The Mets continue to be on the cusp of playoff contention, but so far they have failed to prove that they can sustain success and get above .500. This limbo they are in is making people question whether they will be looking to deal players at the trade deadline, or if they will retain players.
Remember, if they keep the players, they do not come empty-handed if they walk away in the off-season. They will be compensated with draft picks for their top two free-agent hitters, Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes. (Correction: Carlos Beltran has a "no arbitration" clause, which prevents the Mets or any other team he is traded to from offering him arbitration and therefore prevents the Mets or any other team from receiving draft pick compensation for Beltran. I apologize for the mistake.)
This off-season's free agents aren't the only players who may be traded. If the Mets let Reyes go, it is likely that they are going to re-structure the entire team. This means that players like David Wright, or maybe even Mike Pelfrey could be let go in a full-blown overhaul of the roster.
But, if they do become sellers, at the trade deadline or this summer, here are the five players the Mets could see the most return for in trade.
K-Rod stumbled, finally, when he blew a save in Atlanta on Thursday. But, he is the best closer on the market right now and one of the best closers in the league this year. But, how many teams need a closer? And how many teams want a closer with a $17.5 million vesting option?
The contract issue kills Rodriguez's trade value. He's said he'd waive it, but then a team must extend his contract and take him on for another couple years. The Mets may be able to unload him, but not for much in return.
Possible Suitors: Good Question
Isringhausen is an unlikely trade candidate. But, he also would be an attractive trade target to many teams, including the cross-town Yankees.
From the perspective of a trade partner, his salary is low; there is no commitment to him past this year; he has experience, and he has been effective this year. Isringhausen isn't going to turn a weak bullpen into the best bullpen in the league, but he may shore up any holes for a playoff contender.
From the Mets' perspective, Isringhausen has given them a great year, but he does not fit into the future plans. If he continues to play baseball next year, and signs with another team, he will more than likely not earn the Mets a compensatory draft pick.
The Mets won't get much of a ransom for trading Isringhausen, but they may be able to add a prospect that they think has a future, or get a player who may suit them at Citi Field.
Wright may be moved in the off-season. The package the Mets can get in return for him will all depend on how he performs when he returns from his stress fracture injury.
Unless he comes back and continues to hit at a .226 clip, the Mets will be able to get a nice return for Wright because he is a top five player at the third base position.
If the Mets keep or lose Jose Reyes, I think it's still time for Wright to go, unless he can team with Reyes to lead the Mets on a miraculous playoff run.
I do not list Reyes as the top trade chip because I wish it weren't true.
Jose Reyes may be the best player in the league, and for three years, I have dreaded this day knowing it was sure to come. I want the Mets to keep Reyes but it seems clear that it's not going to happen.
With that said, no one knows if they will trade him or take a shot at signing him this off-season. If they do trade him, they have to demand the world in return, because they may be able to get it.
Who knows? Maybe the Mets can trade him and he'll test the free agent market anyway and return to Queens. Unlikely, but I dream.
Possible Suitors: San Francisco Giants, New York Yankees, Cincinnati Reds, Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers (Seattle Mariners? Milwaukee Brewers?)
Beltran's been vilified in New York over the seven years of his contract. A look at his numbers makes it puzzling to determine why.
Granted, he did not perform well in his first year and in 2009 and 2010 he missed over half of the year with injury. But, in 2006, 2007, and 2008, Beltran put up his first, third, and fifth, highest home run totals of his career, respectively. He also put up the first, fourth and fifth highest OPS totals of his career over the same years.
In 2009, Beltran suffered the knee injury that would lead to his microfracture surgery, but in the 81 games he played, he was undeterred by cavernous Citi Field and a weak Mets lineup, as he had a .915 OPS before the injury.
Oh, and he played a Gold Glove center field.
Beltran will not be back with the Mets next year, and it is time for them to part ways. However, Beltran has come back as strong as ever in 2011 and is the Mets greatest trade chip. He is still a force in the middle of the lineup, and he may push a team into playoff contention, or may push a playoff team into World Series contention.
Mets fans who have criticized Beltran should realize that he gave the Mets the same performance he did through his entire career. You may have thought you were getting an elite slugger, but he never was that.
He was always one of the most well-rounded hitters and players in the league, and he was exactly that for the Mets. Hopefully, Beltran can go on to earn some well-deserved playoff glory with another team.