The trade deadline has come and gone, and the Mets have only made two trades. With all of the pieces that could have been moved, only Lucas Duda and Addison Reed were sent elsewhere. That leaves New York with Asdrubal Cabrera, Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson, Rene Rivera, Neil Walker and Jose Reyes despite the rumblings over the past few weeks leading up to Monday.
An interesting league-wide aversion to trading for position players truly took hold Monday, as over the past couple of weeks almost every trade that will impact a playoff race came in the form of pitching. Outside of Eduardo Nunez, Jonathan Lucroy, Lucas Duda, Todd Frazier, JD Martinez, Alex Avila, and Howie Kendrick, there were no position players with much Major League service time to their name acquired by contenders.
I’m not entirely sure what this means. It could potentially be as simple as 2017 is a season in which offense leads the way and even with a couple of holes in the pitching staff, a team like the Houston Astros can still be roughly 162 games up on the rest of their division. That’s something to monitor not only for this season but in the future as well. Unfortunately for the Mets, it made Addison Reed the only likely trade target for any of the buyers out there.
As much as myself and every other fan wanted to see all of our impending free agents traded Monday, that’s not what happened. What does this mean going forward?
The big factor that still looms is the waiver trade deadline on August 31st. For the uninitiated, this means that teams can place a player on revocable waivers, and wait for them to be claimed or pass through the 29 other teams. If claimed, the two sides have 48.5 hours to work out a trade, or the player can be pulled back by their team. If there is no claim, the player has cleared waivers and can be traded to any team in the league, or pulled back and return to their team. In sum, despite the more discussed deadline passing today, the next month will still be busy for the front office.
As for Bruce, this one seems pretty clear. The market was lower for him than Sandy Alderson and the staff expected, so they decided to keep him for at least another month, and potentially through the end of the season if nothing presents itself. When free agency begins, the Mets can either attempt to re-sign him or extend a qualifying offer, which would net a draft pick if he leaves. Given Alderson’s comments about Conforto’s play in center field, it’s not hard to envision a scenario where Bruce is a Met in 2018.
Reyes and Granderson are in similar situations, as it’s likely that neither return to the team next year. Whether or not Bruce is still manning right field at Citi in 2018, Granderson’s tenure in Queens is probably over with Juan Lagares and Brandon Nimmo primed to become full-time members of the big club. Unless he’s willing to take a cheaper deal instead of walking, or even retiring, he could be an expensive fifth outfielder. I would love to have him around for depth purposes, but he’ll have more value elsewhere. If Jay Bruce is a Met, then there’s absolutely no chance that Granderson signs on to sit at the very end of the Mets bench.
Reyes is in a similar situation, where he could accept a bench role, but no one will be falling over themselves to sign him. With Wilmer Flores and T.J. Rivera potentially becoming depth infielders, Reyes doesn’t do much more than take on space on the roster. If one of those two is starting, however, it could make sense to see Reyes come back next year.
The one important factor with Reyes that I may be downplaying is his ability to mentor Amed Rosario as he adjusts playing shortstop in the Majors, but I have no idea how to properly rate that. Both Reyes and Granderson can be sold to the highest bidder, with Grandy being much more likely to be traded, even if it means the team is getting almost nothing in return. The issue is, I’m not sure if there will be any bidders.
Cabrera and Walker is where life gets interesting. There’s an unfortunate truth about the second base position with the way our team is constructed, which is that if we lose both Cabrera and Walker, we’ve committed full-time to Rivera. While that may actually work out well because Rivera is consistent and has shown to be at the very least average, some insurance would be nice. I don’t mean insurance in the form of Wilmer Flores, Gavin Cecchini, or Matt Reynolds, I mean insurance in the form of a player who has a longer track record of being average or better.
This wasn’t a thought I had considered until I began writing this post, but it makes a lot of sense to me now. I believe we can all agree that we would prefer to have Walker around, even if his injury issues in each of the past two seasons give us some pause. Clearly the Mets agree with that sentiment, or they wouldn’t have shopped Cabrera over the past few weeks. However, because he’s the better and more steady player, he may command more than the Wilpons are willing to spend at the position, so we could end up stuck with Cabrera after all. This is all depends on whether or not the baseball operations team can receive the assurance from ownership that they can spend few million dollars extra to keep Walker.
Look at this horror scenario: the Mets trade Cabrera to try and maximize his value, they get the prospect or two from the one team who wants his services. They then fail to re-sign Walker this offseason, leaving us with only Rivera and Reynolds/Cecchini. Again, this is not so much horrible as it is a horrible risk to take when the team wants to compete. It could work out fine, but it’s not a position that you want to be in heading into the year. If you think that we can trade away both players and simply re-sign them, you’ve underrated the advantage that an incumbent team has to retain their players, even outside of the built-in five day exclusive negotiating window after the World Series.
So what does this mean for the August 31st deadline? My completely unfounded prediction says that the Mets will plan to retain Walker, and push hard to trade Cabrera this month.
I almost forgot to mention Rene Rivera. I like him, but he’s entirely replaceable, so I would expect the Mets to throw him at any team that’s in the market for a backup catcher, even if it’s a team like the Royals who have a catcher in Salvador Perez who never takes a day off.
In sum, this will be an active month for Sandy and Co. Regardless of the perceived inaction at the deadline Monday, it’s hard to truly judge the team’s selling process until we’ve reached the month of September as we see who’s still around and who packed up their lockers at Citi.