New York Mets: What They Need to Pursue in Trade Talks
Those were the run totals in Cincinnati's three-game sweep at CitiField over the weekend. It goes without saying that the Mets offense was from hunger.
It also addresses a particular flaw in the Mets lineup that must be corrected if New York is to have any shot at a run for the NL East title. The Mets are shallow.
As in no depth.
With many of their backups pressed into service to replace ailing starting players, the Mets' bench strength is becoming a liability.
That's only a recent phenomenon. At the start of the season, the Mets tallied 11 come-from-behind wins in their first 31 games. Now, there's not much late-inning excitement.
To his credit, manager Terry Collins has cobbled together a decent starting lineup, despite the Mets' injury woes. But, every team needs reliable players for late-inning defense or pinch-hitting to keep going through the long summer.
Here are a few needs the Mets should address as the trade deadline nears.
Sad as it is to say, it's hard to imagine that Jason Bay will ever return to his former glory.
There's no question that Bay is committed to the team and to the game. But, intense research in recent years into the effects of concussions have shown that repeated knocks to the head are not only career-threatening, but life-threatening.
By the way, anyone who booed Bay as he was taken off the field following his injury on Friday night deserves a knock or two to the head themselves.
The Mets need to look ahead both to Bay's future and the team's. Manager Terry Collins can't keep everyone at bay (no pun intended) forever. We're almost midway through the season. The outfield lineup has to be firmed up.
Kirk Niewenhuis, Lucas Duda and Scott Hairston have the makings of a fine outfield. But, they're all kids (except for Hairston), and they are all prone to mistakes.
Andres Torres hasn't proven to be the veteran outfielder anchor the Mets had hoped he would be.
The Mets would do well to look for an experienced player who can platoon in the outfield and provide a strong bat off the bench.
No. His recent batting tear notwithstanding, his contract is too bloated. The Cubs would demand too many of the Mets' young prospects in return for a 36-year-old whose best years are past.
What the Mets really need is an outfielder with the abilities and experience of someone like Angel Pagan.
But, that's water under the San Francisco bay now.
I'm not willing to give up on Ike Davis just yet.
First of all, he's batting .379 so far this month and is up to a season average of .194. Still on the interstate, but the exit ramp is in sight.
Secondly, if Terry Collins gave a thought to benching Davis, who's on first? Apologies to Abbott & Costello.
Not much choice now beyond Vinny Rottino, who's listed as an outfielder.
Same goes for Daniel Murphy at second. Justin Turner or Jordany Valdespin can spell him in the late innings or give him the occasional breather, but only if the Wheel of Injured Shortstops stops spinning.
Even David Wright was pressed into service at short a couple of times after injuries to Ruben Tejada and Ronny Cedeño.
Just as in the outfield, the Mets need a veteran presence with sure hands and a solid bat. Coming in cold off the bench is not easy, particularly for younger players.
I'm not advocating for the return of Melvin Mora, mostly because he's 40 years old. But, the Mets do need to look for someone with Mora's versatility, at least until Turner or Valdespin gain more experience.
Assuming they aren't trade bait, of course.
Chris Young has been a godsend.
Before Sunday's loss to the Reds, Young had gone 10 straight starts without a defeat, going back to 2009. He has dispelled any doubts about whether he would be an adequate replacement for Mike Pelfrey, particularly since Young was coming back from shoulder surgery.
He's a fine addition to a starting roster of Johan Santana, R.A. Dickey, Dillon Gee and Jonathan Niese.
That's the good news.
The not-so-good news is the shaky bullpen.
Frank Francisco continues to be a human craps game. If he's on a roll, he can seem unstoppable. But, just like at the casino table, you know he's only got so many throws before he craps out.
As for the rest of the pen, I say, meh. Doesn't necessarily mean they're bad. It also doesn't mean opposing hitters are quaking in their cleats.
Meh doesn't win pennants.
The problem, as it always is in baseball, is that quality closers are hard to come by, and they don't come cheap. In fact, no decent reliever will come cheap.
If nothing else, that tips the team toward keeping Francisco, but the Mets should still pencil in a potential closer on their shopping list.
I like Scott Hairston off the bench. The Mets yearbook should list him as "Most Likely to Succeed When Pinch-Hitting."
My guess is other pinch-hitting challenged teams like him too. Which is why the Mets may have to trade their best pinch-hitter to fill one of their other needs.
Here's the question, then: what do the Mets need more urgently?
A reliable hitter off the bench, or a reliable pitcher in the bullpen?
I have to go with pitching. If the Mets manage to fill any of their other position player needs, they may find the pinch-hitter they need.
My hope is that Hairston sticks around. But, when trade talks begin, any team interested in dealing with the Mets will be sniffing around Hairston, Nieuwenheis, Lucas Duda and Mike Baxter—to name a few.
There are arguments to be made for the Mets to stay on the sidelines during trade talks this year. The following are a few key issues for consideration.
The team is thin
I've cited that as a reason in favor of trades, but the other side of that argument is that the Mets shouldn't mortgage their future for a shot at this year's playoffs.
Mets fans can cite more than a few instances in the team's history where promising youngsters have been dealt away and gone on to great success.
The most attractive players are the Mets' most valuable players
I read a fan's argument that the Mets should trade away Johan Santana, R.A. Dickey and David Wright and bring in a superstar and a few choice prospects.
Sorry, but I don't buy it.
I understand the argument that you could get more in exchange for a player who's at the top of his game, but why dump a known quantity for someone who may or may not succeed in New York?
Let's not repeat 1977, please.
Keep working the farm.
The Mets have a strong lot of young prospects down in the minors, but with a few notable exceptions at Buffalo, the Mets need to let them develop before they start dangling them as trade bait.
Too many teams have decimated their farm systems in favor of immediate gratification. Remember, the Mets are still in shaky financial shape.
Success is going to come the old-fashioned way: through the farm system. Not through enormous contracts.