NEW YORK -- The Mets’ best-laid plans have cracked and fissured. Entering the second half of the season in fourth place in the National League East and 13 1/2 games behind Atlanta, and trailing all but one team in the NL Wild Card race, New York still believes it can make a late run at contention. The club also realizes its window is open only the slightest bit.
As such, general manager Brodie Van Wagenen has little choice but to consider selling off what pieces he can. Here’s a look at where the Mets stand three weeks out from the July 31 Trade Deadline.
Current status: Seller
As much as the Mets continue to preach optimism regarding their situation, the reality is that to qualify for the postseason, they must either make up a sizeable NL East differential or leapfrog nine teams in the Wild Card standings. Possible, sure, but unlikely with only 72 games remaining. As such, New York must look to the future, trading off what assets it can in the next three weeks. This will be the third consecutive year the Mets are sellers.
What they are seeking
The Mets need to flesh out their farm system -- particularly at the upper levels, where they feature little depth. Acquiring a pitcher who could step into the rotation as soon as 2020 would be a boon for New York, which will likely settle for something less than that -- a dynamic prospect at any position or a pitcher a bit further from the Majors. Much as in the Draft, the Mets will seek the best available talent in return for any players they trade.
What they have to offer
Van Wagenen has almost no choice but to deal Zack Wheeler, an impending free agent who could fetch an intriguing prospect via trade. Enough teams -- the Yankees, Braves, Brewers, Astros and Twins, to name five -- are interested in starting pitching to create a potential bidding war for Wheeler, one of only a few proven starters on the market. Although he’s been inconsistent, Wheeler owns a 3.85 ERA with more than a strikeout per inning the past two seasons. That kind of talent isn’t always for sale at the Deadline.
Beyond Wheeler, the Mets don’t have much of significant value to trade. Third baseman Todd Frazier and pitcher Jason Vargas could fetch minor pieces in return; if nothing else, New York would be happy to shed the remaining salaries (about $7.5 million combined) of those two. Juan Lagares (about $4 million remaining), similarly, could go in a salary dump, but a market may not exist for him considering his .494 OPS. Catcher Wilson Ramos has also found himself the subject of rumors, but the Mets would be selling low on a player they need for 2020.
While sources have said the Mets are unlikely to deal any players under team control after this season -- such as Ramos, Dominic Smith or Noah Syndergaard -- all it takes is one overzealous trade partner for that to change. Still, the Trade Deadline could certainly come and go without New York shipping anyone other than Wheeler out of town.
The Brewers nearly traded for Wheeler once, back in 2015. Why not twice? Left-hander Aaron Ashby, Milwaukee’s No. 9 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, is the type of arm New York could plug into its rotation sooner rather than later. So is the Brewers' No. 11 prospect, Trey Supak, a right-hander enjoying an excellent year. Either would make sense as a Mets target.