The trade deadline has passed and, in a new rule for this season, there’s no waiver trade deadline in August—and the Mets suddenly find themselves in contention and in need of some support to get them through what is looking to be a tight Wild Card battle the rest of the way. While by definition players who are designated for assignment are not going to be the cream of the crop, they still may pose an opportunity for the Mets to fill some holes.
The injury to suddenly scorching-hot Robinson Cano leaves the team with limited infield depth, mostly of the all-glove-no-bat variety provided by Adeiny Hechavarria and Luis Guillorme. As the 2015 Mets saw with the additions of Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe, having functional bats off the bench is key l, and there are a few potential candidates they should consider.
The Giants recently designated first baseman Tyler Austin, whose ability to also play the outfield could be valuable, but his limitation to corner roles is a problem for the Mets. Jung Ho Kang was designated by the Pirates, but his atrocious play all season is just a fitting complement to his abusive past, and any team with self-respect needs to steer clear.
The most obvious target for the Mets is also the most familiar - Asdrubal Cabrera, recently released by the Texas Rangers after putting up a .711 OPS in a hitter-friendly park after signing a one-year contract in the offseason. He was limited to third base with the Rangers, though he played at both shortstop and second base as recently as last season with the Phillies. A switch-hitter who has had success coming off the bench in the past, he would be a nice fit for the Mets and may very well find a second wind in a role that doesn’t require him to play every day.
Catching is a hot commodity this time of year, but with Wilson Ramos’s defensive woes and Tomas Nido still not hitting, the Mets could help support their pitching staff and give their existing backstops a little more rest by bringing in some fresh blood. Dustin Garneau put up serviceable numbers for the Angels and Oakland along with scratch defense and could be an under-the-radar pick.
But the interesting name out there—and interesting to the whole league, no doubt—is Jonathan Lucroy. Once hailed as the catcher who put pitch framing on the map, his defense fell off a cliff in 2017 and hasn’t improved. That’s of course a big turn-off, especially for a team that already has Wilson Ramos, but the former All-Star is just 33 and the promise of even a short-lived resurgence is very tempting.
While the Mets’ starting staff has been among the best in baseball for weeks now, the same cannot be said of the relief corps that continues to let up runs at a maddening pace. Luckily for the Mets, DFA-ed relievers are a dime a dozen and they should pick up at least one, ideally two or more to fill in the gaps.
Right-hander Brad Brach, released by the Cubs, offers the promise of a 10 strikeouts per nine innings - to any team that thinks they can fix his 6 walks per nine, that is. Arizona’s Zack Godley is likewise a fixer-upper who could benefit from a fresh set of eyes and coaches, as well as a more consistent relief role. The Nationals’ Tony Sipp offers serviceable numbers from the left side, and notably his 4.71 ERA is more than a full run higher than his FIP.
But one of the most intriguing options is Brian Schlitter, a 33 year old recently DFA-ed by Oakland. His early career was largely in the minors and largely unimpressive, but this season he put up a 3.71 ERA despite mediocre peripherals due to one notable statistic - zero home runs allowed. The groundball specialist seems perfectly suited to this run environment and worth a flyer for any team whose staff is struggling to keep the ball in the yard.