The Mets Are Playing Better, But…….


From the title, most of you probably assume this is about to be a critique of the Mets that results in me throwing cold water on how well they’ve been playing over the last month.  It’s not.  It’s an article that implores Sandy Alderson and the franchise to keep moving forward with the rebuilding plan.  For example, don’t keep Marlon Byrd in order to shoot for a .500 season.  If you can get something of value in return, move him.  Don’t keep Bobby Parnell “no matter what.” Parnell has been tremendous, but if the Mets can get a Nick Castellanos type for him, they should pull the trigger.

Jul 14, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New York Mets relief pitcher Bobby Parnell (39) and right fielder Marlon Byrd (6) high-five after defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. The New York Mets won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to the season, I predicted that the Mets would finish 80-82, and that’s still possible (they’d have to go 39-32 the rest of the way).  It’d be amazing for the team to make a remarkable run to the Playoffs.  Stranger things have happened, but it’s highly improbable.  The lesser goal – finishing .500 – would be cool to attain.  Still, the difference between finishing 75-87 and 81-81 is cosmetic.  While it’s OK to have finishing at the .500 mark as a goal, it’s not OK to refuse to improve the team’s long term chances while chasing that goal.

Since hitting rock bottom back on June 15th when they lost at home to the Cubs to fall to 24-39, the Mets have gone 17-11 to revitalize their season.  The brand of ball they’ve played since the middle of June has been refreshing.  They’ve gotten a great contribution from the recently acquired Eric Young, Jr, have seen Zack Wheeler begin to acclimate to the big leagues while compiling a 3.54 ERA, and have watched Carlos Torres emerge as a solid bullpen arm (his temporary move to the rotation notwithstanding).

While the Mets have been fun to watch and the results have matched the enjoyment they’ve provided recently, they need to keep their eyes on the prize.  With the trade deadline 13 days away, the Mets should be looking to deal any player who doesn’t figure to be a part of the team for 2014 and beyond (including smaller pieces such as LaTroy Hawkins, who may be of use to a contender).  They should also be open to moving Bobby Parnell if he (and perhaps others) can bring back the young, cost controlled impact outfield bat the team desires.

There are those who are still running with the lazy narrative that the Mets are “years away” from contention, but I just don’t see that as the case.  The goal ever since Sandy Alderson took over was to fully emerge from the abyss in 2014 (after Johan Santana and Jason Bay‘s contracts are off the books).

The Mets have a 2014 rotation that should include Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jonathon Niese, Dillon Gee, and Jeremy Hefner (with Noah Syndergaard waiting in the wings).  It’s not hyperbole to say that Harvey, Wheeler, and Syndergaard could be the best top 3 in baseball in short order.  On the offensive side, they’ll have David Wright, Daniel Murphy, and Travis d’Arnaud, who should all be above average at their respective positions.  The road to contention isn’t difficult.  All it will take is a shrewd trade or two and a few smart free agent signings.

Marlon Byrd has been a revelation and Eric Young, Jr. has been great, but here’s the likely scenario: Byrd regresses and isn’t a part of the 2014 squad.  Young regresses and is better suited as a fourth outfielder.  If that turns out to be the case, the Mets will be faced with the same issue they had when the 2013 season began: no clear cut starters in the outfield.

Since that’s the likely turn of events, the team should not sit idly by as the July 31st trade deadline passes.  They should be looking to deal Byrd for a solid prospect (even if that prospect is a few years away).  They should be open to trading Parnell if the right deal comes along, and they should be willing to get creative while putting together a package of their minor leaguers (built around pitchers not named Syndergaard) in an effort to acquire young talent (close or established) that fills areas of need.

With a ton of money coming off the books, the Mets should be active in the free agent market after the season ends…whether they go after Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Beltran, or someone else.  However, filling one of those outfield holes during this season would make their offseason task that much easier.  Carlos Gonzalez may not be available, but that doesn’t mean Sandy Alderson shouldn’t be on the phone with the Rockies every day to check in.

Again, the Mets are playing tremendous ball and I’d love to see it continue.  Still, if an opportunity to improve the team via trade presents itself, that deal should be made.  If it has a negative impact on the rest of the season, so be it.  The idea has always been for the Mets to legitimately compete in 2014 while continuing to stock their minor league system in the process.  It makes no sense to hamper that possibility while chasing a handful of wins that won’t matter in the long run.

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