The trade that threatens to define this year’s deadline, which expired Tuesday at 4 p.m., is the deal that didn’t happen.
Because the Mets had the one thing the Yankees wanted — no, needed — and they refused to give it to them by holding on to Jacob deGrom.
That was the expected outcome anyway. To think the crosstown rivals could agree on a swap of this magnitude, with all of its PR ramifications, was folly to begin with. Fun to debate, sure. But in the final analysis, pointless. As one person involved in those deGrom conversations said Tuesday, “We just couldn’t agree on the value.”
The fallout from deGrom’s staying put in Flushing, at least for the next three months or so, remains to be seen. Did the Mets blow a big opportunity by keeping their rotation intact despite a market starved for elite arms? There’s no way of knowing that right now. Let’s see what happens during what is looming as a franchise-shaping offseason for the Mets.
In the shorter term, it’s the Yankees who could wind up being most hurt by the Mets’ decision with deGrom. This turned out to be a deadline of consolation prizes for Brian Cashman, who grabbed a shutdown reliever in Zach Britton, but had to settle for a pair of less inspiring starters in J.A. Happ and Lance Lynn.
Happ, a solid innings-eater with AL East mettle, did exactly what Cashman envisioned in beating the lousy Royals in Sunday’s pinstriped debut. Not so expected? Happ contracting hand, foot and mouth disease — the affliction made famous nine days earlier by Noah Syndergaard — to put this weekend’s Fenway start in jeopardy.
As for Lynn, the trade no one saw coming, he’s being stashed in the bullpen as rotation insurance, a more flexible replacement for Adam Warren, who was shipped to Seattle for international bonus pool money. Given Luis Severino’s recent troubles, and the potential clouds over the rest of the starters, Cashman was smart to grab an umbrella in Lynn.
But the Yankees’ Holy Grail heading into this deadline was to find their Justin Verlander — the resurrected ace who spearheaded the Astros’ World Series win a year ago — and that wasn’t possible. Cashman had plenty of chips in his loaded farm system. This season’s Verlander, however, happened to be deGrom, and that’s what led Cashman to pivot to complementary pieces rather than bag the Cy Young favorite.
“I don’t need something splashy,” Cashman said minutes after the deadline. “Ultimately, all we want to do is win, and win as many games as we possibly can. So it doesn’t have to be splashy — it just has to work. And that’s all that matters.”
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Cashman’s haul of bonus pool cash, which the GM proudly said was $3.75 million. They’ve already used $600,000 of that to sign Cuban pitcher Osiel Rodriguez, the No. 9 international prospect, and are now positioned to clean up in that market. But those are lottery tickets, with a future payoff. That money does nothing for the Yankees’ goals this season — first catching the Red Sox, then later winning the World Series.
To their credit, Cashman & Co. always think a few moves ahead, and that’s why the Yankees were multitasking at the deadline. As for the Mets, they pretty much did what we anticipated from a splintered front office, and that was to punt on making any franchise-altering decisions until this offseason. Once the ailing Sandy Alderson had to step down, the mission statement was limited to spinning off the rental pieces, such as Jeurys Familia and Asdrubal Cabrera. As for the returns on those deals, maybe third baseman William Toffey or pitchers Bobby Wahl and Franklyn Kilome will develop into valuable major leaguers. The Mets got $1 million in slot money, too.
Trading any members of their rotation, however, was just not something the Mets felt equipped to do on the fly — nor should they, if the Wilpons truly intend on hiring front office leadership at season’s end. Aside from deGrom and Syndergaard, the Mets had suitors for the surging Zack Wheeler, but without a unified direction for the franchise, agreeing on equitable value for him had to be near impossible.
“We want to build around the pitching we have and compete for a playoff spot next year,” said John Ricco, one of three acting GMs on the Mets’ conference call. “I think we all said today: There was no deal on the table that we thought made sense at this point in time.”
As for the Yankees, their trades don’t feel like quite enough.