Did the New York Mets win or lose the trade deadline? Yes.
Listen, there’s no escaping the big moves that were made across the league and the expectation was that the Mets would be in on at least a few of those moves, but after the 6 p.m. trade deadline came and went, Mets fans were left feeling a sense of disappointment that a bigger splash wasn’t made. Combine that with the fact that Jacob deGrom’s first major league start in 394 days resulted in a loss with no runs scored and well, it’s now officially Armageddon in Flushing.
But might I offer that there’s two ways to look at the deadline and one of them isn’t through the lens of Doomsday? Of course I can’t do that for some fans. It’s the Mets and so everything is Doomsday if it's not exactly what we wanted the outcome to be, or even more concerning, even if it is an outcome we desired. Nevertheless, there’s two perspectives to walk away from the trade deadline with and which of those perspectives is entirely up to you.
The pessimists' approach to the Mets trade deadline
Nearly every major contender this season made a significant upgrade at the deadline and while the Mets don’t necessarily need to concern themselves with American League teams yet, the aggressiveness of other front offices is something the Mets fan base was hoping Billy Eppler would emulate.
The other New York team got a stud for their rotation in Frankie Montas to headline their flurry of trades, the Houston Astros got Trey Mancini and Christian Vazquez, the Atlanta Braves closed out their moves with a buzzer beater and shored up their bullpen with Angels closer Raisel Iglesias and the San Diego Padres got everyone else. Heck, even the Twins got Tyler Mahle and Michael Fulmer.
For the Mets however, the deadline saw a lackluster flurry of moves that included what seems to be an overpay on paper by sending four players, including J.D. Davis, to the Giants to acquire *checks notes*..Darin Ruf? I could spend an entire article trying to wrap my head around this move in particular, not because the Mets got Ruf, but because four players is absolutely absurd for a 36-year old platoon player. This was the wrong kind of overpay.
The Mets, for the first time in a long time, actually have a realistic chance at the World Series and have overcome a lot of adversity to stay atop the N.L. East, which is why not going all in at the deadline seems like a major swing and miss. All season we heard how Steve Cohen will do anything to win, and he did during the offseason. It’s easy to forget all the acquisitions that were made before the lockout and how much of those pieces have contributed to the success of this team so far.
But when the defending world champs are breathing down your neck in the division and they trade for a very good closer without giving up any real prospects because they were able to take on a heavy contract, that’s what I thought the Mets were supposed to be doing? And what about Ronny Mauricio? Surely he’s got no place on this roster in both the short and long term plans, so how come he didn’t get moved for a significant upgrade in the bullpen? Was the asking price from the Cubs that significant that we couldn’t go all in? The purpose of prospects is to either help the major league club win or help bring in players who will help the major league club.
What’s more frustrating is that we couldn’t make a trade for someone like Andrew Chafin, but Chafin could’ve been had this offseason for no prospects at all. When Eppler said that he had no problem trading away Colin Holdlerman because of the robust reliever market, I don’t think fans saw only landing Michyl Givens as a significant upgrade.
For many fans and Eppler alike, the justification was not mortgaging the future for the sake of the present, but that’s exactly what you do when you’re all in. Listen, I want to have a sustainable winner just like everyone else does, but the Mets are in a unique position for the first time in history where they have the wealth to remain competitive no matter the offseason. What’s more is, as much as Cohen’s money is a strength, the future is not as much of a guarantee as we’d like to think. Max Scherzer, as brilliant as he’s been, will be 39 next year. DeGrom is going to be a free agent and even if we re-sign him, how healthy will he be? Marte has been a godsend this year, but he’ll be 34 this October. Brandon Nimmo and Edwin Diaz are free agents after the season ends. I’m confident all of these names will be in a Mets uniform to start 2023, but the window to win a World Series is right now and the trade deadline should’ve reflected that.
Casey Stern’s motto will always prove to be true: “Prospects are cool, parades are cooler”.
The optimists' approach to the Mets trade deadline
Optimism and Mets fans are rarely ever in conjunction with one another, but nevertheless, this deadline isn’t as horrible as #MetsTwitter would have you believe. There’s a bit more than just silver lining and August 2nd shouldn’t prevent fans from being confident down the stretch.
First and foremost, outside of the Padres acquiring Juan Soto, no other player traded to a team provides more value than Jacob deGrom returning to the Mets. The best pitcher on the planet took the mound for the first time in over a year and he looked to be the same old Jake. Outside of back to back base hits, which resulted in an earned run, deGrom showed his velocity (hitting 102 MPH), sharp slider and displayed both a changeup and curveball that were both sharp. The real story will be how deGrom feels after pitching, but after five really effective innings, the Mets will be a nightmare in the playoffs if he and Scherzer are healthy.
The Mets also answered a lot of questions that were on their roster. Even before the deadline, they received Daniel Vogelbach from the Pirates to supplement the lack of production from Dom Smith and went with the addition by subtraction route by shipping Davis to San Francisco. Replacing the Smith/Davis tandem with Ruf/Vogelbach will surely prove to be much more productive as both players have fantastic splits for their respective roles. Ruf absolutely mashes lefties, posting a line of .257/.364/.532 with nine home runs, 24 RBI and 22 runs. For Vogelbach, he has a whopping .922 OPS against righties with 12 homers and 27 RBIs.
Additionally, the Mets nabbed Tyler Naquin from Cincinnati, who replaced Travis Jankowski on the roster. Jankowski, although a fan favorite, hadn’t had a base hit since May 3rd and was effectively a pinch runner. Naquin provides better pop (.801 OPS against righties) and decent speed.
While the Mets lost Holderman to get Vogelbach, they did add a valuable bullpen piece in Mychal Givens. Givens has been good at missing bats this season, racking up 51 strikeouts in over 40 innings. Also, Givens and Showalter have a connection from their days in Baltimore, so bringing the righty into a winning environment with a familiar face should prove to provide a boost to an already solid season (2.66 ERA). Add Givens to a bullpen with Trevor May returning, Seth Lugo turning a corner and quite possibly a new role for Tylor Megill and there’s a chance the Mets could have something solid.
Willson Contreras would’ve been a huge bat to add to this lineup, but there were questions around his defense and whether or not he could learn/manage a new pitching staff quick enough. This also provides assurance for the stellar defense that James McCann and Tomas Nido have provided this season. Supplementing the gaping holes in the DH spot should help to lessen the blow of not having offense from the catcher’s position, which is a luxury by the way, not a standard.
One thing that should also not be understated is that the Mets’ farm system went basically untouched (outside of that Ruf trade, which I’m still trying to make sense of). The road to consistency isn’t paved overnight and to have a balanced, deep farm system, it takes discipline. The Dodgers were in on Juan Soto, they also acquired Scherzer and Trea Turner last year. They also traded for and extended Mookie Betts. All of this was possible because of their deep farm system. I know it’s not sexy, but discipline rarely is. But while other teams picked from their farm, the Mets kept theirs relatively intact so that, let’s say they want to make a run at Ohtani in the offseason, they’ll be able to. But even if they don’t the farm will continue to be built out and that will put the franchise in a position to make the trades that headline this deadline.
None of these moves are flashy, but all of these moves are an answer to questions that the club had heading into the deadline. With a farm relatively untouched, an additional bullpen piece, deGrom back and a deeper bench, the Mets had a good trade deadline. They weren’t overt winners but they weren’t losers either and for a team that has the second best record in the National League, that’s a good thing. If you said “this team is special” at any point during the season, that same team is still on the field and has actually gotten better.
Breathe, delete those draft tweets and remember that these New York Mets are different.