Sunday was a rather grim ending to a grim week for the Mets. They lost their fifth straight game and got swept in a series in which their three best pitchers—Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Matt Harvey—pitched well but were sabotaged by bad defense, while the offense scored five runs total. Over those five games, the Mets scored a total of six runs. And to add a cherry of disappointment on top, the Mets' playoff odds slipped below where they were at the start of the season.
Fangraphs' calculations are not gospel, and the Mets still have more than a one-in-five chance of making the playoffs, which is the sixth-highest figure in the National League. But this number is based on several assumptions that seem unlikely at this point. David Wright is still projected to return and contribute between 250 and 300 above-average plate appearances. Juan Lagares is expected to contributed 7.3 defensive runs over the rest of the season, a rate much closer to his 2014 numbers when he had a fully healthy elbow.
This season was to be the year when things finally turned around for the franchise. The starting pitching has delivered, but the offense has been obliterated by injuries and mediocre performances from Michael Cuddyer (98 wRC+) and Curtis Granderson (108 wRC+). At this point, the Mets rank 25th in batting average (.240), 23rd in on-base percentage (.308), 27th in slugging percentage (.372), and 21st in wRC+ (91). Considering the team's poor overall defense, it probably needs better offense to contend.
This lineup is in desperate need of a big bat, much as it was last season. As far as trades go, the market for bats appears very thin. Carlos Gomez makes sense, but the Brewers might ask for the moon, particularly if they think they can contend 2016. Ben Zobrist would be a good patch, but he's an older, declining player, and the Mets would have to outbid teams—like the Cubs—looking for bench help. Perhaps the ideal solution is to acquire a corner outfielder and bench Cuddyer or Granderson, but that would require ownership to take on more money in order to sit one of the roster's few expensive players. And Troy Tulowitzki's salary is probably also an issue for ownership.
Even if the Mets can find a bat or two to reinforce the lineup, they still have to beat out the Cubs, Giants, or Pirates for a Wild Card spot, or the Nationals for the division crown. The Mets currently sport a run differential of -15, the 20th-highest mark in the league. Their underlying metrics suggest they are a below-.500 team. To put it simply, the team isn't good right now and upgrades will be expensive and hard to find.
If Mets management wants to upgrade what is currently a mediocre roster, it will have to think long and hard about how much it wants to invest in this season. Is this team good enough to warrant mortgaging the future for? How much are you willing to mortgage players like Brandon Nimmo or Steven Matz? The question becomes harder if d'Arnaud's arm injury is worse than has been indicated so far.
The painful, frustrating, saddening alternative is to sell. Send Lagares off for Tommy John and put Bartolo Colon, Jon Niese, and Daniel Murphy on the trade market. Teams are always looking for pitching, and Colon offers a cheaper alternative to the aces that will move at the deadline. With the dearth of offense around the league, teams could come calling for Murph. These veterans won't bring back top-10-level prospects, but they can refresh some farm depth or perhaps add younger bullpen or reserve pieces that can help in 2016.
The counter-argument is an obvious one: The division is awful right now, and the Mets should take advantage. The deficit in the standings is hardly insurmountable, so the team should push hard to make things happen this year. Others will argue that there is little offensive help coming—some useful pieces, but not the superstar the team needs.
Examining the division next year, things don't really change. The Phillies will still be awful, and the Braves have set their sights on 2017. The Marlins have little minor league help coming, though they'll get a boost in the form of a healthy Jose Fernandez and Henderson Alvarez. The Nationals might be a good deal weaker, as they stand to lose Doug Fister, Jordan Zimmermann, and Ian Desmond. Washington will spend to fill in the holes, but replacing all three will be difficult.
Meanwhile, things could look brighter come 2016 for the Mets. Matt Harvey will have surpassed his Tommy John recovery bumps. Noah Syndergaard will have more time to improve at the major league level. Steven Matz will be starting in place of Dillon Gee and Bartolo Colon, and Zack Wheeler will return by midseason. Lagares can recover from his own Tommy John surgery to play by the start of the season if he goes under the knife now. d'Arnaud is unlikely to have two more unlucky injuries. Dilson Herrera will get more time to mature. Nimmo, Michael Conforto, and maybe Gavin Cecchini will be knocking on the door of the majors, hoping to supplant the flawed players in the outfield and at shortstop. Even if they're not star players, the bar for improvement over the current crop is not high. And perhaps, if the baseball gods briefly smile on the Mets, Captain America will return.
These views are all optimistic. As 2015 has demonstrated, Murphy's rule is alive and well, and a plethora of things could go wrong for the 2016 Mets. But therein lies perhaps the best reason to look to next year: while the 2016 Mets could be wrecked by poor luck, the 2015 team already has been. Struggling to drag a broken team to the playoffs by selling a future contributor doesn't make sense.
This whole premise seems alarmist. A team is never as bad as it is in a losing streak. But since starting 13-3, the Mets are 23-32. If d'Arnaud and Wright are healthy, the Mets probably are right to go for it. If they're not, then maybe it's time to sell.