Today is July 31, the day circled on baseball calendars as the non-waiver trade deadline. Many teams took advantage of the situation. Some sold off their players to add young pieces to a puzzle not meant to be put together until next year at the earliest. Others added talent, hoping that their new acquisitions can push them, as they say in the baseball vernacular, over the top.
After a surprisingly good start, the Mets thought they would be one of the latter teams, buying spare parts in order to put together a machine that would still be running in October. But then they lost 13 of their first 15 games after the All-Star Break, going from six games over .500 and half a game out of the second wild card spot to five games below mediocrity and 8½ lengths behind the final playoff horse.
The question then became, “will Sandy Alderson still be a buyer come July 31 or will he be a seller?” It turns out he was neither, as the clock struck four without any changes being made to the Mets.
The Marlins and the Phillies both became poster children for underachievement, spending the majority of the season at the bottom of the National League East, the chunk of real estate that was supposed to be inhabited by the Mets in 2012. As a result, both teams pretty much had to become sellers at the trade deadline, with Miami dealing away half of their team and the Phillies air-mailing Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence to the Dodgers and Giants, respectively.
The Mets, on the other hand, did not fold. Nor did they go for broke. Instead, they decided to step away from the table and watch the game in front of them unfold. And that’s not such a bad thing.
In 2012, the Mets didn’t have any players on the roster they had to get rid of. Last year, Francisco Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran had to be dealt. The former could not stay with the team for fear that has bazillion dollar option would kick in and the latter was not going to be re-signed at season’s end, meaning he would walk away for basically nothing. By July 31, 2011, the Mets had rid themselves of the potential payroll-busting Rodriguez by trading him to the Milwaukee Brewers. They also fleeced the Giants, acquiring their top pitching prospect in Zack Wheeler for Carlos Beltran, who ended up being a two-month rental. This year, things are different.
The Mets’ payroll is now under $100 million. They do not have any players about to reach an eight-figure vesting option. They also do not have any high-priced potential free agents (a la Beltran) that they have to trade for prospects. Instead, all they have are the relatively low-salaried Scott Hairston and Tim Byrdak as potential trade-bait. Both veteran players could have potentially helped other teams, but the Mets weren’t going to get a top prospect for either of them and neither player was breaking the bank anyway, so there was no urgency to move them. Teams inquired, but the Mets said “thanks, but no thanks.”
Let other fringe contenders sell off their future in an attempt to defy the odds and make the playoffs. The Mets will be just fine as they are. The offseason will be the time for Sandy Alderson to carefully move pieces into place, not July 31. The team will be better off in the future by not making unnecessary moves in the present.