In the Mets’ clubhouse, the trade of David Robertson late Thursday night did not register as a surprise. The next ones won’t either.
But as much as they liked having Robertson around as a teammate and as a closer — and as much as the deal with the Marlins, one of the teams ahead of them in the playoff chase, represented a surrender on the season by the front office — it didn’t tangibly change reality for the rest of the Mets.
Before they played the Nationals on Friday, the players’ afternoon looked much the same as it always does. A few joshed around playing on a custom-made table shuffleboard. A few sat at their lockers, doing nothing in particular while scrolling on their phones. A few did interviews with media members (though Justin Verlander literally laughed off such a deadline-related request).
The pitchers played catch, the hitters took batting practice. Those who were candidates to get traded remained so, equally aware of twin truths: Their professional lives could change drastically at any moment, and there was nothing they could do about it but wait.
“Most of us are conditioned to just accept news and move forward,” Adam Ottavino said. “It is what it is. We still gotta play a lot more games.”
Tommy Pham, speaking of the Mets’ status as sellers ahead of the 6 p.m. Tuesday trade deadline, offered bigger-picture perspective: “I would’ve never expected this going into the season. But much worse things have happened in the world.”
Pham is among the Mets most likely to be traded next. He entered the day as the team’s OPS leader (.813) and, as a well-performing player on a one-year contract who is especially good at hitting lefthanded pitchers, is appealing to other clubs. His good news was that he started in leftfield, the first time he played defense since July 20 because of a right groin injury.
A veteran of 10 seasons, Pham has played for six teams and has been traded three times — including at the deadline last summer. He knows how this goes.
“Go about your day the same until it happens,” he said. “It’s a little bit of commotion because you gotta pack up, get your place together and move on to the next city. On the opposite end of it, a little bit of excitement, joining a new team.”
After his pregame temperature-taking spin through the clubhouse, manager Buck Showalter described the vibe as “pretty positive.” He said the sense from players was about “kind of rallying around it and trying to overcome” the extreme long shot that their season will turn into anything. Even if the front office has given up, the roster doesn’t have to.
“A great relief pitcher on a lousy team isn’t really that valuable,” Ottavino said. “Hopefully we can be better than lousy the rest of the way and make it hurt a little bit in a weird way. But I don’t blame them. They gotta do what they gotta do. If one of these kids turns into [something], then it’s well worth it. I get it.”
The “kids” Ottavino referred to are the teenage prospects the Mets received from the Marlins, infielder Marco Vargas and catcher Ronald Hernandez. Both were playing in the rookie-level Florida Complex League and thus are years away from possibly reaching the majors — irrelevant to the current major-leaguers.
“Nobody really cares right now about what it means organizationally down the road,” Showalter said. “Certainly it’s harder without [Robertson]. I’m not going to insult anybody’s intelligence.”
Robertson, 38, had been among the Mets’ most successful offseason additions, serving as their top reliever in the season-long absence of injured All-Star Edwin Diaz.
“He’s avoiding Father Time,” Pham said. “He’s a great pitcher, man. And he’s wanted. With the team not playing up to expectations, you could expect it by now.”