The first 91 games of the New York Mets’ season was a prologue to future chapters that will be authored by Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins.
Those chapters began to be written late Tuesday night when closer Francisco Rodriguez and cash was traded to Milwaukee for two players to be named later. Rodriguez has a $17.5 million option on his contract for 2012 if he finishes 55 games this season. It seems unlikely that he will reach that mark as the Milwaukee has John Axford closing. Axford is 2-2 with 23 saves in 25 opportunities and a 2.83 ERA. Rodriguez was 2-2 with 23 saves and 3.16 ERA in 42.2 innings for the Mets.
“We thank Frankie for his contributions to the Mets and wish him well with the Brewers. This trade allows us to develop and more fully utilize other members of our 2011 bullpen and offers some payroll relief as well,” Alderson said in a statement.
The Mets begin a seven game homestand Friday in which a fuller image of what may come to be. The Mets enter the second half with a 46-45 mark and will host Philadelphia this weekend, Florida in a makeup game Monday night before welcoming St. Louis for three games beginning Tuesday.
The seven games in seven days could have a playoff feel as the Mets are technically in the middle of the National League playoff race. But while the on-field games are important, what will be more significant is the course of action established by organizational decision makers as it has long been accepted as fact that this edition would be broken up as Alderson and his lieutenants rebuild a lacking farm system. With Rodriguez traded, the next long-rumored candidate to leave is free agent to be right fielder Carlos Beltran.
Beltran and injured shortstop Jose Reyes traveled with the San Francisco Giants contingent to Phoenix for the All-Star Game following Sunday’s 4-2 first half finale loss at AT&T Park. Reyes was voted as the National League’s starting shortstop but due to a strained hamstring, he will be replaced in the lineup by Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki. Beltran was named the NL’s designated hitter and went 1-for-2 and scored a run.
The flight prompted speculation that Giants and National League manager Bruce Bochy used the flight to sell Beltran (.285, 13 home runs, 58 RBI, 52 runs scored) on the reigning World Series Champions.
“I told him what a great year he was having,” Bochy told reporters Monday. “You’re not getting me for tampering.”
Beltran acknowledged during his press conference Monday that he had spoken with Mets management regarding his future. ?
“I am willing to listen if they want to trade me,” Beltran said before mentioning the Mets’ improved play. “All I want is a team that has a chance to go to the playoffs.”
Beltran could fetch a decent return from a playoff contender—along with San Francisco, there has been speculation that the Yankees and Boston are interested in the switch hitter—and it certainly feels like he is in the final days of his tenure with the Mets. The multi-million dollar question is whether Alderson is able to re-sign free agent to be Reyes.
Talent has never been the addendum when Reyes is discussed and it certainly hasn’t been this year as he is having a MVP-caliber season. Reyes is hitting .354 with 65 runs scored, 30 stolen bases and 32 RBI from the top of the order while challenging the single-season record for triples. He has 15 this season. Chief Wilson of the Pirates hit 36 in 1912.
With every base hit, Reyes increases the foolishness of Fred Wilpon’s now-infamous slights in New Yorker Magazine. But with DL five stints in his career, the question that has been debated for months is whether it is wise or questionable for the cash strapped franchise to sign Reyes to a deal equivalent to the one Carl Crawford agreed to with Boston.
Whatever the organizational decisions are, what the 2011 Mets have given the public is a reason to watch and believe in the future a franchise that had become a punchline the last two years. Much of the credit is due to a competitive mindset credited to Collins.
The Mets have won 41 of 73 games after starting the season 5-13. Still, the unassailable truth is that the Mets start the second half 11 games back of division leading Philadelphia and trail Wild Card leading Atlanta by 7 ½ games. Furthermore, the 1995 Rockies, 2005 Astros and 2006 Dodgers were the only National League teams to earn the Wild Card with fewer than 90 wins. In the 16-year history of the Wild Card, the teams have earned the fourth playoff slot have averaged 90 wins. The Mets would need to go 44-27 in the second half to reach the 90-win plateau.
Follow Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.