be getting back some of their best players. Neil Walker, Noah Syndergaard, Jeurys Familia, Matt Harvey, and dare I say David Wright will all be rejoining the team.
They are all capable of being difference makers when healthy, and upon their returns the team will improve, regardless of what happens before the July 31st deadline.
Trade a few of the old guys for young guys, and even trade some young guys for middle-aged guys. Be buyers and sellers. There is no reason why the Mets can’t trade for someone with the intent to flip them for another trade two hours later. Sandy should do whatever’s possible to put the best team on the field while not sacrificing the future. It is possible and crazier things have happened.
If you want me to go into further detail about any of my suggestions, or if you want to criticize me for being young and naive, Tweet at me @LBarer32 and I will be happy to debate with you.