As the lights went down on the first half of Major League Baseball's season with last week's instant classic All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium, the second half of the season will inevitably provide many twists and turns, as nearly every division is quite competitive.
With that being said, there are potentially more buyers than usual at this July's trading deadline. One of the teams that many considered to have not been a buyer (although not necessarily a seller) was the New York Mets.
Over the course of this season the Mets have been at best, consistently inconsistent. However, since the firing of Willie Randolph, and Jerry Manuel's ascension to manager, the Mets have played a better brand of baseball.
Although the change was not seen immediately in the standings, there was clearly a different vibe around the clubhouse. With this newfound desire to play the game the right way, day in and day out, the Mets embarked on their 10-game winning streak that carried them through the All-Star break.
After the break, the Mets came out and won a gritty game in the late innings in Cincinnati, preceded to lose their next two games, and finished the series with a 7-5 win to salvage a split.
At this moment in time, the Mets have won 11 of their last 13 games and have proven themselves to be buyers for the upcoming trade deadline.
This being established, the Mets do have some holes to fill. Fernando Tatis, despite his impressive play, is not going to carry a team to a world championship.
The first and most important hole that needs to be filled is the need for a power-hitting corner outfielder. Preferably, this outfielder should be a right-handed hitter, but it is not a complete requisite.
Since Moises Alou's (probable) career-ending hamstring tear, Tatis, Damian Easley, and Endy Chavez have done an outstanding job platooning for Alou and the concussed Ryan Church.
Hopefully, the Mets and their fans have moved past the notion of No. 18 out in left field and will actually be able to acquire a suitable replacement.
In addition to a replacement for Alou, the question still remains as to Ryan Church's health. Church has been an incredible addition for the Mets this year, and he really is a tone setter for the hard-nosed brand of baseball that the Mets need to play to win. However, he has not been in the lineup very often.
The most desirable, and certainly the most suitable, candidate for a left-field replacement is Matt Holliday of the Rockies. Holliday provides some playoff experience, as a member of last year's NL champions, and he certainly provides a big right-handed bat in the middle of the lineup.
Holliday also can give Carlos Delgado a day off and play first base. However, trading for Holliday could prove to be very costly, and to be honest, outside of Fernando Martinez, there is not very much depth to the Mets' farm system. That being said, Xavier Nady and Jason Bay of the Pirates both would require a similar package.
However, a trade for Holliday or Bay could be worth mortgaging the future by trading Martinez, and both Bay and Holliday are young cornerstone-type players.
If the Mets don't trade for either of those options, there are two other players to consider.
Casey Blake from the Cleveland Indians could be a very viable candidate. Blake plays both corner infield and outfield positions and provides a stable bat in what could be the No. 6 spot in the order, now that Carlos Delgado seems to have a pulse.
Another viable option, and it could be considered somewhat of a last resort, would be Seattle's Raul Ibanez. Ibanez is a left-handed batter who plays both corner outfield spots and first base, and he is a native New Yorker.
Ibanez is the oldest of the bunch, and he would truly be a short-term option until Martinez proves that he is ready to play in Citi Field.
If Ryan Church is going to continue to be out for extended periods of time, it may make the most sense to go after Blake and Ibanez or some combination thereof.
Inevitably, the true last resort is to allow Martinez, who has not had much success above single-A ball, to learn on the job and take his bruises as a major-league ballplayer.
Through this last streak of good baseball, the Mets have proven to be a ballclub that is driven to win, and they only have a few holes that are most certainly patchable.
With the deep pitching-staff, well-rounded bench, good coaching staff, and an above-average bullpen, the Mets certainly remain on the list of top contenders in a wide-open league.