If teams performed to their preseason expectations, then the New York Mets would have been a non-factor at Major League Baseball's July 31 trade deadline, resigned to doing nothing or parting with a few veterans in order to receive some low-range prospects. But at July 7, the story is different, as the Mets are 46-39, four-and-a-half games out of the National League East and tied for a Wild Card spot.
From the surface, that makes general manager Sandy Alderson's job a difficult one: he's in the midst of a modest rebuild, his team has turned heads with its play and therefore is in the thick of the race. But it won't be a difficult deadline for Alderson, who won't part with youth or destroy the foundation and will undoubtedly target incremental upgrades.
ESPN's resident general manager Jim Bowden recently penned a column discussing the 10 players most likely to be traded by July 31. His list includes Zack Greinke, SP; Shane Victorino, CF; Ryan Dempster SP; Wandy Rodriguez, SP; Carlos Quentin, OF; Francisco Liriano, SP; Huston Street, RP; Brett Myers, RP; and Marco Scutaro, 2B.
It's plainly obvious, but it must be said, first: every player has a price. The Mets would be interested in most of these players if they could move marginal pieces. But that's not the case, especially in a league where there's more teams in contention because of the two Wild Cards. The market will be pricey.
Every team wants to add an ace and you can never have enough pitching. Greinke fits that profile, but Alderson will not be moving the team's top prospects, which include Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey, Jeurys Familia or Brandon Nimmo. Garza (to an extent) Dempster and Liriano all are a few notches below Greinke's tier. That being said, the Mets' rotation has been exceptional, ranking third in the majors with a 3.52 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. It's a team strength, but Alderson has to be wary of injury risks, especially to pitchers like Johan Santana and Chris Young. The team could always use more rotation pieces, but it's likely the GM targets depth, especially with the outside the top five so weak, instead of these caliber of players.
The Mets are vulnerable against left-handed pitchers. They sorely need another right-handed bat, and if it's addressed that's likely to come in the outfield. Despite a .245/.311/.454 line, Victorino would be a huge upgrade in centerfield: Kirk Nieuwenhuis can't hit lefties and is not near the defensive player and Andres Torres hasn't proven durable. The Philles won't be parting with Victorino cheaply, though, and the price will likely be higher to division opponents. Quentin is a power bat that Mets could use, but there's a lot of teams that could use him in left field. Even Bowden admits a team will have to "overpay with prospects to get him." That won't be the Mets.
Where New York fits in is the relief market. The front office will be very active in seeking help; the fact the Mets have been so successful with a league-worst bullpen that has a 5.01 ERA and 1.50 WHIP (28th in the league) is amazing. Relievers were pretty much the only position added in the offseason, and the additions have pretty much been busts. Now's the chance to rectify those problems. Bowdown calls the Mets "frontrunners" for Street, the Padres closer. Street had an early disabled-list stint, but he has a 1.17 ERA, 0.65 WHIP and 30 strikeouts in 23 innings with 13 saves. Most of all, the 28-year-old, who has been a bit injury prone, has an excellent track record: 3.02 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 191 saves and 38 blown saves. He has two years left on his deal: $7.5 million this year and $9 in 2013.
Myers is another guy who will be moved, as the Astros are struggling and could get his $11 contract off the books. Of course, they'd have to eat a bit of the money, but the fact he's making so much means he might not command a hefty trade package. Myers has a 3.45 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 19 strikeouts in 28 2/3 innings and 18 saves out of 21 opportunities. He's not flashy, but he'd be an upgrade over the arms in the Mets' bullpen now. HIs next team will likely be the one willing to take on the most salary. Mets ownership may be willing to do that because they're in the race.
The Mets will not make the big splash by the deadline, so the big names in Bowden's story are unrealistic options ... but it's a certainty that they'll acquire relief help. Street and Myers would be great fits and it wouldn't be surprising to see at least one of them wearing a Mets uniform in the beginning of August.