Following a sweep to the Atlanta Braves, the Mets sit 6.5 games in the National League East behind the Washington Nationals and 3.5 games out of a Wild Card spot. Sandy Alderson and company find themselves in an interesting position: the team is still in contention, but the next nine games, against the Nationals, Dodgers and then Nationals again, could very well determine the team’s fate. That being said, should Alderson make a move immediately to bolster the team, or wait and see what happens over the next week and a half?
The problem of waiting is obvious: if the team goes into a tailspin, it makes less sense to pursue a trade. On the other hand, if the Mets make a trade and then fall out of contention, the Mets will have given up something for naught. The front office could go either way, and Alderson isn’t one to force a trade, but waiting to plug leaks in the team seems almost akin to waving the white flag. That being said, as long as the Mets don’t have to surrender any top prospects (which they wouldn’t deal anyway), they need to address some issues as soon as possible. The question then becomes, what area does the front office address?
The first thought is the bullpen, which has struggled all year and was partially responsible for Saturday’s excruciating loss. Adding a closer, such as Huston Street or Francisco Rodriguez, would allow Frank Francisco to pitch the eighth inning, with Bobby
Parnell sliding back to middle relief, leaving lower leverage situations for Jon Rauch, Ramon Ramirez and others. Adding a second lefty in Josh Edgin should help and everyone needs to pitch better, but adding a lock-down ninth inning guy would definitely help. But the bullpen isn’t the only issue that needs addressing.
Another area has been the addition of a right-handed bat, specifically at catcher. Mike Nickeas, who is hitting .172/.250/.237, has been almost an automatic out when he plays instead of Josh Thole. While acquiring a righty bat to platoon with Thole would probably be helpful, it probably wouldn’t add that much to the lineup since said hitter would play every other day, at most. In terms of adding a right-handed bat elsewhere, there really isn’t much room, unless the Mets were going to go after a right-handed hitting center fielder. Instead, they will probably hold out hope that Jason Bay can get into a groove. Then there is the starting pitching.
The starting rotation has kept the Mets alive for much of the season, but recently, the starting pitching has been suspect. Over the past six games, the only starter to pitch effectively was Dillon Gee, and he is now probably lost for the season. Johan Santana, R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese and Chris Young have all struggled and not inspired much confidence. However, given the price of starting pitching and the likelihood that the starters can bounce back (and the potential addition of Matt Harvey), this doesn’t seem like an area the Mets will address.
So it comes back to the bullpen, which has been the weakest link in the team all season. The offense has been solid for most of the year, as has the rotation, while the bullpen has rarely been good. If the front office wants the team to stick around, they need to investigate the possibility of a acquiring a reliever sooner rather than later.