In a phone interview with baseball insider Jon Heyman, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson let loose a few tidbits regarding what the front office may be thinking as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches.
First off, Jon Niese and his team-friendly contract are likely to be staying put unless the Mets are blown away.
"We like Jonathon. He's the only lefty in the rotation," Alderson said. "We'd be hard-pressed to trade Niese."
Along with Niese's ridiculous streak of allowing three earned runs or fewers in 20 straight starts dating back to 2013, the lefty signed an extension two years ago that keeps him in Queens at very affordable rates through the 2018 season. He's exactly the type of cost-controlled asset that a cash-strapped team like the Mets needs to compete with teams that have higher payrolls. Like Alderson said, the Mets would have to be bowled over to part with Niese.
The GM also told Heyman that, while he believes the Mets are a stronger team than their record indicates, he's still waiting to decide whether the team will be a buyer or a seller at the deadline. "What happens over the next 10 to 12 days" will help determine how the front office acts.
"We kind of like our team," Alderson said. "If you look at the run differential, we should be a .500 team. We're not. At the same time, it doesn't mean we should throw everyone overboard."
Prior to Wednesday night's series finale versus Atlanta, the Mets stand nine games back in the NL East, but they only trail the division-leading Braves by seven points of run differential.
Even though Alderson appears to think that pitching is his team's strength when he says, "We like the pen. We like the rotation. Neither is where we want it to be ultimately," a macro perspective shows that the Mets compare favorably with their rivals when it comes to putting runs on the board.
New York has scored 19 more runs than Atlanta in 2014 and just 11 fewer than Washington, whose plus-49 run differential is tops in the NL as of this writing. When looking outside of the division, the Mets have scored more runs than St. Louis as well as Cincinnati, and both of those clubs are above the .500 mark.
The Mets' record says they should be sellers, but their run differential is a much more competitive figure at minus-four. That said, those first 84 games are in the bank, so the Mets will need to do a lot more than linger around .500 for the remainder of the season if they want to compete for a playoff spot. That's something that Alderson and the front office are probably taking in to account as July 31 draws closer.