Mets fans can be excused if they didn’t believe the team would actually pull the trigger and add to a team just off the pace in the N.L. East and Wild Card races in late-July. After years of being told to be patient we were all ready to believe that this was finally the year. However, as the trade deadline approached, Sandy Alderson wasn’t gearing up for ‘the year,’ but instead sticking to the plan of trying to construct a team with a window to win that will remain open for many years.
As the Mets piled up shutout losses and wasted valiant efforts by their starting pitchers, I could not help but think of Gene Hackman’s coach Norman Dale in the movie ‘Hoosiers’ letting his team play a man down to prove a point. Alderson had built a beautiful starting rotation at the expense of his offense, acquired lefty relievers who could not get out left-handed hitters, and stocked his bench with AAAA players — leaving the Mets incapable of enduring injuries to starters.
In the face of withering criticism from fans and media who said he ‘had to’ make a move, Alderson seemed to simply be stating that ‘my team is on the floor’
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We were left to wonder if Sandy Alderson was a mad genius who tosses off pithy one-liners or a stubborn company man willing to go down with the ship to prove his way was the right way. He has had his hits (Colon) and misses (Cuddyer) like any other GM, but they have always been the type of moves that would not hamstring the organization over the long term. They were moves could still be overcome if they went wrong.
Then a funny thing happened. The Mets won enough to stay in the race. Alderson found himself in a position to deal from an organizational strength to improve both the bullpen and the lineup. Jimmy Chitwood did not stroll in with his savant shooting skills to declare ‘I’ll make it’ at the crucial moment, but most would agree we already have our Jimmy Chitwood in Matt Harvey. Back in spring training Terry Collins shared with reporters that Harvey told him that they’d make the playoffs this year, and said ‘Matt doesn’t lie to me.’ Jimmy Chitwood drives a Maserati.
With the Mets in the thick of it, Alderson made trades for Kelly Johnson, Juan Uribe and Tyler Clippard – all solid if not spectacular. All addressing weaknesses. The team that he put together had done exactly what he had asked it to do, stay in the race until he was in a position to take action. Most important, underlying each of these moves is a deliberate refusal to mortgage the future for a one-time shot at glory.
In addition, the trade acquisitions have not added one dollar to the 2016 payroll. Instead, Colon, Murphy and Parnell will take more than $23 million in salary with them when they likely exit over the winter. Their younger, cheaper replacements are all waiting in the wings and have already had a taste of big league action.
The Mets have by no means transformed themselves into an offensive juggernaut, but they’ve strengthened a squad that was already knocking on the door. The payroll is also lined up to be able to take on another contract that extends into 2016.
Carlos Gomez? Jay Bruce? The tough question now becomes which position to upgrade with this acquisition. Assuming the rotation is set, and the bullpen close to set, one would have to believe the rumors that the Mets are still looking for a bat.
Troy Tulowitzki is in Toronto, removing the only real difference-maker at the shortstop position. Johnson and Uribe were perfect additions to solidify the infield without handcuffing them next year when David Wright is hopefully fully healthy. Which bring us back to the outfield.
Will Juan Lagares‘ elbow allow him to be effective enough to contribute as a starter? Will Michael Conforto’s rookie bat stay hot down the stretch as the playoff pressure mounts? Complicating matters is the fact that along with Curtis Granderson and Michael Cuddyer, all of these outfielders figure to be on the roster in 2016.
Snarky reporters gleefully claimed the Mets front office said they wanted to add a big bat without paying for it. To me that means Alderson is not deviating from the plan. If he’s going to add an impact bat, it likely means sending a major leaguer the other way in return in the same vein as the Tulo/Reyes deal. Could he look to move Daniel Murphy’s expiring contract or Lucas Duda’s arbitration years to upgrade the right side of the infield?
While I’d love to see Duda packaged with the type of young arms the Blue Jays just sent to Colorado to obtain Jose Bautista, neither player likely nets the type of return that would make the move worthwhile.
Expect that if any move is made between now and the deadline, it will more likely be for someone like Gerardo Parra, Another ‘rental’ player who makes the Mets better this year while not gumming up the works next year.
With Parra or a similar player added, the Mets would be a real threat this year and would still be in position to take another step forward in the offseason. With such a move, Sandy Alderson could, and should, sit back and say ‘my team is on the floor.’