The Mets are hanging on to first place with holes in the roster and the trade deadline looming. Still, does it make sense for the team and acting GM Zack Scott to make a big splash?
There are very few givens in baseball. With myriad statistics and analyses, many of the seemingly best players in baseball aren’t actually that great when the numbers are scrutinized. Similarly, some relative no-names are actually quite valuable when utilized a certain way. Mets infielder Jonathan Villar is a prime example of this. His batting average (.232) and OPS (.728) are not especially exciting, yet anyone who has watched the Mets can think of multiple times when Villar has come through. Actually, the same could be said for just about the entire Bench Mob. Luis Guillorme does have an impressive .417 OBP, although his 4 RBI’s in 107 AB’s, almost seems like a mistake. I bring this all up because with less than a week before this year’s trade deadline, we’re probably about to hear about many players the Mets are interested in acquiring. We’ll hear the positives and negatives about each player, as well as deal scenarios that will range from logical to ludicrous. Meanwhile, there are no players out there that will be an obvious improvement to what the Mets already have.
A few years ago, the idea of the Cubs trading away Kris Bryant was hard to believe. Now, in his “walk year” (meaning he’ll be a free agent at season’s end), it’s hard to picture him finishing the season in Wrigleyville. In 2015, Bryant was the NL Rookie of the Year, in 2016 he was the NL MVP, and if that wasn’t enough, he was a key part of the Cubs championship run that season. Bryant followed that up with another terrific season in 2017. Since then, he’s mixed success (All-Star appearances in 2019 and 2021) with injuries. Even this season, he got off to an impressive start in April and May, only to have an awful (like, .445 OPS kind of awful) June. Now, he has picked things back (somewhat) in July, enough that it’s easy to see a team overpay for 2-3 months of his services. So far this year, Bryant has missed games due to biceps soreness, side soreness, hamstring fatigue, left wrist pain (from a hit-by-pitch), and right hand pain (from a Taijuan Walker HBP). None of these issues is scary on its own; still the Mets have been so fragile this year, it’s hard to imagine Bryant not getting hurt soon after putting on a Mets uniform. Of all the players on the rumor mill to whom the Mets have been linked, Kris Bryant is probably the most tantalizing hitter, and also one of the riskier situations.
The pitching options are even harder for me to wrap my head around. This past Friday the Mets picked up veteran Rich Hill for a relatively inexpensive return of a veteran reliever who might be out for this season with a back injury (Tommy Hunter) and a minor league catcher who was never considered one of the franchise’s top prospects (Matt Dyer). A quick look at Hill’s stats suggests that he could be a difference maker. His 3.87 ERA with the Rays this year, as well as his relatively low 1.164 WHIP, is a welcome addition to a Mets team that was seemingly running out of options for players to put on the pitching mound. However, shortly after the Mets acquired him, many were quick to point out the severe nose dive Hill’s stats have taken since Major League Baseball’s crackdown on pitchers using foreign substances. Even if you don’t want to buy into that conspiracy theory, Hill has only pitched past the 6th inning once this season (8 innings on May 25th), and has only pitched past the 5th inning once since then. So it’s unrealistic to expect Hill to make a huge difference on this team. Then again, just about every pitcher the Mets have used in the back of the rotation has gotten hurt this year. David Peterson, Joey Lucchesi, Robert Gsellman, the aforementioned Hunter, Robert Stock, Corey Oswalt, and Jordan Yamamoto, have each started at least one Mets game, and have each spent significant time on the injured list. Dave Jauss, the Mets 64 year-old bench coach, was the pitcher for Pete Alonso’s HR Derby championship this year. That, along with the fact that he’s currently breathing and relatively uninjured, seems to qualify him as a potential candidate for the starting rotation. If we ignore the fact that he’s never played pro ball, and was born prior to the Dodgers leaving Brooklyn, it almost seems like a reasonable idea, especially if you buy into the whole desperate time/desperate measures equation. So, while the bar has been set so low that a player could trip over it and miss a couple months, Hill is certainly an improvement.
Meanwhile, every single contending team, or team that wants to believe it’s a contending team, could use starting pitching. And there aren’t going to be very many guaranteed difference-making options out there. Jose Berrios is a name that’s been discussed. He’s also a pitcher who has yet to live up to his high ceiling and is under contract beyond this season for a Twins team that is not in rebuilding mode. In other words, he’s going to be expensive. The other pitchers who are being suggested for the Mets, like Jon Gray and Zach Davies, are about as risky as what they already have.
At the same time, the Mets are seemingly close to getting to see Carlos Carrasco’s long-awaited team debut, possibly even next weekend, hopefully putting to rest any Jed Lowrie comparions. Jacob deGrom is also close to making his post-All Star break debut. And at some point, we could see Noah Syndergaard pitch for the Mets for the first time since 2019. If you add those three pitchers to the current rotation of Marcus Stroman, Taijuan Walker, Tylor Megill, and Hill, the Mets don’t seem to have much of a need to add another arm. Even if two of those seven don’t get to contribute much, that’s still a strong starting five.
Over the next few days, we are probably going to hear about the Mets being linked to a variety of players who may or may not help the team this season. There are all sorts of reports claiming that the Mets are expected to be aggressive at the trade deadline. Expected by whom, I have no idea. Still, that seems to be the expectation. While I’m not sure that it’s all that necessary for the Mets to be so aggressive, I do have a greater measure of trust in the front office than I’ve had in a long time. The moves, and non-moves, that the Mets have made have ranged from insignificant-to-wise, with nothing truly being disastrous. This may not sound like a ringing endorsement. Still, like most Mets fans, I’m used to feeling burned by their transactions (or lack thereof), so I’ll take it. This next week will be an interesting one throughout the league, and there is something to be said about going into it with a comfortable level of trust…and the spot atop the NL East standings.