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Mets, Tribe silence critics of Deadline deals

Exec who called Mets 'delusional' reconsiders: 'I guess I was wrong'
@feinsand
August 14, 2019

The Mets’ decision to deal for Marcus Stroman a few days before the July 31 Trade Deadline caught the baseball world off-guard. At best, some raised their eyebrows. At worst, some questioned Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen’s sanity. A little more than two weeks later, very few are questioning

The Mets’ decision to deal for Marcus Stroman a few days before the July 31 Trade Deadline caught the baseball world off-guard. At best, some raised their eyebrows. At worst, some questioned Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen’s sanity.

A little more than two weeks later, very few are questioning the Mets’ pre-Deadline strategy anymore. New York -- which at 50-55 was six games out of the second National League Wild Card spot at the time of the Stroman deal -- is now two games behind the Cardinals and three games behind the Nationals for the two Wild Card spots, its 11-4 run since the trade thrusting the Mets firmly into the postseason picture.

Stroman’s contract came with another year of control, causing some to view the deal as a move designed with 2020 in mind. Three days later, when Van Wagenen let the Deadline pass without moving either Noah Syndergaard or Zack Wheeler, it was clear he still had his sights set on 2019.

“The Mets are getting the last laugh so far,” one American League executive said. “I referred to them as ‘delusional’ at the time, but I guess I was wrong. The mindset that they were in it seemed ridiculous at the Deadline, but I guess they knew what they were doing.”

An AL general manager praised the Mets for their go-for-it approach, and whether their recent surge results in a postseason berth or not, their aggressive attitude earned them a thumbs-up from the GM.

“They could have traded off pieces and taken a step back to assess the future -- but they didn’t,” the GM said. “They wanted to field a competitive club. They deserve some applause for that. The playbook for teams in that situation the last couple of years has been to trade off players.

“You can’t pan their decision and also moan and groan about teams not trying to be competitive in the near term; they didn’t do that. You have to acknowledge it and tip your cap. Good for them.”

An NL executive echoed the sentiments, lumping San Francisco into the same category.

“I’m still surprised by how the Mets and Giants operated,” the NL exec said. “I fully expected to see [Madison] Bumgarner and Wheeler traded. But good for them being aggressive, seeing a chance to win, and going for it. That’s hard to do sitting at or around .500.”

While the Mets decided to hang on to Syndergaard and Wheeler, one of their AL counterparts opted to trade a frontline starter despite their solid postseason positioning.

The Indians held a two-game lead over the Athletics for the first AL Wild Card spot and sat just three games behind the Twins in the AL Central when they made the decision to trade Trevor Bauer to the Reds in a three-team deal that netted them Yasiel Puig, Franmil Reyes, Logan Allen and two other prospects.

Bauer isn’t eligible for free agency until the end of the 2020 season, but his escalating salary -- he’s expected to earn about $20 million in his final year of arbitration -- was going to be an issue for Cleveland and its payroll. But while the Indians could have moved Bauer this winter, they decided to make the move before July 31, bringing in a pair of bats that should impact their chase for a postseason berth.

“It was so cool, as a front-office person, to see the Indians trade their best starter and still get better on the field,” the NL executive said. “It takes some guts to believe you can swing that -- and it takes really good decision-making to then pull it off.”

Trading one of your best starters in the midst of a pennant race is certainly bold, but the AL GM believes a deal only would have happened if Cleveland had been able to add the offensive help it needed for the remainder of 2019.

“It’s not like you traded him off for prospects,” the AL GM said. “That’s a deal that got them back two good Major League contributors right now in areas of need. With their pitching depth, their run prevention, what [Shane] Bieber and [Mike] Clevinger are doing, they’re going to be fine. You didn’t trade Cy Young. In the context of their team and what they have, that deal made them better this year.

“In a Wild Card game, you need one pitcher; they have guys who can cover that game. In a Division Series, you need three starters -- and they’re good there, too. If you also have Puig and Reyes in the lineup, you’re increasing your chances in the games Bauer wouldn’t have been pitching.”

The message that such a move may send to the players remaining in the clubhouse can often be a concern when a move like the Bauer trade is made, but the Indians’ 10-4 record since the Bauer deal -- which got them back into sole possession of first place until a loss on Tuesday -- is proof that the deal didn’t have a negative impact inside the room. The fact that Bauer and [Corey] Kluber had been oft-mentioned trade candidates likely lessened the shock of the news, as well.

“The I-can’t-believe-they-did-that move would have been if they had traded him for [Taylor] Trammell or other prospects,” the GM said. “I don’t think they would have done that. Their fan base, the market, the national perception, it had been conditioned for this possibility dating back to the winter. It’s been a lingering topic that has been expected.”

And one -- like the Mets’ decisions -- that appears to be paying off for the Tribe.

Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001.