Thursday, July 26, 2012

Joey's Soapbox: Sandy Alderson Should Be Buy-Curious At The Trade Deadline

Hello, everyone.  This is Joey Beartran and although you can’t see it right now, I’m standing on my soapbox.  However, it might be time to get a new soapbox soon as this one is about to give way.  No, it’s not because I’ve been having too many of the new nacho selections at Citi Field (mmm, bacon cheeseburger nachos).  It’s because the Mets have been providing the fodder for me to rant on, necessitating multiple moments of soapbox climbing.

And why am I risking life and paw to climb on my battered soapbox today?  It’s simple, really.  Today I’ll be discussing the upcoming trade deadline and what Sandy Alderson should do as July 31 approaches.  But before I do that, I’d like to give you a little history lesson.

In 2004, the Mets came out of the All-Star Break in the middle of the playoff race, but then went into a sudden tailspin.  General manager Jim Duquette insisted the team was still in playoff contention, but instead of looking for help from within the organization, he acquired two veteran starting pitchers in Kris Benson and Victor Zambrano.  The key player from within the organization that was dealt away turned out to be Scott Kazmir, who went on to lead the Tampa Bay Rays to their first World Series appearance in 2008.  The other players involved were Ty Wigginton and Jose Bautista, who are both still active and quite productive at the major league level.  Needless to say, Benson and Zambrano did not lead the Mets to October glory in 2004.  In fact, they’re not leading anyone right now as both pitchers are out of baseball.

Let’s now fast forward to this season.  In 2012, the Mets went into the All-Star Break with a 46-40 record, half a game behind the Atlanta Braves for the second wild card spot.  Since returning from their midsummer hiatus, the current Mets have made the 2004 team look good in comparison, winning once in a dozen attempts.  Their 1-11 record is worse than the 2-9 record they posted two years ago, when they also came out of the break in the thick of the wild card race.  Then, it was a West Coast swing that put the kibosh on their postseason aspirations.  This time, they didn’t even wait to go out west to start their annual whimper to the finish line.

Before entering this seemingly fatal stretch of games, current general manager Sandy Alderson insisted the Mets were going to be buyers at the trade deadline.  But much has changed over the past two weeks.  Should the Mets pull a Duquette and be buyers before July 31 or should they sell off whatever valuable pieces they have, essentially raising the white flag on the 2012 season?  I have the perfect solution for our GM, who has been quite mum on the topic since the All-Star Break.

Sandy Alderson should just come out already and announce that he is buy-curious.

Don't let the gruff exterior fool you.  Beneath that scowl is one buy-curious general manager.

It’s no secret that Alderson has been talking to some potential partners as the deadline approaches.  These partners might have what Sandy is looking for, while others are probably asking for Sandy to give up too much in return.  Some of these other partners might also be hanging on the playoff fence, making them buy-curious as well.  No one’s telling Sandy to meet up with these fellow buy-curious general managers, but perhaps they have something to offer that the Mets could use to assist them in the future, without having to give up the farm.

The Mets are not the Miami Marlins, who this year basically jumped up and down on the couch to announce they were going to be more than just buy-curious.  They just came out and proclaimed loud and proud that they were buy, buy, buy.  Unfortunately, everyone doesn’t love the Marlins anymore and it’s more like bye, bye, bye these days in South Beach, with the Marlins selling off everything but their autographed Rue McClanahan poster.  (But I’m still watching eBay daily hoping they decide to list it.)

Sandy Alderson has done a good job putting this Mets team together with the chips he’s been given.  The present might be full of dark clouds, but the future is looking bright.  Matt Harvey will not become this trade deadline’s Scott Kazmir.  Instead of packing his bags to head for another organization, Harvey is packing his bags for Arizona, where he will be making his major league debut tonight against the Diamondbacks.  The only names being tossed around at this year’s trade deadline are Scott Hairston and Tim Byrdak, neither of whom have the potential to become this year’s Ty Wigginton and Jose Bautista.

The Mets are seven games behind the Braves for the final wild card spot.  They were closer to the wild card leader in 2004 when Duquette became Trader Jim.  They’re still close enough that they don’t have to follow the example learned by those who attend the Miami Marlins School of Business.  But they’re not close enough where they have to trade off their future to acquire a player who may or may not get them over the top in the present.

For now, being buy-curious might be the safe way for Sandy Alderson to operate.  There’s no shame in making it public.  And he’s surely not the only buy-curious general manager out there.  In fact, if a good trade that will help the Mets in 2013 and beyond pops up, don’t be surprised if Sandy’s trade partner is also buy-curious.  That’s how Frank Cashen operated in the ‘80s (think Neil Allen and friends for Keith Hernandez, Lee Mazzilli for Ron Darling and Walt Terrell (who was traded for Howard Johnson), or Ed Hearn, Rick Anderson and Mauro Gozzo for David Cone), and he was the most buy-curious general manager of them all.

So Sandy, if you’re reading this, you’ve done a fine job so far.  Don’t mess things up by doing something the Mets might regret.  Be buy-curious if you feel it’s best for you and the team’s future.  Just don’t force things to happen.  It didn’t work for Dan Duquette and it didn’t work for those fried fish in Florida.  Let’s make it work this time around, okay?

Now let me get off this soapbox before it collapses faster than the Phillies’ NL East dynasty.  I should probably be a little buy-curious myself about a new soapbox before the Mets give me another reason to hop back onto it.

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