The New York Mets find themselves in a difficult situation as we draw closer and closer to the All-Star Break. The team is coming off getting swept by the division leading Washington Nationals, and they are 4-6 over their last ten games. As we enter play Thursday, the Metropolitans find themselves only three games above five hundred, with a record of 40-37. This puts them six games behind the Nats, and third place in the division. The Miami Marlins, who sit in second place in the NL East, also hold a half game lead over New York for the second wild card slot.
Looking ahead, the Mets do not have an easy path heading into the All-Star Game. They will play host to the Cubs for four, the Marlins for three, and then finish off the first half with four more against Washington. All three teams hold records greater than the Mets, but fortunately for the Mets, all of these games will come at Citi Field. This eleven game stretch could make or break the Mets’ season. The Cubs have been struggling of late, but are still considered a top team in the National League, who hold a solid road record. The Marlins series will be key, as the fight for the Wild Card will be of utmost importance between the two teams, unless the Nationals implode like last season. And the Nats just swept the Mets, despite struggling when they entered the series.
The Mets absolutely need to have a positive record over this stretch of the schedule, as their season hangs in the balance. A poor home stand heading into the second half, would leave the Mets in a very tough spot. They would have two weeks to determine if they are buyers or sellers.
So how did the Mets get here? Well for starters, they have been destroyed by injuries. And two, they simply cannot hit the ball.
Let’s take a quick look at the injuries that have plagued the Metropolitans. At first base, Lucas Duda has been lost for a good chunk of the season with a back injury. He has yet to resume baseball activities, but the Mets still claim to be hopeful for a return sometime in late July. I would not be so confident.
Catcher Travis D’Arnaud recently returned from a lengthy stint on the disabled list. He had been out with a shoulder issue. In his week plus of being back, D’Arnaud has done nothing of note to help bolster the offense and its terrible production.
At third base, team captain David Wright underwent neck surgery, and has no timetable for a return. He is not expected back this season. Slugger Yoenis Cespedes has been in and out of the lineup multiple times this season due to different ailments. Center fielder Juan Lagares is also currently out a thumb injury, but is expected back sometime soon.
On the pitching side of things, two of the Mets young arms are currently dealing with bone spurs in their pitching elbows. Steven Matz appears to have it worse, as it is said he has has serious discomfort, and surgery is going to come at some point. It will simply be a matter of him pitching through the pain. But how effective will he be? He got absolutely knocked around his last start against the Braves of all teams, before they revealed he was dealing with the elbow issue. Also given his injury history over his short career, having him pitch through pain is not something I would count on.
Noah Syndergaard is also dealing with bone spurs in his pitching elbow, but they claim he will not need surgery and it is only a minor issue. But anytime a pitcher has an issue with his pitcher arm, there needs to be cause for concern. Thor had his worst start of the season his last go around in Washington. So I am not buying it for one second that it is a “minor” issue.
Then there is Zack Wheeler, who has not even thrown an inning this year, as he recovers from Tommy John Surgery. He recently suffered a setback when a nerve issue popped up in his elbow, but once again the Mets claim it to be minor. He has since begun throwing again and is expected back in August.
With all of the injuries, the Mets offense has struggled, as a lot of guys who would be considered bench guys on other teams have been forced to play everyday.
While D’Arnaud was out, Rene Rivera and Kevin Plawecki were the two primary catchers. Both men hit under .200. First base is being manned by James Loney, who has not been playing terrible. But as a first baseman, Loney does not provide the power that is desired, especially when compared to Duda.
Second and short have been alright with Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker. Both men are performing with about the numbers they were expected to. However, those expectations were of average ballplayers who would be complimentary pieces, not the main bats in a lineup.
Wilmer Flores has had multiple chances over the last few years to prove himself. Now he is getting another chance as he is seeing the bulk of the starts at third. He has once again shown he is not an everyday player, hitting .242 with little else to go with it.
The Mets finally had enough of Michael Conforto, as they sent him back down to the minors. In his place they called up rookie Brandon Nimmo. Nimmo is a rookie, and while he has upside, he is not the kind of guy who will carry a team to the postseason in his rookie campaign. Curtis Granderson, who is currently dealing with a calf issue of his own, has also struggled quite a bit this season, hitting only .235. Cespedes has been the rock of the offense, which is what he is being paid to be. But he is not a true superstar who can carry the whole team with zero support from anyone else.
On the mound, Jacob DeGrom does appear to be moving in the right direction. His record may not show it, but he has been getting his strikeouts and not walking many batters. Matz and Syndergaard had been pitching well, until their last starts, which is when the elbow problems came to light for both. Both will need to be monitored.
Something is wrong with Matt Harvey as well. This will likely be one of those things where we do not find out until after the season, but he has to be pitching hurt. He has simply not been the Dark Knight this season. I have no confidence when he takes the mound that the Mets will win the game like I did a few seasons ago.
So now comes the question, with all of these issues, will the Mets become sellers come the trade deadline in a month? The recent signing of Jose Reyes to a minor league deal shows they are still making an effort to improve the team. Although I would not have much faith in a 33 year old who has not seen Major League action since late last season.
Given the fact that they are still only a half game back of the wild card, they would certainly still consider themselves in it and buyers. That is why this upcoming home-stand is so vital. If the Mets have a poor finish to the first half that leaves them further down the standings, they very possibly could sell off a few pieces to help the offense benefit next season.
Players like Bartolo Colon, Neil Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera, Addison Reed are players that could be dealt. Curtis Granderson may even be seen as a movable piece given he only has one year left on his deal after this one. And if the Mets are completely out of it come the end of July, Cespedes could even find himself back on the block like years prior. But that is still highly unlikely.
The way things are going, I am expecting the Mets to be sellers and not buyers come the end of July. Given their injury issues this season, only average pieces that are no locks to return next season will be moved. The Mets will still be contenders next season, so they will look to deal guys with limited time left on their contracts who offer some value to a team currently making a push.
Colon is the easiest pick of the group, as he will be a free agent after the season, he has been pitching well, and he could bring back a halfway decent prospect.
Walker is in the same boat when it comes to being a free agent after the season. Given the presence of Dilson Herrera in the minors, Walker is a safe bet to be shopped as well if the Mets decide to sell. The way things are looking, Walker will find himself wearing the uniform for his third career team by August. Maybe Royals blue is in his future?
Cabrera has one more guaranteed year plus a club option, so he has a little more control, meaning he will hold a little extra value to some teams. Given Reyes’ presence in the organization, he could easily get plugged back into his old position if need me.
Finally, since bullpen help is always a hot commodity, Addison Reed would certainly garner some interest if the Mets wanted to dangle him. He is not going to fetch a huge reward, but something serviceable given he still has one more year left of control. Alejandro De Aza has been pretty awful, so even with no years left on his contract after this season, it is hard to see anyone wanting him as a spare outfielder.
If the Mets falter over the next month and fall behind the likes of the Cardinals, Pirates and Rockies in the hunt for the spot currently held by the Marlins, they need to start planning for next season. This season is a lost season due to the injuries they have suffered. So why not add some pieces that will help the offense next season, as the pitching will be fine given all of the young studs they have. They can afford a pitching injury or two with their depth, so surrounding them with bats to supply runs needs to be the plan.
If you had said the Mets being sellers at the deadline this season would be their best move for the future when the season began, people would have looked at you like you are crazy. But given the current circumstances, and the tough stretch of games coming up, it sure looks like that is the way to go.