The Mets need to add a bat (or two) to fix their anemic offense, and having plenty of pitching to spare. But for now, can any return justify dealing a potential ace?
The New York Mets’ anemic offense is in desperate need of a trade if the team is going to take advantage of its elite starting pitching staff and make a legitimate postseason push, but the club cannot afford to deal one its prized pitching prospects to do so.
And that’s where the problem presents itself for this team as it looks to not get caught in between.
David Wright (spinal stenosis) – the captain, the franchise icon, the starting third baseman and the Mets’ best hitter – is hoping to return this season, but no one, including Wright, is able to offer a timetable for when he might return. As things stand, Wright is not even doing baseball activities. Travis d’Arnaud, who was off to a torrid start with a .296/.338/.535 triple-slash line through his first 71 at-bats, has now been on the disabled list twice and also has no timetable to return as he’s still in a brace. Even Daniel Murphy (quad, hamstring) has already been on the disabled list twice this season and we’re still not even at the All-Star game.
All of that has contributed to Lucas Duda and Michael Cuddyer—two hitters the Mets were relying on for at least 20 home runs each this season—to combine for two total taters during the month of June. Each also posted an OPS below .600 for the month, an embarrassing mark for a hitter with any kind of power.
Juan Lagares has taken a step back at the plate as he continues to press in an attempt to make something happen following his offseason contract extension. Wilmer Flores has run hot and cold throughout the season and his cold spells are magnified when the entire Mets lineup hasn’t hit. Eric Campbell has looked more like Gazpacho than Hot Chicken Noodle when the Soup is up.
New York doesn’t have real chips to bring to the poker table. There is a reason there were no takers for Dillon Gee. The same can be said about Jon Niese. You’re not moving Gee, Niese and a bag of baseballs out to Colorado unless it’s in exchange for the Humidor, and even then the Rockies might be getting ripped off in the deal. The remaining 29 Major League Baseball teams all know that the Mets can deal from a position of strength should the club dip into its talented starting pitching pool, and they’re all engaging in a game of chicken with General Manager Sandy Alderson to see who’s going to blink first.
Meanwhile, the Mets are a bottom-five team in the following categories: runs scored, hits, total bases, RBI, average, OBP, slugging percentage and OPS. For a club that doesn’t steal bases, can’t bunt the baseball and needs contributions from one through nine in the order to just scratch across a few runs, that’s a bad look getting a lot worse. And fast.
The team stands 43-41 through its first 84 games, but with a run differential of -8 and an inability to score, the Mets are wasting bullets in a season where the organization put its foot down and said it was time for the team to contend.
And despite that, it’s still not reason enough to consider moving one of the team’s most prized assets.
The Mets are not a team that is a Ben Zobrist away from making the postseason and creating a legitimate push. This is a lineup that needs an additional hitter or two even with both Wright and d’Arnaud in the lineup. That was the knock on this group heading into the season after the club decided Cuddyer was going to be its sole offseason move, and that remains the clear and glaring issue as we progress into the heat of the summer.
Outside of Alderson’s Zack Wheeler for Carlos Beltran deal and his absolute pilfering of d’Arnaud and starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard in a deal with the Toronto Blue Jays for knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, the Mets’ general manager has left much to be desired when it comes to building up the offense. And while it’s also fair to wonder whether or not Alderson has the necessary resources from ownership in order to make the moves he really wants to make (read: picking a player instead of picking a player for a specific price), to completely ignore Alderson’s shortcomings would be a mistake. Ex-GM Omar Minaya is a popular target for people who like to criticize the Mets because of the infamous Jason Bay contract; many of the core pieces in place on this Mets team were put in place by Minaya—not Alderson.
Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Steven Matz should all be viewed as untouchable talents. deGrom is proving that his National League Rookie of the Year campaign was no fluke, Matz looks like a young Clayton Kershaw through his first two starts and Harvey is looking to re-establish his consistent dominance after sitting out all of 2014 following Tommy John surgery. Noah Syndergaard looks like he could soon join that group of elite starters if he continues his trend of becoming more of a pitcher than a thrower, leaving just Zack Wheeler (Tommy John Surgery, out until June 2016) as a potential trade chip going forward. It’s certainly possible that the Mets entertain moving Bartolo Colon, a free agent at season’s end, but he’s A) not going to bring the return the Mets are looking for and B) a clubhouse favorite whose departure would leave a void bigger than his waist size within the current group.
Alderson, a very articulate speaker who always picks his words very carefully, recently spoke to reporters about the state of the trade market as it relates to his team:
“We’re not looking at somebody who is going to be a starter for us the rest of the season necessarily but it has to be somebody who fits that we think can actually help us either short-term or a little bit longer-term,’’ he noted. “I’m prepared to overpay, but there has to be something to overpay for. What we have to remember is that it is not even July 1.’’
Now July 7, with the trade deadline three and a half weeks away, Alderson and Co. will have their work cut out for them to make sure the Mets don’t stick in the land of mediocrity with an incredible starting pitching staff and an anemic offense in a season where the postseason was an expectation.
With the club just 3.5 games out of first place and just 2.5 games out of a wild card spot, the Mets’ clock has already started running.