An injury to a starting pitcher, depth, a team’s unexpected first-half success begs the question, “Are we buyers or sellers?” as the trade deadline looms. They’re questions and challenges every playoff contending team will face to some degree. They are part of the natural progression of a baseball season for all 30 Major league baseball teams and one that will soon result with Sandy Alderson revealing his true appraisal of the 2012 New York Mets.
He may never speak the words out loud, but he won’t need too. Alderson’s actions will speak volumes about what he believes the Mets chances are to:
- Reach the post-season
- To be a legitimate contender — now
The Mets return for the second half hopeful and confident they will be on the short-list of contenders come September but, first, they will have to navigate some rough waters. Dillon Gee underwent surgery Friday to replace a portion of a damaged artery in his right shoulder. Media reports speculate he may not be back in 2012. What to do? The Mets have shuffled their rotation to add time before making a decision. The flexibility of the team’s schedule has enabled the Terry Collins to stall, if only for a week, before a decision must be made.
The options are clear:
- Miguel Batista (41 years old, injuries and bipolar performances)
- Matt Harvey (23 years old, No. 1 draft pick in 2010, seasoning in Buffalo)
The intriguing question is: Are the Mets prepared to trade for starting pitching? Alderson wouldn’t give up legitimate prospects for a veteran arm – or, would he? Can the Mets afford to take on another contract? If the answers are yes, yes and yes, where does trading for starting pitcher rank on the Mets priority “needs” list?
If the Mets were looking for the last piece of the puzzle, the one player to get them from a contender to a legitimate World Series title, names like Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Zack Greinke, Matt Garza, Wandy Rodriguez or Brandon McCarthy have to raise the eyebrow of interest. Back on planet Earth, the best long-term option is to protect the future.
Starting pitching has been the Mets strength the first-half of the season, now there’s a hole to plug. Add that to the previous priority list of bullpen help, depth and a right-handed bat and, suddenly, the Mets are starting to take on more water than expected. Can the Titanic stay afloat?
Collins believes the Mets are “in the hunt” and a serious playoff contender. The Mets are 46-41, 1 1/2 games off the pace in the Wild Card race, staring at a road trip to Atlanta and Washington; in all, six games against National League East-leading Nationals and three against the Braves in the next two weeks.
Alderson has reserved judgment, and rightly so. It’s too early to answer that question. Yes, too early. Alderson is working at John Wooden pace — be quick, but don’t hurry. The Mets GM will wait and see what unfolds between now and July 25, when the Mets record will reflect their upcoming nine-game performance against their division rivals and the trade deadline will still be six days away.