Baseball players on contending teams — much like their fans — meet the approach of a trading deadline with intrigue, anticipation and anxiety.
Mets reliever Adam Ottavino knows the feelings well, having been on playoff teams each of the past four seasons.
“if you feel like a move is on the horizon, everybody's (got) thoughts and everybody's playing GM just like all the fans . . . You hear the whispers ‘this guy would be good’ or ‘that guy would be good’ or whatever,” Ottavino said Tuesday.
“At the same time, generally speaking, it’s a careful balance: you don’t want to be too desperate for the (team) to make a move because if that doesn’t happen you can maintain the faith everyone has in each other,” Ottavino added.
In first place in the NL East, the Mets are contenders. And though they anticipate the return of two-time Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom, they are considered a club that could benefit from some other upgrades: most often mentioned are a high-leverage reliever, a righthanded power hitter and possibly a catcher.
But on a big league roster, every action can force another.
“The excitement that comes with a trade and someone coming (in) also comes with the idea that someone on the team is going out and that sucks,” Ottavino said. “As a major leaguer, you hope they’re trading minor leaguers who you haven’t yet built relationships with. It’s harder to say (goodbye) to a friend than to some prospect you don’t really know. That guy isn’t in the here and now.”
If the Mets were to make a big move — to get, say, Juan Soto from the Nationals or Willson Contreras and/or David Robertson from the Cubs — someone on the big league roster is coming off it. The Mets have used gallows-style humor to cope.
“You do hear jokes like ‘it’s going to be Juan Soto — hey buddy pack your bags for Washington,’” Ottavino said. “We keep it loose and give each other a little crap. That’s just how it is.”
A front office can communicate a lot to its players by its aggressiveness around the trading deadline. For example, Francisco Lindor took last Friday’s trade for Daniel Vogelbach as a positive.
“If a front office is trying to make the club better, then you know that they're committed to going for it, but it’s a bigger deal for a team on the (playoff) bubble,” Ottavino said. “There, you don't know if they're going to buy or sell so a trade's sending a strong message: we still believe in you guys — go get it.
“If you're already a team that's probably destined for playoffs, the expectation is to add if possible, but you’re not hanging on it because you already probably think you have a pretty good team,” he continued.
The Mets fit into that second category, a big reason why Ottavino was among a raft of players that signed up in the offseason.
“I signed here (and) other guys signed here,” he said. “Especially now in this era, the Mets are serious about winning and (owner) Steve (Cohen) is going to do what it takes. That’s part of it from the very beginning of the season, not just the trade deadline.”
May close to return
Reliever Trevor May, out since early May with a stress reaction in his right humerus bone, could be less than a week away from returning to the Mets. His minor league rehab schedule next has him pitching for Triple-A Syracuse on Wednesday in the same game that Jacob deGrom is starting. If that goes well the final hurdle will be pitching in back-to-back games on Saturday and Sunday . . . Catcher James McCann, on the IL with a left oblique strain, will begin a minor league rehab assignment on Thursday, Showalter said.
Kirby is back
Mets first-base coach Wayne Kirby, who had prostate cancer removal surgery last week, was back on the job at Citi Field. With his usual cheery disposition, he said everything went well and he’ll be back to coaching first base Wednesday. With Tim Healey