The Mets’ pathological inability to score runs over the past few weeks has been like the clown-car finale in a second-rate circus act, where the clowns are all old and tired and drunk, and the car is a 35-year-old Yugo being held together by off-brand duct tape and Chiquita banana stickers, and the surly crowd, sweaty and bloated from gorging on salty snacks all afternoon, can’t believe they’re subjecting their children to the fiasco beneath them. It’s been a bad scene. Sandy Alderson has sarcastically named it "Panic City," which sounds more like a Frank Miller graphic novel than the conflagration of hot takes, outrage, and disappointment that it is.
And yet somehow, some way—probably because the baseball gods are weird and cruel and delight in torturing us with tiny, dumb slivers of hope—the Mets are at .500 with about half the season to go. Mathematically and logically, this almost unbelievable fact means the Mets are very much "in it," despite having played recently like the only thing they want to be in is a coma. Somehow, some way, the Mets, despite their wretched offense, are only 3.5 games out of first place with 82 games to go. It doesn’t make any sense.
My optimistic side would have me latch on to two things. First, in a long, long baseball season, bad stretches and sorry developments are inevitable. Players get hurt, players slump, prospects flame out, good teams look inept. Second, history offers plenty of examples of teams that hang around just long enough to make a second-half—or even an 11th-hour—run. My optimistic side considers these things, it considers the general weakness of the National League, and it concludes, "grit your teeth and hang on, because this could simply be the nadir of what turns out to be an awesome season."
That’s a fairly rational thing to say to oneself, and I think I can buy it—with a catch: The front office needs to take bold action, sooner rather than later, to improve the team’s offense. There are two ways to attempt this, as far as I can tell.
The first, and perhaps easiest, option is to promote Michael Conforto. Doing so would be anathema to the organization’s generally cautious player-development strategy, and it might seem foolish to some, given that Conforto is only a Double-A player with 125 plate appearances at that level. I agree that the ideal scenario would have Conforto finish out the season in the minors with maybe a September call-up if he’s playing well. This isn’t the ideal scenario, though. The Mets’ offense is putrid, and Conforto offers the most upside of any position player who is even remotely close to being major league ready. He has availed himself nicely this season so far, and is hitting a cool .330/.416/.532 in those 125 Double-A plate appearances. Amazin’ Avenue’s prospect guru and podcaster extraordinaire, Jeffrey Paternostro, got a recent look at him in Binghamton and mostly liked what he saw. I think now is the time—particularly now that Michael Cuddyer is hurt—to promote Conforto and see what, if anything, he can contribute.
The second thing to do, I’m sorry to say, is trade one of the great young starting pitchers we have all grown to cherish. Repugnant though the thought of Matt Harvey or Jacob deGrom pitching for another team may be, those are the types of players Alderson will have to include in any deal that brings back the "impact bat" the Mets need if they are to compete this season and beyond. While I agree that the team could probably hack it with several modest upgrades at various positions, I do not see where Alderson could reasonably find them. Excepting Conforto and maybe Dilson Herrera—who was just demoted to Triple-A because he wasn’t hitting—the upper levels of the system are devoid of position-player prospects who would represent upgrades in the near and medium term.
Another option, of course, is to do nothing. Alderson and his lieutenants could simply choose to stay the course and continue shuffling ineffective players back and forth between Queens and Las Vegas as the season lurches toward an utterly disappointing conclusion, "Wait ‘Till Next Year…Again" writ large across its chest where "Mets" ought to be.