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New York Mets

What should the Mets August plan be?

FLUSHING, NY - AUGUST 05: New York Mets Infielder Wilmer Flores (4) receives high-fives in the dugout after homering during the first inning of the Major League Baseball game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Mets on August 5, 2017 at Citi Field in Flushing, NY. (Photo by Joshua Sarner/Icon Sportswire)
(Photo by Joshua Sarner/Icon Sportswire)

The embarrassing weekend sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers is background noise to the reality the New York Mets must now accept. A season in which they were planning on legitimate contention for the World Series has spun from disappointing to disastrous.

For a club that had the number of pending free agents and pitchers returning from injury as the Mets, there was always a chance for the worst-case scenario. Now that the worst-case scenario has come to pass, the club must act accordingly in looking toward 2018. A recent post discussed just that.

But now, as they fall into 2017 irrelevance, they must take it day-by-day and make decisions in August that will impact how they move forward in 2018.

  • Back to the trade talk

Several players who were on the trade block at the deadline and stayed put have already passed through waivers. That includes Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce, Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker. Yoenis Cespedes and newly acquired A.J. Ramos also made it through. Cespedes will not be traded. Ramos is unlikely to be traded.

Granderson is essentially guaranteed to be moved. The only question is what the Mets will receive in return. The problem with dealing him is his salary, but if the Mets don’t trade him, they’re paying his full freight to be a part-time player. So, because Granderson has been such a good soldier and will not receive a qualifying offer, it makes zero sense to keep him. If they can pay a portion of his salary to get a moderate prospect, so be it.

Bruce is a more complicated case. The finances are one part of it, but the qualifying offer and that the Mets are seriously considering an effort to re-sign him muddles the situation. The Mets got one minor league reliever for Lucas Duda, and Duda was in moderate demand. After months of speculation as to what the potential return on reliever Addison Reed would be, they ended up with three more minor league arms.

It’s a buyer’s market, and even the bigger names that were moved like Sonny Gray and Yu Darvish didn’t yield the massive bounty they might have in previous years. Right now, no contender needs to rent a streaky, slugging right fielder and occasional first baseman (or DH in the American League). The market for Bruce is weak, and if they trade him, there goes the qualifying offer and the odds of them signing him are essentially gone. If they can’t get anything better than what they will if another team signs him and surrenders a compensatory draft pick, they should just keep him and then decide how far they’re willing to go to retain him.

Walker has not hit since returning from his partially torn hamstring. Playing time for the veterans is up in the air with Amed Rosario already in the majors and the pending promotion of Dominic Smith. It would be best to trade Walker if there is an interested team. Again, salary is an issue. Last winter, the Mets had interest in a contract extension with Walker. He is also a candidate for a qualifying offer for the second straight season.

After the public spitting contest between the club and Cabrera over switching positions, tensions have cooled. Cabrera has played a reasonably good third base and that is a position of need in 2018. With his reasonable contract option for 2018 and that his market is weak, they might as well just let him play third for the bulk of the month and plan for 2018 with him.

FLUSHING, NY - MAY 31: New York Mets Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (13) throws over to first base during a regular season MLB game between the Milwaukee Brewers and the New York Mets on May 31, 2017, at Citi Field in Flushing, NY. (Photo by David Hahn/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by David Hahn/Icon Sportswire)

  • Handling the pitchers

The prior post suggested that discretion is superior to valor in letting Matt Harvey, Jeurys Familia and Noah Syndergaard pitch in this hopeless situation. However, reports say that Harvey and Familia are closing in on their returns. Syndergaard is further behind. The argument against pitching them is one of caution, but if they want to pitch, are healthy enough to pitch, and the club and the players want to have some confidence entering the offseason, why not?

Steven Matz is another problem that is not going away. His first-inning troubles are continuous and worrisome. His numbers are awful across the board; the velocity on his fastball and slider are down; hitters are squaring him up and ripping one line drive after another, many of which are flying over walls. There are few viable options with him and despite the inevitable number of fans and media members who will float the idea of trading him, his value is a minuscule fraction of what it was before this season.

There are two schools of thought:

1) Let him figure it out in the big leagues by pitching his way through it.

2) Send him to Triple-A Las Vegas for the few weeks remaining in their season to get a break and let the pitching coach, Frank Viola – a fellow lefty who was similarly hyped early in his career and struggled miserably before blossoming into a superstar – work with him.

No. 2 is preferable.

  • Let the children play

Rosario is in New York and playing regularly at shortstop. Next up is first baseman Smith.

Almost immediately after general manager Sandy Alderson stated his intentions with Smith, Smith tweeted the following:

Out of context, no one would know what he was laughing about. In context, right there, he showed that he certainly has the personality to play and thrive in New York. Now they need to see if he has the on-field skills. By most accounts and his professional production, he clearly does.

Preparing for 2018 is the priority. Part of that is clearing the roster of some veterans who have made it through waivers, looking at the youngsters, assessing their pitchers as they return from injury and, bluntly, trying to get a higher draft pick by losing. They’re doing very well with the last part.

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