With less than a month until the Trade Deadline, the Mets increasingly look like a team in need of a bat. Their offense, so adept at producing runs despite a relative lack of power early in the season, has been less potent in June and July. They entered play Monday tied for 19th in the Majors in home runs. Their designated hitters had produced a .680 OPS, which was 21st in MLB.
Given those numbers, there’s little doubt that general manager Billy Eppler will try to acquire some offensive help before the Aug. 2 Deadline. The more intriguing question he must weigh is whether the cast of characters presumably available on the trade market -- Josh Bell, Trey Mancini, et al. -- is a better bet than the Mets’ in-house options: most notably top prospects Francisco Álvarez and Mark Vientos, who have both been raking in the Minors.
Álvarez is the splashiest possibility, as a 20-year-old who so thoroughly dominated the Double-A Eastern League that the Mets promoted him to Triple-A Syracuse after only 67 games. Team officials consider Álvarez a generational talent who could probably enjoy success in the Majors right now. (He’s the same age that Juan Soto was when Soto led the Nationals to the 2019 World Series title, the same age as Ronald Acuña Jr. when he won the 2018 National League Rookie of the Year in a landslide.) But at what cost? Would a midseason promotion to MLB place too much stress on Álvarez, even if it’s just as a DH? Might big-league pitching expose him? More importantly, would losing out on development time behind the plate harm Álvarez long-term?
These are the questions the Mets are considering, with the understanding that they don’t need to make a decision right now. Team officials will monitor Álvarez at Syracuse, and if he fares so well that he forces them to consider promoting him again later this summer, they’re not adverse to that idea.
“The power is real,” said Max Scherzer, who pitched to Álvarez during his rehab assignment with Double-A Binghamton. “But he is 20. There’s still development there. There’s nothing wrong with that. When you’re 20 years old, you’d better need to develop. I’m sure if you asked the Braves, even when [Acuña] was 20, he still needed to develop. I played with Soto. I saw probably the best 19- or 20-year-old I’ve ever seen, yet he still needed to develop.”
In the interim, Vientos represents the most likely in-house candidate to make a Major League impact, though he comes complete with his own set of risks. As he’s worked his way up the Minor League ladder, Vientos has established a pattern of struggling initially at each new level before figuring things out and thriving. What if the Mets committed to trying Vientos out at DH, only to have him perform less capably than Dominic Smith or J.D. Davis? Would it be too late by then to trade for a veteran bat?
The final option is the most obvious one, and talking to Mets officials, I get the sense this is the one the club is most likely to pursue. That’s to acquire a rental such as Bell or Mancini, who can be free agents after the season and thus might not require significant prospect hauls. Taking on salary shouldn’t be an issue for Steve Cohen’s Mets, even if it means exceeding MLB’s final Competitive Balance Tax threshold. So if the Mets can land a veteran slugger without giving up Álvarez, Vientos or any of their other top prospects, a trade may be the safest, most logical way for them to upgrade their offense for the stretch run.