As the trade deadline approaches, anything is possible for the Mets
The message couldn’t have been clearer on Tuesday night at Citi Field if the Delta Shuttle towed a banner that read, “REDEEM FOR A STARTING PITCHER ASAP!”
Instead, two-time DFA-based Jerad Eichoff had to be sacrificed to the Braves, who beat him for three homers and 10 points before being thankfully pulled out with a fourth inning takedown of the Mets’ 12-5 loss. .
“It’s embarrassing,” said Eichoff, who (again) signed a new contract late Monday night. “It’s frustrating.”
Consider that bottom for the Mets, who were so desperate to pitch during that five-game (four-day) streak that they basically shot Eichoff, lobed him towards the mound, and ducked out. Now the front office has work to do before Friday’s trade deadline, even with healthier arms on the horizon.
Strengthening the rotation is obvious. The same goes for the lifter pen, where there is always a seat for another stop lifter.
But among the ranks of positional players? It gets a little trickier when it comes to upgrades, especially for a first-place team that has clearly discovered a winning mojo in the first four months – with an offense that perhaps comes close to its potential.
Now that Max Scherzer is banned for Flushing, a source said on Tuesday he was not interested in playing for the Mets – Scherzer has the power to veto any potential deal – which could pivot them towards other strategies, such as as a small starting pitcher and another big stick.
One of the more obvious places seems to be the shortstop, as Francisco Lindor (oblique strain) is likely out until mid-August and All-Stars like Trevor Story and Javy Baez are potentially around the corner. Both are rentals, so it’s a handy plug-in for a few weeks, with the option to drag either base or the other when Lindor returns.
But are the Mets really desperate for such a decision? Since Lindor landed on IL on July 17, they have led the majors on average at batting (0.291), OPS (0.873) and home runs (19) heading into Tuesday night’s game against the Braves. Although they only scored one point to split Monday’s doubles schedule, the Mets’ 51 points in that same span were only surpassed by the Tigers (59).
It’s a small sample size, but are these sparks considered the start of an emerging trend for the next couple of months? The Mets are making do with the Jonathan Villar / Luis Guillorme combo to fill Lindor’s vacancy, but the two are meant to be super-subs, not semi-regular shortstops.
When I asked Luis Rojas ahead of Monday’s game if the Mets had discussed outside help for Lindor’s hole, the manager squirmed a bit on the Zoom call, sitting there with information that he couldn’t share. But Rojas admitted that interim general manager Zack Scott made him bounce business scenarios, and it’s reasonable to believe the shortstop popped up in that conversation. Probably third base too, with Kris Bryant and Josh Donaldson there.
“Our front office is diligent,” Rojas said. “They think about what they want to do to make this team even better, and I say go ahead and do it. We’ll play with these cards. But the cards we have, we love them, and these guys playing short, they can help us win games. “
Scott gave the impression on Monday that he was not ruling anything out. The Mets have held onto the top spot this season longer than any majors team – despite a dizzying injury toll – but they’ll need help getting the job done. The pitch is at the top of the list. It’s just a matter of how far Scott & Co. wants to go from an offensive standpoint.
“I expect Francisco to come back and be our shortstop,” Scott said. “In the meantime, I think we have some decent options to help us win in the short term, but [are] open minded if there are other options that might also have the versatility to help us when Francisco returns. These are things we would explore as well. “
It just depends on the progress of the talks, on a number of fronts, with the countdown to Friday’s deadline. Truth be told, one of the Mets’ biggest weaknesses has been in right field, where Michael Conforto’s collapse inexplicably resulted in the entire roster. Most players would rake in the middle of their walking year, tweaking their stats for free will, but Conforto hit .203 with six homers and a .670 OPS heading into Tuesday night’s game.
The Mets have given no indication that they are ready to leave Conforto at this point, but he is a free agent and his place has become one of the most unproductive in the lineup. This is just one example of why the front office has tough conversations at this time of year, with loyalties tested and relationships in jeopardy. If the Mets press the positional player help button, some of those currently unemployed will be out of work – or leave Flushing altogether.
“Zack has been open with me about some potential things that could happen,” Rojas said. “But nothing quite too serious yet. I just had a few names thrown in there.”
Still, the Mets could have some of these names in their clubhouse very soon.