It was apparent when the Yankees gave up the package of prospects the A's wanted for Sonny Gray, and the Dodgers made the commitment it took to acquire Yu Darvish from the Rangers, that both of those contending teams had their focus not on merely advancing to the postseason, but on winning the 2017 World Series.
Meanwhile, the A's were restocking a farm system to undergo a major rebuild, acquiring three prospects for Gray who rank in the top 11 on the organization's Top 30 Prospects list . The White Sox started rebuilding with last December's trade of Chris Sale, and they have added seven players who rank in the top 25 on their Top 30 Prospects list, including the top trio of second baseman Yoan Moncada, outfielder Eloy Jimenez and right-hander Michael Kopech.
And then there are the Mets. They were backstage at the final act on Monday. But they sent a message, which may not have been loud and clear for all to hear and see, but resonated throughout the industry.
The Mets are trying to survive this season, sitting seven games below .500 and well removed from any idea that they can be a factor in October. They are not, however, even close to undertaking a major rebuilding process. As bad as things may seem this year, the Mets have reason to believe they can make a quick return to contending status.
That was underscored by the fact that after sending potential free-agent first baseman Lucas Duda to the Rays for prospects, they acquired proven reliever AJ Ramos from the Marlins.
Big deal? You betcha. With Ramos signed for another year, the Mets can envision a back of the bullpen next year built around a healthy Jeurys Familia in the role of closer, Ramos taking on the right-handed setup role and Jerry Blevins under contract for another year as the left-handed complement to Ramos.
A team without hope in the near future doesn't trade for a late-inning reliever who is one more season away from free agency.
A team without hope doesn't decide in the early days of August to call up its No. 1 prospect -- shortstop Amed Rosario -- and put him in the lineup, and plan to bring up the No. 2 prospect -- first baseman Dominic Smith -- before too long to take over the spot that was opened by the trade of Duda. Case closed.
There are no absolute guarantees in baseball. The Mets found that out this year, when a series of injuries derailed a young rotation that had been hyped up as being among the best in the game. But New York hasn't been blinded by the disappointments of 2017. The Mets still see the nucleus for hope on the horizon in '18.
Think about it. Of the seven offseason considerations for roles in the rotation, only Jacob deGrom has made all 21 scheduled starts, and Steven Matz, who is 2-4 with a 5.50 ERA in 10 starts, is the only other one on the active roster today.
The other five?
• Matt Harvey made 13 starts and had a 5.25 ERA before being sidelined with a stress injury to the scapula bone in his right shoulder.
• Noah Syndergaard was five starts into his season before he was sidelined by a partial tear of his right lat.
• Zack Wheeler was 3-7 with a 5.21 ERA in 17 starts before suffering a stress reaction in his right arm.
• Robert Gsellman make 14 starts before a left hamstring injury sidelined him.
• Three starts into his season, Tommy Milone suffered a left knee sprain.
Oh, and Familia was 11 appearances into his season when he was diagnosed with an arterial clot in his right shoulder.
Will all of them make complete returns and create that strong-armed rotation built on youth the Mets envisioned two years ago? Not likely, but if they get three or four at full strength, that's an awful nice foundation to build on.
There will be a few holes to fill, but combine the departure of Duda ($7.25 million) with the salaries that will open up with the free-agent departures of outfielders Curtis Granderson ($15 million) and Jay Bruce ($13 million), and second baseman Neil Walker ($17.2 million), and the Mets will likely have $52.45 million worth of salaries coming off the books.
It doesn't make the struggles of this season any more enjoyable for the Mets' management and fans. However, there is at least a promise of better things to come -- and soon.