There is an eagerness for the New York Mets to do something, anything, to bolster their offense as the trade deadline approaches.
But let me be the contrarian voice here and say the Mets would be best served doing nothing, or very little.
This is a conclusion based in reasoning and logic, and though it might not be what a fan wants to hear, it’s likely for the best.
As I write this, Fangraphs.com projects the Mets' playoff odds at just under 20 percent. They are three games behind both the Nationals for the NL East lead and the Cubs for the wild card, but four games behind each in the loss column.
So though it might seem like the Mets are in the hunt, when your odds are that low, you’re not a two-month rental away from going to the postseason.
The Mets don’t need one bat. They need multiple bats.
And they need bats that will give them a reasonable chance to be better than the Nationals or Cubs. If those two teams play at basically the same pace they're playing now, they'll finish with 89 wins. That means the Mets would have to go 45-31 just to tie them. The Cubs and Nationals are also two teams whose ownership seems more willing to commit the financial resources necessary to build a playoff team than the Mets' ownership does.
And the Mets need those multiple bats, without giving up any of their coveted arms, ones that give them a chance to compete deep into September.
The Mets could certainly take a chance and bring up Michael Conforto or Brandon Nimmo, but their ZiPS major league equivalencies aren’t going to be difference-maker caliber. Conforto projects to be a .250s hitter at the moment. Nimmo projects in the .230s.
Chances are, if they come up, they would struggle like No. 1 prospect Byron Buxton has in his first 11 games for the Twins (.189 batting average, 15 strikeouts in 37 at-bats). The potential benefit is not worth the risk of the mental damage done by failure at the big-league level.
I’ve spoken often about the subject of failure with the former players who work on Baseball Tonight. They’ve explained how it’s good for someone like Conforto to go through the ups and downs of a season or half-season in Double-A.
Kris Bryant got 181 games of minor-league seasoning and he’s a higher-regarded prospect than Conforto, whose current ledger totals 123 minor-league games.
With those call-ups likely a non-option, let’s look at other possibilities for how the Mets can solve their offensive woes.
By my calculations, for the Mets to have a chance to be good enough to beat the Nationals or Cubs, they need the following:
A healthy and productive David Wright
A healthy and productive Travis d'Arnaud
A healthy and productive Jerry Blevins
Another bullpen arm that can fill in when (fill in the blank) needs rest because of overuse.
So what exactly are you trading to get Messrs. Upton and Zobrist?
The other thing to keep in mind is that there is no guarantee that Wright or d'Arnaud is going to a) be productive and b) stay healthy.
The biggest indicator when it comes to predicting future health is past health, and in the case of both players, recent returns aren’t good.
So even if you made moves to get players the caliber of Zobrist and Upton, you’re not working from any sort of area of confidence.
Now I understand that making no moves would be extremely demoralizing for the players on the current roster, and that’s a perfectly reasonable point. So I’m not saying don’t buy, I’m just saying don’t buy too much.
But the key is not to do anything that could damage the long-term plan. As long as Sandy Alderson is making the decisions, they shouldn’t have anything to worry about.
Fans are going to hate this, but this really is the time to say 'Next year is going to be the year.' The Mets will have $25 million in salaries coming off the books with free agency for Colon, Daniel Murphy, Bobby Parnell and Blevins.
They will lose a chunk of that to salary increases for Michael Cuddyer (yes, his deal was structured to pay him $12.5 million in Year 2), Juan Lagares and Niese and arbitration-eligible players like Lucas Duda and Harvey, but the point is this: They’ll have money to fix the offense. And they’ll have Conforto, Nimmo and Dilson Herrera in position to help the big club when they’re ready, as opposed to when they’re needed.
Perhaps the Wilpons could even ask Wright to defer some of his front-loaded contract (he’ll make $20 million next year) to the end of the deal, which would give them a little more ammunition to make improvements.
So yes, the Mets should feel really good about their 4-2 West Coast trip, the way that deGrom is looking like a Cy Young candidate and Matz and Syndergaard seem to be getting better with each turn.
But this is about looking at the big picture. And the big picture puts the Mets' playoff odds at 20 percent. They could still make the postseason as currently composed, particularly if Wright and d'Arnaud return and make an impact. But the small gains that could come from making a big trade today will be dealt with as ramifications when you look at the Mets’ future the day after the season ends.