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Mets stand pat, hold on to starting pitchers at trade deadline

Mickey Callaway said that he and pitching coach Dave Eiland pushed to keep Zack Wheeler and the front office responded.

Zack Wheeler looks on from the Mets' dugout

Zack Wheeler looks on from the Mets' dugout against the San Diego Padres at Citi Field on July 25, 2018. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

WASHINGTON — As the clock struck 4 p.m. on Tuesday, all was quiet in the visitors’ clubhouse at Nationals Park. No hugs, no tears, no goodbyes — and no further trades for the Mets.

Zack Wheeler is still a Met. So are Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Wilmer Flores, Devin Mesoraco and Jose Bautista. For all the chatter and speculation, the Mets finished trade-deadline season quietly, having moved only their two most obvious candidates: closer Jeurys Familia to the Athletics on July 21, and second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera to the Phillies a week later.

More moves are possible beyond Tuesday’s non-waiver deadline. After July 31, players can be dealt only after they’ve passed through trade waivers. Mesoraco in particular fits the mold of someone who could go.

“We emphasized that in order to make a deal at this juncture, it was going to take a team to step up and pay a premium,” assistant general manager John Ricco said. “We know the talent that we have, specifically on the pitching side. We were not going to move those players unless it involved considerable talent coming back in our direction.”

Sellers for the second summer in a row, the Mets began this stretch saying they were looking to add athletic, up-the-middle, close-to-the-majors talent and were willing to eat money to get a better return. They wound up doing none of that. Oakland took on Familia’s salary, and the Phillies will pay Cabrera. The Mets received two pitchers, a third baseman and $1 million in international bonus pool space for the two players.

Double-A righthander Franklyn Kilome, acquired for Ca brera, could be argued as an exception. As a pitcher, he technically plays up the middle, and Ricco specifically highlighted his athleticism. “Most of the time when you think of athletes, you’re talking about position players,” Ricco said. “But it’s really important to be athletic on the mound as well.”

Manager Mickey Callaway said a strong preference from he and pitching coach Dave Eiland to keep Wheeler — and the rest of the rotation — influenced the front office’s mindset.

“We all just told them the truth about what we felt about Zack Wheeler and who he is and what he’s become and what we think he can be moving forward,” Callaway said. “I think that had a significant impact in the decisions we made and the players we might’ve been looking for to potentially move him.”

With Ricco and special assistants to the GM J.P. Ricciardi and Omar Minaya running baseball operations, the Mets conducted business under unusual circumstances, not knowing who will be the boss come season’s end. Ricco said that uncertainty did not affect how they operated leading up the deadline.

“We were not only given the opportunity, we were asked by ownership to be creative and be open to all possibilities, including those types of impactful trades,” Ricco said. He later noted that the Mets also looked into adding players under team control for 2019 — a la acquiring AJ Ramos last year, despite being sellers — but nothing came to fruition.

The Mets, who finished 22 games under .500 in 2017 and began this week 15 games under .500, say they believe they can contend in 2019.

How to make that sort of drastic improvement, the Mets aren’t sure. They still want to build around their pitching, though. Ricco said that inaction Tuesday shouldn’t be interpreted as anything more than that, and that the Mets will revisit many of these options in the offseason.

By then, there will be a new head of baseball operations in place. With that should come more definitive direction.

“We’re honest about this: We definitely have to improve,” Ricco said. “We feel really good about our pitching, but we have to find a way to score more runs and find a way to play better defense.

“I think all we said today: There was no deal on the table that we thought made sense this point in time. That does not say anything about how we’re going to treat our assets heading into the offseason and how we’re going to plan for next year.”

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