The New York Mets are keeping their fans and the baseball world in limbo after Sunday’s blockbuster acquisition of Toronto Blue Jays ace Marcus Stroman.
Following a sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates and a 10-5 start to their second half, the Mets are six games out of a National League Wild Card spot. Having already overtaken four teams in the standings since Jul. 12, an easier remaining schedule offers the possibility of the owning Wilpon family to push off rebuilding a little while longer.
The problem is no one other than general manager Brodie Van Wagenen and the Wilpons know what the plan is moving forward.
Do they want to make a playoff push in 2019?
While they’ve made plenty of progress in the standings, there are seven teams above the Mets from the top of the Wild Card table.
That’s an awful lot to overcome in two months, but crazier things have happened in baseball.
If they are going for it this season, expect the Mets to hold on to Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler past Jul. 31. Both right-handers have been constants on the trade market this summer as contenders continue to swirl around the Mets’ rotation.
Wheeler was initially the favorite to get dealt this summer with unrestricted free agency awaiting this winter. However, he’s taken a backseat to Thor recently.
Syndergaard has been heavily linked with the San Diego Padres, a franchise deep with young talent. Center fielder Manuel Margot has reportedly caught the eye of the Mets but a package would have to include much more than just him. The 24-year-old is slashing .246/.319/.385, not exactly an overwhelming return for a pitcher of Syndergaard’s caliber.
Rather than trade either arm, the Mets could have a sterling rotation of Jacob deGrom, Stroman, Syndergaard, Wheeler, and Steven Matz. That would make Jason Vargas expendable either for a move to the bullpen or a trade.
If the Mets are trying to position themselves for 2020 and beyond, dealing Syndergaard or Wheeler becomes more likely.
Here’s the thing: The Mets might have just stumbled upon the first piece of their contending puzzle.
If the Mets extend Wheeler through the 2020 season, at least, the rotation will be at a postseason level. There’s no denying that.
It would allow Van Wagenen and the Wilpons to go out and accrue upgrades on the free-agent market this winter.
Expect starting third baseman Todd Frazier to walk in free agency, opening the door for the Mets go after the likes of Anthony Rendon or Mike Moustakas.
Both of those bats, who are still in their respective primes, provide big-time boosts to the Mets’ offense. Rendon is having a career year at 29 with a .317 batting average and 22 home runs while Moustakas has kept his power numbers surging with 26 home runs in 98 games.
Backing up the hot corner would be JD Davis, who is emerging into a valuable bat since being acquired from the Houston Astros. In 88 games this season, he is slashing .301/.365/.485 with 10 home runs.
In a perfect world, the Mets would be able to find a way to move on from Robinson Cano, allowing Jeff McNeil to start at his natural position at second base.
Assuming Yoenis Cespedes returns to health and form next year, a big bopper to pair with Pete Alonso would take at-bats away from McNeil, who has received plenty of playing time in the outfield. It makes finding a permanent home for McNeil an imperative move for Mets management.
Use the rest of the offseason to address the bullpen and the Mets might be on to something in the NL East next year.
But it all is going to start with this menacing-looking rotation, which for now, remains intact.