Sure, the New York Mets are one hot streak away from forcing their way into the National League Wild Card conversation. But let’s be honest: Has there been any indication that this team can win consistently enough?
No, there hasn’t.
The problem is that the Mets are stuck in this sort of purgatory near the MLB trade deadline.
They have a centerpiece of players to build a contending team around.
Jacob deGrom is one of the best pitchers in baseball, Pete Alonso looks to be the next great power hitter of the game, and Jeff McNeil provides a throwback brand of the game that stresses high average rather than wall bangers.
Those are the untouchables.
The players that are on the trading block are either too old, too expensive or struggling too much to deal outside of impending free-agent starter Zack Wheeler.
There seems to be a hesitancy to trade Noah Syndergaard. An understandable notion considering the fire-balling right-hander’s ceiling has still yet to be reached.
General manager Brodie Van Wagenen, who has whiffed plenty of times already in his first year with the Mets, is correctly holding out for a king’s ransom.
The same goes for closer Edwin Diaz, who has experienced his fair share of struggles since coming over from the Seattle Mariners.
Those three arms would provide the Mets with an opportunity to accrue future assets or re-stock a thinner farm system. That would at least provide the organization with some direction moving forward.
Once again, though, there’s a snag.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post raised the point that owner Fred Wilpon — the main issue of the Mets’ problems —wants no part of a rebuild.
“The constant in the losing is ownership, and I would suggest this to the Wilpons: You might go faster if you went slow. Fred Wilpon, in particular, has not had the stomach for a total teardown, probably because he is 82 and winning sooner than later is imperative to him. But that has led to ownership delusion that a strong structure can be built on sand.”
If this is the case and the Mets are in a “win-now” mode, then the checkbook would have to be opened. That’s provided a source of contention between organization and fan base.
If we admit that the 2019 season is lost, how can the Mets get to that tangible contending mode in 2020?
Spend some money and play hardball near the trade deadline.
If the Mets really want to trade Edwin Diaz before the deadline, try to pull off what the Mariners did to them earlier over the winter and try to connect Robinson Cano in the deal. You won’t get much back, but you open up the chance to return McNeil to his natural position.
If no one bites, you still have a top-end closer — albeit a struggling one.
Then wait until the offseason to make your moves.
Cut ties with Jed Lowrie, who has yet to make an appearance this season, and sign a real third baseman. Mike Moustakas and Anthony Rendon are both free agents this winter and would provide big bats in their prime compared to a 35-year-old Lowrie.
At 29, Rendon is slashing .315/.398/.609 with 21 home runs and 70 RBI with the Washington Nationals this season. Moustakas, who is a year older, has 26 round-trippers with 60 RBI with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Offensively, that is all the Mets should focus on looking at. Yoenis Cespedes should return in 2020 to add a big bat to the middle of the Mets’ order, suddenly making the lineup much more formidable.
In a perfect world, if the Mets could unload Cano as well, here is what their lineup could look like if Van Wagenen can also make a big free-agent splash at third base:
Joe Pantorno’s ideal 2020 Mets lineup
1. Jeff McNeil -2B
2. Brandon Nimmo – RF
3. Yoenis Cespedes- LF
4. Pete Alonso- 1B
5. Anthony Rendon- 3B
6. Michael Conforto- CF
7. Wilson Ramos- C
8. Amed Rosario- SS
That’s a lineup that could immediately compete for an NL East crown, especially with Dominic Smith and JD Davis as the first two bats off the bench.
Van Wagenen would then have to spend the rest of the offseason upgrading the bullpen, whether that’s in the form of Will Smith, Brandon Kintzler, or Liam Hendriks.