The Mets started their acquisitions early, acquiring Daniel Vogelbach more than a week before the deadline. Vogelbach is an excellent complementary piece, a platoon DH who absolutely pummels right handed pitching (160 wRC+ in 2022, 127 wRC+ for his career). He’s also under team control next year with a laughably cheap team option that will certainly be picked up. For a team that had gotten paltry production from its DH spot and lacked thump in the lineup, this is a good acquisition.
As to the cost, it’s non-trivial but not huge. Colin Holderman has been a nice developmental success story for the Mets, blossoming into a legitimate relief prospect over the past two seasons and performing well in his major league debut. He’s one of the few serviceable, optionable arms the Mets have, a player group that contenders rely on to churn the bullpen mix. It’s worth noting that his peripherals don’t match his ERA and stuff models don’t love his pitch mix either. Overall, it’s a slightly-too-high price, but one that’s worthwhile for a contender with a glaring roster hole. Give this first move a B.
Next, the Mets added Tyler Naquin and Phillip Diehl from the Reds. Diehl is little more than relief depth, but Naquin is another very useful upgrade on margin of the roster. Though he’s defensively limited and a clear platoon bat, he’s a good left-handed foil to Mark Canha and a big improvement over Travis Jankowski. In return, the Mets surrendered two prospects, with the piece of note being Jose Acuna. Acuna has been something of an under-the-radar breakout player in the system this year, impressing scouts and posting impressive peripherals as a 19-year-old in Single-A. As with the previous trade, this is a marginal overpay, but one that a team with designs on the World Series should make. Another B.
Finally, the Mets picked up a third hitter on the periphery in Darin Ruf. Consider Ruf the counterpart to Vogelbach, a right-handed bat who kills lefties and is best used only as a DH or first baseman. Like Vogelbach, he’s also under affordable control for 2023, though he’s much older at 36. In return, the Mets gave up four players; J.D. Davis, Thomas Szapucki, Nick Zwack, and Carson Seymour. Ruf makes Davis largely irrelevant, Szapucki has never made it all the way back from multiple injuries, and Zwack, though he has performed well, is a fairly marginal prospect. Seymour, however, is another intriguing breakout player within the system. For Ruf - an old, short-side platoon bat with no defensive utility - this is an overpay. Justifiable for a contender, but not as justifiable as the previous moves - the Ruf move earns a D.
The title to this section is a misnomer, since the Mets added only one arm at the deadline. Mychal Givens has been around the block, playing on two teams in each of the last three seasons after spending the first five years of his career in Baltimore. His ERA has been fairly stable, but advanced metrics haven’t loved his work over the past few seasons; by DRA-, he was a below average pitch in 2020 and 2021 before bouncing back in 2022. Still, he’s more a sixth or seventh inning option than a legitimate late inning arm.
In return, the Mets gave up Saul Gonzalez, a 22-year-old reliever having a strong season in St. Lucie. That amounts to pocket change in terms of trade capital. Essentially, the Mets gave up next to nothing for a reliever that doesn’t add all that much. It’s a C move.
Coming into the deadline, the Mets had some glaring needs. They desperately needed to upgrade at DH and improve the bullpen. A better starting catcher, while not a necessity, would have been extremely helpful. In the end, the Mets front office addressed one of these problems, improving their offensive depth with a portfolio approach while leaving the thin bullpen and catching situations largely unchanged. All the while, they clutched prospects that should have been movable - Mark Vientos, Ronny Mauricio, Alex Ramirez - instead of pushing their chips in when they have a real chance to win a championship. The stubborn refusal to trade Vientos is particularly silly given that rather than calling him up, they elected to overpay for a 36-year-old bat to fill his presumptive role.
Frankly, these misses are fairly significant. The Cubs wound up not moving Wilson Contreras (perhaps suggesting their asking price was too high), but Christian Vazquez moved for two non-elite prospects and would’ve massively improved the Mets’ catching situation. The lack of bullpen additions are an even bigger failure. As currently constructed, the Met bullpen has one reliever you’d be comfortable relying on in the playoffs, then maybe two or three other options who might be okay but certainly don’t make you confident. None of those arms are lefties either.
It’s not as if there weren’t options either. Scott Effross, David Robertson, Michael Fulmer, and Jorge Lopez all were traded at reasonable prices. Most egregiously, the Angels dumped Raisel Iglesias’ contract to the Braves at essentially no cost. His contract could politely be described as “ugly”, but this was a failed opportunity to flex the team’s financial might and make a real upgrade.
The Mets deserve some credit for creatively - and significantly - upgrading the bench and DH spots. However, even in those moves, they managed to make marginal overpayments and ultimately left major, solvable problems with the roster unaddressed. Nothing was so bad as to be declared a disaster (looking at you Nationals), but more could and should have been done. As such, this deadline earns a C-.