Mets must shop for offensive help
With the prospect of Wright's return dimming, team needs to add bat
LOS ANGELES -- No one has to read too much between the lines. Mets captain and third baseman David Wright isn't going to return from stenosis in his lower spine anytime soon. Consequently, if the Mets are going to find any help for their beleaguered offense, ranked 29th in the Major Leagues, it's going to have to be from elsewhere.
Wright caught up with teammates at Dodger Stadium before the Mets opened a key three-game series against the National League West-leading Dodgers on Friday night with a 2-1 win.
Wright has spent the past weeks living in Los Angeles under the care of noted back specialist Dr. Robert Watkins. To that end, the third baseman said he's feeling much better. He can bend and stand up straight like a normal person.
That doesn't mean he can twist and torque and dive like a Major League player. Wright says there are still hurdles to overcome -- like high-impact running -- before he'll even be cleared to again embark on performing baseball activities. Barring any setbacks, what will then follow is a lengthy Minor League rehab.
"I have a timeline [to return] in my mind and that's something that's kind of personal," Wright said. "When you start setting goals that are [far] away you start becoming upset when you don't accomplish what you've set out to accomplish. It's just too much to think about. So to set a return date is ridiculous. [But] It's definitely heading in the right direction."
There you have it.
The Mets hierarchy is well aware of Wright's tenuous status. General manager Sandy Alderson said on Friday that he's happy Wright sounds more upbeat about his condition than he did a month ago. But that doesn't change a thing.
"I agree that he's more upbeat. I talked to him earlier this week. He's definitely more positive than he had been," Alderson said. "But at the same time there hasn't been any significant change in his routine. He hasn't transitioned from the level of rehab he's had, to do something more strenuous or baseball-related.
"We'll have to just wait and see. That was certainly his message when I talked to him last. We're not sure when he's going to be back."
The grim reality for Wright is that he's facing serious and debilitating surgery, which nobody wants him to have, if the current path of rehab and recovery doesn't work, both Alderson and Wright acknowledged.
"Surgery is a possibility, but surgery needs to be avoided if at all possible," Alderson said.
The grim reality for the Mets is that they are batting .232 as a team and have allowed 297 runs while scoring 279. That's a minus-18 run differential. The fine, young pitching staff Alderson has built is being taxed to the point of utter frustration.
When Jacob deGrom allowed a homer Thursday in a 6-1 loss to the Cubs at Citi Field, he walked off the field and into the dugout and punched the orange Gatorade dispenser with his right hand. Smart. He was holding his fielding glove at the time. The dispenser is plastic and the glove protected his pitching hand.
Still that little spate of anger could be attributed to the Mets having scored just one run in 29 innings to lose the three-game home series to the Cubs.
The Mets are 41-40 and are still on the edge of contention for the second Wild Card slot in the NL. By the end of this six-game road trip through Los Angeles and San Francisco that may no longer be the case.
Alderson said he's reviewing all options externally and internally to improve the offense. The non-waiver Trade Deadline is July 31.
"It's still early," Alderson said. "I talked with a team two weeks ago that was a seller. Now they're a buyer. A week from now they'll be a seller again, potentially. There just aren't that many teams that have decided who they are and what they're going to do."
Add the Mets to that list.
To get a decent hitter, the Mets are almost certainly going to have to part with some of their young frontline pitching, which is something Alderson is not eager to do. Taking a long view, the Mets have a starting staff that includes DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and, eventually, Zack Wheeler, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery. DeGrom, Matz and Harvey have all returned from the dreaded surgery and, just by the nature of it, are candidates for another.
The odds are that one or two of them might break down again, which means that Alderson can't really trade any of them. The Mets need the cushion.
Alderson also dashed any notion of the Mets immediately calling up last year's first-round Draft pick, Michael Conforto, from Double-A Binghamton. The 22-year-old outfielder has a combined .300 batting average with 10 homers and 46 RBIs at two lower Minor League levels this season, but he's yet to play a game above Double-A. Is he really the type of player Alderson wants to subject right now to this situation? The answer is, no.
"We discussed it," Alderson said. "But I would expect him to be at Binghamton for the near term."
The Mets are discussing a lot of options, Alderson said, including the anticipated improvement of some of their current players.
"I've talked with hitting coaches. I know what they're doing," he said. "They see progress, I see progress in terms of peripherals. That's not to say we're going to stick with the players we have. There are reasons hidden among the angst for some optimism. But we're also looking at ways to change things up a little bit."
The one area where there is no discussion and not much optimism right now is the return of Wright. The season is just about at the halfway point and the days on the calendar for his return are quickly slipping away.
If the Mets decide to "change things up a little bit," in the "near term" it won't include David Wright.