In 2011, Jose Reyes‘ pursuit of a batting title was the major storyline the New York Mets had that season. Despite the Mets’ lackluster roster and low preseason expectations, Reyes’ MVP-caliber campaign helped keep the team afloat throughout most of the season.
The Mets were two games over .500 at the trade deadline, and 7.5 games behind the Braves for the National League Wild Card spot. The Mets’ playoff chances were remote, but they weren’t nonexistent.
Reyes, an impending free agent, was widely expected to wind up elsewhere at the trade deadline. But the Mets ended up keeping him, citing both their longshot playoff odds and a desire to sign Reyes in the offseason.
This course of action failed miserably: the Mets finished the season far out of playoff contention at 77-85 and never made a serious effort to re-sign the shortstop. Not trading Reyes at the deadline stands out as one of Sandy Alderson’s biggest mistakes as GM to date.
Six years later, the Mets find themselves in a similar spot. The first three months of this season were miserable– and made the playoffs look like impossible goal– but seven wins in ten games have the Mets 9.5 games out of the division and 8.5 out of the Wild Card. Their chances have gone from nonexistent to remote. And given their momentous runs of the last two seasons, this is inevitably going to make keeping the band together very tempting.
The Mets would be wise to not give into this temptation. Barring something unforeseen (namely a sweep of the Nationals this week), the Mets aren’t going to make the playoffs. If this changes, and the Mets are five or so games out of a playoff spot at the Deadline, the Mets should plan accordingly. But passing on the return the Mets could get by selling to hold on the hope of an “eight games out of the Wild Card” situation would be foolish for a number of reasons.
Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson, Addison Reed, Lucas Duda, and (maybe) Asdrubal Cabrera are all impending free agents that could net the team a solid return on the open market. Aside from Reed, it’s hard to see where the other four fit into the Mets’ long-term plans. This return would mean essentially mean moving the Mets’ playoff chances from two percent to zero in the short-term. In the long-term, it could net them a future star — or at least a few serviceable mid-level prospects.
No fans (except for maybe Sixers fans) ever want to hear about the team selling. But selling guys like Carlos Beltran and R.A. Dickey has netted the team guys like Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard. Alderson clearly knows how to sell. And with at least five solid guys to sell, do the math: There’s a good chance the Mets get something worthwhile back this year.
So, in short, a couple of wins against the Giants, Marlins and Phillies shouldn’t get you too exciting. Unless things change big time, the Mets should still be selling at the deadline.