More than halfway through their season, the Mets have little choice but to face their reality: They aren’t very good. And when you aren’t very good — 40-50 and second-to-last in the National League — teams will call about your players.
That is what is happening to the Mets, who have talked about Noah Syndergaard with at least a half-dozen teams recently, a source said. Multiple sources indicated no deal of Syndergaard or any of the Mets’ several other trade candidates is close to completion, but consider it an unofficial start to what should be an interesting three weeks leading up to the July 31 trade deadline.
As the Mets resume their season with a series against the Marlins starting Friday, they enter an awkward phase familiar to any losing team, when the facing of their grim reality takes different forms in the front office and on the field.
For general manager Brodie Van Wagenen and his staff, it means having already begun to privately prepare to be trade-deadline sellers, a pivot they likely will make public in the coming days. This is usually the spot in which comment from Van Wagenen is inserted — where the Mets stand in the buyer/seller debate, how dramatic of a deadline season it might be for them, what he wants to see from his club in the second half — but he has avoided publicly discussing the state of the team in recent weeks. He is scheduled to meet with reporters Friday afternoon in Miami.
For Michael Conforto and his teammates, it means still busting it on the field every day, trying to win even as they realize some of them can and will be sent to another team any day now.
“Obviously, we had high hopes starting the year. We haven’t played up to our potential,” Conforto said Sunday. “We’ll see what happens. Hopefully we don’t lose too many guys. It’s the nature of the game. We’ve been through it. It sucks losing guys you start the year with, but we put ourselves in that position. We have to start the second half hot and get into a better position.”
MLB.com reported that the Padres, Astros and Brewers have checked in on Syndergaard, who has a career-worst 4.68 ERA and is under team control through the 2021 season. Although Van Wagenen preaches open-mindedness — never say never — there is minimal urgency for the Mets to make a trade for Syndergaard unless they get wowed by an offer. As always with complicated potential trades, July talks sometimes serve as groundwork for deals consummated in the offseason. Zack Wheeler, Todd Frazier and Jason Vargas highlight the other Mets who could be moved this month.
This is the third summer in a row — every season since they lost in the 2016 NL wild-card game — that the Mets find themselves looking to subtract instead of add. This time, though, it’s more difficult to blame a large quantity of injuries for the Mets’ issues.
Hurting the Mets relative to expectations are Van Wagenen’s primary offseason offensive additions, a trio of 30-somethings who have underwhelmed at best: second baseman Robinson Cano, who is slashing .240/.287/.360 after coming over in the Mets’ marquee winter move, a trade with the Mariners; catcher Wilson Ramos, who has been OK at the plate but has struggled defensively and lately has lost playing time to backup Tomas Nido; and infielder Jed Lowrie, who has not played because of various leg injuries.
More than anything, the Mets’ bullpen has weighed down the rest of the team. Bad seasons from closer Edwin Diaz (5.50 ERA) and closer-turned-setup-man Jeurys Familia (7.50 ERA) have ruined manager Mickey Callaway’s ideal late-inning scenarios.
The Mets have gotten 294 innings from their bullpen, fourth-fewest in the managers. But that unit has a 5.63 ERA, third-worst in the majors.
“That’s the frustrating part: The part you don’t lean on a ton hurts you,” Callaway said Sunday. “I feel these guys will turn it around. I believe in each one of them.”
While Van Wagenen & Co. go to work on improving the 2020 Mets, the 2019 Mets will hang on to the moment.
“I don’t think anybody is thrilled with how our first half went,” Jacob deGrom, who along with Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil represented the Mets at the All-Star Game, said this week in Cleveland. “Obviously to get back in this thing, have a chance at going to the playoffs and competing in October. That’s the main goal. If you went and asked anybody in the locker room, they’d say the same thing.”