The Yankees have been on the rise for nearly two months. The Mets have been sinking for nearly two months. Their schedules will put them back on the same field July 20 for the opener of a three-game set at the Stadium. What they will look like when that happens is anybody’s guess.
It will be 11 days before Major League Baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline, and it’s a good bet that the action already will have started. In the next few weeks, each front office will decide if its team can reach the playoffs. Their actions will brand them as “buyers’’ or “sellers,’’ and the separation between the designations may be accelerated this season by the number of teams that are tanking.
The Yankees and Mets have played both roles in the past two seasons.
The Yankees were a middling club in 2016 and opted to sell some pieces, and when they saw their playoff potential a year ago, they made acquisitions. It was the opposite in those years for the Mets: They added pieces for a run to the postseason in 2016 and, amid a hail of bad injury news in 2017, traded regulars away.
“You don’t know what your team is going to look like come the end of July — I’ve seen it from a bunch of different angles,” said the Mets’ Jay Bruce, who was acquired from the Reds for the 2016 stretch run and traded to the Indians for the last phases of 2017 before re-signing in the offseason. “I don’t think there is a collective way of thinking that ‘we have to make sure we’re winning in July because we want to be adding pieces and not getting traded away.’ Your job is to come in every day and play as hard as you can to win. Leave defining what the team is to the front office.”
The Yankees, who entered Sunday’s game at 42-18 and had gone 33-9 since a 9-9 start, don’t look as if they’ll fade anytime soon with the best record in baseball, a relentless lineup and a strong bullpen. It would be no surprise if they add starting pitching or at least seek to do so. Jordan Montgomery has been lost for the season to Tommy John surgery and Masahiro Tanaka is on the disabled list with two injured hamstrings, so general manager Brian Cashman figures to try to get rotation help.
“Cashman does everything he can to make the team better. If that means making a trade, usually he does it,” said David Robertson, whom the Yankees acquired with current Met Todd Frazier 13 days before the 2017 non-waiver trade deadline. “That he’s doing something like that — or trying — is something that seems to happen. He’s trying to win.”
Entering play Sunday, the Mets (27-34) had gone 16-33 since their 11-1 start, had the third-worst record in the National League and were eight games off the pace for the second wild card. They already could be hearing offers.
While the concept of dealing Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard in a major deal has grabbed headlines, there are other Mets who could be desirable acquisitions before the end of July. Asdrubal Cabrera is off to a fine start, Jeurys Familia is a proven closer when healthy and both are in walk years. Set-up man Anthony Swarzak and third baseman Frazier each has one more year on his contract.
“I think it’s early for anyone in baseball to be hearing their name in trade talk,” Frazier said. “Last year it was about a month before the trade to the Yankees that I started to get the feeling I’d get moved. The White Sox were first-class and above board about what they were thinking, and we weren’t winning.”
Said Bruce, “The bottom line with any team is that the writing is put on the wall based on your performance as a team. The front office comes up with the assessment of what the team can be and executes the plan. . . . They decide what the club will look like.”