The Mets defeated the Miami Marlins on June 21st by the score of 4-0. Jacob deGrom continued a string of strong efforts by New York’s starters, allowing 5 hits and striking out 7 over 7 innings. DeGrom followed impressive outings by Daisuke Matsuzaka and Zack Wheeler, the latter having pitched a complete-game shutout against Miami just two nights before. However, the Mets find themselves in last place on the first day of summer with a 34-41 record. In a year when the division is clearly up for grabs, what is keeping the Mets at the bottom of the NL East?
The Mets’ pitching is not the culprit for the team’s record. Going into action on June 20th, the Mets’ starters had a cumulative ERA of 3.71, and their relievers had an ERA of 3.35. More recently, over their last 28 games (going into June 20th), Mets’ pitchers had posted an ERA of 2.95, 4th lowest in the majors over that time span. When the pitching is performing well and the team is not winning consistently, the offense becomes the focal point.
The Mets’ offense has several areas of concern. David Wright is not having a typical season. Through June 20th, Wright has 6 home runs, and a triple slash of .269/.330/.382. Chris Young has not lived up to $7.25 million of expectations, with 4 home runs and a triple slash of .202/.285/.315. The list goes on, and includes players such as Curtis Granderson and Lucas Duda. However, 2 positions in particular have been largely devoid of offensive production, shortstop and catcher.
Mets shortstops have 3 home runs are and triple slashing at .221/.310/.289. Ruben Tejada has roughly 2/3 of the shortstop at bats, and is striking out nearly 21% of the time. While Tejada has a respectable OBP of .337, his .220 average indicates that much of his OBP is comprised of walks (he walks about 14% of the time). Wilmer Flores, called up for his offense, has been disappointing. He is batting .230 with just 1 home run over 77 at bats.
Mets catchers are struggling even more than their shortstops. Combined, Anthony Recker, Travis d’Arnaud, Juan Centeno, and Taylor Teagarden are batting .190 with 6 home runs. They have a combined OBP of .262 and a slugging percentage of .265. D’Arnaud was sent to Triple-A on June 7th, and has done very well. However, until he shows better production at the major league level (.180 with 3 home runs when he was sent down), what the Mets can get from d’Arnaud remains an unknown.
So what’s the answer? It’s becoming a tired discussion to point to the plethora of pitching the Mets have (both in Flushing and Las Vegas) and say that they should trade a pitcher or two for some offense. There’s no doubt that an upgrade at shortstop would be welcome. Nick Franklin‘s name has been rumored for months as a potential target, but nothing has happened. The Mets seem committed to d’Arnaud, so an acquisition at catcher seems unlikely. At a recent season ticker holders’ event, Sandy Alderson talked about the value of strength in numbers with pitchers, making an in-season trade seem unlikely.
Logically, it’s easy to agree with Alderson’s stance on trading pitchers. Emotionally, it’s a different story. There’s an opportunity here and now in a soft division, and yet the Mets seem unwilling to go “all in”. The opportunities for improvement are clear. The trade chips are in place. Deals can be made now that will not increase payroll significantly, and will help the team for years. But Alderson seems hesitant to act.
There are 6 weeks until the trading deadline. Something may happen. However, it just seems more likely that nothing will until after the 2014 season.