As we approach August 1, we will preview what each team is projected to do in advance of the non-waiver trade deadline. For a complete listing of our previews, click here.
New York Mets: 47-39, 2nd in NL East
Not letting their momentum from last year’s World Series appearance be squelched, the Mets are only four games behind the Nationals in the NL East and sit two games ahead in the Wild Card race. The loss of David Wright’s season to neck surgery and spinal stenosis was certainly a morale killer, but the Mets have worked past that speed bump. With nearly all of their position players posting good numbers, it looks like there will be October baseball in Flushing.
However, nothing can go exactly as planned. While the Amazin’s have worked hard to establish a strong offense, their rotation has been a bit volatile. Steven Matz and Noah Sydergaard both have been pitching with bone spurs. While the spur in Matz’s elbow is much more unstable than the one in Syndergaard’s, both are still touch and go situations depending on discomfort levels. The surgery to correct Matz’s bone spur would have him sidelined for three months and is currently not being considered an option. It’s a very real possibility that the Mets will turn to a six-man rotation leading up to the postseason.
To make matters worse, right-hander Matt Harvey will miss the rest of the season after electing to undergo surgery to repair his thoracic outlet syndrome, a disorder that occurs when there is a compression of blood vessels or nerves. It’s rare, but not irreversible. While Zack Wheeler is going to be a big part of the team’s plans down the road, he’s not physically ready to fill the void left by Harvey any time soon.
What moves have they made so far?
Late last month, the Mets controversially welcomed Jose Reyes back to New York after he served a 51-game suspension for violating the league’s domestic violence policy and faced a subsequent release from the Rockies. Signed as a free agent, New York was only required to pay him the minimum major league salary, while the Rockies still have to shell out the $38.5 million they still owe him. Now at third base, Reyes has provided a fair amount of offense and has also offered to move his defensive dexterity to the outfield if needed.
James Loney came to the Mets in May in a deal with the Padres, who had him stashed at Triple-A El Paso. With Lucas Duda is out indefinitely with a stress fracture, Loney has stepped in as a stopgap option for New York.
The Mets also brought back infielder Kelly Johnson in a deal that sent right-hander Akeel Morris to the Braves. Johnson has already appeared at four positions for the Mets, and has (for the second straight year) seen a drastic offensive improvement since being traded from the Braves to the Mets.
Are they buyers or sellers?
If anything, the Mets are looking to buy, but it doesn’t appear that they’ll be making a ton of high-impact deals. General manager Sandy Alderson doesn’t believe that either, saying that “we have the capacity in the 25-man roster at this point to improve over what we’ve done over the last couple of months”, (via Newsday’s Mark Carig). The Mets need to fill the holes being poked into their roster by injuries, but there isn’t much else for them to seek out.
Though Johnson and Reyes have been stopgap options at third base, the loss of Wright is obviously a significant one. There are some third basemen available this summer, and the Mets will surely explore those options.
The injuries to Matz, Syndergaard, and especially Harvey may cause Alderson to explore the market for starting pitching as well. Wheeler is expected to return some point in the near future, but the rotation has suddenly become full of question marks for New York.
Who could they go after?
The most important move the Mets might make is finding a veteran pitcher to replace Harvey. While Logan Verrett will be stepping up, it’s playing with fire to have two pitchers on the cusp on injury and no exit strategy if something goes south. Wheeler isn’t throwing off a mound yet, and while many think he’ll be back by mid-August, there’s no concrete timeline.
Veterans Rich Hill, Jeremy Hellickson, Ervin Santana and Ricky Nolasco are among the pitchers available at the deadline, though none have yet been linked to the Mets.
New York has, on the other hand, been linked to third basemen since Wright’s injury. One is Yunel Escobar, who has performed very well for the Angels this season. With a .322 batting average, and a .423 slugging percentage, Escobar could be an upgrade over the Johnson/Reyes duo for the Mets. The Mets aren’t performing when it comes to runners in scoring position, so spicing up the lineup with a different bat could be the solution. This would leave Reyes to take more of a utility role, possibly as an outfielder.
The Mets have also been linked to Athletics third baseman Danny Valencia, though they may not be looking hard at third base upgrades at this point.
The Mets have depleted their farm, and have little chips to work with. If it comes down to it, Wilmer Flores could be used to bring the Mets the high-caliber pitcher they need. It’s doubtful that Flores will be moved though, as he’s very valuable to a club that tried to trade him (along with Wheeler) for Carlos Gomez a year ago.
Matz and Syndergaard are both unpredictable with their bone spurs and could go down at any point. A six-man rotation with a tried and true veteran would ease anxieties around this and relieve some pressure from the other starters.
If the Mets can find a team to pick up the $5.75 million dollar bill on outfielder Alejandro De Aza, he could be a trade chip as well. The club has not shown a willingness to shop Wheeler or shortstop prospect Amed Rosario, however.
The Mets could go in any direction. They could work with what they have, or they could seek out a player or two that will bolster their post-trade deadline impact. It’s not totally clear.