David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
Troy Tulowitzki, despite his Derek Jeter fanboy antics, has the potential to be Mike Piazza for this next generation of Mets. Bringing him to Flushing, like Piazza in 1998, could be a game-changer for the franchise, a trade that may speed up the trip from developing team to contender, almost overnight.
The Wilpons know this. Sandy Alderson knows this. You know this.
Tulowitzki is everything the Mets need -- a power bat for the middle of the lineup and a Gold-Glove caliber shortstop. What could be more perfect? But there also is a reluctance to plow headfirst into such a trade, a feeling that after stockpiling so much pitching talent, it's not a deal that has to get done tomorrow.
That's why the Mets -- for now -- are holding back on including Noah Syndergaard in any package, for Tulo or otherwise, according to a source. Syndergaard is the name at the top of every team's wish list, and as long as the Mets won't budge on that demand, it's going to take longer to work around such an obstacle for a player like Tulowitzki -- if a compromise can be struck at all.
Alderson couldn't talk about Tulowitzki specifically before Monday night's game against the Phillies. That's tampering, even if Tulowitzki chooses to spend his DL time at Yankee Stadium, dreaming about replacing Jeter from his Legends seat. But the GM did speak -- hypothetically -- about maybe someday pushing a pile of prospects to the middle of the table for a major offensive upgrade. Just for fun, we'll pretend he's referring to Tulowitzki.
"That's a possibility," Alderson said. "In fact, that sounds more desirable than inching your way there, giving up prospects in more cautious transactions. But it's got to be the right time, for the right player, under the right circumstances."
Tulowitzki seems to fit Alderson's criteria, and the GM didn't sound scared off by the money. When asked about adding another $20-million player -- that's Tulo's annual salary from 2015-19 -- Alderson didn't rule out adding him to David Wright ($20M) and Curtis Granderson ($15M), even though he joked about the rest of the roster being "22 dwarves."
"It's conceivable," Alderson said. "We just have to figure out exactly what our maximum [payroll] is and then work back from there. I wouldn't say that would preclude us."
Still, the Mets remain wary of tapping into their pitching surplus. While it's true the Mets rotation seemingly has more depth than any other in recent memory, they still want to see Syndergaard at the major-league level -- and moving Bartolo Colon is something Alderson feels might be better maximized this offseason, if the Mets choose to go that route.
"I think a player like Colon is one of those whose value could go up over time rather than down as long as he continues to pitch," Alderson said. "The only reason I say that is we're not anxious to move him at this point."
Another thing to consider on the pitching front: Matt Harvey, coming off Tommy John surgery, will be on an innings-limit during his 2015 return. Alderson didn't have an exact number when asked Monday, but standard TJ protocol usually puts it around 150-160. That would give Harvey roughly 23 starts.
As for this season, Alderson doesn't sound comfortable selling productive pieces like Colon or Daniel Murphy just for the sake of collecting more prospects. Or dealing his most coveted youngsters to fortify the 2014 club, which the GM may be content to let play this one out.
"We're in that position where we don't really want to give up prospects," Alderson said, "but we're not anxious to trade for guys that can't help us near term. That may lead us to more of a status-quo situation."
The Mets crept another game closer to .500 (51-55) with Monday's 7-1 rout of the Phillies, a pounding that must have put a dent in A.J. Burnett's trade value. For a night, they didn't appear to need Tulo. But that shouldn't stop the Mets from at least trying to get him.