Two weeks ago this writer warned about the importance of June. So far, the Mets are 4 and 6 this month. This follows up a weak May in which the team went a pedestrian 13 and 15. In fact, since their remarkable 11-game win streak in April, the Mets are a paltry 19 and 26. If not for the fact that the division favorite Nationals have also been slumping amid injuries, the Mets might be sitting eight to 10 games out of first place, rather than in a virtual tie.
The Mets have been beating up on weaker teams, going 25 and 12 against the Phillies, Marlins, Braves, Brewers, Orioles, Diamondbacks and Padres. Against stiffer competition like the Cardinals, Cubs, Giants, Nationals, Pirates and Yankees, they are an embarrassingly bad 7 and 17. At home the Mets are a robust 22 and 10, while on the road they are just 10 and 19.
But, oh the injuries! Yes, the Mets have gotten hit by the injury bug, but injuries are part of the game and this team was not built to withstand injuries, particularly to the lineup. Witness marginal talents like Eric Campbell, Danny Muno, Anthony Recker, Darrell Ceciliani, Johnny Monell and Kirk Neiuwenhuis, rookies Kevin Plawecki and Dilson Herrera, and journeyman John Mayberry, Jr. combining for a .179 average in 457 at bats. To be clear, the lineup has not been decimated. Three everyday players have been injured – David Wright, Travis d’Arnaud and Daniel Murphy, and Murphy’s injury is not serious. Miraculously, the outfield, which has as much depth as a Kardashian, has remained injury free. Lucas Duda and Wilmer Flores have been healthy all year, as has key reserve Ruben Tejada.
If any part of the team has been decimated by injuries it’s the pitching staff where the number three starter is out for the year, the number five starter missed four starts and four key relievers and the expected 6th starter have missed significant time with injuries and a PED suspension. Yet, the pitching staff remains one of the best group of arms in baseball due its remarkable depth. In fact, if all of the pitchers were heathy, the Mets would have enough arms for two teams. This team is lopsided and ill-conceived; and that, more than injuries, is why the wheels are coming off of a promising season.
Wake Up Sandy!
It’s time to balance this team by trading from its place of strength to shore up its weak hitting lineup. The lights out pitching staff has been struggling some of late and who could blame them. Losing 1-0 and 2-1 games is disheartening. There are already several teams – the Brewers, A’s, Reds, Rockies, Phillies – ready to write off this season. Even the worst teams in baseball have talent. This Mets team is filled with .250 hitters with .180 backups. More than a third baseman to fill in for Wright, or a utility infielder or even a fourth outfielder, this team just needs a bat. As long as they are not exclusively a first baseman or DH, it doesn’t really matter what position they play.
Surely there are teams that need pitching. So, why haven’t the Mets made a move? Because they are in a holding pattern. Rival GMs want the young guns and Alderson only wants to trade the veterans. Bartolo Colon is old, Jon Niese’s left shoulder is a ticking time bomb, and Dillon Gee, save one good season, is really just a fifth starter. These guys do not have perceived value. Zach Wheeler is injured so he’s off the table. Matt Harvey is the team’s biggest star and hopefully a future Cy Young Award winner so he’s not up for discussion. That leaves reigning Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom, rookie phenom Noah Syndergaard, white hot prospect Steven Matz and the injured, but promising Rafael Montero.
They could *gasp* part with deGrom, Syndergaard or Matz in a deal to bring in a big bat but there are two major barriers there. First, big bats are not all that common these days. The ones in their 20s (Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton, Bryce Harper, Buster Posey, Paul Goldschmidt) are not available at any price and the ones in their 30s (Jose Bautista, Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki, Ryan Howard, et al) are too expensive for Mets ownership and too risky for the front office.
The answer may be a series of small to mid-size deals. Get what you can for Gee, Niese or Colon just to clear the rotation and then package something like Montero, Plawecki, and a prospect or two not named Matz or Michael Conforto for two solid, veteran bats. The Brewers, A’s, Reds, Rockies, and Phillies all have bats the Mets could use and all five of those teams could use an infusion of young talent.
Getting d’Arnaud and Herrera back from injury is great, but that’s not nearly enough to help this team score runs consistently. Their best bat is on the DL for the foreseeable future and their lack of offensive depth could be their undoing. It’s time to pull the trigger. This team can’t afford to wait until July or another season could go down the tubes.
“The Mets are in discussions…”