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Need-Based Analysis As Trade Deadline Looms

The trade deadline is fast approaching and the list of available players is growing shorter. At the same time, the Mets continue to pitch and hit effectively and areas of greatest need are not as considerable as they were as little as a month ago. Then again, winning cures all ills and great play can often mask shortcomings.

Area of need: corner outfield

For instance, Fernando Tatis is hitting .318/.370/.520. Fernando. Tatis. Career .263/.345/.443 hitter. Much worse than that since 2000. He's hitting lefties and righties equally well, and he hasn't completely embarrassed himself in the field. We're only talking 160-some-odd plate appearances, though, and small sample size red flags abound. He's been a great story and a huge lift for the Mets with Moises Alou out for the season and Ryan Church still out as he recovers from the effects of his second concussion this season. Church may be back soon, but neither that nor his long-term status are guaranteed.

Even if Tatis were somehow able to sustain anything resembling his current level of production, Endy Chavez continues to be an offensive sinkhole in right field. Sure, the defense is great and the .272 batting average is decent, but the .316 on-base percentage is 13th among 17 National League right-fielders with at least 250 plate appearances. His .329 slugging percentage is 16th of 17, besting only Washington's Austin Kearns. Endy's .644 OPS is likewise 16th of 17. I don't know which is more astonishing: that Endy is so bad at hitting or that he's managed to accrue 250 plate appearances while being so bad at hitting. That's a poll for another day, I guess. Regardless, Endy's defense is probably good enough to justify carrying his anemic bat as a fourth or fifth outfielder, but as a starting corner outfielder he is pitifully feckless.

Area of need: relief pitching

Billy Wagner's propensity for eating it hard in big games notwithstanding, he's the Mets' best relief pitcher and still one of the best closers in the National League. Aaron Heilman has been a lot better of late and is probably the Mets' number two, which is far preferable to just plain number two, which was Heilman's nom de fan for the first two months of the season.

Duaner Sanchez is a mystery right now. He was effective if unspectacular for the season's first three months, but has been mostly horrible for a couple of weeks now and is suffering a loss in velocity and deterioration of confidence. After missing a year and a half there's no telling what shape his shoulder is in or whether his arm can hold up for an entire season. Maybe it's just a matter of fatigue and he needs a little time off. At all events, he's a definite question mark moving forward.

Pedro Feliciano is still murder on lefties, but unlike the past two seasons, this year he has been downright awful against righties, who have rocked him to the tune of .342/.419/.553. There's nothing wrong with having a lefty specialist in the bullpen, but the Mets already have one guy -- Scott Schoeneweis -- who can't get righties out, and despite his dramatic platoon splits this season I'm pretty sure Jerry Manuel still thinks that Feliciano is a quality guy to throw out there against all comers. Then again, two full years of competence is more meaningful than one half-year of ineptitude, but you still have to assign greater weight to the recent performance, and that's not good news for Feliciano or the Mets.

Joe Smith is the opposite of Feliciano: he dominates righties and has a tough time with the southpaws. Righties have hit just .190/.271/.302 while lefties have gone .293/.408/.415. If only he and Feliciano could play the field I might be inclined to pull Tatis in the late innings and alternate lefty-righty with Smith and Feliciano for an inning or two. It all comes down to how Manuel decides to use them, so let's hope that his inquisitive mind and nerd glasses mean he knows a thing or two about platoon splits.

Area of need: first base?

A month ago this would have been an obvious need, but with Carlos Delgado swinging a mighty big stick I'm not so sure any more. Given how precipitously he declined last year and how quickly he has resurged, you really have to wonder if those nagging injuries were bothering him more than he let on. The elbow in particular caused him a lot of trouble the last year and a half, and if he is finally out from under those problems then maybe it shouldn't be so surprising that he's back to mashing the ball. He's not going to OPS 1.200 the rest of the way as he has during July, but he has finally pushed his OPS over the league average for a first baseman and there's reason for optimism that he might keep it there.

Mark Teixeira and Adam Dunn will cost an arm and a leg to acquire for the remainder of this season and both will be free agents at season's end. They'll both be on the Mets's radar come November, but I think they'll stand pat this summer and hope that Delgado's resurrection is for real.

Area of need: bench

Marlon Anderson is terrible, and needs to be jettisoned as quickly as possible. I like to think that if the Mets could find anyone else worth plugging into that prestigious 25th spot on the roster that they would have already done so, but right now the dried up husks of Lenny Harris and Matt Franco both look like better options. The rest of the bench is serviceable, with Damion Easley and Argenis Reyes both providing decent production. Nick Evans and Robinson Cancel are nothing special, but the Mets seem inclined to give Evans a few looks at the big league level, and as far as Cancel is concerned, well, they would otherwise just be throwing away the rest of the post-game buffet.

Area of need: catcher?

This one's a trick, because the Mets don't actually need to acquire a new catcher; they just need to play their best catcher more often. That means more time on the pine for Brian Schneider and more cracks at the starting lineup for Ramon Castro. Here is my entire argument:

Ramon Castro: .290/.365/.538
Brian Schneider: .247/.337/.300

So, as long as Jerry Manuel continues to read this blog I think the Mets will be fine at catcher. Or, at least, have the RSS feed in his Google Reader. Either or.

In summation and in conclusion: improve the corner outfield and bench if doing so would come at minimal cost to the farm system. A solid reliever would be nice, but given the going rate of solid relievers I would be more inclined to go with what we've got or, possibly, promote from within. Perhaps Eddie Camacho, Eude Brito or Eddie Kunz -- all currently with Binghamton -- could be given a shot. They can't be much worse than Carlos Muniz has been. Stay the course at first base and catcher, giving more playing time to Castro at the latter.