In a National League East that was supposed to be one of the deepest divisions in baseball, thereby making it a lock that the New York Mets would finish in the basement, it's the Amazins who have turned heads with their play this season. At this writing, the Mets are 37-32 and second in the division. Typically, relevance in New York means activity as the trade deadline, which is July 31, approaches. But that is not expected to be the case this year.
Whereas general manager Sandy Alderson jettisoned Carlos Beltran, whom the Mets were not going to retain this past offseason anyway, to the Giants for blue-chip pitching prospect Zach Wheeler days before last year's deadline, there will most likely be no moves of that magnitude -- as a buyer or seller -- in 2012.
It's not that the Mets are a finished product, flawless from their pitching staff to their bench. They're far from it. The difference now is that the front office is committed fully to youth and the rebuilding phase. Alderson and his staff will not make rash, short-sighted decisions just because the group is exceeding expectations. Therefore, even though the Mets will be in the market for improvements, they will not trade their top prospects, which include Wheeler, Matt Harvey, Jeurys Familia or Brandon Nimmo, to make a big splash.
Two Wild Card teams means more teams will believe they have a chance at the playoffs. It will make more teams buyers at the deadline, meaning the sellers will really be able to set the market. Especially in New York, trade deadlines of years past meant rumors galore and players swapped. Not for this group.
Even though every team competes to win, the Mets are still very much in an evaluation period, and the front office knows that. They have a young team; David Wright is the oldest everyday regular at 29. The Mets will stay the course for the most part and live with the status quo. If anything, they'll be buyers, but it will be under their own terms, for incremental additions that don't hamper the team's long-term focus.
Led by R.A. Dickey and Johan Santana, the rotation has been exceptional this season. Dillon Gee and Jonathon Niese are crucial parts to the puzzle -- young players with a future on this team. Chris Young also has stabilized the back end of the rotation. Still, Alderson could look to add a depth starter because this staff has some injury risk, but that price may be prove to be too steep.
With a collective 5.32 ERA and 1.52 WHIP, the bullpen has struggled mightily this season, so if anything Alderson could search for improvements here. The problem is every contender looks for relief help. The Mets won't overpay for a short-term fix, that's for sure, instead relying on call-ups like Jenrry Mejia from the minors to buoy their 'pen.
New York has scored the eighth-most runs (306) per game this season, so offense hasn't been its problem. There's a logjam in the outfield, and with the team apt to see what it has from its youngsters, someone like veteran Andres Torres could be moved. But a .211/.325/.313 line shows he's struggling, and there's always something that can be said for a veteran presence in a young clubhouse. Again, the Mets are likely to rely on their own in-house options in this regard -- the return to health of shortstop Ruben Tejada being a key.
Whereas Alderson and the front office will be guarded about which tweaks they make to bolster the squad, it's also hard to imagine them being sellers. The organization has said it would like to keep David Wright long-term, so he won't be moved. They would have loved to part ways with Jason Bay, but the money he's owed compared to his production makes no team intrigued -- plus, he's sidelined with a concussion for what could end up being the rest of the season.
The organization's reliance on youth, their unexpected success to this point and the team's financial situation create the foundation for a trading deadline unlike any in recent years. These factors mean it could be very quiet come July 31, but it'll still be interesting to see which names the Mets are connected to as the deadline looms.