Good morning, Guvnor!

Yeah, corny, I know, but when in London…

My Dick Van Dyke/bad Cockney accent aside, the Mets begin their whirlwind two-game set in the Motherland on a high note. Having swept the Washington Nationals before embarking on their ‘cross-pond journey, the Mets touched down at Heathrow tied for third place in the NL East. That’s the good news. The bad news is they’re still eight games under .500. While they have played better this past week, their 2024 season remains fraught. Until the past week, the team has not hit, the starting pitchers haven’t been able to get past the fifth consistently and the bullpen – a surprising strength in the early-going – has been imploding on a nightly basis. To go back to the Nationals series, all three games featured a large Mets lead going into the late innings, two of them ended up with the tying run at bat. Erstwhile All-World closer Edwin Diaz had not pitched at all well and now finds himself on the 15-day Injured List, just beginning rehab assignments. Former batting champ Jeff McNeil had a great view of the sweep, having been nailed to the bench by manager Carlos Mendoza. Pete Alonso continues to do Pete Alonso things, but he’ll be the first to admit his .792 OPS, 53 strikeouts and 0.7 bWAR are not where he wants to be. Brandon Nimmo is batting .222. News also came down yesterday that top prospect – infielder Jett Williams – will need surgery on his injured right wrist, delaying his progress toward the Big Leagues and possibly ending his 2024. All this gloom has Mets fans and, of course, the media, shifting focus away from the on-field awfulness and onto the trading deadline, some seven weeks hence.

I guess it’s never too early.

The problem is that we fans and the media look at the deadline each year the wrong way. We tend to gauge what may or may not happen in a kind of recency-bias vacuum. Oh, team is having a bad year? Sell! Oh, team is in contention? Buy! We make these snap judgments based on the immediate needs in front of us and we all try to be the Amazing Kreskin in trying to project what the final outcome of the current season will be. The problem with that mindset is that the ramifications for the long-term health of the franchise are rarely taken into account. This was the problem with the pre-suspension George Steinbrenner Yankees in the early- ‘90s and what fueled disasters like the Mets’ Scott Kazmir trade in 2004: decisions based on emotion, illusion and skewed perception. The latest Yankee “dynasty” was built when cool calculation replaced hot-headed reaction.

Right now, the Mets need that second thing.

President of Baseball Operations David Stearns – I had to resist putting the word “New” at the front of his title: after 62 games, ain’t nothin’ new about 2024 anymore – is expected to be active at the deadline. With a raft of expiring contracts, he could anticipate a decent haul from contenders looking for that one…final…piece that would put them over the top. Let’s take a few things off the table right away, with some general assumptions: no one is going to take on the contracts of McNeil, Nimmo or star shortstop Francisco Lindor – who, by-the-way, is having a pretty good season, after a putrid start and is leading the club with a 1.6 bWAR, but nobody has noticed – as they are each signed for big years at big bucks. No, the focus at the deadline would – and should – be the Mets’ impending free agents currently on the MLB roster and not on the IL. As it stands at this writing, the likely trade candidates include pitchers Luis Severino, Jose Quintana, Adrian Houser, Drew Smith and Adam Ottavino, outfielder Harrison Bader, DH J.D. Martinez and catcher Tomas Nido. Notice I said “likely” trade candidates.

There is one wild card in the deck, also known as the elephant in the room: Alonso.

You might have heard that he will be a free agent at the end of the season, that he rejected an offer north of $150 million last season, that no negotiations on a new deal have taken place since then and that Scott Boras is his agent. It looks for all the world that Alonso will test the free agent waters in 2025, but will he do it after leaving the Mets? And if he does, would the Mets have a shot at re-signing him? I’ll put it this way: if the Mets consider trading Alonso, they should take the same tack as was suggested when Jacob deGrom was the only valuable asset on a struggling team. They should ask for the moon, plus a couple of comets from the team they’re negotiating with. When the Yankees were sniffing around deGrom in 2018, or so, I said the Mets should start by asking for Gleyber Torrez, Clint Frazier and Severino – then, a 24-year-old Pinstriper. My Yankee-fan friends laughed and were all like “No way!” I said, “No way? Then, no deal. You want deGrom that badly, you should have to pay through the nose for him.” When it comes to Alonso, this is exactly what Stearns needs to do. He’ll need to have the courage to walk away if he doesn’t get the exact deal he wants. This should be true for any deal that’s on the table, but especially in Alonso’s case. In any event, Stearns will need to walk that fine line between the immediate gratification and the long-term success of the franchise.

Remember, they traded Jerry Koosman for Jesse Orosco. Look how that one turned out.

5 comments on “David Stearns and the Mets need to play the long game at the trading deadline

  • Metsense

    If Stearns determines that the Mets haven’t a chance for the playoffs then should determine which pending free agents would help the team in the next few years and offer them an extension. If they don’t accept the offer then he should trade them. The other pending free trades should be traded. In a lost season, any minor leaguers is better than getting no compensation.
    As for the veterans on the roster, just ride the storm and deal with in offseason. Right now, Stearns should keep evaluating.

  • NYM6986

    The problem is that there is no long game with the current roster unless you are referencing the large number of expiring contracts at the end of the season as far as roster spots, and the $70 million or so that comes off that we are paying to have dumped some high priced aging talent last year. The current roster has no chance to compete with the Phillies and Braves. Instead they should go back to a tear down approach sooner than later. McNeil “only” makes between $10-12 million that will go up a few million for 2025 and 2026. Not considered huge by today’s standards and for a former batting champ. That he is under contract I believe makes him more marketable. Lindor and Nimmo will be fine and their contracts make them basically impossible to move. Can’t think of a compelling reason not to trade expiring contracts with the exception of some of the relievers who have emerged who should be offered extensions as you suggest. Alonso will end up being like Mike Trout – strong player on a weak team going no where. Love the guy but I’d start marketing him now. He should bring a huge return.
    By the way love your references to DVD and the Amazing Kreskin. I’m sure you left several of our younger readers thinking “who?”

  • ChrisF

    This raises the fundamental difference between fans and owners/GM/PBO. The fans are under the misguided feeling that “ya gotta believe” and so there is this desperate hope that a team is only X games back for the wild card. In reality the ship is sinking and in any fraction of a moment while the boat is afloat, it really is sinking. Ownership has to play the long game beciase well before a trade deadline they need to decide buy/sell/stand pat, and make suitable plans regardless if the team has had a short run of wins.

    This team needs to move on from aging vets as best as possible and continue to replenish the pipeline regardless of the win-loss record. There is nothing more sinister than the fake position of “ya gotta believe”.

    • CharlieH

      This is what I’m sayin’…

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