It is an old baseball saying that you can begin to evaluate a team around Memorial Day. You can begin to get a feel for what kind of summer it will be for a team. It is not quite Memorial Day…but boy does this Mets team look like its in for a long summer. The current state of the Mets is a mess….and that is putting it nicely with a big dash of sugar coating right on top. The future of the ball club may be even more confusing, and perhaps just as ugly. After the Mets roaring 11-1 start to the season it was fully expected that the team would come back down to earth at some point. It just wasn’t expected to be a crash back to earth that would resemble the meteor in the film “Armageddon”. The team has shown massive holes in both its starting lineup and in the rotation. Those holes may prove to be too big to fix on the fly. Beyond Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom and a great first 6 weeks for second basemen Asdrubal Cabrera, there are a lot of reasons to be concerned for how this 2018 season will pan out in Flushing. The question that I believe should be asked is a larger one however. What is the future of the franchise? Take a moment….think about it….you may not like the conclusion you have come to. That’s about where I am right now.
If you look at the moves that were made in this previous off-season it would suggest that the Mets hierarchy believed that this team could contend this season. GM Sandy Alderson went out and reunited with outfielder Jay Bruce on a 3 year deal worth $39 million. He brought in relief pitcher Anthony Swarzak who has appeared in 2 games for the club before going down with an oblique injury that has just had him moved to the 60 day DL. Alderson brought in veteran third basemen Todd Frazier on a 2 year $17 million deal and inked Adrian Gonzalez to a 1 year contract worth the MLB minimum salary. Perhaps the move that has failed the most to this point has been the late signing of Jason Vargas. A former All-Star with the Royals, Vargas seemed to be a good move for the Mets at the time. Many thought Vargas would provide depth to a rotation that coming into the 2018 season had a lot of question marks to say the least. Vargas would also be reuniting with his pitching coach with the Royals, Dave Eiland. Things have not worked out in the slightest to this point for Vargas who has struggled to get any outs at all posting a near 14 ERA through his first 3 starts. Looking at the 2018 off-season as a whole the moves that were made are not moves that suggest a rebuild is anywhere on the horizon. Circumstances change however and that is exactly what we may be witnessing at Citi Field.
Aside from the struggles of Vargas, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler have also struggled for the majority of their respective 2018 campaigns to this point. Matt Harvey has been traded to the Cincinnati Reds for catcher Devin Mesoraco, who looks like Johnny Bench compared to Jose Lobaton and Tomas Nido who were handling the catching duties. It has been a huge disappointment for a rotation who just a few summers back were heralded the “Five aces”. Right now the rotation looks like 2 aces and a bunch of 5th, 6th and 7th starters. If the rotation were the only issue for the Mets they might be ok….average at best….but ok. Unfortunately the lineup has not panned out the way they would have hoped either. Yoenis Cespedes who is now on the DL with a hip issue spent most of the first 6 weeks striking out at an alarming rate. Jay Bruce and Michael Conforto may be seen on a milk carton soon as neither of them have produced much at all. Amed Rosario may one day become a good player in the big leagues but at this moment he looks like a free swinger who has little plate discipline and a hard time getting on base consistently. Todd Frazier was giving them what Todd Frazier is expected to give, a lower batting average, some power and a lot of great clubhouse leadership. Those qualities are good on a team that has proven, experienced, dangerous bats already ingrained in the lineup….Yes I am talking about the 2017 Yankees here. Frazier made a huge difference in a lineup that included Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorious. If Todd Frazier is being looked upon by the Mets to be a primary run producer when he comes off the DL…this 2018 campaign is doomed.
With all of these struggles taken into account the Mets now have more questions than answers. The first of those questions may be, “Who is going to answer those questions?” Is Sandy Alderson at 70 years of age in this for the long haul? Should ownership allow him to be the one who decides the future of the organization? In 2015 Sandy put on a clinic of how to make moves on the fly and it led the Mets to the NL East crown and NL Pennant. Outside of that it has been a mixed bag for Sandy. His drafts have not panned out the way he would have hoped which has led to a drought in major league ready prospects. As I sit here looking at all of these factors I am left with only one conclusion….The Mets may be on the verge of entering sell mode. In other words….a rebuild. 3 years ago the very thought of trading off Syndergaard and deGrom would have seemed like lunacy, it may still seem like lunacy to some. For a team that is starved of blue chip prospects however it is those two who are guaranteed to bring back the biggest haul.
Impacting the Mets decision on this matter may be their counterparts in the NL East. The Nationals who have owned the division for the past few seasons are about to have their superstar Bryce Harper hit the open market where it is expected that he will bring in perhaps the richest contract MLB has ever seen. Daniel Murphy will also be a free agent next season, as will starter Gio Gonzalez. Bryce Harper leaving the Nationals would all but close the book on this era of Nationals division dominance. The Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies both seem to be ahead of schedule in their recent rebuild attempts. Budding stars Ozzie Albies, Ronald Acuna Jr, Rhys Hoskins and Odubel Herrera look poised to take over the division for the next decade or so. The Marlins after new CEO Derek Jeter purged the roster this past off-season seem to be destined to wander the basement of the NL East for the next 4-5 years. So where does this leave the Mets? Well it leaves them with a lot of questions that need answering sooner rather than later. Sitting around stagnant could lead to watching the Braves and Phillies fight it out for the division the next decade while the Mets stand on the sidelines of irrelevancy. Also a factor that could impact the decision making is the free agent class that is going to take baseball by storm this coming off-season. The names that will become available are Harper, Machado, Kershaw, and Donaldson to name a few. That is just the tip of the iceberg of names that will be available. Given the Mets history lately of refusing to spend big money and commit to more than 4 years on a contract, those names may be out of play for the amazins. The organization as a whole, from ownership on down need to take a long hard look in the mirror and be very honest with themselves. Not making a decision is a huge decision. Remaining stagnant and hoping that everything falls into place and the stars align perfectly is part of the reason the Mets are in the position they are. Big decisions that will shape Mets baseball for a long time are coming. Is trading Syndergaard and deGrom approaching a lot faster than we all think? Its certainly a question I didn’t expect to be asking myself….Let alone asking it before Memorial Day 2018.
Article Written by Rich Warnock
Photo Above Courtesy of New York Times