It was with quite a bit of relief that last Friday's non-waiver trade deadline passed without the Mets doing something foolish to marginally improve a team that is all-but-mathematically eliminated from the 2009 playoff picture. The Mets didn't make any moves because, as Omar Minaya put it, "The cost would have probably been too high". Minaya went on to reveal his surprisingly rational take on this year's deadline.
"You have to take into account where you are in the standings, and you have to take in to account the prospects you have… One thing that has been good about this process has been that I got a good feel for a lot of the teams and how much they like our prospects. But, some of those prospects that some teams wanted were too high to give them, and we have some pretty good young prospects… Unless it is someone we were going to hold on to beyond one year, we’re gonna hold on to as many prospects as we can."
I said basically the same thing a month ago.
Trading good young minor leaguers for someone like Mark DeRosa is not in the best interest of this team, and certainly isn't in the best interest of next year's team and beyond. Decent big leaguers are not going to put this team over the top. If a superstar becomes available who might help the 2009 Mets as well as the 2010 Mets and maybe even the 2011 Mets, then perhaps you look to make a deal that will benefit the franchise for years to come.
The Mets put together a modest winning streak last week and I was more than a little concerned that the front office, filled with a hopelessly false sense of optimism, would pull a Jim Duquette Special and trade a bunch of good young players for a good-but-not-great veteran signed through the end of the season. Think Brad Holt and Ike Davis for Jarrod Washburn, or something. How does that taste? It'd be bad enough for a team who was just a couple of wins up or down from an actual playoff spot. The Mets were still a half-dozen games out of the Wild Card with a half-dozen clubs ahead of them. That's a losing hand no matter who's dealing.
Prior to last night's loss to the Diamondbacks, the Mets' PECOTA-adjusted likelihood of making the playoffs this season was .86% overall, .56% for winning the NL East and .29% for winning the NL Wild Card. If you're wondering whether I misplaced the decimal point there, or whether you should be reading them as fractions instead of percentages, I can assure you that those are their properly formatted playoff odds. The Mets are worse than 99-to-1 longshots to play October baseball. That's better than nothing, but only marginally so, and with last night's loss the odds are even longer.
Even apart from the math was that there wasn't a single locus of need on the team. The Mets fall well short of adequate at first base, shortstop, left field (before Gary Sheffield returned) and right field, and given some regression at center and catcher we're looking at the better part of a lineup that needs to be upgraded. They're also a couple of decent starters short of a playoff rotation and the bullpen isn't all it was cracked up to be coming into the season (J.J. Putz's injury has played no small part in that reality). In short, the Mets needed far more help than a trade or two were likely to remedy and there's nobody on the farm ready to step in any time soon. The Mets' middle-minors have improved dramatically this season, but their best non-Fernando Martinez prospects are newbies to Double-A so a jump to the big leagues is out of the question.
It may seem odd to dole out praise for non-moves, but we slag down the Mets' decision-makers whenever they follow up their productive brainstorming sessions with indefensible deals for the likes of Jeff Francoeur that it's only fair to commend them for not making the wrong move. We've heard that trades that don't occur are often as important as those that do; whether that's generally true or just a baseball colloquialism is a discussion for another day. What's important right now is that Omar Minaya had an opportunity to negligibly improve the 2009 Mets at the expense of the 2010 (and 2011) Mets and he seems to have resisted it. Maybe he was convinced by Mets ownership or others within the front office to sit this one out, or maybe he came to the decision on his own. I'll give him the benfit of the doubt this time and take him at his word that he surveyed the trade landscape and found it mostly uninhabitable.
Every other team in the NL East made a move last week. The Phillies and Marlins improved their 2009 teams; the Nationals hope to have improved their 2010 and beyond teams. The Braves chose an old face over a newer one with little impact to their playoff chances. The Mets did nothing, and it doesn't look like they were even close on anything. When the Red Sox dealt for Victor Martinez there was a brief whir about Adam LaRoche possibly coming to the Mets, and while LaRoche would have been an upgrade over Daniel Murphy at first, his so-so bat and so-so glove would have done little to fill the many holes discussed earlier.
Considering how much money the Wilpons have invested in this team and this season -- not to mention all of the money Bernie Madoff bamboozled them out of -- there had to be some temptation to do something to make this team more exciting, even if the effect on their postseason outlook would have been minimal. The Wilpons deserve credit, too, for seeing the big picture here. This team isn't much to look at right now and with only elastic timetables for the return of their injured stars, it could be an ugly last couple of months for Citi Field's inaugural run.
For an organization that has done a lot wrong in the past year, the Mets' brain trust somehow conspired to do something very right this week. There's an awful lot of work to be done to turn this team into a contender for 2010 given only minimal payroll wiggle room, but for right now we still have the kids to look forward to and maybe Minaya & Co. aren't quite as short-sighted and feckless as we thought.