Mets keep Thor, Wheeler with playoffs in mind
CHICAGO -- As the Trade Deadline approached, rumors grew real enough that Zack Wheeler had a suitcase packed, zipped and ready to join him wherever his new home might be. Noah Syndergaard made light of all the gossip, joking about it on social media but admitting late Tuesday that it was “starting to get old.”
For both pitchers, the preparations and worries proved unnecessary. The Mets made no further moves in advance of the 4 p.m. ET Deadline on Wednesday, limiting their deals to the acquisition of right-hander Marcus Stroman and the departure of left-hander Jason Vargas. Part of that was because general manager Brodie Van Wagenen did not receive the types of offers he required to trade Wheeler or Syndergaard. Much of it was because he wants the Mets to compete for the postseason not only in 2020, but in 2019, too.
“This team has shown resiliency,” Van Wagenen said. “This team has earned the right to now go play meaningful games over the course of the next two months.”
Essentially, Van Wagenen upgraded his rotation in a nod to his oft-repeated mission statement: Win now, and win in the future. In acquiring Stroman days before the deadline, the Mets added one of baseball’s better pitchers under team control for another season-and-a-third. In jettisoning Vargas for a Double-A catcher, the Mets received a measure of salary relief. In keeping Wheeler, Syndergaard, Edwin Díaz, Todd Frazier and others, the Mets at least gave themselves a chance to make a run at the postseason.
Improbable but, in Van Wagenen’s mind, possible.
The Mets entered Wednesday five games out of a National League Wild Card spot, trailing six teams in that pursuit. Four of the teams they trailed -- the Cubs, Phillies, Nationals and Brewers -- made notable upgrades before the deadline.
“We’re the underdogs,” Van Wagenen said. “We are now chasing the rest of the pack. … We recognize that now we have to overcome what we put ourselves up against in the first half, and I think here we are now in a position where we've got some momentum. We just have to keep going.”
Still, Van Wagenen did not go all-in on the current roster. He indicated that he had the latitude to add a starting pitcher or a reliever, but not both.
The Mets will take what they can get. To a man, they maintained that they’re happy to be here, happy to see where this road ends. Stroman called the Mets’ rotation “one of the best staffs in all of baseball.” Wheeler said that “it’s been that way for years now, and with the addition of [Stroman], it only gets better.”
“Hopefully, we keep reeling off these wins and maybe make a push for it,” Wheeler said.
Entering Wednesday, the Mets featured only the 10th-best rotation ERA in baseball (4.12) -- a significant reason why FanGraphs calculated their playoff odds at 16.9 percent. But the Mets’ staff ERA since the All-Star break was 2.75, best in the Majors, thanks in large part to Syndergaard. That, combined with strong recent performances from Amed Rosario, Michael Conforto and others in the lineup, emboldened Van Wagenen enough to stay the course.
“We wanted to make good baseball moves,” Van Wagenen said. “We weren’t going to look at this as salary dump trades. We weren’t going to look at this as just getting modest returns of B prospects. These guys are good players. They matter to us, they matter to the other guys in the clubhouse and we were only going to move them away from the team if it was impact to the organization. We wanted to make good baseball moves and give everybody the chance to be the best we can be.”
From the trainer’s room
Outfielder Dominic Smith will be in a walking boot for at least three weeks as he recovers from a stress reaction in his left foot. The Mets will re-evaluate him at that time, but Smith likely will miss the month of August.