The Mets launched themselves into the center of baseball’s trade discourse by unexpectedly picking up Marcus Stroman on Sunday. They extended their stay there by shipping out Jason Vargas on Monday. And it’s still hard to say just what they’re trying to do.
It’s not that these deals are inherently perplexing on their own. They aren’t! In a vacuum, each of these made sense, or something like it. With Stroman, the team got a quality pitcher under contract for another full season without having to give up any premium prospects. Sure, it seems like a transaction more befitting a true contender rather than a club six-and-a-half games back in a crowded wild-card race, but for this relatively low price, it works, and it positions the club well for next year. And with Vargas, the team saved a little cash ($2 million buyout to decline his option for 2020) and picked up a minor leaguer in exchange for a pitcher whom they likely would have watched walk, anyway, who never had much chance of netting a solid return. So, yes, evaluated individually, in a vacuum—each of these is just fine. But… evaluated in tandem, take-a-pitcher-leave-a-pitcher, in the real-world context of rumors about trading Noah Syndergaard or Zack Wheeler, for a team whose chances of contention next year do not currently seem much better than this year, with a freshman general manager who is already in a rather perilous spot, in a franchise so frequently mired in multi-layered dysfunction that it’s become synonymous with its very name? Uh, yeah, less fine. It doesn’t make so much sense for the Mets—for where they are (right now) or for who they are (always).
It’s hard to say just where the team is going. (Buying? Selling? Neither?) It’s hard to say where it’s trying to go. But it has a few rumored options on the table. So here they are: A New York Mets’ Choose Your Own Adventure, just for the 2019 trade deadline.
Rumors on the Mets’ interest in trading Syndergaard have persisted for a while now. (The Padres have been repeatedlymentioned as a potential partner.) The Mets, of course, have more or less set the market for starting pitching this month… but they haven’t anchored it particularly high, and this would likely bite them a bit here.
Where Would This Take Them? Likely out of serious contention for now. Almost certainly with a stronger farm system (which, looking ahead, it could definitely use). And probably with more than a few questions about why on earth they’d preface a move like this with an addition like Stroman.
Trade Edwin Diaz
Diaz, to put it lightly, has not been what the team had hoped he’d be. But the reliever might still be able to net a solid return in a trade—there are numbers that indicate he’s been better than he’s seemed, and besides, he’s been used in such a strictly traditional closer’s role with the Mets that it makes sense to consider another team might see notable value in deploying him a bit differently.
Where Would This Take Them? Probably toward a better farm system. And, for now, toward a ‘pen that’s even more liable to blow whatever work is done by this strong rotation.
Turn Around And Flip Stroman
Why would they do this? Hard to say. (And they probably won’t, though it has been floated, in the wake of a different set of flip-related rumors that circulated earlier about Stroman and the Mets.) But… if they do, it seems hard to imagine that they’ll be able to bring back too much, given that they themselves just set a moderately low-ish bar for a return here.
Where Would This Take Them? Into an M.C. Escher print.
Where Would This Take Them? Somewhere nice, if hard to reach—with decent hopes of contention for 2020, when they could potentially have a full season of their current rotation.
Just Go For It
If the Mets just stand pat here… their rotation could be great. They’re not in a terrible spot! They’re not in a great spot, but they’re not in a terrible one. Crazier playoff runs have been made. So maybe they just let it ride for now?
Where Would This Take Them? Probably not to the postseason. But maybe, and there’s something fun in just being able to sit back and watch the rest unfold. They’ve already gotten weird here. Maybe they don’t have to get any weirder, or, crucially, any worse.
Attempt To Package Several Of The Above Options Into A Single Semi-Disastrous Deal, Likely Tied Together With A Flubbed Public-Relations Strategy
Where Would This Take Them? Nowhere. After all, this is where they already are.