Sometimes, it seems like self-awareness is the most important attribute an MLB General Manager can have. When the trading deadline arrives, as it will in four days, you have to cast a cold eye at the team in front of you and make decisions based on business and where you are in the standings. You can’t look at things and say, “Um… well, we might be in it. We’ve been playing so well lately, I think there’s a run in us.” Ask Jim Duquette about that kind of thinking. In 2004, his lone year as Mets GM, the team reached the deadline 49-54, eight games behind the NL East leading Atlanta Braves, eight-and-a-half behind the Wild Card leading San Diego Padres. They had just come off a surprising spurt, though. In the wake of acquiring former Houston slugger Richard Hidalgo in mid-June, the Mets had climbed to the dizzying heights of three games over .500 on July 9. The fact that they went 5-13 after that seemed lost on the front office and they swung into action believing they were “in it.” As we know, that thinking cost them the services of prized rookie pitcher Scott Kazmir, turned Ty Wigginton into a thorn in their side and left us with Kris Benson and his lovely wife.
No, these 2017 Mets are not nearly “in it.” Sure, they’ve finally started to fire, winning six of their last eight. As many will be quick to point out, this hot streak has come at the expense of two of the weaker sisters in baseball, the Oakland A’s and the Padres. No matter: a win is a win and nobody is giving any of them back. It’s nice to get that old feeling back, true, but that’s all it is, a feeling. If you take that cold-eyed look at this team, you’ll see that these wins are nothing more than a pleasant diversion. Two-thirds of this vaunted starting staff is still on the shelf, with no sign of return on the horizon. The closer is in the same situation. The big slugger can’t seem to go more than five consecutive games without “tweaking” or “fatiguing” his taut hamstrings. The defense is rickety, the bullpen inconsistent.
Sandy Alderson, of course, knows all this. Now it’s his job to get maximum value out of the players he has left. There are a couple of players – Asdrubal Cabrera and Lucas Duda come to mind – who will need to be moved to make way for the future. There are a couple – Addison Reed and Rene Rivera – who could genuinely help push a contender over the top. Jay Bruce could also be in that category, but whatever interest was there from other clubs has seemed to cool considerably. Now, it’s unlikely that any of these guys is going to bring in the haul that, say, Aroldis Chapman or Andrew Miller fetched a year ago, but Alderson still has to gauge their value to the Mets vs. their value on the market. He is not one to get snookered in a deal so easily, and he has a reputation for holding out until the last possible second to get a favorable trade done. And who knows? Alderson may just come up with prize package for these guys.
He’s surprised us before.
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