Amid the growing restlessness that grips most clubhouses this time of year, Terry Collins has a simple message for the players under his watch.
“You’re a New York Met,” Collins said.“Until you’re not.”
These days, however, that feels more like a threat to those in a hurry to achieve “not” status, and the urgency only intensified after Tuesday’s 5-0 loss to the Cardinals. There are plenty of current Mets eyeing the clubhouse door, praying for a playoff shot somewhere outside of Flushing.
Rest assured, Sandy Alderson is working on things. But so is every other general manager, and after Addison Reed and Lucas Duda both were linked yesterday to the Yankees, it now appears they can cross them off their list. Last night the White Sox traded first baseman/third baseman Todd Frazier, along with relievers Dave Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to the Bronx.
The baseball landscape changes rapidly in late July, and if you don’t move quickly, doors start closing just as fast. The Mets are going to find a taker for Reed, but trading Duda may be more difficult now — let’s see how the Yankees intend to use Frazier — and Alderson will need to get creative to deal Jay Bruce, Jerry Blevins, possibly Curtis Granderson, maybe even Asdrubal Cabrera.
Midway through July, there’s no point in being a Met any longer. The deadline hope of the past two seasons evaporated a while back, replaced by the sad realization that the end can’t come soon enough. In this depressing environment, Alderson gets to be the puppet-master, pulling the strings on who stays and who goes.
For Collins and the players, however, it’s a helpless feeling and breeds discontent. Ideally, the Mets would love to accelerate the process, cash whatever chips they have and get moving on the future, namely calling up Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith.
Don’t forget the financial component, either. With the Mets seeking only prospects in return — and don’t expect gold here — they can shed some serious money by moving their limited number of coveted players, based on the remaining salaries. Trading Bruce puts roughly $5.5 million in the Mets’ pocket. Duda and Reed? That’s another $6 million combined.
It adds up. The Wilpons spent more than $154 million on this year’s team — their biggest investment in franchise history — just to be 14 games behind the Nationals and 10 1/2 out of the wild card before August. So they have to jump at the opportunity to recoup some of that cash, especially as the Citi crowds start to dwindle. The Mets were 13th in average home attendance (31,275) this season before Tuesday night’s game.
Rather than reboot for 2018, this deadline is looking more like a straight-up dump job. The Mets will do their best to get some serviceable minor-leaguers in any swap, but they also have to be realistic. The Tigers settled for three low-level prospects Tuesday in shipping J.D. Martinez to the Diamondbacks, a deal that immediately had us thinking what that might mean for Bruce’s value.
Martinez, like Bruce, will be a free agent and has $4.88 million left on his contract. But he’s also a more consistently dangerous hitter, and from the right side, suggesting that the return for Bruce won’t be all that exciting. In the past week, two of the most aggressive teams, the Nationals and Cubs, moved quickly to secure their greatest needs. The Nats, desperate for bullpen help, wasted no time last Sunday in acquiring both Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle from the A’s. The Cubs didn’t even wait for the end of the All-Star break to grab Jose Quintana from the White Sox.
Judging by these three deals, with still 12 days to go before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, teams aren’t procrastinating until the 11th hour this season. And as soon as the Mets can find teams willing to take their players, there’s no sense in holding out for a better haul. Their mind already is made up. What if Reed or Duda or Bruce ends up getting hurt in the coming days, sabotaging any remaining value — or the chance to made a few bucks back? Better to get something done while the opportunity is there.
As the Yankees reminded their Flushing pals Tuesday night.