Posted by Mack Ade at 10:00 AM
As Spring Training drew to a close and Opening Day approached this year, optimism abounded among Mets fans.
The Amazins were eight starters deep – at least four of whom were going to challenge for the Cy Young Award – and they had a bullpen that was only going to be asked to work roughly as often as the Maytag Repairman. They had a lineup that looked like a modern-day Murderer’s Row, with a deep bench and at least two Rookie of the Year Candidates waiting in the Sin City wings.
And then, the 2017 season actually began. Games were no longer being played on paper, but on oddly shaped fields of grass and dirt in heavily populated American cities. Highly-compensated human beings in varying patterns of orange and blue ran and jumped … and began pulling hamstrings, hyper-extending elbows and developing knee infections.
In other words, reality set in.
In the past 7 to 10 days, there have been dozens of articles about what’s wrong with the Mets, how to fix the Mets, and who should be blamed for what’s wrong with the Mets. As far as I can tell, there are really only two things wrong with the Mets – and only one of them was actually in someone’s control.
There’s not much that anyone can do about the most of the injuries that have befallen Met players this season. You may be skeptical of the training and medical staff, but no one could have prevented Lucas Duda’s arm from bending the wrong way or Travis d’Arnaud smacking his hand on Aaron Altherr’s bat. The Mets aren’t a particularly old team – most of the regulars are in the sweet spot of the aging curve between 27 and 32 – and so you can’t even fault the general manager for investing too heavily in veterans.
Now, as for the more controllable problem, I can present it in the form of a math equation:
Four outfielders + three infielders = one not so easily fixable problem.
Sure, it seems easy enough. Trade an outfielder for an infielder, preferably one who can hit at the top of the order, and you have a perfectly balanced lineup. Now, put on your general manager’s hat, and answer these two questions:
· Which outfielder are you trading?
· What infielder can you get for that outfielder?
You’re not trading Yoenis Cespedes, of course. (If you were, please stop reading this article right now and think about a different interest to pursue.) That leaves you with Michael Conforto, Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce as trade options.
Are you trading Conforto? You can certainly get the most value in return for him. He is also having the best season out of the three outfielders so far and as the potential to become one of the better hitters in the National League. Granderson and Bruce are likely free agents that won’t be returning in 2018, so you better get the right package in return if you trade him.
Are you trading Bruce? Maybe, but he’s known for being a streaky hitter and so the hot start won’t be as impressive as you’d think to other general managers. The previous off-season also made it clear that $13 million corner outfielders are NOT in demand, and certainly not for a top-of-the-order infielder of any type of value to a contending team.
Are you trading Granderson? No, you aren’t. He has all the same problems as Bruce, but with an additional six years of wear and tear. And no, he may play center field in Queens, but he won’t play that position anywhere else in the league.
So maybe you’ve sufficiently weighed the pros and cons of each and selected the outfielder you’re going to trade. Now, you have to scour the league and tell me what infielder you are going to get in return, one that fits the description we’ve described and can appropriately relegate Jose Reyes to a reserve role. While you do that, I will be over here living my life and waiting for you to reach the same conclusion I have …
That player is not available.
He might be available in July, when the cost will be prospects and will not be Conforto, Bruce or Granderson. But he will not be available before then, and that’s a reality that has nothing to do with your personal opinion of Sandy Alderson’s acumen as a GM.
It’s not easy being patient right now, but there is no realistic alternative. This is the team we have to root for. It is not perfect, and it may not be perfect until the trade deadline, but it is good enough to stay in contention until that point in time comes