The MLB trade deadline is the most frantic of any professional sport because there are so many teams in the mix. With the playoff expansion in its second season and five spots up for grabs, there are 14 teams over .500 who could realistically make playoff pushes.
Unfortunately, the New York Mets are 10 games under .500 and won't be making a run for the postseason. However, the team has solid young pitching both at the major league and minor league levels and is set up well in terms of payroll for next season, with Johan Santana and Jason Bay coming off the books.
General manager Sandy Alderson can either choose to buy or sell at the trade deadline, but it would make the most sense to avoid any major moves. Many deadline trades involve players whose contracts expire at the end of the season, and the Mets would throw a wrench in the rebuilding process by trading anyone who is part of the future.
So with July 31 rapidly approaching, here is a blueprint for the New York Mets trade-deadline strategy.
Trade Marlon Byrd
It's safe to say that general manager Sandy Alderson struck gold when he signed Marlon Byrd to a one-year deal this offseason. After a poor 2012 campaign split between the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox, Byrd appeared a long shot to produce.
That hasn't been the case just over three months into the 2013 season, as Byrd arguably has the best bang-for-buck ratio in the league. And the Mets are lucky for it, because few other players are exceeding expectations.
Although Byrd is lacking in the player-control department and would likely only be a two-month rental, the Mets could get something of value from a potential trade partner. And seeing as he may not return to the Mets next season (see: Scott Hairston), Alderson would be wise to try to turn a profit on the 35-year-old outfielder.
Byrd isn't a top-tier hitter on the trade market, so the Mets would be hard pressed to receive a blue chipper in return, but a B-level prospect isn't out of the question. Another team wouldn't want to swap an outfield prospect for an aging bat at the same position, so a young pitcher who could be developed into a reliever would be ideal.
Do NOT Trade Bobby Parnell
Bobby Parnell's name has been thrown around as a potential trade chip lately, and some think that Sandy Alderson should trade his closer.
Elite-level closers just don't manifest themselves out of thin air, and Parnell is becoming exactly that. The Mets would be mad to abandon the effort they've put into Parnell the last five seasons and trade him for a prospect.
Parnell's stuff is right up there with the best relievers in baseball when he's at his best. His fastball averages a tick above 95 mph (via fangraphs), and uses the knuckle curve that Jason Isringhausen taught him as the perfect complement.
Parnell is the Mets' most attractive potential trade asset, but it is nothing short of reckless to trade a talented closer for an unestablished prospect. It takes time to groom a prospect into a lockdown closer, and the Mets have finally done that with Parnell.
If Alderson and the rest of his front office make the decision to trade Parnell, it needs to be a great deal—one that brings a top-level prospect as a return.
Do NOT Trade Young Pitching
The New York Mets currently have one of the most promising young pitching corps in baseball.
Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jonathan Niese, Dillon Gee and Jeremy Hefner are still learning their respective crafts, and all are 27 or younger. One of the latter two, as great as they have been over the last month or so, is likely just a stopgap for Noah Syndergaard.
Syndergaard, who could turn out to be the best of the bunch, has a 1.50 ERA in three starts since being promoted to Double-A Binghamton. He will only turn 21 this August and would need to be put on a fast track to make it to the big leagues next season, but even so, his potential is too high to give up.
You can never have too many young pitchers in Major League Baseball, because nobody is a lock to pan out. A surplus of pitching prospects provides insurance for busts and injuries, and it affords management with the opportunity to spend money on bats.
The Mets obviously do not have enough bats to compete in the National League East, but with the aforementioned contracts of Santana and Bay coming off the payroll, the team will be able to go after top-tier free agent hitters this offseason.
Above all other things, the Mets should avoid making any panic moves prior to the July 31 deadline. Terry Collins' club needs to add position players who have already established themselves in the league and can contribute right away.
Deadline moves are enticing, but the best place for a non-playoff team to add cornerstone hitters is through the free-agent market.
The Mets front office stressed patience to the fanbase when Sandy Alderson took over, and it all appears to be coming together in the third year of his tenure.
Alderson is confident in his plan, which I think has been evident by what he has and has not done. He will want to keep his young players and continue to develop the farm system, so don't be surprised if they Mets stand pat completely.