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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

Mets need to be careful not to mess with chemistry at trade deadline

The Mets' Michael Conforto, right, high-fives J.D. Davis

The Mets' Michael Conforto, right, high-fives J.D. Davis after hitting a two-run home run during the fourth inning of a game against the Reds in Cincinnati on July 19. Credit: AP/Aaron Doster

So what do the Mets have to get done by Friday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline?

Don’t ask the players who currently occupy the clubhouse. The core of this roster got to the top of the NL East together, so these Mets believe they can finish the job, too.

"We have such a good group," Pete Alonso said before Wednesday night’s game against the Braves. "Maybe other guys think about that stuff privately, but for me, I haven’t talked to anybody that’s necessarily worried about any of that.

"I don’t know what we need. We got experts and people in the front office that know best. But honestly, we’re just out there grinding every day and it’s been fun with these guys."

 

Two days earlier, acting GM Zack Scott stood at a Citi Field podium and discussed at length his efforts to improve the Mets, in virtually every area. The rotation was the main priority, but contenders always look to strengthen the bullpen this time of year, and the absence of Francisco Lindor (oblique strain) opened up the possibility of a high-profile replacement (Trevor Story, Javy Baez) that could play other positions once he does return in mid-August.

What the front office thinks, however, doesn’t always match the view from the clubhouse downstairs. Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto found himself under siege earlier this week after he traded closer (and pending free agent) Kendall Graveman to the division-rival Astros in the middle of a series against them.

According to the Seattle Times, a number of the players felt "betrayed" by the Graveman trade, especially with the Mariners only one game behind the A’s for the second wild-card spot. But the way the scene was described, this was not a minor difference of opinion, as some clubhouse equipment was destroyed by the freakout and players anonymously ripped their GM to the newspaper.

"Are you [expletive] kidding me?" an unidentified Mariners player told the Times. "It never changes. They don’t care about winning. How do you trade him and say you care about winning? And you trade him to Houston? It never changes."

With the deadline two days away, Dipoto -- who has a well-earned reputation as a prolific deal-maker -- still has time to redeem himself in their eyes, and he did follow the Graveman move with a trade for the Pirates’ Tyler Anderson on Tuesday. Could Scott face a similar backlash from Alonso & Co.?

There are a number of factors at play. That might depend on how big a splash Scott wants to make, and new owner Steve Cohen may be pushing for a blockbuster at his first deadline. No one saw the Lindor-Carlos Carrasco deal coming back in January and this could be another case where the Mets’ front office is operating under the radar.

But if they’re aiming for a major score, like Story or Baez -- or a megadeal involving multiple players -- that could cost a popular player from the Mets’ major-league clubhouse. What if a J.D. Davis or a Jeff McNeil wound up in the asking price? Can a trade like that rip the fabric of a winning club? Blow up the chemistry?

Luis Rojas said earlier this week that Scott has talked with him about possible trade scenarios and the potential in-house fallout. It’s a real concern as the Mets have forged a resiliency that’s enabled them to plow through months of adversity in staying atop the division longer (97 days total) than any other team in the majors.

"We’ve been doing an unbelievable job so far, especially with the weather, the COVID stuff earlier in the year," Alonso said. "I mean, we were in first place at the break, we’re still in first place a couple of weeks into the second half, so we’re in a really good spot. We have a target on our backs, but we’re not worried about what could potentially happen. We’re just worried about trying to get through each game."

Scott’s job is to put them in a better position to win more of those games. To this point, the front office has succeeded in putting the right personalities together, and that’s not something to take for granted.

"The clubhouse culture was really an important focus," Scott said. "So that remains the case. I’ve already had plenty of conversations with Luis about if we did certain things, how would they be received by the clubhouse. What we have in there has been pretty special and I want to keep that going."

Let that mutiny in Seattle be a lesson.

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