Thursday, January 20

Here’s the worst thing the Mets could do in the 2021 MLB trade deadline

The 2021 Mets are a fascinating team and that’s not necessarily a good thing.

They have only the 11th best record in baseball (53-46), but their divisional advantage (3 1/2) is greater than the divisional advantage of the team with the best record in baseball; the Giants (63-37) lead the NL West by three games over the Dodgers. Geography, huh?

They have the best pitcher in baseball, but Jacob deGrom is in IL. His other All-Star starting pitcher, Taijuan Walker, has allowed 11 earned runs in his two second-half starts. They have the best Home Run Derby hitter in recent memory, but Pete Alonso needed a hot post-derby streak just to break the top 15 spots on the MLB home run leaders list. Six position players have played at least 70 games for the Mets this year, and only one (Alonso) has an OPS-plus above 99. You’ll notice that 100 is the league average.

MORE: If the Dodgers don’t get Max Scherzer, what team could?

The Mets’ run differential is a meager plus-4. The Marlins are 44-57, 10 games behind the Mets and last in the NL East. Do you know what Miami’s racing differential is this year? He’s more than 5. Yeah, better than the Mets.

So yeah, the Mets are a fascinating team, especially this week as the trade deadline gets closer and closer (4 p.m. ET on July 30). What should they do? What will they do?

This is what they absolutely cannot do: nothing.

This is a team with needs, plural. But this is the question. Well, two things.

First: There are 10 teams in the 49-53 win range, and the Mets have by far the easiest road to October. Opportunity matters. If the Mets played in the NL West, they would be in fourth place, 9 1/2 games behind the Giants and four games out of second as a NL wild card. But they’re not in the West, they’re in the East, and they have a very good chance (FanGraphs pegs it at 74.1 percent) of making the postseason.

That brings us to the second point: These Mets, for all their flaws and failures, have the pieces not only to win the NL East, but to win games in October as well. A postseason rotation headed by a healthy deGrom, a solid Marcus Stroman and Walker (assuming he fixes the second-half technical problem) is pretty solid. And a lineup with Alonso, Francisco Lindor, Michael Conforto and Jeff McNeill meeting his career standards is pretty solid, too.

So if “do nothing” is not an option, what are the options?

Change for Kris Bryant

For the past few weeks, switching to Bryant seemed like an obvious decision. The offense was struggling, in various positions. Going into Wednesday’s games, they had played two fewer games than Atlanta, but scored 98 fewer runs than the Braves (482 to 384). The only team in all of baseball that has scored fewer runs than the Mets is the Pirates (367). The Pirates 38-62. Even the Diamondbacks, the team 40 games under .500 (31-71) have scored 42 more runs than the Mets (in three more games).

So yes, there is a need. It should be noted, however, that JD Davis is back with the Mets after a long stint at IL, and he has a .910 OPS in the 12 games he has played at third base since returning. Alonso is hitting .327 with a 1,062 OPS and five home runs in his dozen second-half games. Jeff McNeill was going through the worst season of his career; He was hitting .319 going into this season, but was hitting just .226 as of July 1. He is currently on a 14-game hitting streak that raised his season average to .271.

MORE: The Mets Are Just One Team Kris Bryant Makes Sense For

However, these improvements are probably not enough, because here is another question: What is the goal? Is it just to stumble for the rest of the season, hoping 88 wins will be enough to win the division? If that’s the goal, then the Mets probably don’t need Bryant. But here’s an educated guess: that’s not the point. The goal of Mets fans is to win a World Series. The goal of the Mets players is to win the World Series. New owner Steve Cohen’s goal is to win a World Series.

Offense, as it is currently built, is not winning a World Series. With no updates, the Mets are destined to lose at least two games 2-1 in October. Write that.

And, yes, Bryant struggled in June (.445 OPS), but he’s been outstanding the other three months of the season: 1.078 in April, .961 in May and .957 in July. The versatility he brings – he can play all three outfield positions in addition to the two corner box spots – would allow the Mets to give struggling regulars a day off from time to time without losing anything offensively at the position. . And that’s the beauty of adding Bryant. Negotiating for him is not just addressing a need. You are potentially tackling various unforeseen developments, and that’s the key to surviving October, being able to overcome obstacles that come up, because they always do.

Starling Marte was another player who could have helped cover all three outfield positions, but was traded to the Athletics on Tuesday.

Trade for a starting pitcher

Didn’t they already? Yes they did it. Rich Hill has had an opening for the Mets since he was acquired in a deal with the Rays. Rich Hill is fine.

And the Mets have hope for the rotation, no doubt. They expect Carlos Carrasco to return in a few days and be an effective pitcher down the stretch. He had a 2.91 ERA in a dozen starts with Cleveland in 2020, but has yet to pitch this season for the Mets. They hope Hill can keep pitching like he’s not the oldest starter in the majors. They hope Walker gets back on track. They expect deGrom to bounce back and his season in IL, the second of the season, to be a short one. They expect rookie Tylor Megill to continue to be a pleasant surprise; he has posted a 2.10 ERA in six major league starts, following a 3.55 ERA in eight minor league starts (five at Double-A, three at Triple-A).

Individually, neither hope is a wild illusion. But expecting all of them to be fulfilled seems at least a bit dubious.

So who is out there? It’s said that Max Scherzer wouldn’t give up his no-trade power to join the Mets, so forget about that. In an ideal world for Mets fans, José Berríos is the target. He’s one of the most electric pitchers in the game, and he’s been fantastic for the Twins this year – 3.48 ERA, 9.3 K / 9, 3.56 FIP, 7.0 H / 9. And he’s under the club’s control until the end of the season. 2022, which means it is not a rental. That’s good, although it does mean they would have to pay more in terms of lead cost.

Still, that feels more palatable than adding a guy from the back of the rotation like Michael Pineda, Jake Arrieta, Merrill Kelly, or Jon Lester, right? Maybe roll the dice on Madison Bumgarner, assuming Arizona would eat a big chunk of the money he owes her? He has allowed just two earned runs in 11 innings in his two starts since returning from IL.

There are many options available. The Mets just have to pick one (at least) and make it happen, because “nothing” is not a reasonable option.

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