New York Mets: 4 Post-Deadline Moves Alderson and the Mets Could Still Make
Though the non-waiver trade deadline has come and gone, it does not necessarily signal the end of trade talks for the New York Mets.
The Mets are an organization that look to be competitive in 2014 for the first time since historic collapses in 2007 and 2008 sent the franchise into a tailspin. Tough decisions must be made.
For the remainder of the 2013 season, the Mets must not only consider the trade market, but prudently assess what, among their current assets, they already have.
This includes the futures of a few veterans, as well as determining what—if anything—their younger major league and upper minor league level players can provide in 2013 and beyond.
The beauty—or undoing, depending on who you ask—of the famously anticipated annual date, referred to commonly as baseball’s “trade deadline”, is within the words that technically precede it.
While the deficit in the chase for a playoff spot was approaching insurmountable, a few potential pieces of value emerged on the major league roster. Veterans Marlon Byrd, LaTroy Hawkins and Bobby Parnell have all generated substantial interest among contending teams, and led to a relative uptick in trade banter and speculation surrounding the Mets of late.
Standing pat at the non-waiver trade deadline, the organization elected to hold on to their desired players—but for how long?
As is common major league practice, the Mets are likely to place the majority of their roster on the waiver wire. In doing so, the Mets will maintain the ability to engage in any previous or potential 2013 trade discussions. Any player to pass through waivers unclaimed is free to be traded anywhere. Should a player be claimed by any number of teams, the Mets will be free to make a deal with whichever claiming team holds top priority—based first on common league and next by lowest winning percentage.
Certain trade talks will undoubtedly cease, others are sure to persist and even more are likely to emerge. Here are the four post-deadline moves general manager Sandy Alderson and the Mets could still make.
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Concede the 2013 Season and Vet All Assets
Call 2013 what it is.
Ship out veteran placeholders. Live and die by the mistakes of inexperienced players. Accept an inconsequential potential extra loss or two.
Do it all in the name of organizational progress.
The Mets are going nowhere in 2013 and the sooner Mets brass admit it, the sooner the team can properly prepare for what they hope to be a prosperous run of contention beginning in 2014.
The organization must see what they have in their young players and the time has come to get the kids into the lineup everyday.
To adequately assess what moves need to be made moving forward, the team must distinguish where their most pressing needs remain. A quick look at the table below helps to illustrate the roster’s most glaring weaknesses. Statistics are courtesy of ESPN as of August 5.
NL Avg OPS
While it will undoubtedly require some astute general manger work, correcting the roster flaws in a single offseason is not nearly as bleak a proposition as it might appear.
Alderson figures to be a big player in free agency, but he must first look to some internal remedies for filling the remaining holes.
At the catcher position, the Mets have what should be their easiest fix in Travis d’Arnaud.
Organizational pitching depth will certainly go a long way in masking potential offensive ineptitude and the pitching staff’s new battery mate marks a substantial improvement over John Buck behind the dish. Still, there is work to be done—specifically to address horrendously low levels of production at outfield, first base and the shortstop positions.
The franchise faces a tough decision—and one unlikely to sort itself out before the offseason arrives—regarding an arbitration eligible Ike Davis. Despite the first baseman’s increasingly concerning struggles, the team is unlikely to give up on a 26-year-old just one season removed from a second half in which he slugged an impressive 20 home runs in 251 at-bats.
A third baseman by trade, Josh Satin has filled in for the struggling Davis admirably. The 28-year-old posted an impressive .849 OPS in 38 games this year—the vast majority of which at first base.
With a combined .653 OPS from the Mets first basemen on the year, to expect even a 2013 league average OPS of .758 in 2014 is not only plausible, but will make for an immediately improved lineup.
Gritty ballplayers like utility man Justin Turner are solid bench pieces, but to give them an everyday role at the expense of major league exposure for a young talent like Wilmer Flores would be foolish.
A third baseman by trade, Flores should find no shortage of opportunities for at-bats when he makes his long awaited Queens debut. The 22-year-old is likely to have the best shot of any player figuring to audition for a spot in the 2014 opening day lineup. Flores could see playing time everywhere on the infield—with the exception of shortstop—throughout the season’s final months.
According to Fangraphs, the Mets outfield combines to rank 23rd in the majors in wins above replacement.
If Lagares can continue to build off of a strong July in which he posted a .937 OPS, it would prove to be a notable first step towards providing the organization’s outfield with the credibility that it has so sorely missed—both offensively and defensively.
The situation at both corner outfield spots is considerably murkier. Outfield options on the current 40-man roster—followed by their respective ages—include Lucas Duda (27), Lagares (24), Marlon Byrd (35), Mike Baxter (28), Andrew Brown (28), Kirk Nieuwenhuis (25) and Eric Young Jr (28).
If and when Byrd vacates right field, Mets fans can expect to be subjected to a variety of outfield combinations, comprised mostly of younger and relatively inexperienced players seeking to prove their big league value.
In terms of priorities, the production of departing veterans may yield a few more wins, but it cannot come at the expense of determining what—most importantly—the organization has in its unproven assets.
There is no elegant way to put it. If the Mets hope to build a perennial contender, it will begin with effectively conceding 2013.
Continue Stockpiling Prospects: Trade Marlon Byrd and LaTroy Hawkins
Over the course of his brief Mets tenure, Sandy Alderson has overseen the rebuilding phase of an organization hamstrung upon arrival by dwindling attendance figures and imprudent long-term contracts—all on top of an owners’ well-documented financial complications.
As general manager, Alderson would likely be first to admit that he still has plenty to prove.
Despite battling frustratingly ambiguous financial limitations since coming aboard in 2010, it appears as if the GM finally has his team poised to compete for a National League playoff spot in 2014 and beyond.
With the exception of Wright and Matt Harvey, anybody on the current major league roster can likely be had under the correct circumstances. It is, however, important to note that it makes little sense for Alderson to move any team-controlled major leaguer that would simply create a new hole to fill on the big league roster.
At the same time, aging veterans like Byrd and Hawkins—unlikely to help the Mets beyond this year—are expendable.
The pair are undoubtedly attractive to the contending teams most likely to be potential suitors, but to expect them to fetch a blue-chip prospect would be nothing short of fantastical.
A historically slow trade deadline is likely no coincidence. An additional wild card spot in each league has served to keep teams—who in previous years may have already begun looking toward the future—competitive deeper into the season. The result is an especially barren 2013 trade market. In theory, a relatively hollow market should prove beneficial to sellers within the league.
Front offices around the league are always in the market for extra bats and dependable relief pitching that they feel can help them throughout the stretch run. Generally, the ideal addition this time of year is an expiring veteran contract capably obtained without compromising the major league roster.
In Byrd and Hawkins, the Mets have two commodities of some value.
For Alderson, the objective should be to net a mid-level prospect. One who further strengthens the organization’s farm system, while giving the GM one more potential trade chip going into what should be his most important offseason since joining the franchise.
Acquire Major League Ready Bats
The New York Mets are a franchise still several pieces away from contention.
The team features talent at a few positions, but they must be complemented—and quickly—in order to contend in 2014. The trade market represents the most time-efficient way of doing so.
Shipping out expiring veteran contracts—like that of Byrd or Hawkins—are unlikely to transform the Mets into contenders overnight.
To improve the team going into the 2014 season via trade, major league roster holes must be filled by dealing from organizational depth. The team’s most obvious depth is a wealth of talented pitching located in the upper levels of their farm system.
An offseason free-agent acquisition like Shin-Soo Choo would pay immediate dividends for a woefully unproductive outfield, but the Mets window to improve before next season is limited and the Mets can spare no time in exploring all possible avenues of roster improvement.
The continuing trend around baseball, in which teams are preemptively locking up their proven young commodities long-term, has only increased the importance of the trade market as a means of roster improvement. Such is the case regarding the anemic pool of impending free-agent infielders available.
No longer can big-market franchises rely on free agency to cherry pick their future franchise cornerstones.
To enhance an offensively challenged infield unit—third base being the lone exception—the Mets could look to the trade market for a dependable bat, capable of sliding into the everyday lineup today and under team control for the foreseeable future.
An everyday shortstop like Aybar is likely to demand a talent-heavy package. A deal centered around a top pitching prospect like Rafael Montero may be a steep price, but the shortstop position is also probably where the 2014 lineup stands to gain the most net-value.
For a team with a National League worst .570 OPS at the position in 2013, to receive just league average production will mark a tremendous improvement.
Second baseman Daniel Murphy is another name that has been tossed around as a possible trade chip. The departure of a popular, home-grown player is always tough to swallow, but if he can help net them a young bat the proposition is certainly worth entertaining.
Matthew Cerrone over at Metsblog intuitively wonders whether we—as fans—have gotten too consumed by the name on the back of a jersey rather than the one on the front.
Excluding Wright and Harvey, the Mets would be best served taking calls on everyone. Especially when affordable sluggers like Giancarlo Stanton and Carlos Gonzalez have been the source of trade chatter.
Call the Prospects Up
While there very well may be something to be said for finishing strong and creating a winning environment entering 2014, this Mets team is best served with an everyday lineup consisting primarily of youngsters for the remainder of the season.
Interestingly, the suspensions of Jordany Valdespin and Cesar Puello in relation to Biogenesis have opened up two additional spots on the 40-man roster. This gives the Mets some valuable roster flexibility come September.
Even prior to major league roster expansion on September 1, the Mets have a couple of intriguing prospects who seem ready to make a big-league impact today.
Ranked by MLB.com as the number 22 prospect in baseball, when healthy Travis d’Arnaud has done nothing but hit, finding success at every minor league stop along the way. In 78 total AAA games, d’Arnaud owns an impressive .967 OPS.
Mets fans can expect the 24-year-old to debut sometime very soon in 2013 and he is unlikely to concede the starting catching reigns once he does.
Given the low production typical of catchers across all of baseball, d’Arnaud figures to lock the starting spot up for good upon arrival and can quite conceivably be expected to provide an above average bat from the onset.
Should production continue to lag behind positional standards, the Mets have some decent internal options capable of sliding into the first base vacancy .
You can expect the leash on Davis to be short. Alternatives include Satin, Duda and most intriguing of all, Flores—the team’s top positional prospect who has spent time at both first and second base in AAA.
Through 106 AAA games, Flores has posted a very promising .890 OPS in 2013. The highly touted prospect made his big league debut on Tuesday—his 22nd birthday. As a natural third baseman, current circumstances should dictate his inclusion into the lineup everyday.
Pitching prospect Rafael Montero should also be called up and could find himself with a limited late-season role in New York.
If called up, the flamethrower should see appearances out of the bullpen in addition to possible spot starts among a rotation that already features talented young arms such as Harvey, Wheeler and Jennry Mejia.
Opening Day starters Duda and Ruben Tejada are also expected to be recalled at some point this year. After early-season struggles and injuries relegated the pair to the minor leagues, they will be justifiably forced to earn their ways back into the everyday lineup.